Eye on Africa

Since the 1990s there has been a virtual academic consensus that a genocide was perpetuated by Germany during the Herero and Nama War. But the question of responsibility and continuity are still being debated.

In the last two decades, the Herero and the Nama have sought justice, recognition and reparations from the German government for the genocide they endured at the beginning of the 20th century. Recently, they have taken their struggle to an American court, which started hearing their case a few weeks ago. The German government officially referred to the 1904-1907 events as a “genocide” only recently (in 2016) and still refrains from dealing with who was responsibility and rejects calls for reparation. Instead, Germany has attempted reconciliation through other channels, such as providing aid to the Namibian government and returning victim remains that were stored in Germany after the genocide.

The historiography of German colonialism and Namibian history has witnessed fierce debate regarding the events that took place in Southwest African between 1904-1907. Still today, some historical questions remain. This short essay will try to identify the main debated issues of this genocide and will highlight the most important ideas of the historians who have researched this subject.

more...

Professor Philip Spencer once remarked that genocide robs humanity of diversity. This phrase has stuck with me for several years mainly due to its elegant simplicity. At its core, it suggests that we should care about genocide because denies us a chance to be diverse in the various forms and depths the word entails. Thus, a genocide against the Yazidis or the Rohingya means we lose cultures, religious practices, languages, bright futures etc. This simplicity masks the intense depth that it brings with it as well since it places the impetus on us and challenges us to consider how important a loss of diversity is to us. It is even more memorable because it does not seek to compare genocide and other atrocity events such as war crimes and crimes against humanity for it to sound profound. I am reminded of this conversation because it seems like that time of the year again, when various atrocities in Africa are trotted about and debates about whether they are genocides or not dominate the media discourse. To what extent is then the term genocide, and discussions whether the events fit the UN convention’s definition, inhibiting rather than enabling prevention and response?

more...

Hendrik Witbooi (Chief of the Witbooi Namaqua)

Depictions of colonized African peoples from Southwest Africa (DSWA, present-day Namibia), Germany’s first overseas colony, were prevalent throughout the German metropole at the turn of the twentieth century. Tobacconists catered to the erotic fantasies of colonial enthusiasts with images of Herero girls in their advertisements. Coffee companies used portraits of black African women to affirm the quality of their beans. Youth magazines allowed children to escape into “exotic” domains where their imaginations could wander unhindered by “civilized” social expectations. Anthropologists shifted the paradigms of scientific analysis by studying “natural peoples” as faceless objects. Novelists published romanticized accounts of faraway conflicts, a practice that over time made the realities of colonial bloodshed palpable for a continental audience. Though characterizations like these typified the contemporary discourse on Africa and epitomized Europe’s dominance over the continent, they belie the significant degree to which Africans in turn influenced the evolution of German imperial policy in southern Africa.

more...

Ali Ahmida is Professor at the Department of Political Science in University of New England. His research interests are in political theory, comparative politics, and historical sociology. His scholarship is cross-cultural and focuses on power, agency and anti-colonial resistance in North Africa, especially in modern Libya. He is currently working on two books, one about genocide in colonial Libya and the other a biography of the Libyan freedom fighter Omar al-Mukhtar. Ahmida recently gave a lecture titled, “When the Subaltern Speak: Researching Italian Fascist Colonial Genocide in Libya, 1929–1934” as part of the African Studies Initiative Symposium on Reframing Mass Violence in Africa: Social Memory and Social Justice. After his lecture, Ahmida shared more insights with Miray Philips (UMN Graduate Student, Sociology).

 

What happened to the Libyans during 1929-1934 at the hands of Italian fascists?

110, 000 were interned in concentration camps for four years as a strategy to cut the base of support for the anti-colonial resistance. They were starved and denied medical treatment, and only 40,000 came alive after 1934.

Why is this genocide unknown?

The fascist Italian government denied any international media access to the camps. The allies covered up any trail of war crimes, and the fascist government was never put on trial. Libya remained a colony until 1951. However, since the foundation of Libyan Studies Center in 1977, there has been Libyan scholarship and documentations of the genocide in Arabic. The Center collected archival material and oral history from that year until 2000.

more...

One of the more pressing questions I consistently get asked about genocides and mass atrocity is: What would motivate an individual to kill their neighbor? Understanding the answer holds the key to end genocides and mass atrocity.

more...

On October 14, 2017, one of the worst truck bombs ever experienced in Africa ripped the capital of Somalia, Mogadisho. On a global scale, this blast was only second to the 2016 attack in Iraq that killed 341 people in Karrada. This particular attack was so horrific that even a former Al-Shabaab leader was pictured donating much needed blood. As of October 16th, almost 276 people had been declared dead with 300 hundred injured. This number is likely to increase in the coming hours as the rubble is sifted through. Due to the intensity of the blast, there is a very real chance a large number of the dead will never be identified. One of the victims of the attack is Dr. Maryama Abdullahi who was to graduate from the medical school this week and whose parents’ joy and anticipation has now become unbearable grief. Another was Ahmed AbdiKarin Eyow, a Minnesota man who prayed at the Dar-Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington. I’m not sure if you saw this in your regular news outlets or if it even crossed your social media platforms.

more...

Twenty-three years have passed since the 1994 Rwandan genocide, and the decades since have shaped Rwanda into a nearly unrecognizable country. The genocide seems, at first glance, to be a distant and painful memory. The capital of Kigali has transformed into a vibrant urban hub, complete with five star hotels and immaculate streets. Educational initiatives and a skyrocketing tourism industry are reshaping the nation. For many, especially those living outside of Rwanda, the genocide seems to be a historical event, locked firmly in the past. But while decades have passed since the 100 days during which at least 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu were killed, the past doesn’t seem so far away to many Rwandans. The personal tolls, be they loss of family members or lasting emotional scars, still remain.

Photo Credit: The New Times

 

more...

The following is an open letter to the organizers of an African Trade Forum event, who have announced that Maowia Osman Khalid, Ambassador of Sudan to the US, will be on campus for a panel co-hosted by the Carlson School of Management.

more...

“The irony in this is that this is a country that people are fleeing to…[but it’s] becoming one of tyranny, is becoming one of dictatorship and is becoming one that’s turning its face against the values that it’s supposed to stand for.” – Ilhan Omar

An executive order signed on January 27th, ominously falling on Holocaust Remembrance Day, enacts a series of changes impacting people from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Libya, Sudan, and Yemen. The Twin Cities, home to the largest Somali community in the US, is heavily struck. In just the last three months of 2016, 433 Somali refugees were resettled in Minnesota contributing to a total of approximately 77,000 Somalis in the Twin Cities. Almost two-decades of civil war has resulted in one of the largest displacement crises, with almost 1 million registered as refugees, and another 1.1 million displaced within Somalia.

more...

While it may seem as though the international community has made notable progress in acknowledging and responding to human crises with an increasing international spotlight on Syria, this focus is all too often still quite limited in breadth. As reports from Aleppo and other decimated Syrian cities take center stage, the rapidly dissolving situation in South Sudan has largely fallen by the wayside, both at the discussion table and in regards to policy development. Last month the UNSC failed to vote on a resolution over South Sudan that sought to impose an arms embargo, even when UN reports provided extensive evidence of widespread killing and rape perpetrated by the South Sudanese army. Reports of rampant human rights violations and unabated sexual violence in Yei and Yambio point to untold misery faced by communities. This suffering has expanded into an additional crisis in Northern Uganda as refugees from South Sudan stream into the country. Numbers of families fleeing the conflict have steadily risen over the past year leading to aid organizations dealing with food shortages.

Members of the UN Security Council sitting around a round table.
UN Security Council

more...