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Conflict Weekly
Remembering the Rwandan Genocide and Martin Luther King

  IPRI Team

Conflict Weekly #222, 4 April 2024, Vol.5, No.14
An initiative by NIAS-IPRI

Anu Maria Joseph and Ramya B

30 years after the Rwandan Genocide
Anu Maria Joseph

In the news
On 7 April, it would be 30 years of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, a massacre of 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus by the ethnic Hutus over 100 days. On the day, Rwandan President Paul Kagame will light a remembrance flame at the Kigali Genocide Memorial.

The UN and the African Union (AU) would additionally join the commemoration. On 2 April, remembering the genocide, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated: “This year, we remind ourselves of genocide’s rancid root: hate. To those who would seek to divide us, we must deliver a clear, unequivocal and urgent message: never again.”

On 4 April, French President Emmanuel Macron, in a video message which is to be released on 7 April, stated: “France, which could have stopped the genocide with its western and African allies, did not have the will.”

Issues at large
First, a brief historical note on the genocide. In 1994, on 6 April, a day before the massacre began, a plane carrying Rwanda's Hutu President Juvenal Habyarimana was shot down, killing everyone on board. The extremists within the Hutus blamed the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF); the latter is a Tutsi-led rebel group which fought the Rwandan government during 1990-1993. Subsequently, the Hutu extremists began a slaughter campaign against the ethnic Tutsis. Neighbours and families killed each other using machetes and small arms. Tutsi women and girls were raped and kept as sex slaves; more than 15,000 women and girls were raped. The youth wing of the governing MRND party, Interahamwe, was converted into a militia to carry out the massacre. Through radios and newspapers, the Hutus spread the genocide propaganda under the phrase "weed out the cockroaches." The slaughter ended on 4 July 1994; the RPF with the support of the Ugandan army marched into the capital Kigali. Nearly two million Hutus fled to the Democratic Republic of Congo fearing revenge attacks.

Second, the limited international response. It was too late and when it happened it was too little. The UN Mission to Rwanda (UNAMIR) was deployed in October 1993 with a limited mandate to implement the Arusha Agreement; the agreement signed in August 1993, between the RPF and the Rwandan government, ended the conflict. The mission did little during the genocide and withdrew soon after the outbreak. Later, in November 1994, the UNSC established the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha (in Tanzania) to prosecute the perpetrators. The Tribunal has indicted 93 people responsible for the genocide. In 1999, the UN acknowledged its failure in stopping the genocide. Outside the UN, there was little interest among the other big countries. The US, after its troops were killed in Somalia in 1993, was not interested in getting involved in another African conflict. France, an ally of the Hutu government, (France supported the Hutu-led government under Habyarimana who was fighting against the Tutsi-led RPF militia since 1990) evacuated its citizens and was accused of not doing enough to stop the violence. It was only in 2021, after 27 years, that French President Emmanuel Macron, for the first time, acknowledged its "overwhelming responsibility" for the genocide. 

Third, the generational trauma and a neverending post-genocide reconstruction. Two-thirds of the Rwandan population today are born after the genocide. Gacaca, a system of community courts within Rwanda was set up to achieve truth, justice and reconciliation. The gacaca courts adjudicated over 1.2 million cases. At present, Rwandan society does not talk about ethnicity anymore. The historic ethnic division between the Tutsi, Hutus and Twa is replaced by Ndi Umunyarwanda, meaning "I am Rwandan." Ndi Umunyarwanda has been a successful post-genocide social reconstruction to move on from the past, at least for the young generation. However, fear of a resurgence of ethnic tensions exists among the old generation. A wave of violence has been ongoing in eastern DRC bordering Rwanda with the involvement of several militant groups, including the Democratic Forces for the Liberation Rwanda (DFLR). DFLR is known to be the perpetrators of the genocide. Many fear that the extreme ideologies of the DFLR could surpass the progress made by the Ndi Umunyarwanda.

Fourth, lessons learned and not learned from the Rwandan genocide. The first UN initiative to prevent another genocide was the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) in 2005. According to the R2P, all countries have the responsibility to protect people from genocide crimes by force, if required, with the authorisation of the UNSC. However, R2P is criticised for its non-binding character. The R2P was first tried in Libya in 2011 against the Gadaffi regime. Although the foreign intervention prevented genocide, the fall of Gadaffi and the subsequent civil war put the Western intentions behind the interventions under scrutiny. Now, the West is indifferent to intervention, especially in Africa. In 2020, an ethnic conflict broke out in Ethiopia's Tigray region between the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Ethiopian federal forces. The conflict killed more than 600,000 people. The international community remained silent while the violence continued. The situation repeated today in the Sudanese civil war and the war in Gaza. 

In perspective
The international community consider the Rwandan genocide of 1994 as a lesson that gathered a collective conscience against 'genocide.' 30 years into truth, justice and reconciliation, Rwanda is on the right path towards social reconstruction. However, concerns about resurging ethnic tension do persist. Meanwhile, the international community continue to discuss how an early action could have prevented the genocide. 

Although "never again" is a common narrative, collective mechanisms and actions to prevent genocides are a few. Moreover, countries waver to acknowledge the "g-word" which comes with a baggage of responsibilities. Countries settle for conflicts in Africa as low-intensity conflict leaving it to humanitarian agencies. After Rwanda, Darfur in Sudan, Rohingyas in Myanmar and Tigrayans in Ethiopia all were genocide victims which the international community failed to acknowledge and prevent. Until addressing the causes is prioritised above the consequences, "responsibility to protect (R2P)" would remain aspirational and "never again" would end up "yet again."

This Week in History
"This Week in History" is a new column that examines historical events, consequences, legacies and their current relevance. We hope this column will provide an opportunity to build a young team that can analyze current events from a historical perspective and vice versa.

4 April 1968: Martin Luther King Jr assassinated
Ramya B

On 4 April 1968, Dr Martin Luther King Jr, at the age of 39, was assassinated by a sniper attack. James Earl Ray, who reportedly fled after the attack, was captured in the United Kingdom and was convicted in 1969 after entering a guilty plea. The US Attorney General Janet Reno ordered a new investigation on 26 August 1998 due to sustained complaints of a conspiracy; the Department of Justice released a 150-page report in 2000, rejecting allegations that there was a conspiracy to assassinate King.

The Rise of Martin Luther King 
King was the foremost civil rights leader and an inspirational activist who stood for the core values of equality, nonviolence, and human rights for all Americans in the aftermath of the Second World War and the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, reminding the world of the significance of securing universal voting rights and the abolition of segregation laws (separate but equal) of all forms. He stood faithful to his ideology of non-violent protests even when faced with the repeated occurrences of white supremacists, including an attack on his home in January 1957 and a stabbing injury in September 1958. He remarked: "The experience of these last few days has deepened my faith in the relevance of the spirit of nonviolence and peaceful social change."

Born into an educated African American family in 1929 with two generations of inspirational men and pastors, he graduated in law and medicine. He was a theologian and pastor who completed his doctorate in 1955. He had all available opportunities to lead a peaceful family life with his wife, children, and community but chose to become the champion of the vulnerable section of the USA.

Rosa Parks, secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), of which Martin Luther King was an active member, was jailed in 1955 after refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger on a bus in Montgomery. Martin Luther King Jr became famous for coordinating a peaceful bus boycott in the deeply segregated city for 382 days. The Supreme Court of the US declared segregation in buses unconstitutional in 1956. Montgomery became an inspiration for the nationwide civil rights movement, and King Junior became a national trailblazer.

"I have a Dream": The legacy of Martin Lurher King Jr
After establishing the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957, which aimed to provide educational opportunities for African Americans, Dr King journeyed more than six million miles and gave more than 1,500 speeches. He organized voter registration drives and represented the disadvantaged wherever an injustice, protest, or action was needed, including a massive protest in Birmingham, Alabama, one of America's most racially divided cities. His famous speech 'I have a dream' was delivered at one of Washington, DC's largest civil rights gatherings, and was listened to by 2.5 million people in 1963.

His leadership and civil rights movement resulted in US President Lyndon B Johnson passing the Civil Rights Act on 2 July 1964. The Civil Rights Act prohibited racial discrimination in employment and education and outlawed racial segregation in public places. Furthermore, the bill established a solid foundation for several other pieces of legislation—including the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which set strict rules for protecting the right of African Americans to vote—that have since been utilized to uphold equal rights for women and all minorities. He spent time in India studying Mahatma Gandhi's teachings and applying them to the American civil rights movement after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. 

King's contributions to the civil rights struggle altered the global perception of African Americans. 

King came to represent change and optimism for rising against repression and speaking out against racial injustices in the face of violence, verbal abuse, and ridicule. He continues to remain an inspiration today through the words of his books and articles, including the well-known "Letter from Birmingham Jail," denouncing the abuses African Americans were subjected to at the time with a clarion call, "Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere." 

Today, we remember King as a legend who championed international human rights and fought for the equality and liberties of African Americans.

Issues in Peace and Conflict This Week:
Regional Roundups

Akriti Sharma, Akhil Ajith, Anu Maria Joseph, Femy Francis, Padmashree Anandhan, Dhriti Mukherjee, Shamini Velayutham, and Nuha Aamina 

East and Southeast Asia
China: 30 locations renamed to assert claims over Arunachal Pradesh
On 30 March, the Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs renamed 30 locations in Arunachal Pradesh to assert its claims to what it calls as Zangnan region, a part of the Tibet autonomous region. 11 residential areas, 12 mountains, four rivers, one lake, one mountain pass, and a piece of land were renamed to Mandarin Chinese. The ministry additionally released a latitude and longitude and a high-resolution map. The ministry stated: “In accordance with the relevant provisions of the State Council [China’s cabinet] on the management of geographical names, we in conjunction with the relevant departments have standardised some of the geographical names in Zangnan of China.” The renaming came a week after Beijing protested Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh to inaugurate the Sela Tunnel. India has repeatedly rejected Chinese claims. The previous week, Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson, Randhir Jaiswal, stated: “China may repeat its baseless claims as many times as they want. That is not going to change the position. Arunachal Pradesh was, is and will always remain an integral and inalienable part of India.”

China: Warns against stringent sanctions on North Korea
On 28 March, Chinese Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, Geng Shuang, warned of further sanctions against North Korea. His remarks came after the UNSC voted on a draft resolution that extends the mandate of the panel of experts assisting the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) Sanctions Committee. Geng stated that increasing sanctions would be counterproductive, and any military alliances would exacerbate tensions in the Korean Peninsula. He called on all parties to adopt a rational and pragmatic approach to a political settlement. Geng commented that the sanctions should serve to denuclearize the Korean peninsula. 

Taiwan: 7.4 magnitude earthquake kills seven
On 1 April, Taiwan was hit by an earthquake of 7.4 magnitude killing at least seven people and injuring more than 700. This is the largest earthquake Taiwan has experienced in the past 25 years. According to the US Geological Survey, the earthquake hit south of the city of Hualien at a depth of 34.8 kilometres. A series of warnings were issued in the southern part of Japan and the Philippines. 

North Korea: Tests mid-to-long-range solid fuel-based hypersonic missiles
On 2 April, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that North Korea successfully tested its mid-to-long-range solid fuel-based hypersonic missiles. The launch was overseen by North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, who stated that the test showcases the “absolute superiority” of the country in defence technology. Kim stated that North Korea has “fully turned all tactical, operational, and strategic-grade missiles of different ranges into solid-fuel, with warhead control, and capable of nuclearization.” The hypersonic capabilities are a strategic boost to North Korea as they are hard to intercept.

North Korea: Russia vetoes UN resolution on sanctions monitoring panel
On 29 March, Russia vetoed the UN resolution aimed at renewing the expert panel which monitors the sanctions imposed on North Korea for nuclear weapons and ballistic missile development. Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Maria Zakharova, stated: “It is obvious to us that the UN Security Council can no longer use old templates in relation to the problems of the Korean Peninsula. The United States and its allies have clearly demonstrated that their interest does not extend beyond the task of ‘strangling’ the DPRK by all available means, and a peaceful settlement is not on the agenda at all.” The US Department of State responded that the Russian veto undermines international peace and security. It stated: “Russia alone will own the outcome of this veto: a DPRK more emboldened to reckless behaviour and destabilizing provocations, as well as reduced prospects for an enduring peace on the Korean Peninsula.” 

Myanmar: China carries out military exercises along the border
On 2 April, the Irrawaddy reported that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) would carry out a military exercise on 2-3 April, along the borders of the Kachin state. China’s Southern Theatre Command spokesperson, Tian Junli, stated that the drill would “test rapid manoeuvres” and “safeguard national sovereignty, border stability, people’s lives and property.” On 1 April, China’s special envoy to Myanmar, Deng Xijun, and Myanmar’s Prime Minister, Min Aung Hlaing, engaged in a bilateral dialogue. They discussed the need for cooperation to tackle issues such as “drug trafficking, online gambling, fraud and border trade.” 

Myanmar: Junta attack on monastery kills eight civilians 
On 2 April, the Irrawaddy reported that the Myanmar junta bombed the Myoma Shwe Kyang monastery in Papua town, in the Karen state on 31 March. The attack killed eight civilians. The attack came after the resistance forces captured a junta battalion and an armoury on 30 March. On 1 April, the Irrawaddy reported that the Karen National Union (KNU) Brigade 5 seized the Junta’s Infantry Battalion 19 and its Armory 642 in Karen state’s Papun town on 30 March. A member of the KNU Brigade 5 stated that the junta’s Y-12 aircraft “has been bombing [Papun] since March 19 … day and night. A bombing raid lasts for three to four hours.” While KNU carried out its operation in Papun, residents were evacuated to safety at a Buddhist monastery and later moved to Ka Ma Maung town. 

South Asia
Pakistan: Chinese hydropower project halted
On 29 March, the Economic Times reported that the Chinese company, Power Construction Corporation of China (PCCC), halted its activities following the suicide attack which killed five Chinese nationals at the Dasu hydropower project in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. On 26 March, a vehicle with explosives hit a bus carrying six people. It was the second suicide attack on individuals working on China-backed projects in the region since 2021. PCCC has been supervising the construction of the Tarbela 5th Extension Hydropower Project. It suspended the operations and laid off 2,000 workers due to security concerns. Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Shehbaz Sharif, has ordered a joint investigation and ensured the safety of Chinese citizens working on projects across the country.

India: Maoist camps busted in Chhattisgarh
On 31 March, the Hindu reported that police from the Maharashtra state busted a Maoist camp bordering the Chhattisgarh state and seized materials including corded wire, detonators, and literature on Naxalism. Anti-naxal operations were launched and the camp was demolished. Subsequently, clashes occurred between the security personnel and Maoists. The Hindu quoted the police: “Sensing mounting pressure and taking cover of darkness, Naxals fled from the firing spot.”

India: Meiteis demand for deferring the elections in Manipur
On 3 April, the Hindu reported that the Delhi Meitei Coordinating Committee (DMCC), a Meitei civil society organisation in Delhi, wrote to the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and the Chief Justice of India (CJI), seeking the postponement of the Lok Sabha election in Manipur due to the unrest and “abnormal” situation in the state. The elections are scheduled for 19 and 26 April. The organisation stated: “It clearly indicates that these attacks by Kuki militants on Meetei are politically motivated attacks under the protection of a policy called ‘Suspension of Operation (SoO)’ between 24 Kuki militants and the Government of India. As the election has brought relative peace in Manipur, the postponement of the LS election is a prerequisite.”

Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa
Syria: Israel targets Iranian consulate 
On 1 April, an Israeli airstrike targeted the Iranian consulate in the Syrian capital Damascus killing two Iranian generals and five officers. Iran and Syria condemned the attack. Syria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Faisal Mekdad, said that the “heinous terrorist attack” killed innocent people. He stated: “We strongly condemn this atrocious terrorist attack that targeted the Iranian consulate building in Damascus and killed innocents.” Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, called the strike a “violation of all international obligations and conventions and blamed the consequences of this action on the Zionist regime.” The Iranian militant group, Hezbollah, stated: “This crime will not pass without the enemy receiving punishment and revenge.” On 3 April, Iran’s Supreme National Security Council met to decide on a “required response” to the strike. At the council meeting, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said: “We will make them regretful about the crime and similar acts.”

Yemen: US intercepts Houthi drones in the Red Sea
On 31 March, the US Central Command (CENTCOM) stated that its forces destroyed two drones targeting Yemen and the Red Sea. The drones targeted naval ships of US allies and international commercial vessels. Referring to the recent confrontation with Houthi rebels, CENTCON stated: “These actions are necessary to protect our forces, ensure freedom of navigation, and make international waters safer and more secure for US, coalition, and merchant vessels.” 

Somalia: Ethiopian ambassador expelled
On 4 April, Somalia expelled the Ethiopian ambassador to the country and ordered the closure of the two consulates. It additionally recalled the ambassador to Ethiopia. The expulsion came after a rise in tensions between the two following Ethiopia’s port deal with self-declared Somaliland in January. Somalia considers Somaliland as part of its territory and accused Ethiopia of infringing on its “sovereignty and internal affairs.” Somalia described the deal as an act of “aggression” and an "impediment to… peace and stability.” 

Ethiopia: Federal forces carry out war crimes in Amhara, says HRW
On 4 April, Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Ethiopian federal forces of summarily executing civilians and committing war crimes in the Amhara region. It called on the UN for an independent investigation. Deputy Africa director at HRW, Laetitia Bader, stated: “Civilians are once again bearing the brunt of an abusive army operating with impunity. The Ethiopian armed forces’ brutal killings of civilians in Amhara undercut government claims that it’s trying to bring law and order to the region.” Additionally, it called on the AU to suspend Ethiopia’s participation in the peacekeeping missions until “commanders responsible for grave abuses are held accountable.” 

Uganda: Constitutional Court rejects appeal against anti-LGBTQ law
On 3 April, Uganda’s Constitutional Court rejected an appeal seeking to annul the anti-LGBTQ law. The court ruled that a few sections of the law were “inconsistent with the right to health, privacy and freedom of religion,” but, did not suspend the law. Uganda’s deputy chief justice and head of the court, Richard Buteera, stated: “We decline to nullify the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 in its entirety, neither will we grant a permanent injunction against its enforcement.” Uganda-based Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum committed that the decision “unfortunately will fuel human rights violations” against the LGBTQ community in the country. Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 imposes a lifetime in prison for same-sex relations and describes “aggravated homosexuality” as an offence punishable by death.

Zimbabwe: National disaster announced amidst severe drought
On 3 April, Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared a national disaster amidst the prolonged drought. Mnangagwa stated that the country requires USD two billion to address the hunger crisis induced by the drought. According to BBC, nearly 2.7 million people in the country face hunger. According to the World Food Programme (WFP), 13.6 million people are experiencing crisis-level food insecurity across the region.

Togo: Delay in elections amidst constitutional reform
On 4 April, BBC reported on Togo announcing the delay in the parliamentary and regional elections over the controversial constitutional reform. According to the reform which was approved the previous week, the country replaced the presidential system with a parliamentary one. The opposition parties rejected the reform citing that it would let President Faure Gnassingbé stay in power. On 3 April, the presidential office announced the postponement of the elections which were initially scheduled for 20 April. The election delay was announced after President Gnassingbé returned the bill for a second reading amidst widespread criticism. 

Europe and the Americas
Cyprus: Syrian immigrants enter through the southeastern coast
On 1 April, Xinhua that an estimated 500 Syrian immigrants in seven small boats reached the southeastern coast of Cyprus in a day. Rescue operations were initiated amidst overcrowded vessels. The vessels are expected to have originated from Lebanon, which is 200 kilometres from Cyprus. This is the second similar exodus since 13 January. Cyprus Minister of Interior, Konstantinos Ioannou, raised concern over the influx of Syrians due to the high number of hostilities in Gaza. He urged the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, the Frontex, to intercept the entry of illegal immigrants.

Belarus: Defence ministry conducts three-day military drill
On 2 April, Deutsche Welle reported that Belarus conducted a three-day military drill on its border near Ukraine, Lithuania and Poland. The exercises were held in the Gomel and Grodno regions in Belarus to train territorial defence troops. Belarusian Ministry of Defence stated: "A command and staff exercise is being conducted with the 336th reactive artillery brigade as part of the build-up of the combat readiness check of formations and military units of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus.” The development came a week after Lithuania, Baltic EU and NATO protested the statements made by Belarusian ruler Alexander Lukashenko. He hinted at a possible military attack against Poland or Lithuania if necessary.

Ukraine: Zelensky commemorates two years of the liberation of Bucha
On 31 March, Ukraine's President, Volodymyr Zelensky, commemorated the second anniversary of the liberation of Bucha. At a flag-raising ceremony at the Memorial to the Defenders of the Bucha Community, Zelensky stated: “...this is a war to prevent anyone from daring to become a beast towards others.” The suburb of Bucha near Kyiv was occupied by Russia soon after the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022; however, a mid-March Ukrainian counterattack liberated the suburb. Following the liberation, mass graves and remnants of Russian war crimes were found. Later, Bucha was referred to as a symbol of atrocities committed by Russia. According to the Ukrainian Office of the Prosecutor General, 1,400 civilians were killed in Bucha.

Russia: Attack on Ukraine's energy infrastucture
On 31 March, according to Sputnik, Russia attacked Ukrainian energy infrastructure and the gas industry using long-range precision weapons and unmanned aerial vehicles. The Russian Ministry of Defence announced that the strike had disrupted “enterprises of the defence industry on the production and repair of weapons, military equipment and ammunition” in Ukraine, hitting all targets. 

Haiti: More than 50,000 civilians flee Port-au-Prince, says UN
On 2 April, the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported that more than 53,000 people fled Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince between 8 and 27 March due to a surge in gang violence. It stated: “It should be emphasized that [these] provinces do not have sufficient infrastructure and host communities do not have sufficient resources that can enable them to cope with these massive displacement flows coming from the capital.” In Port-au-Prince, gangs were attacking businesses, torching pharmacies, and vandalising schools. Armed men stormed the State University of Haiti (HUEH) hospital, which was shut down in March due to violence and was set to reopen on 1 April. As armed men converted the hospital into their command centre, the reopening is likely to be delayed. Access to healthcare is being restricted while gangs control the roads, making the transportation of medical supplies difficult.

Mexico: Eight Chinese migrants found dead on Oaxaca beach
On 29 March, the bodies of eight Chinese migrants were found on a beach in the Oaxaca state after their boat capsized. Seven women and a man were on the boat that set off from the Chiapas state trying to reach the US. According to the prosecutor’s office in Oaxaca, an investigation is underway alongside efforts to coordinate with the Chinese embassy in Mexico to identify the victims.

Ecuador: 14 people arrested for organised crime
On 3 April, Ecuador’s attorney general stated that as part of an investigation into organised crime in the country, 14 people, including judges, lawyers, and police who helped dangerous criminals walk free, were arrested. Several detained individuals are additionally accused of ‘Metastasis’ corruption and organised crime. Recently, drug trafficking has led to a spike in violence and crime in the country.

The US: Biden expresses outrage over killing of aid workers in Gaza
On 2 April, US President Joe Biden asserted that he was “outraged and heartbroken” by Israel’s killing of seven aid workers in Gaza. He accused Israel of not taking sufficient measures to protect civilians, which “has been one of the worst in recent memory in terms of how many aid workers have been killed.” He added: “This is a major reason why distributing humanitarian aid in Gaza has been so difficult – because Israel has not done enough to protect aid workers trying to deliver desperately needed help to civilians.” Describing the deceased workers as “brave and selfless,” Biden claimed that such incidents should “simply not happen,” and that the US “has repeatedly urged Israel to deconflict their military operations against Hamas with humanitarian operations, in order to avoid civilian casualties.” He assured that the US would continue to “deliver humanitarian assistance to Palestinian civilians” and “press Israel to do more to facilitate that aid.” 

Newsmakers This Week
Padmashree Anandhan, Ken B Varghese and Bishwarupa Kar

75 Years of NATO
On 4 April, NATO turns 75, becoming the oldest military alliance. Established in 1949, beginning with 12 members and expanding to 32, NATO stands sturdy for countries wanting to be part of the alliance. The first round of NATO expansion began on 25 March 1999, toward the east with Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland. Since then, it continued to spread through the Baltic, and Eastern Europe (2004: Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) to northern Europe (2023 & 2024: Finland and Sweden). The expansion was accompanied by the degradation of its relations with Russia through the collapse of the NATO-Russia Council in 2002 and the trigger for the war in Ukraine. The military organisation which pledged not to expand further during the German reunification in 1990 continued to include more members. The question of its continued existence and leadership has never been as significant since the Russian aggression in Ukraine. Article 5, the critical part of the NATO treaty, considers an attack on any NATO member as an attack on all. This was triggered once until now in 2001 when the 9/11 attacks took place in the US. Since then NATO’s intervention has been concentrated in Afghanistan, Libya and multiple military exercises with the alliance members. After the Crimean annexation followed by the war in Ukraine, NATO’s landscape and scope shifted inward to protect its members. The war has triggered chaos over the US leadership, giving a wake-up call for the organisation to boost its arsenal capacity and to look beyond the US support. 

On 3 April, during the meeting with the NATO foreign ministers, NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, proposed a new approach toward aiding Ukraine. During a foreign ministers meeting ahead of the NATO 75th anniversary, Stoltenberg pitched an idea of funding EUR 100 billion as military aid to Ukraine over five years to shift more responsibility on NATO to gather support. He stated: “We must ensure reliable and predictable security assistance to Ukraine for the long haul…so that we rely less on voluntary contributions and more on NATO commitments. Less on short-term offers and more on multi-year pledges.” The statement came as the US delayed the USD 60 billion military aid to Ukraine. Besides, ministers from Poland and Germany expressed support for the long-term support and the proposal.

World Central Kitchen
On 2 April 2024, a series of airstrikes by Israel, killed seven aid workers of the World Central Kitchen, an international charity, working in Gaza. The attack resulted in WCK and multiple other charities suspending their aid activities.  

The WCK is a US-based, non-governmental organization, that has worked in other places (for example in Haiti) providing emergency food aid for survivors. 

With food scarcity and malnutrition rising, international experts have warned that some 30 per cent of Gaza's population is already facing "catastrophic" levels of hunger and that northern Gaza could officially see famine anytime between now and May. 

Earthquake in Taiwan
On 3 April 2024, Taiwan was hit by an earthquake of 7.5 magnitude, the strongest in 25 years. The epicenter was found to be in Hualien County which has a population of 300,000. The quake damaged both infrastructure and lives; so far,  10 have been reported to be dead, 650 injured, and 42 missing.

Taiwan is well accustomed to earthquakes, therefore, it already has an efficient disaster management mechanism. 

Constitutional Court in Uganda approves the anti-homosexuality legislation 
On 3 April 2024, the Ugandan Constitutional Court approved the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023. The court ruled that a few sections of the law were “inconsistent with the right to health, privacy and freedom of religion,” but, did not suspend the law. The act imposes a lifetime in prison for same-sex relations and describes “aggravated homosexuality” as an offence punishable by death. The international community describes the Act as the most brutal existing anti-homosexuality law. This comes against a backdrop of existing political and religious unacceptance of homosexuality within the country. Ugandan academics, human rights activists, lawyers, journalists, legislators and religious leaders appealed against the law in December 2023 arguing that it violates fundamental rights including the right to privacy and freedom from discrimination. The anti-homosexuality act in Uganda adds to the recent wave of increasing anti-LGBTQ sentiments across Africa.

About the authors

Ramya B is an Associate Professor at the Department of History, Kristu Jayanti College. Akriti Sharma is a PhD Scholar at NIAS. Padmashree Anandhan and Anu Maria Joseph are Research Associates at NIAS. Femy Francis, Dhriti Mukherjee, Akhil Ajith and Shamini Velayutham are Research Assistants at NIAS. Nuha Aamina is a Undergraduate Student at St Joseph’s University, Bangalore. Ken B Varghese is currently pursuing a Bachelor's in Political Science at Madras Christian College, Chennai. Bishwarupa Kar is pursuing Masters in Politics and International Relations at Pondicherry University.

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