Words from Kenya

The 25 year anniversary of the Rwanda genocide reminds us that the destructive effects of violence continue long after the last shot is fired

April 2012 Inter-community Conflict, Isiolo

In the drama of the latest viral moment, or breaking news from journalists tasked with finding the newest ‘bang bang’, we easily forget how extensive and serious the long term effects of violence are. I have seen first hand how violence leaves it’s mark on the individuals and communities involved. Time may obscure the effects on individual and collective psyche but, though new life events can help create distance, I am not sure the effects of violence every really go away.

These mental and emotional wounds, and the scars they leave, can all too easily develop into deep seated prejudice and even restart conflicts. I have watched that happen here in northern Kenya. You do not easily forget those that killed your family, or took away your home or livelihood. Memories of the fear, the loss and the pain (physical and emotional) can be buried, but when they surface they retain a horrific clarity.

Security, development and prosperity help greatly to move people forward and away from past violence. If those things are missing however, then these wounds can fester and become the trigger for new violence, even many years later. Those who wish to instigate violence for their own ends regularly use these wound to do just that. I have witnessed this too and it is a grim reality for the vast number of people who live in poor or marginal parts of the world with weak security mechanisms.

We have yet to count the true cost of modern conflicts such as that in Syria or the Yemen. European history is a great lesson for this. Look at how the first world war and the second world war are still such an integral part of European culture and heritage, even generations later. Every town has it’s memorials to those that died in these wars, every family can tell you which father, brother, uncle or cousin was killed in action and even the land the war was fought on is still scarred. These wars ended 100 years and 74 years ago respectively.

Western European countries were rich before the wars and massive post war investment hastened recovery. This was not the case in Eastern Europe where poverty hampered development and reconstruction, the scars from those wars lasted longest and most damagingly there. 25 years since the Rwandan genocide may seem long to some, but as the article by Nita Bhalla below shows, the effects of that war are still being lived every day by the people who survived it. Then consider what lies ahead for those countries and places that are currently suffering war and violence. The story of violence does not end with the ceasefire and the aid programs, when the cameras leave the story of violence has barely begun.

Read this:
Rwanda’s genocide survivors tormented by horrors 25 years on. By Nita Bhalla – Thomson Reuters Foundation.

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