Friday, 19 December 2008

Score Two for Humanity: Rwandan Genocide Decisions Handed Down and Health Care Strike Ends in Burundi

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda handed down verdicts yesterday in the cases of four senior officers of the Rwandan army during the 1994 genocide, while in neighboring Burundi health workers went back to work after a month long strike.

Colonel Théoneste Bagosora, director of cabinet in the Rwandan Ministry of Defence—he’s the “devil” Canadian General Roméo Dallaire described shaking hands with—and two others will receive life imprisonment for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. A fourth officer was acquitted

Conflict between Hutus and Tutsis in the Great Lake Region of Africa has not gone away in the 14 years since Bagosora gave the order to slaugher Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Many aspects of the continuing turmoil in the (ironically named, I think) Democratic Republic of Congo hinge of this ethnic conflict and the desire for revenge which flourishes after massacres.

Within Rwanda itself things seem calmer today, and in neighboring Burundi, which has about the same proportion of Tutsis, Hutus and Twa that Rwanda had, work toward peaceful accommodation seems near fruition. Only a few obstacles remain before complete legitmatization of a government of reconciliation, it seems. And business appears to progressing in many respects as it would in any other “normal’ country. The labour conflict in the health sector is a case in point.

Strikes by health workers, particularly lengthy ones, are never trivial, but the fact that this one appears to be settled by negotiation and not by fiat seems to me to be a good sign. Unions are allowed, bargaining can go on, the importance of health is recognized: Burundi in its own tortuous way is making progress.

Sometimes things do get better.

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