What is genocide?

What is genocide? A definition…

Genocide is an effort to destroy an entire group of people based on their race, religion or ethnicity. The term was invented in 1943 by the Jewish-Polish lawyer Raphael Lemkin. He put together the Greek word “genos” (race or tribe) with the Latin word “cide” (to kill).

Dr Lemkin saw first hand the horrors of the Holocaust during World War II. His entire family, except his brother, was killed. In all, six million Jews were murdered between 1939 and 1945, by the Nazi regime.

After the war, Dr Lemkin campaigned to have genocide recognised as a crime under international law. His efforts led to the adoption of the UN Convention on Genocide in December 1948, coming into effect in January 1951.

Less than fifty years later, the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda reminded the world that genocide is still a risk. Preventing it remains a challenge. Studying the risk factors, warning signs and triggers of past genocides is key to understanding how to prevent future ones.

Today Rwanda takes an active role in regional and international affairs. The Rwanda Defence Force and National Police play a leading part in UN peacekeeping missions.