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PEACETALK | How our historicity could bring lasting peace to Mindanao

3rd of three parts
GISENYI, Rwanda (MindaNews) How did Rwanda rise quickly from the ashes of that genocidal strife? Rwanda has quickly gathered the broken pieces of its own self and made them whole again by perpetuating the memory of the carnage in its national consciousness from generation to generation. The occurrence of such carnage, including the barbarity through which it was perpetrated and the historical and socio-cultural and the political and economic contexts that led to it is now part of the school’s curriculum in Rwanda. Highlighted in the study of Rwandan’s history is how the imperialist agenda of Belgium and of Germany, with its dubious policy of tribal divide and socio-economic segregation on the basis of wealth and material possession, has given rise to a genocide which had claimed about one million lives and the displacements of many more during that 100-day carnage.

Moreover, Rwanda established its genocide memorial park where the remains of the victims of genocide were buried. A tour inside a gigantic building located in the memorial park is tears-inducing, emotionally busting, but, at the same, educational and commitment-setting. Displayed inside the building, which were divided into different chambers are artifacts, pictures, and videos of what had happened during that 100-day carnage. Video testimonies of genocide survivors are also being shown in many chambers within the building. But, what can be seen there are not only physical artifacts, and photo and video accounts of the carnage, but also the chronological accounts in its history as a nation that eventually led to the carnage.

The photos of innocent and beautiful boys and girls, in their very tender age, with corresponding information about their favorite foods and plays, how they want to become and the manner through which they were killed (shot, smashed on walls and grounds, cut by the use of machetes, their tender bodies mangled with the use stone and bricks, pierced by wooden poles, etc) were prominently displayed in the tail-end of the building. Just by looking at these photos tears roll profusely from our eyes without us noticing it. A tour inside this building is commitment-setting because it enlivens one’s fervor to offer himself or herself in the altar of sacrifice for the just cause for peace. It is a commitment never to stand idly by while the peace process is made to hang in the balance by government’s inaction.

Rwanda has also designated a month of mourning to commemorate that particular strand of its history as a nation in order to refresh the people’s memory about the carnage and the contexts that made it happened. The genocide in Rwanda is a state-sponsored genocide, and yet governmental institutions had found courage to accept their mistakes and perpetuate the memory of such mistakes in its history and in its history yet to unfold so that this generation and the next will prevent its repeat.

It is our view that the people, in general, and government institutions, in particular, are not so concerned about our campaign for peace because of our country’s lack of historicity on the series of incidents of carnage that had happened here in Mindanao. There are very important pieces of history in Mindanao which involved the massacres, other form of mass killings and rapes of women, young and old alike; that need to be perpetuated in our national memory, together with the social and structural contexts that are deeply rooted in our systems of life that led to these mass atrocities. In this way, like the people of Rwanda, we can also, in unison, sing: “Never again; never again!”

In our country, there were hundreds of genocidal incidents that are ought to be perpetuated in our national memory, among them are: 1.) The Jabidah massacre which served as a flash-point for the Moro struggle in Mindanao; 2.) The Malisbong massacre which claimed more than a thousand lives; 3.) The “no man’s land” in Jolo, Sulu; 4.) The siege of the Island Municipality of Tandubas in Tawi-Tawi which resulted to the destruction of the Notre Dame schools; 5.) The massacre of the troops of General Teodolfo Bautista in Patikul, Sulu; 6.) The beheading of the soldiers in Basilan; 7.) The encounter in the Marcos Highway and the annihilation of Camp Abubakar in Maguindanao which left hundreds of dead bodies of soldiers, moro fighters and civilians scattered on the ground; 8.) The armed encounter in Mamasapano, Maguidanao, which claimed the lives of almost a hundred lives of civilians and both the state and Moro rebel forces; and 9.) The violent armed conflict between the Moro Blackshirts and the Ilagas which resulted to various incidents of mass killings, rapes of women and girls and the burning of many basic communities.

Memorial centers should have been established to perpetuate into our national memory these black marks in the history of our country, together with the social contexts and past events that led to these carnages. Like the government of Rwanda, our government should have been honest enough to accept that the unjust socio-cultural and economic structures and social policies, specifically related to land and natural resource tenures, and the use of military might to enforce these unjust social structures and policies had given birth to the protracted and continual blood-lettings in Mindanao and its Islands.

The failure of government to put up memorial sites for these incidents and the contexts and the lessons that may be derived from them has actually reinforced the already existing prejudices and bigotries between and among the different peoples in Mindanao. Having allowed these incidents to be subjected to free-for-all interpretative workshops by dominant sectors of society, the ruling classes that wield political and economic power have actually benefited from these social divisions and the growing mistrusts between and among peoples of Mindanao. Moreover, the act of the state’s coercive instruments to force these unjust social structures and policies into the collective spine of the Bangsamoro people has given rise to protracted war in Mindanao.

The drabness that characterizes the people’s reactions on the campaign for the extension of the term of the BTA as an indispensable formula for the completion of the infrastructure of peace in the BARMM may be attributed to this failure of government to nurture historicity amongst its people. Thus, instead of culling out precious lessons from these incidents through the constant summation and distillation of historical events, the carnage that characterized the armed conflict in Mindanao is instead being used as a foundation stone to enflame prejudices and bigotries between and among the hapless peoples in Mindanao. This must not be made to continue.

The same level of drabness is also reflective of the lame reactions of government officials, in both the executive and legislative departments, relative to the campaign for the extension of the term of the BTA as recommended in the results of the mid-term assessment conducted by the MPC under the auspices of Atty. Mary Ann Arnado.

As I articulated before, our government officials should not wait for the seeds to die in order to make them grow. They should not wait for the carnage of genocidal proportion for them to embrace peace and to seize every moment that makes peace possible.

Their continued complacency will stain their hands with the blood of future heroes and martyrs.

[MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Ben Sumog-oy is the Action Officer of the In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement , General Santos City Chapter (IDEFEND-GenSan), Volunteer Head of the Para-legal Unit of the Sentro ng mga Progresibo at Nagkakaisang Manggagawa-SOCSKSARGEN (Sentro-SOCSKSARGEN) and of the Local Mass Struggle (LMS) Unit of Akbayan-GenSan]

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