Rwandan Genocide

The article, Bystanders to Genocide, discusses the United States’ response (or lack thereof) during the Rwandan genocide in 1994.  The fact that the United States did nothing to help Rwandans during the genocide does not surprise me at all.  Many different arguments are presented for why the United States did not get involved, but none of these seem remotely logical.  Some argue that the United States was unaware of the conflict in Rwanda or simply thought it was a period of civil unrest, which was typical in this country, but this is clearly not the case.  If Clinton was unaware of the genocide, why would he go out of his way to ensure that his friend, Monique Mujawamariya, was safely out of the country?  After he had taken care of the business on his personal agenda, Rwanda was put on the backburner.  While eight hundred thousand people were slaughtered, the United States simply made a few phone calls.  “Indeed, staying out of Rwanda was an explicit U.S. policy objective” (Power 2).

There is no justification for this, regardless of what anyone says.  As the leading power of the world, the United States has a responsibility to help those less fortunate.  Why would the United States need to build up such a strong army if they are not willing to use it in crisis periods?  The United States was very aware of the ongoing conflict in Rwanda but did not want to risk American lives, especially if there was not going to be any benefit for the Americans involved.  If Americans went to Rwanda, it would be costly, dangerous, and time-consuming.  At least, this is the stance that the government took when questioned about their lack of action.

The article presents a very interesting question: “How [can] the American system remained predicated on the noblest of values while allowing the vilest of crimes” (Power 3)?  In response, I feel it is important to note the difference between the origins of our country and its actual practices.  Our country is supposedly founded on the idea that all American citizens have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Within the United States, these rights are taken away from people everyday as evident by the death penalty, the prison system (where more people are imprisoned for nonviolent offenses than violent offenses), etc.  If these ideals were so important to the American government, would they not want to help others whose human rights were being violated?  The government pushes their ideals on other countries that do not want American assistance, but the countries that need help are ignored.

The United States was interested in soft intervention rather than hard intervention.  This may have been useful in the earlier stages before chaos broke out, but at this point, soft intervention was useless.  This was the only way the United States could “help” without putting themselves in a vulnerable position.  It is shocking to me that hard intervention would be used by the United States in times when it was not necessary but not during this genocide.  The United States was more concerned with their reputation than the lives of human beings.  Having been “embarrassed” in Somalia, the United States did not want to experience that again.

David Rawson claims that peacekeeping presence in Rwanda did not play a role in the number of lives saved, but I must disagree.  As the article points out, the armed Hutu rebel groups were much less likely to murder a group of people if they were up against another well-armed group.  Because the United States is the leading power of the world, they could have saved lives by simply making more phone calls.   As the article points out, the few telephone calls that were made played a key role in changing the outcome of certain situations (for the better).  There was a way to help without leaving the comfort of their desks, but this was not done often enough.  The United States had the power to change the outcome of this genocide, but chose to focus on other, “more important” situations.

This video talks about the lack of aid from the international community, why the term genocide was not used when describing the conflict in Rwanda, and the overall situation,

This video is a collection of images of Rwanda before, during, and after the genocide.

These images were taken during the genocide in Rwanda:

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. jillian
    Dec 15, 2010 @ 09:59:36

    i am doing a school project on rwanda, and when i saw these pictures i got really upset, same with my classmates. we are learning about this in school and we have a couple of kids in our class from rwanda. i always wanted to go there to see what it is’s a lot different there than it is in the unitedstates.



  2. Ethan
    Apr 06, 2011 @ 08:12:39

    this is upsetting. and it should have never happened.


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