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July 25, 2005

The Responsibility to Protect

Last week marked eleven years since the ending of the Rwanda Genocide and end of the 100 day civil war between the Hutsu and Tutsi people. Embarrassingly, I really never knew very much about the conflict and bloodshed b/c I was living in a vacuum called undergraduate school, desparately trying to make the grade to gain my freedom. In fact, my mind was pre-occupied with visions of Million-Man March, OJ Simpson trial, and NY Knicks NBA title run. I don't believe mainstream US media spent very much time covering the attrocities that were underway in the central-African nation. Hence, one of the reasons I don't care for mainstream media. That's another story.

Well, after watching the PBS Ghosts of Rwanda documentary, all of the faceless victims were brought to life and it was all too real. Quite a gruesome account indeed. People who looked like me, were butchered, while the global superpowers exercised neutrality. Particularly despicable was the behavior of former President Clinton and former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Both men had the power to raise the level interest in the US and United Nations respectively, but did nothing. Granted Clinton would later state that he was not aware of the apocolypse, and hinted that he may have been asleep at the switch. The damage had alread been done on his watch, much too little too late. Annan defends his inactivity to the earlier failed attempts to intervene in Somalia. I'm sorry but I cannot afford him that excuse.

It's very apparent that the US only acts when there is some tangible gain. So, providing assistance to Germany, Sarevjo, Iran, Haiti, and Israel are no brainers because there are tangible gains(ie. oil, refugee repatriation, etc). The reality was that the US was not compelled to send approx 2000-5000 troops to supplement the paper thin and ill-equipped UN peacekeeping forces. The irony is that none of the UN forces were armed and some were able to deter the aggressive Hutus (armed with machetes) with harsh words. I venture to guess that hundreds of thousands of lives would've been saved if the US sent armed soldiers to Rwanda. After the killing spree, ended 100 days later, at least 800,000 Rwandans had perished.

I suppose the obvious question is why was there a civil war in Rwanda? Was it a struggle over land, resources, equality? Perhaps the answer is all of the above. I surmise that root of the conflict stems from the crippling effects of colonialism brought about by Beligian and French occupation. All of the answers are really unclear and probably will not be unearthed for quite awhile. Meanwhile, France, Belgium, and America has a great deal of blood on their hands. While I don't advocate terrorism, I can certainly understand the hatred and distrust that others have for the global powers.

If you're not familiar with this aspect of the African holocaust, I'd encourage you to peep the PBS documentary to gain a fundamental understanding, and also read the story of one of the fallen heroes, Senegalese officer, Capt. Mbaye Diagne.

Posted by AG at July 25, 2005 11:00 AM