posts 1 - 15 of 29
Posts: 20

From Samantha Power’s account of the genocide in Rwanda and from the slides and films we are viewing in class, you know that there were certain distinctive details about the Rwandan genocide that merit attention. Not only were roughly 800,000 people murdered in 100 days, between April and July 1994, a rate of killing that in fact exceeds the Holocaust (as it is often said), but the genocide in this small African nation no larger than the state of New Jersey followed those same identifiable patterns that virtually every genocide includes.

You were born after this happened. Ask your parents/relatives: did they know about it at the time? You already heard me talk about the fact that I was completely oblivious to these events in 1994, that there were other events—some important, some sensationalist—dominating American news at the time.

Consider these five distinctive elements of the Rwandan genocide:

  • Radio Mille Collines, one of the principal radio stations in Rwanda, broadcast with alarming frequency the names, addresses, and license plates of Tutsi and moderate Hutu who were to be killed by the genocidaires. So too was that information broadcast on loudspeakers throughout Kigali, the major city in the country, and the larger towns.
  • The UN Peacekeeping Forces that were already in Rwanda, led by Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire of Canada, were specifically charged with orders to focus on protecting its own forces and avoiding any escalation in violence. They were explicitly denied the right to forcefully protect Rwandan civilians and/or interrupt the flow of weapons within the country.
  • Moreover, the UN Peacekeeping Forces were instructed from New York shortly after the genocide began that they were to focus exclusively on evacuating foreign citizens from Rwanda.
  • The United States government avoided as much as possible calling what was happening in Rwanda “genocide,” aware that once it did so, it would be essential (as would other members of the United Nations) to support and/or take action, based on the United Nations’ Convention on the Prevention of Genocide.
  • The vast majority of killings in Rwanda were accomplished by recruited civilians using machetes. (There was one available machete for every 3 Hutu males in the country by this time.)

Samantha Power writes about all of these in extensive detail. At the time she was writing that, she was a professor at Harvard. Then she became a key member of President Obama’s National Security Team (2008-2012), followed by United States Ambassador to the United Nations, from 2013-2016. And as you know, she has just returned to Harvard and is coming to speak to all of you on Wednesday, December 13th!

Given what Ambassador Power shares with you and given what you know about the situation in Rwanda, what do you think ought to have happened to address these aforementioned five items? Yes, it’s easy to look at this in hindsight, but what would have been the best AND/OR right AND/OR most immediate thing to do, assuming that you agree that the Rwandan genocide should have been either prevented or brought to an end.

It’s essential that you support your response with specifics from the Samantha Power reading as well as the other information you already have about the history of Rwanda, including the images you saw, information you received, and film(s) we are watching in class.

Posts: 30

The tragic genocide in Rwanda could've been averted if the United States had demonstrated more sensitivity to the harsh political events going on. Page 342 of "A Problem from Hell" states: "Back in the United States, Rwanda was extremely low on the list of American priorities. When Woods of the Defense Department's African affairs bureau suggested that the Pentagon add Rwanda-Burundi to its list of potential trouble spots, his bosses told him, in his words, 'Look, if something happens. . .we don't care. . .We can't put all these silly humanitarian issues on lists. . .Just make it go away."

The sheer indifference to the suffering of other nations is inexcusable in a post-World War II era. The United Nations was established for a reason: to promote world peace. The failure of the United Nations is also responsible for the events that transpired in Rwanda, as Powers writes on page 347: "U.S. and UN officials often threatened to pull out UN peacekeepers as punishment for bad behavior. . .that is like believing that when children are misbehaving the proper response is, 'Let's send the babysitter home,' so the house gets burned down."

How can an international entity withdraw itself from an urgent matter and violation of human rights? Even considering that the UN was ordered to avoid any escalation in violence and to focus on evacuating foreign citizens out of Rwanda, the UN is a massive force and had the power to potentially intervene in spite of the order. In 1994, the UN was backed by 185 member nations: 85 nations turned their backs on the genocide in Rwanda and chose to ignore it instead of addressing the issue at hand.

American nationalism may also be to blame. As Powers writes on page 353, "Bill and Hilary Clinton visited the U.S. officials who had manned the emergency-operations room at the State Department and offered congratulations on a 'job well done.'" The United States opted to praise itself and preserve its hubris rather than acknowledge that there is still more that needs to be done.

Moreover, there was widespread hesitance to even label the Rwandan genocide a genocide. Page 358 shows the rationale of Romeo Dallaire, a Canadian humanitarian and senator: "'I was self-conscious about saying the killings were 'genocidal' because, to us in the West, 'genocide' was the equivalent of the Holocaust or the killing fields of Cambodia. I mean millions of people. . .It was so far up there, so far off the charts, that it was not easy to recognize that we could be in such a situation." The failure to label the events as a genocide meant that other countries were able to continue ignoring the problem, since the United Nations’ Convention on the Prevention of Genocide states that member nations must take action during genocides. Violation of human rights, even on a small scale, should be recognized and remedied immediately, and it is the job of the United Nations to do just that.

All in all, the Tutsi could have been saved from mass murder if the member nations of the United Nations demonstrated sensitivity and alertness to the political events in Rwanda, if the United States acknowledged that there was more to be done, and if the events were labeled a genocide. This connects back to the bystander effect that was discussed at the beginning of the year, in which violence and suffering are being watched and no action is being taken. The sheer number of countries in the United Nations could have also led to diffusion of responsibility, in which bystanders wait for someone else in the crowd to save the victim, so to speak. It is tragic that this happened to the Tutsi people, and it is tragic that the United Nations did not do its job correctly. All we can hope is that history does not repeat itself in the future.

Posts: 32

The Rwandan Genocide

The Radio Mille Collines was an egregious source of hatred and violence in the first weeks of the genocide. However, it was a prevalent source of Hutu communication throughout the genocide and stopping the broadcast at any point had the potential to break down Hutu unity and save lives. This radio station gave personal information of Tutsis and directed the génocidaires exactly where to go. However, the Pentagon said that disrupting the broadcast was too costly and unlikely to bring real change about. They also said the political complications were a legitimate reason not to try. I’m sorry but that just pissed me off. Throughout the entire chapter the U.S. refused to intervene because public support was strongly against troop interventions so the U.S. said it wasn't worth doing anything.

The only directive the U.S. actually agreed to keep from the interagency working groups’ suggestion was the arms embargo, which the stipulated was almost useless because there were already enough guns for i in three Hutu men. So the U.S. wouldn’t intervene because public sentiment was against peacekeeping after Somalia. Therefore, they refused to send troops. While that is aggravating, we live in a democracy so I’m gonna cut them slack. But THEN they had this circular argument that since we couldn’t send in troops, we shouldn’t do anything. THEN SEND IN TROOPS. As demonstrated in this chapter, the U.S. has significant pull in the U.N. and the Security Council. We can lead the world. So that gives us added responsibility to lead the world to save innocent lives, regardless of future elections. The fact that public sentiment stopped the president from even looking at this issues means that Americans should be better informed, but it also means that the PRESIDENT should inform himself of genocides occurring in our world. However, the president never had a single meeting with the relevant personnel to discuss these crimes against humanity. I feel like that is a low and reasonable bar. From that standpoint, the U.S. should have sent in a fraction of the needed troops OR taken every other less risky measure like supplying troops and stopping Hutu communication if at all possible.

Another point in which the U.S. used its political sway to make the wrong decision was in this futile attempt to stop the description of the Rwandan genocide as a genocide. The fact that the U.S. would try to dismiss a word in order to shrug off its responsibility is despicable. They weren’t refraining from the word out of an attempt to collect accurate data, they knew what was going on. They refused to say it because then they would be forced to acknowledge the atrocity. If the ground commander describes a situation repeatedly, then we should accept it and deal with the current state of events. Even if you refuse to say you failed a test, the score on your paper proves you wrong. So the only thing you did was deny reality and delay the consequences. Except in this case people died because the top tiers of our government didn’t want to have responsibility. Like people call our president the “leader of the free world” so yeah, you have responsibility. Furthermore, regardless of my disgust with the government’s reaction, this chapter also led me to question the usefulness of the UN. I am sympathetic with their funding and logistics problems, but I can’t help but be disappointed with their lack of ability to act as an independant organization. Their reliance on US and a few powerful countries makes them dependant on our politics, and doesn’t that directly contradict their mission.

They refused to scale up the Peacekeeping force, or give adequate supplies to who was their. The miniaturized UN force was nothing more than a showpiece that tried their best to save who they could. If the US can persuade them to avoid reality, then who is going to stand up and fight for endangered people. By refusing to allow Dallaire to confront the perpetrators or disrupt their supplies, the basically handcuffed him. How can they send a man to a country and demand that he lead men but then refuse to let him actually use them. The UN walked into this mission ill-informed, Dallaire's initial intelligence proved that, and if they were I think this would have been a Chapter VII mission from the start. That being said even after the UN was given intelligence it remained a chapter VI and then got scaled back farther. Once Dallaire was in Rwanda, they should have given his judgement for value and fought for his request. That also means his request to have more men and save more than just nationals. The UN aren’t the personal bodyguards for the Security Council counties. They were there to protect Rwandans and that should have always been their responsibility at all times.

Posts: 31

Reflection on the 5 points

1. I genuinely think that the US or another country should have blocked the radio transmissions. Powers mentioned that this was something that could have been done but wasn't (pf 335), and I think that it would have had a significant impact with minimal risk. Of course, I believe that every action has a political trade-off in this situation, but I imagine that the trade-off would have been so small, and if the US wanted to keep people from Rwanda, I think that the next best thing they could've done immediately would have been interfering with the Radio Mille Colllines.

2. I can understand this decision, especially when Somalia and its impact is taken into consideration. I don't think that allowing the peacekeepers to be able to "forcefully protect" the civilians would have been successful in accomplishing anything, especially not if there was an idea to intentionally kill the Belgian peacekeepers. Intercepting the weapon flow, however, is something that I feel really should have happened, and I can't imagine how frustrated and defeated Dallaire felt after receiving and transmitting all that information before getting the no. It makes sense that the UN instructed peacekeepers to protect themselves first (I can't imagine that there would be an instance when they would label a situation a suicidal mission) but they weren't the target. Yes, there was the group that was brutally killed, but the main target was still the Tutsis- other people just got in the way. The violence had already escalated beyond belief, to the point that Dallaire said his forces were knee-deep in corpses on the street. It reached a point when they really couldn't do anything to escalate violence, and I think that their most crucial role was offering sanctuaries and protecting the people there. When they were pulled out, however, they literally left open areas for the Hutus to do whatever they desired.

3. This is disagree with. It seemed to me that the peacekeepers weren't in significant danger, other than as the subjects of a violent Hutu PSA. Pulling everyone out played the rest of the world into the palm of the Hutu extremists. The peacekeepers weren't in danger when the watched over the refugee camps, as shown in the video, but whatever risk they were in was vastly outweighed by the lives they were protecting. In Powers's writing, it seemed that people stayed back for a while even though they were instructed not to, and this goes to show how bad the situation really was and how the peacekeepers felt that their presence was actually making a significant impact.

4. Similarly, I could agree with the intent. US wasn't sure about what was best. For a while, we didn't really understand the scope of horror in Rwanda, but even when we did, it seemed so far away, as a Florida Democrat said. It was definitely hard to connect to the civilians there, and after Somalia, I think there was a lot of fear from people in power about the political trade-offs of intervention in international humanitarian crises. However, it got to a point when I felt that the US should have realized that they weren't going down the right path. When politicians started having to identify the differences between "acts of genocide" and genocide itself, I think people should have realized that they were trying too hard. I feel that the US definitely should have gotten involved much earlier, because the information was all offered and understood eventually, but too late. The US tried too hard for too long to make Rwanda into something that it wasn't, and that time and effort could have been translated to multiple lives lost.

5. I believe that this goes back to the weapon section? Before I offer a potential different course of action, I feel the need to react to this statistic. I spent some time in Western Africa a while ago, and while on a hike I was offered a machete for 20 cedis (about $5) to hack down the plants that had grown on the trail. One of my friends ended up actually purchasing it, and this memory emphasizes two horrors: firstly, the ease with which one can acquire a machete (and for a decent price), and secondly, the extreme dullness of the blade. It was pretty hard to hack down weeds with it, and the blade wasn't sharp to the touch at all. I don't think I need to explain why that's such a terrifying detail in the context of Rwanda. As for how this statistic could have been addressed, I don't think it would have been realistic to try to stop machete ownership. Perhaps raiding buildings for weapon storage could have had an impact, but it most likely would have been minimal.

Posts: 30

The United States' Tragic Decision in Choosing to Be the Bystander

There are so many factors that played in the United State's decisions to sit back and watch the genocide in Rwanda from the sidelines; partially because of the lack of economic interests, the fact that the atrocities were taking place in a developing country with no stake in the world, failure in labeling the mass murders as a 'genocide', absence of political attentiveness/lobbying, and also partially because it was a genocide that wasn't against white people.

After the Vietnam War, the Lebanese Civil War, and the events that occurred in Bosnia, the U.S made it clear that it's best to steer away from other nation's civil wars. This too can be blamed for the U.S' lack of intervention in Rwanda. Military intervention is risky and puts the safety of Americans at risk, but there are a number of other solutions the United States could have taken in order to prevent, or at least help diminish, the genocide in Rwanda.

As for addressing the five events listed, I do believe that the United States, or some other global superpower, should have done more. It's easy to say that the United States should have done this or that, but it's difficult to determine what the outcome of that action would have been. I do wish that the United States would've tried to interfere with the radio communication system in Rwanda, help supply the UN Peacekeeper's troops, and I agree with SupremeLasso that some measures should have been taken in order to discontinue the supply of mass weapons. Although this might have had a minimal impact and there could have probably been loopholes, I feel like any action that is taken in order to put an end to a violation of human rights is not miniscule.

One thing that I think would have completely changed the way in which the U.S. responded to the genocide is the use of mass media and broadcasting the horrors for the American public to see. As stated on page 364 in Samantha Powers' text, "The Americans who wanted the United States to do the most were those who knew Rwanda best." After having a conversation with my parents about the genocide in Rwanda, they said that back in 1994, they knew that there was a civil war occurring but were unaware of the extent of violence and discrimination that was present. If more citizens were better informed of the situation, they could have pushed the government to take a stand and mitigate/potentially end the genocide.

It says that on page 342, "Rwanda was extremely low on the list of American priorities" due to the fact that "U.S participation had to advance U.S. interests, be necessary for the operation's success, and garner domestic and Congressional support." The U.S was not proactive in the situation because they simply didn't care enough about the people of Rwanda. I understand that the safety of our citizens and nation should be of utmost concern, and if we intervene in every developing country's civil war, where do we draw the line? But I feel like it's also selfish to turn a blind eye in a situation that our country could have helped alleviate. So many lives could have been saved if we interfered with the radio communication, or prevent the supply of weapons, or helped supply the peacekeeper's troops.

Posts: 33

Are We Still Humans?

Before I get into the actual question at hand, can we just talk about this quote: “If the killers had taken the time to tend to sanitation, it would have slowed their efforts to ‘sanitize’ their county.”

Honestly, this quote shows how barbaric the killers and Hutus were. They just threw HUMAN BODIES all together with not a care in the world. I just can imagine seeing someone I love being put in a pile of dead people. I’m actually sick. EVen the images we saw in class made me sick.

But anyways:

  1. I think that the Radio Mille Collines should have been ruined. It was the easiest way for people to be found and killed — why would we want it? I understand that there is the potential for worse backlash, but at that point in time, it would have been better to take the risk. People were dying, quickly, and we were just allowing it to happen and be announced. I don’t know, I’m not good with technology but I think that the radios should have been intercepted or something so that the messages would not go through.
  2. Our forces are here to protect us— that’s true. But, that does not gives us the right to turn our cheeks when other people (who are not our enemies) are dying. To me, it cowardly to just sit there and not be able to do anything. But, I understand that once you are given an order, you have to follow or there could be some consequences. I do believe that the order was stupid and should not have been given out in the first place. Also, like ‘SupremeLasso’ said, they weren’t the targets. If they were, that would make sense but the Tutsis were the targets. They were the ones who were being searched for and killed, not the “peacekeepers.” Basically, I think this order should not have been given because the Tutsis are people and that’s who we should have been protecting.
  3. I’m a little on edge about this one.. I do believe that we should protect ourselves, therefore, I think it’s okay that we focus on evacuating the foriegn citizens first. But “exclusively” is such a strong and closed off word. Do we stop evacuating after all the Americans are safe? I don’t think it would have hurt to get a couple Rwandans out when possible. I think what a lot of people during that time forgot to realize was that Rwandans were just as much humans as we were. I don’t know, but if I’m in a life or death situation, and someone has the ability to help me, I would want them to do so. I know there are a lot of political issues with helping but sometimes, we do have to put politics aside and be humans.
  4. I think it should have been announced that it was a genocide. Not just so that the U.S> could help but for the dignity if the Tutsis. There are literally human beings being killed drastically and NO ONE is paying attention because the U.S. doesn’t want to say anything. Honestly, this isn’t about the U.S. This is about the people that have lost their lives and or are going to lose their lives. Not everything is about the U.S. Sorry not sorry. Even then, the U.S. said on page 359 that they have to know all the details before they call it a genocide. But, let's be honest. People are dying. All these people share certain characteristics and beliefs. All their killers share the same characteristics and beliefs. What more do you want?
  5. First of all, way too many weapons. From the criminal shows I watch, I know that when you kill with a knife, or a machete, it’s a lot more personal and it requires a lot more work. Think about the damage this has on the killer Obviously, they shouldn't be doing it in the first place, but they have to really get into it to kill someone with a machete. And I’m pretty sure it’s a more painful death, which is terrible for the victims. We can’t stop the selling of weapons (it literally happens under our nose). I don’t know what I would do in this situation. It’s so tough to think about people dying so painfully.
Posts: 29

Rwanda Passage

After both watching the documentary about Rwanda and reading Ms. Powers' excerpt it had become clear to me how inevitable(or at least obvious) the oncoming genocide was for not only those in Rwanda but also the UN. And yet the public was given little knowledge when the actual genocide began. According to my mother, she knew it was going on but assumed it was just a few people being killed. She believes the US was hiding the severity of the killings because if the public knew the truth then they would both be heavily scrutinized and forced to jump in and help. Which leads to one of the other problems with the US- their reluctance to name the act a "genocide" really shows our US-centric narcissism. What's even worse is the fact that we have so much power, and influence and still favor ignorance rather than accepting the responsibility we owe the Rwandans. And we knew about the problems to the extent that New York told the UN to focus on taking out the foreigners and foreign citizens instead of addressing the issue as a whole! President Clinton apologized publicly but it was already too late- the us even admitted (in Powers' book) that had the press pushed more on them to take action, they may have done differently. It's such a shame because there were so many signs. The documentary pointed out the phrase "its time to cut down the tall trees" and Ms Powers mentions how by 1992, the Hutu military had purchased 85 tons of munitions and 581,000 machetes. Was this not signs enough for the UN? Not to mention Rwanda had already had a period of ethnic cleansing and civil war over Hutu and Tutsi tension. Looking back we can clearly see what a giant mistake the US made but today as long as we acknowledge our mistakes and learn to act before mistakes are allowed to be made we can work for a better future.

what redbone would sound like if you were wearing sweatpants
Posts: 28
The Mille Collines radio station which exposed the locations of so many innocent Tutsi and led to their murders was used as one of their main forms of communication and therefore a very important contributing factor to the genocide itself. As stated in several of my classmates posts already, our responsibility should have been to dismantle or block these signals to at the very least slow down the rate of killing and save some innocent lives. It is a lot harder to find people if you aren’t getting constant reports through the radio, along with the intense hatred in these messages persuading people to take arms and murder the Tutsi. Samantha Powers herself mentions that “The United States did not deploy its technical assets to jam Rwandan hate radio...” (335) and I have no doubt that this would have had a very helpful impact if we had decided to “jam” the signals, which we easily enough could have. With the UN forces that were already in Rwanda that focused on protecting its own, I really do not understand how they could deny protection of the civilians getting slaughtered in plain sight or even halting the steady weapon supply. As seen in the film and discussed in class, the Hutus knew what happened in Somalia (worded by Powers on page 357 “...the analogy that most gripped American minds at the time was not the Holocaust but Somalia.”) with the foreign soldier situation and used that to their advantage so that we would want to prioritize protecting our own and be scared into retreating. If anything, in my opinion, shouldn’t we be further motivated to fight back and help protect the Tutsi civilians if the Hutu are not only attacking them but now us as well? The UN peacekeeping forces that focused on evacuating the foreign citizens from Rwanda were another major part of this entire situation that didn’t make sense at all. If you are going in to save your own people, can you not see the innocent children and women (for example) getting slaughtered all around you and not feel any empathy? Even if there would be a lot of money/troops sacrificed wouldn’t it be worth it in the long run? Those people will forever carry the guilt (hopefully) of consciously leaving those people behind. One of the most infuriating things about this was the US refusal to call the entire ordeal a “genocide” when in fact, obviously, it was. They did this purely out of greed and to avoid their responsibility as human beings and part of the UN to take action. We knew what was happening, but we still tried our hardest to deny it. Bill Clinton himself did later admit his wrongdoing in not intervening but it obviously doesn’t change the fact that at the time we just pushed it aside for our own benefit. We should have definitely immediately stated that it was a genocide and carried through with “protocol” with the UN conventions genocide prevention. The usage of machetes to carry out these killings was crude and even more savage like, death would be far more painful and drawn out as opposed to usage of a gun instead. Because they were so easily accessible this only added to how normal everyday Rwandan civilians (Hutu) would be able to take up arms and add to the vast majority determined to exterminate the entire Tutsi population. This was in addition to the first point about the radio usage to incite more people to murder the innocent, and obviously if their supply was cut or slowed down it would help a lot to lessen the number of victims in this horrific tragedy.
Posts: 33

so... many... issues

“Is it Hutu and Tutsi or Tutu and Hutsi?”

This quote from the book really sums up, in my opinion, the U.S.’s reaction and response to the Rwandan genocide. Hardly anyone one, specifically many of the diplomats and policy advisers (and even the Clinton administration), was was well-informed regarding the events occurring from April 1994 to July 1994. Under Bill Clinton, the U.S. did not condemn the slaughters in Rwanda. Rather, they withdrew all of the UN peacekeepers stationed there: “The Clinton White House agreed that the Department of Peacekeeping Operations needed fixing and insisted that the UN ‘learn to say no’ to chancy or costly missions” (341). From April 7 onward, it was a genocide, with the Hutu controlled army, the Interahamwe, leading the killings, along with other militia and youth groups. It was a genocide people people were specifically pursued due to their ethnicity.

The Radio Mille Collines had a LIST of future victims and their addresses, including Tutsi and moderate Hutus. Some people wanted to neutralize Radio Milles Collines, but it was “too expensive” according to former diplomat Frank Wisner. I think that it is absolutely abhorrent that the U.S. would not interfere with the radio signal because it was “too expensive”. The number given was $8500 for every hour the plane would be flown. The governments in the US collect about $4.1 trillion in a year income and payroll taxes (2017 figure). Could they not sacrifice… a few thousand dollars… that could potentially save thousands of peoples lives? Is money really more important than human lives? A striking quote for me was when a three year old boy was heard saying, “‘Please don’t kill me, I’ll never be Tutsi again.’ But the killers, unblinking, struck him down” (334). Honestly the fact that money was the deciding factor in determining whether or not to aid the hundreds of thousands of people in imminent danger really shows how important non-American lives are to the American government.

Prior to this, there were government-supported killers and 3 major massacres of Tutsi between 1990 and 1993. The UN had been in Rwanda, as there are embassies stationed there, yet no one really thought of the killings as anything more than “tribal violence”. Many people were just ignoring it all, as they did not want it to be “another Somalia with dead U.S. soldiers”. As a way to ensure that this wouldn’t happen again, Richard Clarke created his 16 factors: “In the words of Representative David Obey of Wisconsin, the restrictive checklist tried to satisfy the American desire for ‘zero degree of involvement, and zero degree of risk, and zero degree of pain and confusion’” (342). Bushnell also focused on immediately evacuating Americans before anyone else. This makes sense to me. I understand that the most important people to a nation are its own citizens. Most countries follow that as well. But I thought that aid would follow. The US knew of the “ethnic cleansing” (Joyce Leader)... but they did nothing! When the natural rights of people are being violated, when there are crimes against humanity being committed and that country’s own government is leading it all… isn’t that a sign that other nations need to step in and stop the destruction? If there was foreign presence, it really would have helped. One time, many UN soldiers helped to aid the Tutsis at the Hotel de Milles Collines. There were 10 peacekeepers and 4 military observers that helped to protect several hundred civilians sheltered there for the duration of the crisis. The Hutus were reluctant to carry out the killings if there was foreign presence!! Just think, if there were more UN peacekeepers and troops there, would the genocide have happened to the extent that it did?

An exception to this lack of interference was Romeo Dallaire, who commanded the UN peacekeepers in Rwanda. When he originally came, Dallaire and Beardsley, one of Dallaire’s colleagues, thought that the government and rebel side had already signed the Arusha agreement, and they were just coming to help Rwanda implement it. The Arusha agreement was supposed to helped the Hutus and Tutsis “coexist in harmony”. That did not happen. He saw the violence, he experienced the plights of the Tutsis firsthand, and he repeatedly asked for help. However, he and his troops were ordered to not interfere. Dallaire proposed an arms raid, but he was shot down. If the arms raid occurred, what could have been the outcome? It would have significantly slowed the rate of the killings. It may not have stopped it all, but it certainly would have helped until more outside help arrived.

In the cities, killing was done with firearms, whereas in the countryside with more unskilled weapons, namely machetes, masu, and other easily obtained items like knives and handlebars from bikes. The easy accessibility of the weapons was for the sole reason to kill as many Tutsi as possible, in as little time as possible. Not only this, but bodies were left in the streets and stacked on top of each other carelessly because “If the killers had taken time to tend to sanitation, it would have slowed their efforts to “sanitize” their country” (334). Not only this, but there was an article posted in the Kangura newspaper called the “Ten Commandments of the Hutu”. There was so much receptiveness for hate. Its reach was everywhere in Rwanda. The hatred for Tutsis was an epidemic, backed by government support and years of simmering animosity. Now, there was an opportunity for it to all boil over.

When all of the UN peacekeepers were pulled out, 2000 Rwandans gathered at Ecole Technique Officielle under the protection of 90 Belgian soldiers. On April 11th, Belgian peacekeepers had to leave to help with the evacuation of European civilians. 2000 Rwandans were then killed by Hutu militiamen.

Dallaire realized that the only way for the genocide to gain attention was through use of the media. He shuttled reporters around Kigali whenever possible. Sometimes, though, this worsened the situation. Some reporters didn’t report everything accurately-- they said it was solely tribal violence, and the hatred was there BEFORE European colonization (which is quite untrue, the Belgian colonizers worsened everything). They also reported on the Tutsis killing Hutus… there were hardly any cases of that during the genocide, and if there were it was most likely in self defense BECAUSE THEY MASSACRED TUTSIS. However, there was still good coverage of it and many people still became more informed than they previously were.

One of the main reasons why the genocide continued, was the lack of the use of the term “genocide”. Christine Shelley danced around using the term genocide to describe what was occurring in Rwanda because that would mean that the U.S. would have to intervene (they didn’t want to) because of the 1948 Council for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. No one was allowed to use it until May 21st, and that was under conditions, only calling it “acts of genocide”. It got to the point where Madeleine Albright (former US Secretary of State and Ambassador to the UN) received a memo saying “‘You should be mostly in a listening mode during this meeting. You can voice general sympathy for the horrific situation in Rwanda, but should not commit the USG to anything’”. Another scary fact is that in the 3 months of the genocide, President Clinton never brought together his policy advisers to talk about the killings. This lack of communication, the lack of actually speaking about the Rwandan genocide and trying to resolve everything contributed IMMENSELY to its outcome: at least 800,000 Tutsis dead.

I just want to end with a quote that really struck me: “‘The most effective way to avoid the recurrence of genocidal tragedy is to ensure that past acts of genocide are never forgotten”.

Posts: 34

Reading Samantha Power’s account of the Rwandan genocide was so unbelievably sad, but it is something that is important for people to read and learn about: everybody needs to learn from what happened, especially since apparently the Holocaust was not enough of a lesson. The Rwandan genocide is a story of excuses, of greed, and of hesitation. In the end of it all, justice was delayed, and justice delayed is justice denied (like I read on a google image), and with each hesitation died another thousand Tutsis, moderate Hutus, and innocent people in general. Even though there is nothing we can do now to change the chilling reality that 800,000 people died in the span of 100 days, it is important for us, now, to reflect on what we would have done if we could have done something, so that situations like the Rwandan genocide can be prevented in the future.

People in the US thought that the only way they could involve themselves in Rwanda was either by doing nothing or by spending all of their efforts, troops, and money to deal with the issues at hand. Once this idea was made public, it became accepted within the US government, even though it was merely an excuse, like so many of the other reasons the US decided not to intervene. In truth, there were many things that Americans could have done for Rwanda, but we just didn’t feel like it.

The first thing the American public could have done was educate themselves on what was happening in Rwanda. We do this now, after the genocide has ended, but what would have really amounted to the most change was if the people of America had been aware of what was happening while it was happening, and if the government's decisions represented the people and their ideals. But, for many, the Rwandan genocide passed unnoticed, and this was because of its lack of coverage. Power writes that no Western media outlets made coverage on Rwanda a priority, because nobody cared. There were only 11 reporters in Rwanda compared to the 2,500 when Nelson Mandela came into power, for example. But sadly, we only like hearing the good things in history, and we bask in it, even if it means ignoring the bad. We like to tell ourselves that we have history under control, and that we will never let another Holocaust arise, but when Hutus start killing an entire race of Tutsis, suddenly people can only remember Somalia, and the consequences of intervention that occurred there. All the sudden, the Holocaust is forgotten. It is sad how we only remember the parts of history that benefit us in any particular moment of time. I wonder if the Rwandan genocide could have been prevented if the events that occured in Somalia had occured after 1994...

Speaking of only remembering the parts of history that benefit us, we are similarly less inclined to do things if it doesn’t involve us: our life, our ideals, our interests, and so forth. History cannot be changed, but our selfishness changes it for us, leading us to only see some parts and not others. Power writes that at the time of the Rwandan genocide, people were paying more attention to Haitian refugees, which is good, but not when Rwandan refugees are being completely ignored. Power writes of a group of Rwandan refugees who were flown all the way to the US only to be sent BACK on the plane because the US wanted nothing to do with them. Power ends that example by writing that the fate of those refugees is still unknown, which literally sent shivers up my spine. How could you do that, literally deny safety to people you knew were going to die if they were sent back home? People knew what was happening in Rwanda, they just chose to ignore it. It is horrible. Why were Rwandan refugees practically ignored and sent back to their deaths while Haitian refugees were the top priority? Because Haitians exist in the United States, but there is no significant Rwandan diaspora in the United States. Nobody felt inclined to help because nobody had a connection with Rwanda. And this isn’t right. Dallaire, the Canadian general who was dealing with way too much for one person to be dealing with under such a situation, was specifically ordered only to protect his own troops, just like the UN was only interested in protected foreign citizens who happened to be in Rwanda. It is so sad, especially since there were accounts written (by Kevin Austin) that showed that even the presence of foreign troops in Rwanda was enough to keep Hutu gunmen away from targeted Tutsi. All the UN had to do was employ people to be present---to be near Tutsis---and perhaps less people would have died then. But in a time like that, the only concerns were to keep the troops safe, rather than the Rwandans. Or, like Power says on page 346, “dangers to the peace process were perceived as more important than dangers to Rwandans.” Everything was considered except for the lives of the actual people being targeted.

The second thing we could have done was realize that what was happening in Rwanda was the literal definition of a “genocide. And we could have done it sooner. Dallaire, who is perhaps the only person who was truly committed to making a change in Rwanda, even hesitated in recognizing and coining the situation a “genocide” at first. And why? Because with the term comes with responsibility. But people just didn’t want responsibility, even saying “acts of genocide” instead of “genocide.” The term has such a great responsibility for a reason though. Some things could have changed if people had just recognized that it was a genocide and embraced it sooner.

Another excuse was the Pentagon’s reasoning for not interfering with Radio Mille Collines, the Hutu extremist radio station. “Radios don’t kill people, people do!!” Another excuse. There was evidence that killers would walk with a radio in one hand and a weapon in the other. Killing was a game. Tutsis were the checkpoint. And the radio was the instructions. The pentagon could have hacked into the radio station, or could have created another one that could have spread peace. But the Pentagon refused, saying that it would cost too much money, and that the only way the situation could be solved would be with a military solution, even though both the government and the Pentagon knew that a military solution was the least favorable possibility. Each excuse made could have saved another person's life. I hope that more people are wary of this now. But with everything happening in Myanmar right now, I honestly don't know. And it scares me, to see these horrible parts of history continue to repeat themselves, over and over again.

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It is very difficult to read and watch accounts of the Rwandan genocide knowing that the world did not do anything substantial to help. I think it is made even more difficult in that we cannot see any attempts to help the Tutsi/Rwandan people. It would feel less tragic, I think, to have pinpoint decisions where we can say that okay the US or the UN tried this, and it didn’t work too well, but at least we tried, as opposed to only having instances where the authorities, meant to help others, withdrew to help themselves.

  1. That names of Tutsi victims was broadcast, and the deaths were still portrayed as political and random as part of ethnic rivalries and civil war is ridiculous. Many people before me and Powers herself stated that the air waves for the radio could have been interfered with to stop the transmission of these deadly messages. That seems a low stake interference which could have been very helpful, so it is disappointing that such a strategy was not employed.
  2. I understand that the US was afraid to interfere and be seen as causing more instability, such as that in Somalia, but I do not understand why the transportation of weapons could not have been stopped.
  3. I cannot imagine the frustration Dellaire must have felt when forces for evacuation were right where they needed them, yet “they picked up their people and turned and walked away” (353). That the foreigners were seen as priority is understandable, but they weren’t even just taken care of first they were only taken care of, there was no effort sent back to evacuate or establish havens for the Tutsi being massacred. I was initially surprised that the 4,000 foreigners that were evacuated did not get more attention, or draw more attention, especially considering that many of them would have witnessed the violence, or like David Lawson been unable to save his own Rwandan employees. On page 355 however, Powers analyzes how much of the media coverage that Rwanda was receiving, portrayed the violence as “ancient tribal rivalries” which had neither been caused by western involvement, nor could it be solved by it. This type of distancing is dangerous, and has to do with the “othering” to which Africa is subjected.
  4. The careful sidestepping of the word genocide by the United States government was unbelievable and to me clearly depicts their awareness that this was a genocide and unwillingness to label it so that they would not be obligated to act. The security council statement was prime time for the genocide in Rwanda to be labelled as such as it was the product of the UN, not any one world power, so the responsibility to act would have been shared, however instead the US (and Britain) continued the sidestepping game. Although Dallaire eventually did use the word genocide, I understand his original hesitation to use it as it is often difficult to see the reality of a tragedy when you are in it, both because it feels safer not to see it on that grand scale, and also because sometimes your view is not that widespread.
  5. The ease of access to weapons was scary to me, but not as scary as the clear cut descriptions and plans laid out by the Hutu on how they would destroy the Tutsi. The “Ten Commandments of the Hutu” were startling enough and then I learned about the warning by “Jean- Pierre” in the Dallaire fax about the likelihood of Belgian peacekeepers being killed in order to scare Belgian and much of the rest of the world away from Rwanda. Written documents, plans and records are terrifying to me as they show that someone had to be rational enough to draw up text, whether on how to be a Hutu or on the name and address of every Tutsi. Thy had to be rational enough to do that, knowing that that information would be used for murder, for massacre, for genocide. That such tragedy could be planned and intentional is hard to wrap my head around.
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The United States as well as any of the other dominating powers of the world, could’ve easily stopped the Rwandan genocide. We had the capabilities to jam the Radio Mille Collines and to prevent it from broadcasting the names/locations and identifying traits of Tutsi’s. I believe that this was one, if not the biggest, driving force in the deaths of the 800,000 Tutsi’s and Hutu moderates. I know my parents had no clue anything had happened in Rwanda. Personally I think it’s deplorable that the UN made a point to tell their troops on the ground that were supposed to be peacekeeping, to get to foreign citizens out of there and to then just stand by while innocent people were being slaughtered. I understand that we were still reeling from Somalia but I just don’t understand how we could just ignore something of this magnitude. This just ties into what we talked about in the beginning of the year and continue to talk about bystanders. We always told ourselves after WW2 “Never Again”. But we’ve seen it happen over and over. The UN made it so that when something is identified as a genocide, they are forced to do something and it’s sad that they didn’t want to call Rwanda a genocide so that they wouldn’t have to do anything and be able to turn the other way. As for the machetes, people knew that they were being imported in mass and that should’ve raised red flags. But once again nobody cares. I mean, yeah, people can’t be monitoring every little thing a country does but it was known especially to the Belgians, who created this rift. They knew this was waiting to happen but did nothing.
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Rwandan Genocide

The genocide that occurred in Rwanda was an unimaginable tragedy, one that was largely ignored by the international community. If powerful bodies like the United States and the United Nations had been able to see past their own selfish desires and policies, they could have ended several major factors that contributed to the genocide. However, much of the time, there was either not enough desire to act on the information the outside world received from Rwanda, or the bureaucracy of bringing aid was too overwhelming and slow to have any effect. These major factors include:

  1. The Radio Mille Collines was controlled by the Hutu extremists, and played an integral role in the execution of the genocide. Lists of people to kill was broadcasted to the killers, as well as hiding place, signals, and general incendiary hate speech. This would have been a relatively easy factor for the international community to eradicate, but they never acted on it and even helped it to a degree. There were solutions discussed by the United States including destroying the radio transmitter, jamming the signal, and playing counter-broadcasts, but none of those actions were acted on. As Power states in her book, U.S. officials defended their opposition to jamming their broadcast because of the “American commitment to free speech.” To jam the signal, it would have required a plane costing $8,500 an hour, which would have been a relatively insignificant contribution on the part of a enormously wealthy nation like the U.S.. Power also mentioned how the French even helped the hate speech by giving the broadcasters protection in their safe zone towards the end of the genocide.
  2. The United Nations peacekeepers in Rwanda were instructed to protect themselve and avoid violence, which to me seems to me like it runs counter to the intrinsic role of a peacekeeper. Peacekeepers are intended to protect people, save lives, and prevent events like genocide from occuring, not just sit on the sidelines and watch the killing occur. And the issue was not that the peacekeepers didn’t want to help, it was that the United Nations was unwilling to risk their lives because they saw them as more valuable than the Rwandans. If the UN had even just allowed the peacekeepers to undertake relatively risk free missions, such as interrupting weapons shipments, many killings could have been prevented.
  3. The evacuation of people from other countries is one of the most sickening parts of this genocide for me. Powerful nations were unwilling to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of Rwandans, but spent large amounts of money to extract a few of their own nationals. As the video we watched in class stated, if all the soldiers who came into the country to evacuate people stayed to help prevent the genocide, many more killings could have been stopped, but instead they came and quickly left, leaving behind thousands of Rwandans who had come to the soldiers for protection to be slaughtered. Focusing on a very limited group like that is unexcusable to me, and seeing a few white people being shepherded to safety while leaving behind crowds of black people pleading for their lives is an image I won’t soon forget.
  4. The United States’ denial that a genocide was occurring in Rwanda also contributed greatly to the scale of the issue. The United States was afraid that they would be forced to interfere if they called it a genocide, so they just refused to call it as it was. In my opinion, this was a hugely cowardly way to deal with the problem. If the U.S. had acknowledged the problem many other nations would most likely have followed suit, possibly resulting in much more aid making it to Rwanda, which could have greatly lessened the severity of the genocide.
  5. The majority of the killings in the Rwandan genocide were brutally carried out using machetes. Many of these weapons were brought in from neighboring countries and stockpiled to be handed out during the genocide. In UN commander Romeo Dallaire’s autobiography, Shake Hands with the Devil, he mentions how they learned about weapons caches hidden around Kigali, but the UN would not let the peacekeepers raid the caches to prevent the weapons from being distributed. If the peacekeepers had been able to do that, especially if they were able to do it on a larger scale, the main weapon of brutality and murder would have been much less prevalent in the genocide, and many more deaths could have been averted.

If the international community had taken it upon themselves to band together and change these factors, thousands of deaths could have been averted during the genocide at relatively little international expense and effort.

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The Rwandan Genocide

First, allow me to start of saying outright that the Rwandan genocide is a genocide, there is no question. With the politicians in this time period dancing around this word like it was the plague it was absolutely astonishing to see how they could not simply call the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocent people what it really was and that is a genocide. Listening to that representative from the US talk about how she could not at the time use the word "genocide" to describe what was happening in Rwanda blows my mind and made me sick because she had no idea what she was talking about either and tried to dance her way around the word instead of identify this massacre for what it really was. And the fact that the entire world sat by and watched this happened and said, oh it will work itself out, or no we cant help is disgusting and mindboggler. To start off talking about the radio system that the Hutu used to spread their messages of hate and violence all throughout the country there are a few things that could have been done to solve this problem. One of the most obvious things that could have been done was to block the radio signal that was broadcasting these messages or shut down the radio station all together. What I found astonishing is how the US government did not want to touch that form of broadcasting because they felt that it would be hypocritical as we spread the right to freedom of speech. Now, I believe that everyone has the right to their own opinion and can believe whatever they want, but when a radio station is literally broadcasting messages of who to kill next, that is by far a step way over the line. In the reading it even talked about how morges and other places would get graves ready for people when they heard people's names coming over the radio. The reading also described the efforts of people to change their addresses when they heard the name of their loved one read off with their address and license plate. Then moving onto the second and third items from the list in the reaction of the UN peacekeeping troops and how they were ordered that they could not use force against the Hutu and that the foreigners came first, mainly whites. That is another thing that made my stomach turn upside down that these men were ordered not to use force and extract the Europeans and Americans only. In the video we saw the women beginning for her life as the peace keeping UN soldiers came and brought all of the whites out. Then shortly afterward there was screaming, followed by gunfire and more screaming then nothing at all. That is what would have made me the most fearful and bad about what was going on there if I was a soldier there. The deathly silence after hundreds of innocent people had just been murdered. And to listen to the screams of all of those people and having orders not to do anything but wanting to do something but you can't. That would really kill me. But, with all that said, the soldiers had good reason not to intervene with these Hutus because they saw what happened to ten other soldiers who had surrendered to them with the promise of peace but the Hutu followed no such agreement and chopped them up regardless. Then what had happened in Somalia a short time before made other nations very weary about getting involved and sending troops. The book describes the instance of one of the Commanding officers going to find his ten men in a pile but wondering why there were eleven in there instead and he came to the shocking realization that the bodies had been so chopped up and dismembered that they could not identify who was who. It also seemed kind of selfish on the nations who did not get involved to send their troops in. As described in the video they result of not sending troops into Rwanda lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands more lives. If not only the US but other large powers in the US would have sent in their troops the genocide could have been stopped and many, many lives could have been saved, but instead the world stood by and watched. That also disgust me that the fact that we danced around the word genocide because if we used it that would mean we would have to get involved, but while we and many other nations debated the word genocide thousands of people were losing their lives. If the world would have identified the Rwandan genocide for what it truly was many live would have been saved. But the worst part of it was that after WW2 we said, "never again, Never again would something like this happen" yet it did, and the world let it happen, and that by far is the saddest part of this genocide, that we all took a spectator seat to the bloodbath. Finally the machetes, this is what stuck with me the most. Now with the Nazis and their tools of destruction and death, they killed a massive amount of people in a short amount of time but nothing compared to the Hutus, it was not only how many they killed but how they did it. At first, they started off with their firearms, but once the bullets went low they moved to machetes, which means they were up close and personal with their victims and knew exactly what they were doing. The book even describes that once the machetes ran out, people started to use shovels, hammers, saws or whatever else they felt they could kill the Tutsi with easier and quicker. That's what disturbs me the most, how up close they must have been to kill that many people in that short amount of time is staggering, and to see all the dead in the video really makes your stomach turn over. The fact that many turned on their own neighbor and took up "arms" against them almost within minutes is insanity, to be friends with your neighbor one minute but then a message comes over the radio that "it is time to cut the tall trees" and turn on them is disgusting. My final message is that the UN's message of "never again" really need to stick. And we can already see the start of a genocide happening in Myanmar with many being forced out of their homes and many being killed. The time to act on these genocides is not tomorrow, not even today, it was yesterday when something that should have been done about the genocide wasn't done and now we have to do our best to change the way the world is.

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"I'll never be Tutsi again"

Ambassador Power’s writing was very powerful in highlighting the exact events of the war, even the ones people want to repress from memory. When I investigated this topic with my parents, their recollection was stained with images they saw on the TV in 1994 of women with their breasts chopped off and bodies stacked on top of one another in the streets. This was the reality of Rwanda, and the world was on stand-by and these events transgressed.

  1. Ideally, we could have decreased the casualty rate a significant amount by employing our technical assets to blocking the Radio Mille Collines, but the political implications of this outweighed the profits of getting the United States involved. We used our precious First Amendment as an excuse to remain a sideliner in this bloodshed that we were extremely aware was happening. While lists of names were being read off through the radio for everyone, killer and victim alike, to hear, that should have been our cue for even the smallest intervention. Just blocking those signals would have spared countless lives from being unnecessarily slaughtered and it would have maybe influenced other nations to take part in the intervention too, since the United States has such a dominant stance in United Nations matters.
  2. “ ‘I was trying to get myself destroyed and looking to get released from the guilt’ “(Power 385). This quote is representative of the toll that Dallaire’s heart wrenching position took on him. The United Nations demanded a task that was impossible in nature, and the force that was left in Rwanda was laughable in comparison to what was actually capable of being implemented. “If the major powers had reconfigured the 1000 man European evacuation force and the 300 U.S. Marines on standby in Burundi and contributed them to Dallaire’s mission, he would finally have the numbers to stage rescue operations and to confront the killers”(Power 353). The bureaucracy that the UN concerned themselves with was simply a cover to slow the speed of any actual intervention action occurring, in the meantime hoping that the conflict would resolve itself.
  3. Yes, it was important to evacuate all the foreigners to Rwanda, but steps could have been taken to replace those people with armed men and forces who would protect the people nobody else was: The Tutsis. All of this stems from a neglect and nonchalance that the world, particularly the US, had towards Rwanda. As Bob Dole said on April 10th 1994, “The Americans are out, and as far as i’m concerned, in Rwanda, that ought to be the end of it” (Power 352). But the turmoil was just beginning to unfold. This quote alone illuminates the blatant disregard that the international community showed for the genocide. The forces that they brought to just pick up the foreigners was enough to provide Dallaire with support in Tutsi rescue missions, saving countless lives in doing so.
  4. The most substantial action that could have been taken by anybody in the UN was addressing the events in Rwanda as a genocide. This would have elicited a powerful response and drawn attention to the harsh reality of what was happening. It was tactful on the United States behalf to disengage with that sort of vocabulary because then the obligation to intervene would have been present. According to Dallaire, who knows better than any other external viewpoint what happened, “I realized that the genocide was when an attempt was made to eliminate a specific group, and this is precisely what we saw in the field....I just needed a slap in the face to say ‘Holy shit! This is genocide not just ethnic cleansing’”(Power 358). It was very clear what was happening to those watching, but nobody cared enough about it to correctly identify it. The United States was especially inclined to keep their distance since “the analogy that most gripped their minds at the time was not the Holocaust but Somalia” (Power 357). They were afraid that their involvement in another African country would only be detrimental and offer no political or economic gain.
  5. The flow of machetes was coming into Rwanda from France, but originally from China. There was so much the United States could have done to stop this very conspicuous transaction, such as imposing sanctions on the countries that were aiding this slaughter.
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