Ending Rwanda's Horror

A ghastly holocaust has taken the lives of nearly a half-million people in Rwanda, and the international community has buried its head in the sand.

The media have generally depicted the genocide in Rwanda as just another ethnic-based conflict in Africa. Such a characterization has contributed to the general apathy, elicited feelings of helplessness, even donor fatigue, and provided an excuse for international inaction.

Racism is also driving the lack of international response. In less than five weeks, the numbers of people massacred in Rwanda exceeded the numbers of people slain in Bosnia after two years. But where is the international outrage against genocide in Rwanda? After six million Jews were exterminated in Hitler’s gas chambers, many in the West claimed they would have acted had they only known. They declared "never again." Well, it is happening again.

The butchery of an ethnic group has been captured on television and in front-page headlines. But U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali’s pleas for urgent international intervention have been largely unheeded outside of Africa, as the United States and others debate whether, when, and how to stop the carnage.

In Rwanda, the massacres of Tutsi by Hutu are not the result of ethnic rivalry, but a struggle for power, at any cost. Contrary to media-incited opinion, tribal antagonism alone does not explain the Rwanda horror story, although ethnic divisions between Tutsi and Hutu do exist. The slaughter of Tutsi is a campaign of political violence carefully concocted and executed by a privileged and extremist element within the political and military leadership. This group of leaders, determined to block the implementation of reforms negotiated in August 1993, set out to annihilate Tutsi as well as kill any Hutu who agreed to the changes that would loosen their exclusive hold on power.

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Sojourners Magazine August 1994
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