Honor Rwandans with pledge to end genocide

Minnesota Daily, MN
April 2 2004

Honor Rwandans with pledge to end genocide
The greatest tragedy of the Rwandan genocide will always be how
easily it could have been prevented.

here will be no shortage of memorials next week to mark the 10-year
anniversary of genocide in Rwanda. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan
has called on people across the world to mark April 7, the day the
killing began in 1994, with a minute of silence. It is only right
that the anniversary be marked with solemn memorials in honor of the
800,000 who died. But those memorials will do little justice to the
victims if they fail to unite the world around preventing the next
The greatest tragedy of the Rwandan genocide will always be how
easily it could have been prevented. The Hutu extremists who carried
out their bloody plan were armed with little more than machetes and
transistor radios. A modestly sized peacekeeping force might have
disarmed many of the killers and limited the bloodshed to isolated
pockets. Instead, Western governments clung to the fiction that what
was happening in Rwanda was not genocide, but chaotic tribal
violence. U.S. and French troops were dispatched to rescue U.S. and
French civilians, while Rwandans were left to fend for themselves.

Addressing a recent memorial conference in Rwanda, Annan reminded his
listeners that the United Nations must meet the next genocide with
resolve. While many procedural steps can be taken to build that
resolve, including appointment of a special U.N. rapporteur on
genocide, efforts must start with the five permanent members of the
U.N. Security Council: the United States, Britain, France, Russia and
China. In an age of increasing globalization, the countries seeking
to police the world must realize that with power comes
responsibility. Genocide in sub-Saharan Africa should not be more
tolerated than ethnic cleansing in the Balkans or tyranny in Iraq.

Rwanda is not the first genocide to be met with silence. In 1915 the
world sat by idly as the Turks used the cover of World War I to
massacre 1.5 million Armenians. Hitler recalled that silence on the
eve of World War II and the Holocaust when he asked, `Who today still
speaks of the massacre of the Armenians?’ Building a global resolve
to stop genocide is the best way to honor the dead and ensure that no
one ever asks the same question about Rwandans.