Averting genocide is focus of forum

The Post-Standard (Syracuse, NY)
April 1, 2004 Thursday Final Edition

IN 1994.

By Paul Riede Staff writer

Ten years ago this month, a genocide began in Rwanda that took the
lives of as many as 800,000 Tutsi people over 100 horrific days.

Since then, world leaders have acknowledged that the killings carried
out by extremist Hutus in the central African nation could have been
stopped or greatly reduced if they had stepped in.

The genocide and its lessons will be discussed today and Friday at a
symposium at Syracuse University. The symposium kicks off tonight
with a film about the genocide at 6:30 and a keynote address by
Stanislas Kamanzi, the Rwandan ambassador to the United Nations, at
7:30 at SU’s Heroy Geology Auditorium.

A full day of workshops is planned starting at 9 a.m. Friday in the
Schine Student Center. All the events are open to the public.

Horace Campbell, a professor in SU’s department of African-American
studies and the lead organizer of the event, said the symposium is
intended to help bring the Rwandan genocide to the same significance
in the public mind as other genocides in human history. He said the
Rwandan event was played down and distorted by the U.S. government
and media and therefore has not registered in the same way as the
Holocaust and other systematic ethnic killings.

“We believe at the university that genocide against Africans is just
as important as genocide against Armenians and against Jews,” he

In a telephone interview earlier this week, Kamanzi said he
understands why the Holocaust registers more in the public mind than
the Rwandan genocide. It was a larger event that occurred during a
world war, and all eyes were focused on it. But he said it is
important for people to recognize that the Rwandan genocide was just
as evil, though it took place in a small African nation.

“It was a crime against the whole of humanity,” he said.

A report commissioned by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 1999
concluded that the United Nations and its leading member countries –
especially the United States – could have prevented or ended the
genocide. It said the Clinton administration continually minimized
the disaster that was developing in Rwanda and blocked the Security
Council from taking significant action there.

The report said the United States was coming off the killing of 18
American Rangers in Somalia in 1993 and was reluctant to get involved
in another peacekeeping mission in Africa.

In a visit to Rwanda in 1998, President Clinton acknowledged the
shortcomings of U.S. policy, saying the United States and the world
could have done more to prevent the genocide.

Kamanzi said a recognition that something could have been done is the
key to preventing future genocides.

“It’s very good that leaders of these countries can acknowledge that
it was a mistake to think that nothing could stop this genocide,” he

Remembering Rwanda

Here is today’s schedule for the Syracuse University’s symposium
“Remembering the Rwanda Genocide: Challenges of Healing and Peace in
the 21st Century.” Events are free.

Heroy Geology Auditorium

6:30 p.m.: “Triumph of Evil” video

7:30 p.m.: Keynote address by Stanislas Kamanzi, Rwandan ambassador
to the United Nations