Archive for June, 2011

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Sometimes in April

June 9, 2011

A past is a past, and no one can choose a different course to change the history. Therefore, it is not practical to discuss what we could have done in the past. But talking about what happened in Rwanda 18 years ago, regrettably, there were just too many things that we could have done. Especially, there is no excuse for the international community to be accused. With many organizations, including large to small NGOs, the United Nations, the French armies, and the Belgium armies, having been presented, any of them never really tried to stop the genocide. The government of the United States did not even call the situation “genocide” since they did not want another Mogadishu, where two of their pilots were killed and stripped in public just a year ago of the Rwandan genocide happened. During the genocide, those organziations did not rescue Rwandese due to their interests not limitation of their ability, and willing individuals could not have power. If the international community has made different choices before and during the genocide, could have the number of causalities reduced or even the genocide never happened? I want you to think of the question, “Could it have stopped?”, as you read through.

According to Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, genocide is (a) killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. In Sometimes in April, there is a scene that an official replies to a question whether genocide is happening in Rwanda. She persistently answers that there are some genocide acts but not genocide. At least, Rwanda were obviously faced with the situations (a), (b), (c) listed above, how come it was not called “genocide”? Even nine months earlier, CIA reported that there is a possibility of occurring genocide in Rwanda, which the U.S. government simply ignored. One certain reason for this is tragedy of Mogadishu that traumatized the U.S. government to intervene any African matters for a few years. However, more than anything, Rwanda had little attraction for other nations. Since there was no oil and major natural resource to protect in the poor tiny country, it seems that the international community wanted to minimize their damage. Otherwise, there were too many things that could have done simply to save Rwandese.

One of the mediums played a focal role before and during the genocide was “Radio”. At that time, radio was the major tool for Rwandese to get information although there were also some newspapers and magazines. It was MRND, president Habyarimana’s party, who started using radio as a tool to spread the word. Through broadcasting lectures of Rwandan history and exaggerating stereotypes of Tutsis’ affluence, MRND surely planted hatred on Hutu people toward Tutsis. It is hard to imagine that radio commentators addressed Tutsis as “cockroaches” to the cheerful and lovely music. During the genocide, radio commentators denounced names of people who are on the list, addressed keeping road blocks, and even called for attacking the U.N. and European soldiers. Therefore, whether jamming the radio station was one of the issues for the international community. Only the United States had the technology to jam the radio; however, they refused to do so by making “freedom of speech” an excuse. Surely, “Radio does not kill people, but people kill people.” Nevertheless, it is hard to believe that western nations, who must have known influence of media, emphasized “freedom of speech” for a place where so many facts told mass killing was taking place. Current president Paul Kagame restricts media with media law in fear of leading similar situation to the genocide.

Also, the Church played as an important role as radio. Due to influence of Belgium, most of Rwandese was devout Roman Catholics; therefore, Rwandese, mostly Tutsis, rushed into the Church when the genocide started. Since political power moved from Tutsis to Hutus, occasional persecution towards Tutsis had never ceased. Whenever they felt insecurity, the Church was the place where they could be safe. However in 1994, there was no safety in the place any more. Indeed, most mass killings took place in the Church, and some pastors corroborated with Hutu perpetrations. In fact, the Church had helped state to promote ethnic divisions and spread history and myth of Tutsis affluence although the Church was believed as the largest non-state actor in Rwanda. There were a few members of the church, who felt insecurity of the country and tried to stop the genocide, were either dismissed or executed by the state. If they have made some voices toward both the inner community and the international community, the situation could have changed. However, attitudes of the Church towards violence and the Rwandan genocide were unbelievably positive as if they did not care. Today, the Church has not given official apology to victims and family of victims.

If I stated everything about all the actors involved in the Rwandan genocide and possibility of their actions at the place, I could not finish talking within a week. I would like you to remember things I talk about here and things you will watch in Sometimes in April are just a part of it. The Rwandan genocide could have stopped although it seems there was no way for Rwandese. Powerful others, who were there and who could be there, could stop it. Unfortunately, none of them tried to do so, and as a result, 800,000 people were killed during three months. No one knows how many lives we could have saved without trying, but we could have saved more if we really did.

Resources:

“Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. “ Human Rights. 27 January 1997. Web. 7 June 2011. <http://www.hrweb.org/legal/genocide.html>
 
“Prevention of Rwandan Genocide. “ 9 June 2011. <http://www.trincoll.edu/~thyde2/rwanda_prevention.htm&gt;
Sometimes in Spring. Dir. Raoul Peck. Perf. Idris Elba, Oris Erhuero, Carole Karemera, and Debra Winger.HBO Film. 2005. Film.
 
Tom, Nadahiro. ” Genocide and the role of the Church in Rwanda.” News from Africa.  16 April 2005. Web. 9 June 2011. < http://www.newsfromafrica.org/articles/art_10231.html>
MPT Intern- Mari Shibahara-
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