It's worthwhile to pause today and recall this heartbreaking tragedy and perhaps discuss it with
your family and kids (once they are old enough). When my daughters are older, I plan on sitting down with them each year and watching one of the films below, or discussing one of articles/books that I've listed below. It's important that we acknowledge that this genocide occurred, that we analyze why and how it occurred, and that we recognize the brave sacrifices of the men and women who DID DO something during the genocide. Finally, despite the rhetoric of "never again", its important to keep at the forefront of our dialogue that IT IS possible for such a genocide to occur again if we (i.e., the international community on the macro level and you and I on the micro level) don't remain diligent, vigilant and proactive.
Martin Luther King Jr.'s quote here is an apt one:
"In the end,
we will remember
not the words of our enemies,
but the silence of our friends."
2. The U.S. government (USG) acknowledged early on (on 28 April to be exact, when there were at least 100,00 already dead) that people were being slaughtered, but instructed its UN Ambassador to remain in "listening mode" and "not commit the USG to anything."
3. The best and most complete account of the genocide is the Alison Des Forges' (of HRW) Leave None to Tell the Story.
4. A shorter but equally excellent read is Samantha Powers' damning condemnation of the U.S. government's silence (i.e., inaction) in "Bystanders to Genocide" from the Atlantic Monthly.
5.The USG's belated humanitarian response (after the genocide was over) actual enabled many of the killers to escape the country through the refugee camps.
6. Hutu hate radio broadcasts were used to incite and organize the killings--the USG had the capability to jam these broadcasts but deemed it too expensive.
8. Never again? It could happen in Syria.
9. What constitutes "justice" and reconciliation after the genocide is a lot different than you might imagine (See Gourevitch's top-notch New Yorker Article)
10. In 2001, there was a backlog of 100,000 perpetrators waiting to be tried--this is one reason Kagame instituted the gacaca "grass courts."
11. President Clinton's March 1998 apology in Rwanda may have been technically accurate: "we in the United States and the world community did not do as much as we could have and should have done to try to limit what occurred," however, in reality the U.S. didn't just not do as much as it should have, instead official in the U.S. government willfully and aggressively pressured the international community to not only withdraw peace-keeeping forces but also prevented others from intervening.
Most people have seen or are familiar with the superb movie Hotel Rwanda.
Another movie on the genocide is the vivid and heartbreaking Sometimes in April. I wrote a paper evaluating the Raoul Peck's masterpiece here.
A few others that are on my "to watch" list are:
Shake Hands with the Devil: The Journey of Romeo Dallaire (2005)
Shake Hands with the Devil (2007)
That Spring in 1994: What I Remember—Recollections of the Rwandan Genocide