Lest We Forget: The 20th Anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide

April 4, 2014

Kigali Memorial Centre. CREDIT: I, Inisheer via Wikimedia Commons

APRIL 2014: Twenty years ago, during a 100-day period from April 7 to mid-July, 1994, Rwandan Hutus murdered an estimated 500,000 to 1,000,000 of their fellow Rwandans.

Mass violence and rape was orchestrated by the political elite, who pitted the majority Hutu ethnic group against the minority Tutsis, as well as against moderate Hutus. The killings wiped out up to 70 percent of Rwanda's Tutsis and approximately 20 percent of the country's entire population.  

The United Nations and major powers have been widely criticized for their inaction in preventing the genocide.

As we look back and remember this tragedy when so many innocent Rwandans died, we must examine why genocide occurs, and learn how to prevent such atrocities from happening again. Are we ignoring ongoing genocides today? Are the victims and their families receiving justice? The following resources provide a guide not only to the past, but to the present and future.


What Does "International Justice" Look Like in Post-Genocide Rwanda?
Aloysius Habimana, Rwandese League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights
"The Tribunal can make a difference for the future of human rights in Rwanda by exposing the truth of the genocide: It was not a result of ancient, tribal hatred, but rather a carefully planned exploitation of ethnic differences by rulers seeking to hold onto their power." (April 2000, Human Rights Dialogue article)

Global Governance and Genocide in Rwanda
Anthony F. Lang, Jr.
, University of St Andrews
Lang examines three books on the Rwandan Genocide: Eyewitness to a Genocide: The United Nations and Rwanda by Michael Barnett; Peacemaking in Rwanda: The Dynamics of Failure by Bruce D. Jones; and A People Betrayed: The Role of the West in Rwanda's Genocide by L. R. Melvern. (April 2002, Ethics & International Affairs article)

Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda
Roméo Dallaire, Canadian Senate
Lt. Gen. Dallaire (force commander of the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda in 1994) recalls the agony of not being able to take action to halt the Rwandan Genocide because he lacked the requisite authority as well as manpower and equipment. In essence, he lacked the support of the international community. (January 2003, Public Affairs, transcript and audio)

Ethics on Film: Discussion of "Hotel Rwanda"
Based on the true story of a Rwandan hotel manager who saved the lives of over 1,200 refugees during the 1994 genocide, this film points blame at the international community and the UN for doing almost nothing to intervene. (July 2007, Ethics on Film review; includes discussion questions and resources.)


An Ambassador's Reflections on a Bloodbath
Thomas Melady (1927-2014), American Ambassador
U.S. Ambassador Melady was an eyewitness to the 1972 genocide in Burundi, when Tutsis slaughtered an estimated 80,000-210,000 Hutus. In this 1974 article, he discusses Burundi and other countries where hostile groups live side by side, such as Northern Ireland and Cyprus, and the responsibility of the international community. "I write with a feeling of great sadness," he concludes, "for I see no end to the business." (May 1974, WORLDVIEW magazine article)

A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide
Samantha Power, Harvard University; Michael Barnett University of Minnesota
Why did the United States largely ignore the Rwandan Genocide and yet devote endless time to the contemporaneous Bosnian crisis? According to Samantha Power, the reason is "politics, politics, politics." (April 2002, Public Affairs, transcript)

Rwanda to Darfur
Madeleine Lynn, Carnegie Council
"Are all humans human, or are some more human than others?" asks Roméo Dallaire. (March 2005, article)

Rethinking Cultural Genocide Under International Law Human Rights Dialogue: "Cultural Rights"
David Nersessian, Boston University School of Law
Cultural genocide is a unique wrong that should be recognized independently and that rises to the level of meriting individual criminal responsibility. If the highest values of a society are expressed through its criminal laws then acts of cultural genocide are indeed criminal. (April 2005, Ethics & International Affairs article)

Worse Than War: Genocide, Eliminationism, and the Ongoing Assault on Humanity
Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, Harvard University
Rwanda, Bosnia, Cambodia, Darfur, Congo, and more—since World War II, genocide has caused more deaths than all wars put together. Goldhagen analyzes how and why genocides start and proposes steps the international community can take to stop them. (October 2009, Public Affairs, transcript, audio, video, and TV Show)


Bearing Witness to Genocide: Rwanda, Darfur, and the Implications for Future Peacekeeping Operations
Roméo Dallaire, Canadian Senate
In 1994, Lt. Gen. Dallaire was the commander of the UN Assistance Mission to Rwanda and was powerless to stop the massacre (see above). Yet just as in Rwanda 10 years ago, the UN is reluctant to use the word "genocide" to describe Darfur. (February 2005, Public Affairs, transcript).

Genocide and Aftermath: Rationalizing the Process of Truth and Reconciliation in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Elazar Barkan, Claremont Graduate University; Roy Gutman, Newsday; Donald S. Hays, United States Institute for Peace; Haris Hromic, Barclays Capital; Charles Ingrao, Purdue University; Mirza Kusljugic, Bosnia & Herzegovina Ambassador; David Marwell, Museum of Jewish Heritage; H.R.H. Prince Zeid Ra'ad Zeid Al-Hussein, Jordanian Ambassador
To commemorate the 10th anniversary of the massacre at Srebrenica, a panel was held at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in collaboration with the Academy of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and with the Council in an advisory role. (July 2005, History and Politics of Reconciliation, transcript)

Genocide Denial in Rwanda: Dealing with the Past or Subverting Democracy?
Marlene Spoerri, Carnegie Council 
Do laws that make it a crime to deny the existence of genocide help to lessen the chances of renewed conflict? Or, do they stifle freedom of speech—and risk eliminating political dissent? These are the questions currently debated in Rwanda. (September 2011, Global Ethics Corner, transcript, audio, and video).


A Central African Affair: Chad's Insurgency Highlights Ongoing Genocide in Darfur
Eric Reeves, Smith College
The international community could act to stop the genocide in Darfur. For example, it could pressure China and enact an EU trade and investment moratorium. But it's more likely that we will continue to stand by and watch. (February 2008, Carnegie Ethics Online article)

Should We Stop the Next Genocide?
Erik Schechter, Spector & Associates
Should the United States, as the world's greatest military power, use its might to prevent the next outbreak of ethnic violence from turning into a full-fledged genocide? The answer is not an easy one, writes security affairs analyst Erik Schechter. (August 2010, Carnegie Ethics Online article)

What Does It Mean to Prevent Genocide?

Tibi Galis, Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation; Kyle C. Matthews, Concordia University
It's essential to understand that genocide is a process, not an event, says Tibi Galis from the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation. It doesn't just happen out of the blue. So there are chances to step in and change the course of this process. (June 2012, Carnegie New Leaders, transcript, audio, and video)

North Korea, the World's Principal Violator of the Responsibility to Protect
Robert Park, Korean-American Missionary, Human Rights Activist
The 2005 UN World Summit made a landmark commitment to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity. Has North Korea violated this norm to the degree that intervention is warranted? The answer is an unequivocal yes, says Park, who argues compellingly that North Korea is guilty of ongoing genocide. (February 2012, article)


The Ethics of a Justice Imposed: Ratko Mladic's Arrest and the Costs of Conditionality
Marlene Spoerri, Mladen Joksic, Carnegie Council
For Serbians, material incentives, not a moral imperative, are the main motivation for compliance with the International Criminal Tribunal. Thus Serbia has succeeded in aspects of criminal justice, but has failed to partake in transitional justice—and Mladic's arrest does not change this. (June 2011, Carnegie Ethics Online article)

All the Missing Souls: A Personal History of the War Crimes Tribunals
David SchefferNorthwestern University School of Law
David Scheffer was at the forefront of the efforts leading to criminal tribunals for the Balkans, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Cambodia. His quest has been to "to discover the right formula, in ever-changing international circumstances, to confront monstrous evil and to do so in the courtroom." (January 2012, Public Affairs, transcript, audio, and video)

Exit, Voice, and Loyalty at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal: Should the International Community Stay or Go?
Jinah Roe, International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia
The Khmer Rouge Tribunal is in big trouble, much of it financial. But the financial deficit is the result of something deeper: a responsibility deficit. The UN and the international community owe it to the victims to persevere—and quickly, before all those under indictment die of old age. (April 2013, Carnegie Ethics Online article)

"Watchers of the Sky": Film Screening & Conversation with Luis Moreno-Ocampo
Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Lawyer
What are the challenges facing the International Criminal Court? How can it be more effective? Former ICC prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo explains. (March 2014, Carnegie New Leaders, transcript and audio)