The Rwandan genocide in the late twentieth century is enough testament to the fact that when there is no political will or “gain” to achieve from intervention most countries would not step in to stop even a genocide. What seems most conspicuous is that we have learnt no lessons from the Holocaust, and if we have, then we find it more convenient to forget about it so that we do not have to act. The genocide that resulted from this collective apathy calls out for the need to have better safeguards in place that would not allow the countries in United Nations to stall the peacekeeping mandate of United Nations and/or to hinder the already started process.
It is, however, strange that the same countries did step in during the Bosnian genocide. The journalist in the movie Shooting Dogs puts it really well about how the apathy is mostly caused because the strong nations, mostly white/Caucasian, cannot identify enough with the Africans, to them, the dying Bosnians could have been their loved ones, but the dying Tutsis were just dead Africans.
The fact that there was a fax sent to the UN by someone who held a high post in the Hutu regime warning them against such an event is very conveniently brushed off as a bureaucracy error. Clearly, something is wrong with how affairs are run at the UN if the warning of impending genocide is not enough to garner the attention it truly merits.
What is especially appalling in this episode is how the United States reacted. Perhaps because of the bad experience in Somalia, the United States was simply not willing to do anything in this matter. However, understandable as that may be, it is simply ludicrous when the record shows that the US government officials were taking care that the events not be termed genocide because then they might have to do something about it. What is more, in a bid to get rid of any onus that might fall on it, the US even took measures that caused the UN peacekeepers to be decreased as well. The callousness that this implies is simply beyond mere reprehension.
I find that there is no point in having international conventions and agreements if all a country needs to do to renege on its word is to not “name” the offense. This is the flaw of international agreements that is considered to be a loophole – if you do not call it by the term that obligates you, you are off the hook. It is as if you see a child being beaten and you decide that since you do not call it “abuse” you are not obligated to act on it.
Even when the US finally decided to act, when most of the genocide had taken place, they did not take the advice of General Dallaire, who was in Rwanda heading the UN peacekeeping force and decided on another plan. This action was explained by Dallaire. it, quite aptly, sums up the attitude that the US had when it came to Rwanda. When talking about the US plan versus his own, Dallaire said, “The two plans had very different objectives…My mission was to save Rwandans. Their mission was to put on a show at no risk.” (Power 378).
Power, Samantha. A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide. New York: Basic, 2002. Print.
Shooting Dogs (Beyond the Gates). Dir. Michael Carton-Jones. CrossDay Productions Ltd., and BBC Films, 2005. DVD.