Imagine worrying everyday about being killed by people in your own country, having to fight for your life, and watching your friends and family be murdered. That’s what it was like for the people in Rwanda during the Rwandan genocide.
The Rwandan genocide started in April 1994 when a plane was shot down with President Habyarimana. As though this was a signal, the Hutus began attacking the civilians of Rwanda. The Rwandan Armed Forces and Hutu mililtia set up roadblocks and went from house to house, killing Tutsis and moderate Hutu politicians. Thousands died on the first day.
Some U.N. camps sheltered civilians, but most of the U.N. peacekeeping forces stood by while the slaughter went on. The U.N. Security Council passed a resolution condemning the killing, but they left out the word genocide. This was a mistake. If they had referred to it as genocide, the U.N. would have been legally obliged to act to prevent and punish the perpetrators.
The U.N. wanted to avoid action so they wouldn’t get other troops alarmed. The U.N. soldiers were ordered to withdraw to the airport. They stopped their peacekeeping mission and stepped back and watched.. Most of the civilians they abandoned were killed.
The United States didn’t know how far the killings would go either. Bill Clinton didn’t know what to expect. He did know that people were being killed, but he said if it didn’t affect the United States, we wouldn’t get involved. He didn’t send anyone into Rwanda to help stop the violence. This was another mistake.
We would have been one of the countries that would have had the most capability to help Rwanda, but we’re always only thinking about our own country and what would affect us. It is our obligation as humans to try and help other people if we know they need help. To just stand by while other people are suffering is wrong.
Bill Clinton wanted all Americans out of Rwanda. He evacuated the American community, but one American stayed: Carl Wilkins. He was very right in doing this, and many other Americans should have felt the obligation to stay. He took in orphans and saved many people from being killed. He was one person who actually wanted to help.
Another group that helped a lot was the International Red Cross. They never left, and tried to help the injured. They went throughout Rwanda without having any problems. This means other groups could have too. They tried to spread the word to others about the killings to get more help, but nobody listened to them.
Very few people spoke up during the genocide, and when they did no one would listen. A Rwandan human rights activist, Monique Mujawamariya went to Clinton and asked for help in Rwanda. He didn’t give it to her. Laura Lane and Madeline Albright wanted the United States to help Rwanda. But still, we didn’t.
An estimated 800,000 Rwandans were killed during the Rwandan genocide, yet most people didn’t feel the need to help until it was too late. Today many people think another genocide could never happen. I’m sure most people thought the same thing after the Holocaust, but look what happened.
People say we learn history so we don’t repeat the same mistakes. Hopefully people have learned from the Rwandan genocide, and next time something like this happens, more people will step in and help.