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"Hotel Rwanda" and Reality TV: An Experiment

In 1994, more than 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus were killed during a three-month-long ethnic killing spree in Rwanda. Hutu military personnel and their surrogates in the Interhamwe militia carried out a planned, systematic mass slaughter of ethnic Tutsis with the intention of exterminating Rwanda's entire Tutsi minority population. Western governments and the United Nations failed to intervene and stop the bloodbath, even though some 2,500 UNAMIR (the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda) troops were already deployed in Rwanda to help implement the Arusha Accords signed by Hutu President Habyarimana and Tutsi rebel forces. "Horrified" Western governments and the United Nations admitted that civil war and ethnic attrocities were unfolding in Rwanda, but failed to specifically condemn the Hutu government and militia's mass murder of Tutsis as genocide. By employing the term "genocide", Western governments and the United Nations would have committed themselves to a humanitarian intervention as required by the 1948 Genocide Convention. Instead, our leaders did nothing and, as a consequence, we in the West bear responsibility for a failure to hault the genocide in Rwanda.

Today, our indifference to Rwanda's suffering is being played out like a tragic sequel in Sudan, where Arab militias, backed and armed by the Sudanese government, are attacking and killing Africans in the Darfur region. More than 30,000 Africans have died in Darfur; concentration camps have appeared and rape is again a tool of ethnic cleansing. The United States rightly condemned the violence in Sudan as genocide, but has failed to provide further leadership, manpower, or material to assemble a humanitarian intervention for Darfur. The world's lone superpower has appropriately cried wolf in an ongoing case of genocide as though that very act alone might somehow end a people's physical destruction.

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Posted by Steve on February 21, 2005 | Comments (101) | TrackBack