A Moment for Rwanda

by Nathan Hamm on 4/5/2004 · 1 comment

I think the best class I took in college was a class about the laws of war and international humanitarian law. It tackled genocide, serious and systematic war crimes, and how the international community responds (or fails to respond) to these issues. I particularly liked that the class fully recognized that evil walks the earth and that there’s a kernel of it in the heart of everyone.

We mostly discussed the Holocaust, the former Yugoslavia, and Rwanda.

It was Rwanda that has stuck with me. Words fail to describe this genocide. The speed and brutality of the genocide are shocking and the failure of the international community, particularly the UN (admittedly, the US played an important role in supporting this inaction once the genocide began) to respond is disgraceful.

If you want to know more, it’s worth your time to beg, borrow, or steal Frontline’s Rwandan genocide piece. The interview with Philip Gourevitch is particularly good, in only for this sentiment:

In December of 1998, we had the 50th anniversary of the Genocide Convention. And there were a lot of commemorative events, anniversary events that basically talked about: Where does it stand now? It didn’t seem to me that it was really an occasion for a 50th birthday party. It seemed to me more of an occasion for an obituary and a wake, because the lesson the Rwanda leaves us with is that at least the part of the Genocide Convention that seemed to promise that the world was going to put its common humanity above all, and stand at least for stopping genocide when an unambiguous case of it appeared, had proven– it was … stricken from the document. It was stricken from the record. It was stricken from the international code. And that what we’re left with is the idea of “never again.” It may be a true wish, but it’s a false promise.

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Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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{ 1 comment }

sean-paul April 5, 2004 at 1:11 pm


I’d recommend reading Gourevitch’s book as well. Outstanding.

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