Yet Again: Drawing Parallels in Genocide

Article excerpt

In 1994, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) quelled the Hutu-initiated genocide, and in the process, devastated Rwanda, further exacerbated poverty, and claimed the lives of 800,000 minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The world vowed "never again." Thirteen years later, the world is yet again witnessing a repeat of genocide--this time in Darfur, in which an estimated 50,000 people have already died. Although the Darfur crisis has unique foundations, the slow and diffident response of international actors to the Darfur crisis is reminiscent of the delayed, international reaction to the Rwandan genocide. Both genocides appear to suggest that while such conflicts are rooted in a nation's historical ethnic conflicts, their horrific consequences are inevitably tied to protracted and superficial responses of the international community.

Both the Rwandan and the Darfur genocide are rooted in long histories of ethnic conflict. In the 1950s and early 1960s, toward the end of Belgian colonial rule, the Tutsi aristocracy enjoyed supremacy because of both their lighter physical appearance and their higher levels of wealth. After the Belgians left, Hutu resentment for past Tutsi domination could not be quelled, leading to a large cry for Hutu emancipation. Today, a similar civil war is occurring in Darfur, where the conflict is between the black African sedentary farmers that inhabit the region and the Khartoum government that is dominated by the country's Arab ruling class and which is allied with the Arab Janjaweed militia; the government has been using the militia to stifle the rebellion since 2003. However, both the government and the Janjaweed have taken rebellion suppression one step too far by implementing nefarious policies against the people of the Darfur region.

Furthermore, similar to the international response in Rwanda, international actors have been extremely hesitant to lable the crisis in Darfur as a genocide. In 1994, the Clinton administration did very little to help the victims of the Rwandan genocide except to issue a statement of remorse and offer refugee positions after the fact. The United Nations was equally ineffective in implementing any peaceful resolutions, only serving to protect foreigners in Rwanda rather than the persecuted citizens themselves. The same is happening in Darfur. In 2004, the UN Human Rights Commission met in Geneva and debated whether to release a report, similar in tone to reports from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, that would condemn the Sudanese government for condoning the human savagery in Darfur. …