Human Rights and Intervention in the Rwandan Genocide Human rights are known as “inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled to simply because he or she is a human being”. These rights are known to be universal and are the same to everyone living on earth. These rights are said to exist in both national and international law. The Universal Declaration of Human rights, which is supported by fifty countries across the globe, attests to this definition and backs up the idea that all people are equal and have the right to pursue happiness no matter who they are, where they are from, their skin color, age, or sex, etc.
If these countries believe these things to be true, why was there not a mass intervention when the Hutu militia in Rwanda took it upon themselves to kill hundreds of thousands of people based solely on their ethnicity? It seems that if these countries are not going to benefit in some way, then they have no desire to help or intervene when there is a crisis in another country. The United Nations, which is said to be an international institution that values human rights, should make sure that tragedies, such as the Rwandan genocide, do not occur. Countries cannot act selfish when it comes to war, genocide, and the lives of innocent people.
Aiding everyone, treating people with fairness and equality, and fighting for what is right should be far more important than a country’s personal gain.. The one and only deciding factor that manifests what will happen with human rights violations and a countries choice to intervene is the United Nations and the international community. This paper will analyze why it took so long for other countries to intervene in the Rwandan genocide and how the United Nations and the international community directly correlate with human rights violations and interventions in international tragedies.
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During the Rwandan genocide, thousands of people were killed in the name of ethnic violence. Men, women and children were taken out of their own homes and killed for nothing other than their ethnicity. At this time, the Hutu ethnicity made up over eighty percent of the population, and blamed the people of Tutsi, who made up the lower fifteen percent for all of the economic and political problems of the country. This, in turn, led to Hutu rebels who felt that the only way to solve the issues in Rwanda was to eliminate the Tutsi people all together. Hutu extremists and militia aunched plans and were able to almost effectively rid Rwanda of the Tutsi ethnicity. Tutsi people tried to escape but most were killed or attacked before fleeing was even a possible outcome. Thousands and thousands of people participated in the ethnic cleansing of the Tutsi people in Rwanda. This situation was very chaotic and got completely out of control because no countries chose to intervene and help the Rwandan people until it was too late. Is it in a country’s best interest to intervene in another country’s warfare or should the country sit back until it gets worse?
Why did it take so long and the loss of so many lives before other countries chose to intervene in the Rwandan genocide? The Rwandan genocide was a mass murder of an estimated million people in Eastern Africa in the state of Rwanda. Over about one hundred days, it is estimated that twenty percent of the country’s total population were killed. This resulted from a longstanding ethnic battle and tensions between the minority party, the Tutsi, who had controlled power for centuries, and the majority, the Hutu, who had come into power through a rebellion in the early 1960’s.
In 1990, a rebel group of Tutsi refugees invaded Rwanda in an attempt to defeat the Hutu government. This began the Rwandan Civil War, resulting in far worse tension between the two groups. In response to this, many Hutu people gravitated toward the “Hutu Power” ideology which consisted of state-controlled and independent Rwandan media. It also consisted that the Tutsi intended to make slaves of the Hutu people and that this must be resisted at all costs. Ethnic strife resulted in the rebels’ displacing large numbers of Hutu in the north and Hutu killing of Tutsi in the south.
The assassination of Habyarimana in April of 1994 set off even more violence during which Hutu groups conducted mass killings of Tutsis. The genocide was supported and coordinated by the national government as well as local military. Along with the local military, primary responsibility for all of the Tutsi killings lies with two Hutu militias that were organized for this purpose by political parties, the Interahamwe and the Impuzamugambi. Although once the genocide began, a great number of Hutu civilians took parts in the murders as well.
There was no peace agreement in place at this point, the Tutsi rebels started their offensive, defeating the army and seizing control of the country. The Hutu militia groups set out to murder any and all Tutsis that they could find regardless of their age or sex. They forced Hutu civilians to participate in the genocide, or be killed in return. The Hutu militia groups used radio airwaves as a way to contact other Tutsis and to provide them with information on what to in order to keep themselves alive. Most nations evacuated their diplomats and nationals from the country and abandoned their embassies in the initial stages of violence.
Militia began to set up hundreds of roadblocks around the country and used them to block off areas and make it easier for them to attack certain areas. This militia also sent cables to foreign countries letting them know that ethnicity was the driving factor of all the killings and that their politicians and peacekeepers were not safe in Rwanda. American citizens were evacuated from Rwanda at this point. Most of the victims were killed in their own villages and homes by machetes and rifles. The Hutu gangs searched through homes, schools, and churches and massacred all the people that they found hiding or trying to flee.
The Hutu’s attempt to eliminate all Tutsi, men, women, and children was so chaotic that there is no consensus of the amount of people killed on some days, but what is most important to remember is that this was genocide, and that the Hutu’s were trying to eliminate and erase the memory of Tutsi existence. Out of the Rwandan population of 7. 3 million people, 84% were Hutu, and 16% were Tutsi. The official figures posted by the Rwandan government estimated that the number of victims of the genocide to be 1,174,000 in one hundred days. To narrow that down even more, that is 10,000 a day, or 400 very hour, or 7 every minute.
It was also estimated that about 300,000 Tutsi were somehow able to survive the genocide. Thousands of these survivors were women, who were raped daily by Hutu men and ultimately became HIV positive. Of the survivors, there were thousands of orphans and close to all of them were forced to become the head of their household. The world did not act, at least not in a quick manner, to save the Tutsi people of Rwanda. United Nations representatives and commanders were there and there were also peacekeepers in the nation but their efforts were very inimal. Countries did not act at all, even though most countries ratified the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, nothing was done to stop the on-going mass killings of hundreds of thousands of people. There are several reasons why they international community took so long to intervene and why their efforts even at that time were so small. The first is that this might have been a civil war, and foreign states have been advised not to intervene in national self-determinations.
Another explanation is that no one knew about the vast amount of massacres occurring in Rwanda until much of the damage had already been done. And unfortunately, the last reason that other countries did not intervene is because they genuinely were not concerned about getting involved in something that would not offer them any personal gain. Rwanda had nothing to off these countries in exchange for their help, and unfortunately no country saw that it would be beneficial for the to get involved solely for good merit. Unfortunately, Rwanda is not the only nation that has been ignored when genocides occurred.
Countries such as Iraq, Bosnia, Koscovo, Cambodia, and Sudan have all had some type of ethnic cleansing take place which occurred after United Nations ratification at the convention and yet nothing was done to stop it or even intervene. Intervening, whether humane or not, has always been a dilemma for countries. A state feels that it should not involve itself in a sovereign state in order to preserve autonomy and freedom. Critics argue that an intervention would indeed help preserve the autonomy and freedom of a state where basic rights are being violated but it is unlikely that a country would do this.
Although the United Nations was created to continue communication and cooperation among nations, it feels that it was not created to solve world problems, especially not within countries. The United Nations feels that some countries are going to have to solve the problems within their own state on their own terms, time, and money. Since the creation of the United Nations, there have been fewer wars but civil wars have exponentially grown. This is result of Western colonizing powers creating artificial boundaries between their colonies and not taking into consideration the ethnic group that they may be dividing and elittling. As a consequence, ethnic clashes are more prevalent in the world now, and the world along with the United Nations is unsure on how to deal with the problem, which is why we see a constant lack of intervention with these types of issues. The United Nations does however always offer basic services to these countries that are in need. Services range from food and water relief, to imposing sanctions on countries, to peacekeeping, which was seen in Rwanda during the genocide.
These are ways of helping civilian populations whom may not even be involved in the conflict, along with the victims of the horrible tragedy. The United States of America was one country that was the most reluctant to intervene in the Rwandan genocide. During the time of the Rwandan genocide, the United States had just pulled American troops out of a disastrous peacekeeping mission in Somalia. The United States vowed to never again return to a conflict that it was not able to understand, between people, clans, and tribes, that it did not know, and especially in a country where the United States had no national interests.
President Clinton tried to keep that promise to the American people by suggesting that the rebels needed to stop the violence themselves, even though he had full support from Congress to intervene at this time. With Congress looking toward Clinton, and Clinton looking toward the United Nations, nothing was done and the genocide was forced to run its course. Choosing not to intervene was at the top of Clinton’s failure list for his time as President of the United States of America. The genocide in Rwanda could have been easily prevented.
The international community could have taken many steps to prevent the genocide that would not have involved military action. Solidarity within the United Nations was almost nonexistent win regard to Rwanda. Most countries had no investments and nothing to gain in helping Rwanda, so little was done. Had the United Nations paid more attention to what was going on was genocide much earlier, action could have been taken much sooner and the lives of so many people would not have been lost. Early actions could have prevented China and France from providing weapons which only fueled the genocide and increased the death toll.
The United States under President Bill Clinton refused to take any kind of action in Rwanda because there was no economic interest; apparently moral interest is of no importance at this point in time. The United States also helped in making sure other countries did not interfere as well. Had the countries recognized the conditions in Rwanda early on, there could have been a serious obstacle in the genocide’s execution. Instead, however, the United States argued over what the word genocide actually meant and feared to even use it because they would be compelled to act if it was described as an actual genocide.
If the condition in the country were recognized sooner, the international community would have responded more quickly. Rwanda was also not equipped with the technology that is available to most developed countries. Telephone lines were scarce, but the country was heavily saturated with radios and radio frequencies, which was the only way to spread propaganda. The United States had the technology to jam the radio waves and when presented with this information, the United States refused to lend the technology to help the Rwandan people.
This action completely prevented the international community from being able to jam the radio frequencies, further preventing any hope for the Tutsi people. Had the Rwandan people had this technology, they would have been able to stop the spread of hate messages, and later in the genocide, it would have nearly stopped the militia from finding people, as Tutsi locations were broadcast over the radio. Arguably, this could have stopped the genocide in its tracks or at least made it very difficult for the genocide to continue without another country even setting foot on Rwanda soil.
The United States and other countries interact with other states on a state level. The problem with that during the Rwandan genocide was that when the United Nations hears a report that genocide may be taking place within a country then its response is to notify that country’s government about it. This helped none whatsoever in Rwanda because the government were part of the reason the genocide was happening and taking place. If reports are being leaked to the international community, it is obvious that the community, for some reason, is not taking any sort of action to alleviate the situation.
The insistence on only dealing with other countries as states prevents any action being done for the voiceless individuals who have no voice and cannot fight for themselves. Had the United States not blatantly refused in taking action in Rwanda, other countries would have more than likely been more willing to help the innocent victims in Rwanda. The United States refusal made others believe that they were also not expected to help. In the aftermath of the genocide, Rwanda is a very different country.
While Hutus ad and Tutsis now live side by side, many feel that the only way for them to survive is to destroy the other ethnic group. The post-genocide government has tried to establish a greater level of stability within the country in hopes of another genocide never occurring again. The Rwandan government has abolished the ethnic identity cards that were for so long, the only means of distinguishing one group from another. Many citizens still remember what their neighbors are, while others live next door to someone who murdered their families.
Most Rwandans now refuse to place themselves in an ethnic category at all in hopes of the new generation of Rwandan people growing up without and identity card and without ethnic tension with the people they are constantly surrounded by. The impact of the United Nations on the intervention in human rights violation most definitely correlates. This was seen in the Rwandan genocide. Since the United Nations decided as a whole that they would not intervene in a beneficial way, then that is what all the other countries decided independently.
So if there was not a large governing international institution, things may have played out differently. Countries may have seen the horrible things happening in Rwanda and chose to lend a helping hand rather than sitting back and watching Rwanda crumble. If there is a lesson to be learned from everything that happened in Rwanda, it is that the international community needs to avoid giving the impression that it is willing to or is even capable of rescuing civilians in a conflict.
If this is not the case, then it is important to build the capacity of people to do the job of protecting themselves, their family, and their country. Beck, Roger B. World History Patterns of Interaction. Evanston, IL: McDougal Littell, 2007. Scherrer, Christian. Genocide and crisis in Central Africa: conflict roots, mass violence, and regional war; foreword by Robert Melson. Praeger, 2002. Weissman, Stephen R. "Preventing Genocide in Burundi Lessons from International Diplomacy", United States Institute of Peace http://www. genocidewatch. org/images/Rwanda-13-Mar-07-First_the_Deed,_Then_the Denial. pdf Release of Rwanda's mastermind of death promotes genocide denial, Harvard Law Record, December 4, 2009 UN Security Council Resolution 912 (1994), implementing an "adjustment" of UNAMIR's mandate and force level as outlined in the "UNDOC Special Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda", April 20, 1994 (document no. S/1994/470) "Rwanda-UNAMIR Background". United Nations. Retrieved May 30, 2011. Shake Hands With the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda: ISBN 0-679-31171-8, pg. 213
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