April 6, 1994, is one of the most significant days in the history of the world. This day marked the beginning of the mass genocide between the Tutsis and Hutus in Rwanda. The sources of this conflict began back in the 15th century, when tension and an eventual feud arose between the two ethnic groups, the Hutus and Tutsis, in Rwanda, located at the east of Africa.
It all started when colonial leaders controlling Rwanda gave more support to the Tutsi minority, instead of the Hutu majority. This gave the Tutsis power to exploit the Hutus. But by the 1960s, the Hutus took power by force, causing many Tutsis to flee. Those who fled created a rebel group of trained soldiers called the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). By 1973, Juvénal Habyarimana, a Hutu leader, was elected as president. After twenty-one years in office, he was assassinated on a flight back home. This sparked the beginning of the mass genocide that resulted in the deaths of more than 800,000 people.
In 2000, it was revealed that the United Nations, France, Belgium, and United States had the chance to prevent the genocide before it even happened. There were clear signs, messages, and warnings sent to UN officials, stating that a massacre was impending. They chose to turn their backs on hundreds of thousands of murders, For this reason, April 6, 1994 should be remembered forever. Hopefully, it will serve as a reminder that we should not turn a blind eye when warnings like this are issued.
“The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” – Albert Einstein
Throughout my life, I’ve been exposed to the bitter and unpleasant taste of reality. I’ve experienced and witnessed the nature of humans. I always questioned the behaviors, emotions, and logic of human beings, but I’ve never been disgusted by the inhumanity of our species as I was after watching the movie Hotel Rwanda in 10th grade. This movie made an indelible impression on me, one which I will never forget or fail to remember. Not only did this spark my interest in current events, it also gave me a reason to care about what’s actually happening in the world. As selfish as it seems, I always thought that nothing was actually wrong in the world unless it happened to me on a personal level. I’m confident that many people share this limitation, especially in the United States. Nevertheless, this was what happened, despite the fact that the UN, Belgium, France, and the United States knew it was coming. This reminds me of a well known quote from the movie, “I think if people see this footage they’ll say, ‘oh my God, that’s horrible,’ and then go on eating their dinner”. It’s easy to pity and give prayer to those who aren’t as fortunate, but taking action requires effort and compassion. A majority of us takes the easy road unless the problem affects or our life. Even now, I question how much I can trust our government to have our best interests at heart. If you were in the position of power, what would you do?
Words by Sammi Tsui, Images via culturacolectiva.com