News update and backgrounder preceding the 2commentaries on Rwanda:
On Wednesday April 7, 2004, Rwandan PresidentPaul Kagame pinned the country's darkness during the 1994genocide on the international community and the United Nations in the10th anniversary of the tragedy. He pinned the cause of thegenocide on Western countries, namely Belgium, Britain and the UnitedStates that withdrew their forces when they were badly needed."Injustice of powerful nations should be stopped. Rwanda shouldbe agood example to learn a lesson," the president said.
Also, the retired General Romeo Dallaire ofCanada, former commander of the United Nations AssistanceMission in Rwanda (UNMIR), said Tuesday April 6 that the 1994genocide in Rwanda could have been stopped if the internationalcommunity had shown their political will. In an interview with Xinhuain Kigali, where commemoration events are being organized for the10th anniversary of the genocide, Dallaire expressed hisdisappointment with the world leaders over their inaction duringthose horrible days. Dallaire, who led the UN peacekeeping force inRwanda from October 1993 to August 1994, was invited to theInternational Conference on Genocide and the April 7 public ceremony,also known as National Reflection, at the Kigali NationalStadium.
By GERALD CAPLAN
Special toUSAfrica The Newspaper, Houston
Tomorrow, April 7, 2004, marks the 10th anniversary of thegenocide in Rwanda, one of the most notorious and neglected events ofthe last century. The United Nations, the African Union, and a numberof countries, including Canada, have formally voted to recognizeApril 7 as a day of commemoration and reflection.
Why is it the world's business?
Thegenocide wasn't just another stereotypical case of Africans killingAfricans in the "heart of darkness." It was a deliberateconspiratorial operation organized by a small, shrewd group of greedyHutu extremists who believed their self-interest would be enhanced ifevery one of Rwanda's 1 million Tutsis was annihilated. They cameclose to total success.
But the West has played a key role in Rwanda for more than acentury. The central dynamic of Rwandan history for the past 80 yearsthat led ultimately to genocide was the bitter division between Hutuand Tutsi.
This antagonism was largely an artefact created early in the lastcentury by the Roman Catholic Church and the country's Belgiancolonizers. After independence in the early 1960s, Rwanda was run asa racist, sometimes violently anti-Tutsi, Hutu dictatorship. Thiswould have happened without the Church and the Belgians.
What's worse, the 1994 genocide could have been prevented by aseries of external agencies with the capacity to intervene. Yetwithout exception, and for universally shoddy reasons, every one ofthem failed to do so.
My own list of culprits, in order of responsibility, is asfollows: The Roman Catholic Church; the governments of Belgium,France, the United States and Britain; and the U.N. secretariat. Iname the Church and the French first since they both had theinfluence to deter the genocide plotters in the first place.
Rwanda was the most Christianized country in Africa and theRoman Catholics were far and away the largest Christian denomination.Catholic officials consistently failed to use their enormousinfluence to protest against the government's racist policies andpractices. Indeed, the Church lent the government moralauthority.
Once the genocide began, Catholic leaders mostly refused tocondemn the government, never used the word genocide, while manyindividual priests and nuns actually aided the genocidaires. When theRwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), a rebel group of English-speakingTutsi refugees from Uganda, invaded Rwanda in 1990, the Frenchmilitary saved the day for the Hutu government.
For the following several years, right to the moment the genocidebegan, French officials armed the government while failing to usetheir leverage to insist it curtail its racist policies andpropaganda, stop the massacres of Tutsis, end widespread human rightsabuses, and disband the Hutu death squads.
Once the genocide was launched after April 6, 1994, the U.S.government, steadfastly backed by Britain and cheered on by Belgium,was primarily responsible for the failure of the U.N. SecurityCouncil to reinforce its puny mission to Rwanda.
Gen. Romeo Dallaire, the Canadian commander of the U.N. force,UNAMIR, repeatedly pleaded for reinforcements, and was repeatedlyturned down. Two weeks into the genocide, the Security Council,unbelievably, voted to reduce UNAMIR from 2,500 to 270 men.
Six weeks into the genocide, the council voted finally to sendsome 4,500 troops to Rwanda. But deliberate stalling tactics by theU.S. and Britain meant that by the end of the genocide, when theTutsi-led rebels were sworn in as the new government, not a singlesoldier or reinforcement materiel ever reached Dallaire. This was oneof the U.N.'s darkest moments in its history.
The role of the U.N. secretariat is somewhat ambiguous.
Its failure to support the pleas of its own force commanderreflected its lack of capacity to cope with yet another internationalhot spot combined with its understanding that the U.S. and Britainwere intransigent.
Still, there were many occasions when the secretariat failed toconvey to the full Security Council the dire situation in Rwanda, andmany opportunities when it failed to speak up publicly in the hope ofinfluencing world opinion.
This record of repeated betrayals did not improve after thegenocide.
There has been precious little accountability by the internationalcommunity for its failure to prevent the slaughter of close to 1million innocent civilians.
France and the Catholic Church to this day refuse to acknowledgethe slightest responsibility or to apologize for their roles. FormerU.S. president Bill Clinton and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annanhave both apologized for their failure to protect, but both falselyblamed insufficient information. In fact, what was lacking was notknowledge, but political will and sufficient traditional nationalinterest.
Finally, the very existence of the genocide has largelydisappeared from public and media consciousness.
This is the latest betrayal. Marginalized during the genocide,Rwanda's calamity is now largely forgotten except for Rwandansthemselves and small clusters of their friends.
That's why I founded the Remembering Rwanda movement in July,2001.
I had four targets to remember: The innocent victims; thesurvivors, most of whom live in deplorable conditions with fewresources to tend to their physical, financial or emotional needs;the perpetrators, most of whom remain free and unrepentant scatteredaround Africa, Europe and North America; and the so-called"bystanders," the unholy sextet named earlier.
Rather than being passive witnesses, as the word "bystander"implies, all were active in their failure to intervene to stop themassacres, and all but Belgium remain unaccountable to this day.
Their roles, too, must not be forgotten.
Gerald Caplan is the author of 'Rwanda: The Preventable Genocide'and founder and volunteer co-ordinator of "Remembering Rwanda." Thisis an edited version of a presentation he will make on April 7 inRwanda during the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of thegenocide.
By CLARENCE PAGE
Special toUSAfrica The Newspaper, Houston
As much as our American presidents say "Never again" withheartfelt passion, the reality too often has been, "Yes, again," tomass killings
The two men were neighbors and good buddies. They often gottogether, told jokes and shared that great international adhesive ofmale bonding, beer. That was before a mob insisted that one friendclub the other to death.
Ithappened in Rwanda 10 years ago, a time and place where tribalism ranhorribly amok. The victim had done nothing wrong except to belong tothe wrong ethnic group. As reported by Los Angeles Timescorrespondent Robyn Dixon, the confessed killer now rationalizes thedeath as the mob's fault: "Those people are to blame," he says. "Notme."
There are millions of sad stories in Rwanda. His is one of them."Those people" are his people. Hutus turned on Rwanda's Tutsiminority on the night of April 6, 1994, after a plane carrying thepresidents of Rwanda and neighboring Burundi was shot down. Bands ofHutu thugs, working mostly with machetes and astonishingly relentlessenthusiasm, killed almost 1 million men, women and children andturned another 2 million into refugees, all for the crime of beingTutsis.
The horrible enormity of those numbers numbs the mind. A singledeath is a tragedy, a million is a statistic, said Josef Stalin--whoknew more than a little about how to stun the world into shockeddisbelief through the sheer enormity of his own mass killings.
Memories of Rwandan horror pain an idealistic world, a moderncivilization that embraced the slogan "Never again." After thehorrors of the Holocaust were revealed a half-century ago, oneAmerican president after another has pledged never to let such amassive murder of civilians happen again. Yet, they do. Cambodia'skilling fields in the 1970s, Saddam Hussein's attacks in northernIraq in the 1980s, Bosnia's "ethnic cleansing" by Serbs in 1990s andRwanda's horrors all proceeded without American action.
In Cambodia, Iraq and Rwanda, the United States did not even rushto offer stern words or impose sanctions. In Rwanda, the Clintonadministration not only refused to authorize the deployment of amultinational UN force, but actually fussed with other nations overwho would pay for American transport vehicles.
Yet, as former UN Ambassador Richard Holbrooke said in aDecember speech he delivered at the Gisozi Genocide Memorial site inRwanda, "The lesson of each genocide is the same: The killing reallytakes off only after the murderers see that the world, and especiallythe United States, is not going to care or react."
Indeed, the slaughter in Rwanda of 10 UN peacekeepers fromBelgium resulted in the UN Security Council's decision to pull thepeacekeeping force out, despite the UN commander's impassionedrequest for reinforcements. When no response came after 100,000people were killed in two weeks, the slaughter picked up its pace. Ittook Tutsi rebels, not the mighty UN, to put an end to the massacreby overthrowing the Hutu leaders.
President Bill Clinton expressed deep regret later. "I feelterrible," he said during one public appearance, "because I think wecould have sent [5,000] or 10,000 troops and saved a couplehundred thousand lives. I think we could have saved about half ofthem."
So why didn't we? Clinton administration officials blame severalfactors, including the "Somalia syndrome." Congress and the Clintonadministration were reluctant to send U.S. troops into morehumanitarian missions after the disastrous retreat fromMogadishu.
Gen. Romeo Dallaire, the UN commander whose call forreinforcements went unheeded, was more blunt in an appearance inRwanda's capital Kigali this week: "The international communitydidn't give one damn for Rwandans because Rwanda was a country of nostrategic importance."
Right. Had there been oil or something else of "strategicimportance" under Rwanda, the world might have responded with agreater urgency. Yet the American people are not cold-hearted. ACBS/New York Times poll in 1995, for example, found two-thirds of theAmericans polled thought "stopping the killing" was reason enough todeploy troops to Bosnia, while only 29 percent agreed with Clintonthat deployment was necessary to maintain a stable Europe andpreserve American leadership. Americans want to do the right thing.But they need leadership to help them do it.
Leaders tend to be reluctant to make the humanitarian "Neveragain" argument, even when it is perfectly justified. PresidentBush's White House, for example, fell back on the humanitarian motivefor invading Iraq ("The Iraqi people are better off with Saddam[Hussein] is out of power") only after our searchers failedto find Hussein's fabled weapons of mass destruction.
As much as our American presidents say "Never again" withheartfelt passion, the reality too often has been, "Yes, again," whenour nation's moral courage somehow gets lost in day-after-day ofpolite conversations between diplomats, followed by no action. It isnot surprising that the U.S. is reluctant to send troops to farawayadventures. But if we forget the lessons of Rwanda, we will be doomedto repeat them.
Page is a syndicated columnist who writes primarily for theChicago Tribune. E-mail: email@example.com. Published on April 7, 2004.Copyright © 2004, Chicago Tribune
Why Chinua Achebe, the Eagleon the Iroko, is Africa's writer of the century
By Chido Nwangwu
Summary: Africa's most acclaimed and fluent writer of theEnglish Language, the most translated writer of Black heritage in theworld, broadcaster extraordinaire, social conscience of millions,cultural
custodian and elevator, chronicler and essayist, goodwillambassador and man of progressive rock-ribbed principles, theEagleon the Iroko, Ugo n'abo Professor Chinua Achebe,has recently been selected by a distinguished jury of scholars andcritics (from 13 countries of African life and literature) as thewriter of the Best book (Things Fall Apart, 1958) written in thetwentieth century regarding Africa. Reasonably, Achebe's message hasbeen neither dimmed nor dulled by time and clime. He's ourpathfinder, the intellectual godfather of millions of Africans andlovers of the fineart of good writing. Achebe's cultural contexts are, at once,pan-African, globalist and local; hence, his literarycontextualizations soar beyond the confines of Umuofia and any Igboor Nigerian setting of his creative imagination or historical recall.His globalist underpinnings and outlook are truly reflective of thetrue essence of his Igbo world-view, his Igbo upbringing anddisposition. Igbos and Jews share (with a few other other cultures)this pan-global disposition to issues of art, life, commerce,juridical pursuits, and quest to be republicanist in terms of thevitality of the individual/self. In Achebe's works, the centrality ofChi (God) attains an additional clarity in the Igbo cosmology... itis a world which prefers a quasi-capitalistic business attitude whiletaking due cognizance of the usefulness of the whole, the community.I've studied, lived and tried to better understand, essentially, therigor and towering moral certainties which Achebe have employed inmost of his works and his world. I know, among other reasons, becauseI share the same ancestry with him. Permit me to attempt a briefsentence, with that Achebean simplicty and clarity. Here,folks, what the world has known since 1958: Achebe is good! Eagle onthe Iroko, may your Lineage endure! Therehas never been one like you!
APPRECIATION CONTINENTAL AGENDA These views were stated during an interview CNN's anchor Bernard Shaw and senior analyst Jeff Greenfield had with Mr. Nwangwu on Saturday November 18, 2000 during a special edition of 'Inside Politics 2000.'
A young father writes his One year old son: "If only my heart had a voice...."
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Dear President, millions of Nigerians see you as the source of their problems. Millions curse you under their breadth. Millions more loudly pronounce their imprecations at the slightest opportunity. You rule over a degraded country, Mr. President; your every act has consistently contributed to that degradation.
A KING FOR ALL TIMES: Why Martin Luther King's legacy and vision are relevant into 21st century.
DIPLOMACY Walter Carrington: African-American diplomat who put principles above self for Nigeria (USAfrica's founder Chido Nwangwu with Ambassador Carrington at the U.S. embassy, Nigeria)
Out of Africa. The cock that crows in the morning belongs to one household but his voice is the property of the neighborhood. -- Chinua Achebe, Anthills of the Savannah. An editor carries on his crusade against public corruption and press censorship in his native Nigeria and other African countries. By John Suval.
ARINZE: Will he be the FIRST BLACK AFRICAN POPE? By Chido Nwangwu
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How far, how deep will Nigeria's human rights commission go?
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Since 1958, Achebe's "Things Fall Apart" set a standard of artistic excellence, and more. By Douglas Killam
Lifestyle Sex, Women and (Hu)Woman Rights. By Chika Unigwe
Johnnie Cochran will soon learn that defending Abacha's loot is not as simple as his O.J Simpson's case. By Chido Nwangwu
USAfrica The Newspaper voted the "Best Community Newspaper" in the 4th largest city in the U.S., Houston. It is in the Best of Houston 2001 special as chosen by the editors and readers of the Houston Press, reflecting their poll and annual rankings.
Bush's position on Africa is "ill-advised." The position stated by Republican presidential aspirant and Governor of Texas, George Bush where he said that "Africa will not be an area of priority" in his presidency has been questioned by USAfricaonline.com Publisher Chido Nwangwu. He added that Bush's "pre-election position was neither validated by the economic exchanges nor geo-strategic interests of our two continents."
Nwangwu, adviser to the Mayor of Houston (the 4th largest city in the U.S., and immigrant home to thousands of Africans) argued further that "the issues of the heritage interests of 35 million African-Americans in Africa, the volume and value of oil business between between the U.S and Nigeria and the horrendous AIDS crisis in Africa do not lend any basis for Governor Bush's ill-advised position which removes Africa from fair consideration" were he to be elected president.
By Al Johnson
"Our ordeal with KLM"
"They bumped me and my daughter from a confirmed flight; then flies out with 5 pieces of our luggage...." TONY IGWE in exclusive interview tells USAfricaonline.com Publisher Chido Nwangwu of 5 hours of anguish and disappointments at the George Bush International Airport in Houston, on Friday March 26, 2004
CNN International debate on Nigeria's democracy livecast on February 19, 2002. It involved Nigeria's Information Minister Prof. Jerry Gana, Prof. Salih Booker and USAfricaonline.com Publisher Chido Nwangwu. Transcripts are available on the CNN International site.
Should Africa debates begin and end at The New York Times and The Washington Post? No
CNN, Obasanjo and Nigeria's struggles with democracy.
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Jonas Savimbi, UNITA are "terrorists" in Africans' eyes despite Washington's "freedom fighter" toga for him. By SHANA WILLS
Africa suffers the scourge of the virus. This life and pain of Kgomotso Mahlangu, a five-month-old AIDS patient (above) in a hospital in the Kalafong township near Pretoria, South Africa, on October 26, 1999, brings a certain, frightening reality to the sweeping and devastating destruction of human beings who form the core of any definition of a country's future, its national security, actual and potential economic development and internal markets.
22 million Africans HIV-infected, ill with AIDS while African leaders ignore disaster-in-waiting
Osama bin-Laden's goons threaten Nigeria and Africa's stability
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Africans reported dead in terrorist attack at WTC
September 11 terror and the ghost of things to come....
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Bola Ige's murder another danger signal for Nigeria's nascent democracy.
In a special report a few hours after the history-making nomination, USAfricaonline.com Founder and Publisher Chido Nwangwu places Powell within the trajectory of history and into his unfolding clout and relevance in an essay titled 'Why Colin Powell brings gravitas, credibility and star power to Bush presidency.'
AFRICA AND THE U.S. ELECTIONS
Beyond U.S. electoral shenanigans, rewards and dynamics of a democratic republic hold lessons for African politics.
These views were stated during an interview CNN's anchor Bernard Shaw and senior analyst Jeff Greenfield had with Mr. Nwangwu on Saturday November 18, 2000 during a special edition of 'Inside Politics 2000.'