In today’s world, it is of the utmost importance to learn from mistakes of the past. Certain events, especially tragedies that could have been avoided, hold within them the lessons and wisdom that should be used to prevent similar disasters. The 1994 Rwandan genocide resulted in over 800, 000 deaths of the Tutsi people, at the hands of the Hutu; the genocide, and the international response to it, is a lesson about the humanitarian responsibilities, successes, and shortcomings of the United Nations.
The events leading up to the Rwandan genocide began decades earlier. There has been a long history of “ethnic” tensions, though it is really a matter of social class. The classification began with the German and Belgian colonizers in the early 1900’s. These colonizers created the social classes of “Hutu” and “Tutsi”, and distributed identification cards with such information (Johnson). The genocide was set off when the president’s plane was shot down (Genocide in Rwanda). Though it was never determined who shot the plane down, the Rwandan Patriotic Front, who were Tutsi rebels, have been blamed (The Rwandan Genocide). Immediately following the assassination, violence erupted in the capital city, Kigali. (Genocide in Rwanda)
During the 100-day period after April 6, 1994, between 800, 000 and one million Tutsi people were slaughtered. (Genocide in the 20th Century: Rwanda 1994) On April 7, roadblocks began to appear and soldiers began scouring the country for any person whose identification card read “Tutsi”. Entire families were murdered, often by their own neighbors and friends, and occasionally by relatives through marriage. Eleven year-old Hamis Kamuhanda recounted his experience in an interview with a reporter from the British Broadcasting Corporation. About his family, he said, “The following day we heard rumors that Hutus were out to kill every Tutsi in the country… I had never seen my parents so agitated and terrified in all my life.” Hamis’ father was taken by Hutu soldiers. (Rwanda Genocide Eyewitness) These killings were done mostly through face-to-face brutality, using machetes and similar weapons. It is estimated that 200,000 Hutus participated in the brutal massacre. (Genocide in Rwanda) Along with Tutsis, many moderate Hutus were also killed. Any Hutus who attempted to assist or protect Tutsis were also murdered.
The international response to the crisis was more of an international denial. The United Nations withdrew their troops from Rwanda, leaving innocent civilians defenseless against the Hutu soldiers. (Genocide in the 20th Century: Rwanda 1994). After ten United Nations soldiers were killed, the United Nations made the decision to pull their troops from the country. By the end of April 1994, only 200 United Nations soldiers remained in Rwanda (Genocide in the 20th Century: Rwanda 1994). The remaining soldiers were given no orders to intervene, and often watched as innocent Tutsis were killed. (Genocide in the 20th Century: Rwanda...