- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 19, 2000


Six years after Rwanda lost almost one-seventh of its population in a Hutu-led genocide, an international panel has declared the role of the United States in that massacre "an almost incomprehensible scar of shame on American foreign policy." Indeed, while the Clinton administration has declared Africa a chief concern, it looked the other way as the Hutu majority in Rwanda went on a genocidal campaign in 1994, leaving between 500,000 and 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus dead in just over 100 days.
The panel appointed by the Organization of African Unity (OAU) said the United States carried the most responsibility of the 15 U.N. Security Council members because it blocked a military mission in Rwanda, but France, Belgium and the Catholic Church were also declared guilty for their apathy toward the conflict. The International Panel of Eminent Personalities asked U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to set up a commission whereby the guilty nations who refused to stop the killings would be named and told the appropriate scale of compensation to the Rwandans. For the United States or other U.N. members to pay restitution to the current Tutsi-led government for a genocide its own country carried out, however, would do both Americans and Rwandans an injustice.
By putting money in the hands of a government ruled by the minority Tutsis who have in the past launched their own armed offensive to claim the country for themselves the United States would be adopting another ethic. The report itself admits that the current Tutsi-led government has not been stable and struggles with inner divisions and corruption. Genocide survivors feel abandoned by the government and are banding together with other Tutsis, the Hutus and the military to support the deposed King Kigeli Ndahindurwa, the report said. The Tutsi government is targeting these survivors. With more money, who is to say the government won't wage another war of retribution?
Paying restitution would also set a precedent for the West to be the scapegoat for developing countries' internal conflicts, preventing people there from taking responsibility for their actions. If this is carried to its logical conclusion, the Western nations would bring back an era of colonialism, forcing the developing nations into perpetual codependency.
This is not to say that we should be apathetic toward the plight of the Rwandans or their neighbors. On the contrary, what happened in 1994 was truly tragic: Despite seeing warning signs of the Hutus planned genocide, the West reduced the small number of troops that were there. French troops actually expanded the Rwandan army from 6,000 on the eve of the invasion to 35,000 three years later, the report said, in addition to supplying the Hutus with intelligence, training and $15 million in military aid.
If the administration really has a concern for Africa, it could help by putting diplomatic pressure on the Rwandan government and its allies to institute human rights reforms as the core of its agenda. The United States, hated as world policeman and besieged as benefactor, should not be alone in this venture.
Canadian ambassador to the United Nations Stephen Lewis talked of America's "scar of shame" and praised Canadian Gen. Romero Dallair, who oversaw the Rwandan mission, as "one exemplary human being." There is no doubt that Rwanda would benefit from a third party to act as moderator between Tutsis and Hutus. Perhaps Canada is ready to take a turn.

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