Sunday, April 11, 2004

Bitter lessons

The ambassador of Rwanda looked back on the genocide in his Central African nation 10 years ago with sadness and bitterness, as world leaders last week commemorated the killings they could have stopped.

The mass murder that began April 7, 1994, ended in July after what a new estimate put at more than 900,000 deaths, when the rebel army of the Rwandan Patriotic Front overthrew the brutal government, Ambassador Zac Nsenga recalled in his thoughts on the anniversary.

Today Rwanda, now governed by an eight-party coalition, is trying to build a democracy that will evolve beyond the historic tension between the minority Tutsi and majority Hutu populations.

“As a Rwandan looking back through the painful decade and even beyond into the past, my mind scans through this path with horror, sadness, hope and resolve,” he said. “Rwandans have learned the bitter lessons from the genocide and the indifference of the international community and resolved to put pieces together to rebuild Rwanda.”

The genocide began the day after a plane crash that killed the presidents of Rwanda and neighboring Burundi, as bands of organized ethnic-Hutu militiamen unleashed their violence on the Tutsi population and on Hutu opponents of the government.

“In the space of three long months, they slaughtered close to 1 million Tutsis and Hutus,” Mr. Nsenga said. “Babies were hacked to death. Women were raped, dehumanized and brutally murdered, and men were the primary target. All this happened during daylight and under the spotlight of the international media and an indifferent international community.”

The ambassador expressed his disgust with the United Nations for withdrawing peacekeepers when the genocide began.

“As we commemorate for the 10th time, I am grateful that the entire international community will be reflecting on the 1994 genocide,” he said. “Unfortunately, this has taken 10 years for humanity to take stock of what happened and draw lessons.

“I can only hope that lessons, indeed, have been learned, and that mechanisms will be put in place to prevent genocide from happening anywhere again.”

Negroponte’s bio

John Negroponte, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has a distinguished diplomatic career, but it did not include service as ambassador to Argentina.

Embassy Row last week credited him with that position, based on a story from United Press International that said he is a leading candidate to serve as ambassador to Iraq.

Mr. Negroponte was ambassador to Honduras from 1981 to 1985, to Mexico from 1989 to 1992 and to the Philippines from 1993 to 1996.

Diplomatic traffic

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:


• Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez, archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and president of the Forum for the Fortification of Democracy. He holds a press conference at 3 p.m. at the Inter-American Development Bank. Tomorrow, he addresses Catholic University’s Hispanic Pastoral Leadership Program.

• Damien Geradin of the University of Liege and College of Europe, who participates in a discussion on Europe’s regulatory bureaucracy in a forum at the American Enterprise Institute.


• Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who meets President Bush on Wednesday.


• Taha Abdel Aleem, Egypt’s deputy minister for information and director of the state information service. He speaks at 10 a.m. at the National Press Club on the outcome of this week’s meeting between President Bush and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak

• George Witschel, Germany’s ambassador for counterterrorism, who meets administration officials and members of Congress.

• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison

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