Friday, June 02, 2006

remembering rwanda

Remember Rwanda? Wikipedia defines the Rwandan Genocide as "the slaughter of an estimated 800,000 to 1,000,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus, mostly carried out by two extremist Hutu militia groups, the Interahamwe and the Impuzamugambi, during a period of 100 days from April 6th through mid-July 1994."

If you've ever seen the Academy-Award nominated film Hotel Rwanda, you may remember the voice of the radio station director that encouraged the killing of Tutsis while on the air. In the film, he exposes the actions of Paul Rusesabagina and as a result the militia attacks the escaping U.N. convoy. This radio director was a real person named Joseph Serugendo. Today, twelve years after the genocide, the United Nations has sentenced Serugendo to prison.

A United Nations court trying the masterminds of Rwanda's 1994 genocide on Friday handed a six-year sentence to a former director of a radio station whose broadcasts were accused of encouraging the killings.

Joseph Serugendo was a member of the governing board of the Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM), and of the National Committee of the Interahamwe za MRND militia group.

The RTLM was notorious for its radio broadcasts encouraging the killing of "cockroaches," as Tutsis were called during the genocide in which 800,000 people were killed.

"He had pleaded guilty to direct and public incitement to commit genocide and persecution as a crime against humanity," the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) said in a statement on Friday.

The ICTR said that Serugendo admitted helping the RTLM to spread anti-Tutsi messages before and during the genocide.

Serugendo's sentencing brings the total number of those brought to justice to a startlingly low twenty-eight people. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda is now scrambling over many cases in order to meet its 2008 deadline.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame held a news conference on May 31 reporting on progress made in regard to reconciliation of the conflict. Remembering what happened in Rwanda is imperative, especially as we watch something similar unfold before our eyes in the Darfur region of Sudan. The United Nations seriously needs to get with the program. Even the Bush administration has declared genocide in Darfur; the United Nations has neglected to do so. Now we see this sentencing: someone that incited countless deaths during the genocide is getting a slap on the wrist. Ken Lay will probably serve a longer term for his role in the Enron scandal.

Until we truly recognize what happened in Rwanda and the giant scope of it all, we won't be able to respond properly to Darfur. Failing to act in Rwanda was one of President Clinton's biggest mistakes. With the U.N. making blunders like this one (and not sentencing Suregendo to life in prison), it's sending the message that genocide in Africa is not a serious matter. When will we ever learn?


Anonymous said...

Thanks for publishing this. Genocide will never be stopped unless we're constantly reminded of just how common it still is, even in this "enlightened" day and age.

Anonymous said...

We are having a fundraiser for Darfur at
Thursday Oct 11th 9 - 12 midnight
email me for more info.
Live African Drum Circle