Saturday, August 14, 2004
Early in the 1960s, Rwanda gained its independence from Belgium. The largest and most popular tribe in the country was the Hutus. An ethnic minority tribe of Rwanda was the Tutsis.
They had been persecuted by the Hutus for decades and in September 1993, the Tutsis rose up in rebellion against the Hutus. As a result, a careful methodical plan was developed by the Hutus aimed at ethnic cleansing of all Tutsis. As the rebellion continued, the Hutus killed four or five Tutsi civilians in the capital city of Kigali every day as a means of creating fear. A Belgium force consisting of 1,000 troops was flown in to help mediate and protect civilians. It was a hopeless task as no one would help -- Europe, the United Nations and the United States refused to get involved.
Just three months earlier the United States had tried to quell internal disturbances in Somalia by landing from the sea and from the air. U.S. black hawk helicopters were shot down and some American troops were captured, killed and their bodies dragged through town. President Clinton's approval ratings dropped dramatically. All American troops were removed.
It is understandable why Clinton was reluctant to send more American troops into Rwanda, but it soon became apparent that much more than a rebellion was taking place there. Secretary of State Madeline Albright was kept well informed, as was Deputy Secretary of State George Moose and other important members of the administration. As more and more Tutsi civilians were killed, mostly with machetes.
Clinton made a conscious decision not to intervene. The United Nations said there wasn't enough solid information. The Red Cross helped, but the agency never had anywhere near the medical supplies or doctors and nurses necessary. One very popular method utilized by the Hutus was hate radio broadcast to invoke strong Hutu feelings against the Tutsis. Within three months, more than 800,000 Tutsis had been killed. The rebellion ended.
Two months ago, civil war broke out between the government of the Sudan, and the long abused people of Darfur in the far western region of Sudan. They are black, poor and easily identified. They are being forced out toward the country of Chad and killed. They have only the food that they can carry and very little water. if they don't get help soon, another ethnic cleansing will take place.
It is estimated that mass starvation will begin in October or November, unless there is intervention. If the unnecessary war in Iraq had not occurred, the United States would have more than enough money and resources to take care of our own people and to help needy persons throughout the world. Ten rich countries of the world -- much of Western Europe and the United States -- must be alert for impending genocides.
We should keep in mind that, while nearly 3,000 American slots their lives on Sept. 11, 2001, 35,600 of the world's children died of starvation that same day, according to Barbara Kingsolver's book, "Small Wonder."