AskWHYBlog: Carol Harvey In San Francisco

As Sentient Beings We Have The Right to Relentlessly Ask WHY --- And Demand Answers! PLEASE ASK WHY!

Sunday, January 09, 2005


Hotel Rwanda," a movie in recent release, is set in the capital city, Kigali, during the horrors of the 1994 "ethnic cleansing" of a million members of the Tutsi tribe by the Hutus.

Don Cheadle plays Paul Rusesabagina, a Hotel manager who saved 1,200 people from death by first cloistering them in his four star hotel, and then using his keen understanding of people to bargain for the lives of his "guests," his children, his wife, Tatiana, played beautifully by Sophie Okonedo, and himself.

Other Tutsi were not so lucky. They burned to death when towers of rubber tires were piled around their bodies and ignited. The favorite murder weapon was the panga, or machette, but screwdrivers, saws, hammers, and hachets were also used. First to be whacked were the hands. After the back was gashed, the head was chopped off. One had to pay to be shot. As many as ten thousand bleached corpses floated into Lake Victoria and around two thousand into the fishing village of Kasensero, in Uganda.

The movie does not dwell on pictures of such carnage. We see terror on faces watching neighbors shot on front lawns or huddled in army trucks muscling through road blocks. We feel the terror of Paul's blood-covered son as he crouches under the bed after witnessing a murder.

We watch with Paul as white American and European tourists, rescued by their governments, file shame-faced onto buses, abandoning Rwandans to be slaughtered.

In his memoirs, President Clinton confessed he was not proud of his role in this calamitous abandonment.

On Thursday, January 13, 2005, New York's Human Rights Watch issued a 500 page annual report stating that "the United States' credibility as a world leader on human rights and in the fight against terrorism" is in jeopardy.

It cited two key threats to fundamental human rights world-wide:

1. Treatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and

2. "Ethnic cleansing in Darfur, Sudan, in which tens of thousands have died and millions (have been) displaced in a civil war."

"The vitality of human rights defense worldwide depends on a firm response to both of these threats." click here.

The report further spoke of "continued inaction," like that in Rwanda and Darfur. It warned that the nations of the world bear the "responsibility to protect people from mass atrocities."

When Jan Egaland, United Nations Under Secretary General of Humanitarian Affairs, chastized the rich Western Countries for being "stingy" just after the full realization of the tsunami impact, he seemed to be referring to situations like the horrific ethnic cleansing and mass slaughters in Rwanda and Sudan ten years later, to which President George Bush, former President Bill Clinton, the Western Powers and the Media seemed to turn a blind eye.

This criticism prompted a defensive reaction from Colin Powell, who complained that he wished Egaland "hadn't said that," and later, from George Bush himself.

Egaland drew praise for lighting a fire under the Superpowers, prodding them to donate large sums of money to the tsunami relief effort.

It was media attention that inspired the American people to open their pocketbooks with the kind of heart they show when they are actually told what is going on (as has not been the case with previous disasters.)

Only several weeks after the tsunami's traumatic aftermath did the world catch up to the fact that the media-driven clarion call for aid continued to ignore places in the world like Rwanda and Darfur. Whether caused by political upheaval or acts of God, help to survivors of all catastrophic events was, and is, also desperately needed.

Finally it seems, we are beginning to understand. Click here.