One of the most important things that we, as an international community, can take away from the Rwandan Genocide is that not intervening when a nation fails to protect its citizens ultimately allows for the tragedies to continue. As in the case with this Genocide, the Hutus were in large part free to continue persecuting and killing the Tutsi because no one intervened to stop them. For instance, the United Nations decreased the number of troops in Rwanda though the UN commander of peacekeeping forces had insisted otherwise.
The U.S., under the Clinton Administration, also opposed any sort of involvement in the conflict as they saw no beneficial outcome (their previous involvement in Africa had not succeeded). Though Clinton later apologized for not taking action, the Administration’s stance during the war illustrates the attitude of most countries during turbulent times–if they stay out of the conflict, then eventually the turmoil will die down, after which they can simply help the country afflicted recover. However, this line of thought is what stimulates chaos and allows it to grow. Isn’t it, after all, better to stop fighting when it is occurring rather than just clean up its mess afterwards?
Still, the UN and US weren’t the only ones who failed to terminate the crimes in Rwanda at the time of Genocide. Canadian General Romeo Dallaire was given limited information on the situation in Rwanda and attempted to go about the issue without much knowledge. Hence, his mission was poorly planned and failed (experts were also inexperienced and there was little funding for the mission). Belgium, which had controlled Rwanda previously as one of its colonies, knew the Habyarimana regime’s intentions of Genocide and attempted to warn the UN (the UN, as already established, didn’t pay much attention to these warnings). China and France helped supply the Rwandan government with military arms, and were hence directly involved in the atrocities that occurred–at the very least, they fueled the tragedies that occurred.
As depicted by the actions of these countries, standing on the sidelines of the conflict and even providing support for the perpetrators of those crimes encourage acts of Genocide. Thus one of the main lessons to be learned was that we cannot simply stand to the side of humanitarian abuses. To protect our neighbors, our people, we must take action to halt not stimulate these crimes.
International intervention is at times a necessity, especially when the nation in which the acts of violence occur fails to protect its citizens. Today, after the Rwandan Genocide, the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty issued the “Responsibility to Protect” report that emphasized the duty of a nation its people. I think that this idea is extremely important because as we saw with the Rwandan Genocide, atrocities do not only occur between people of cross-borders but between people of the same nation. Also, the trials for the Rwandan Genocide convicted people of rape, thereby becoming the first international court to consider rape a crime against humanity. This act demonstrates that internationally, countries are beginning to reconsider the ranges of humanitarian crimes and how to deal with those who perpetrate these acts.