The last time the UN hesitated to use the “g”-word, it will be recalled, was back in 1994, when an estimated 800,000 Rwandans were literally hacked to death by machetes within the span of 100 days. Only after most of the killings had stopped did the international community decide that a “genocide” had begun. After all, making the determination earlier would have created a legal obligation for the UN, US, and other signatories of the Convention on Genocide to intervene in order “to prevent” further acts of genocide.
Lieutenant General Romeo Dallaire, who was head of a small UN peacekeeping force stationed in Rwanda when the massacres began, spoke last year at a UN memorial conference marking the 10th anniversary of the genocide. He explained how at the time no one was interested in saving Rwandans. On the contrary, the small force he commanded was prevented from intervening and eventually ordered to leave the country. Then Dallaire told the conference:
I still believe that if an organization decided to wipe out the 320 mountain gorillas there would be still more of a reaction by the international community to curtail or to stop that than there would be still today in attempting to protect thousands of human beings being slaughtered in the same country.That was March 2004. Nearly a year later, we now know Dallaire was right. Interestingly, though, this has not stopped EU and US leaders from squabbling over how the perpetrators of the not-a-genocide in Sudan should be prosecuted once it is over. Justice may not be swift, but when it comes, at least we can rest assured it will be rendered by the proper authorities. All of us, that is, except for the victims.