Rwanda: Twenty Years Later

With the passing of the twenty year anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda, it's been in the news a lot. A genocide that claimed the lives of 800,000 people and forever scarred millions more, it is one of the worst atrocities of mankind in modern history. As I see stories and pictures of survivors, of children remembering their parents, as I hear the howls of the still-raw grief of mourners at a memorial event in Rwanda, I cannot help but think of how the pain of violence and war ripple throughout history. We think of war as an event, as something that starts and ends, but to the survivors, either civilian or soldier, and their families, the war lives on forever. Even if they are physically unharmed, their grief lives on. Thinking of the loss of both life and potential in the world as a result of conflict is what drives me to do my research.

What's particularly interesting about Rwanda is that it seems pretty clear that more could have been done by outside powers to prevent at least the sheer scale of the massacre- and people are willing to say it out loud. Former President Bill Clinton calls not further intervening in Rwanda one of the "biggest regrets" of his presidency. Current UN head Ban Ki Moon, at a ceremony in Rwanda marking the anniversary, said that the UN "could..and should have done much more." Does it provide any comfort to the survivors of such tragedies to hear that more could have been done, but due to some political wrangling or other such misstep, nothing was? 

Today, GlobalPost compiled a list of conflicts where the world did not (or has not yet, in some cases) done enough. This list is particularly frightening to me because of the sheer length of some of these events. We talk about what should be done in Syria all the time (as nothing gets done), but there are many other places in the world where innocent people are dying, needlessly. Worse, their deaths are often in vain, ignored by the international community because they are not visible enough or viable enough as political fodder. Where are our priorities, as a global society? If we wish to make the claim "never again" after crimes against humanity, we must consider what that statement really means. So far, we have yet to deliver.