Travel Log 7: “Global Responsibility: Part 1” by Stephanie Schmitt. Florence, Italy

rwanda

The information that was presented in the documentary Shake Hands with the Devil: The Journey of Roméo Dallaire was horrifying. I ashamedly admit that I did not have much knowledge of what actually happened during the Rwandan genocide, but after watching I could not believe that I was so ignorant to something so perplexing. I could not understand why everyone would sit back and live their normal lives while thousands of innocent people were dying.

The political cartoon that I chose links the human rights violations in Rwanda in 1994 to humans rights violations that have been going on for over four years in Syria. In the top part of the cartoon, the artist comments on the situation in Rwanda. He shows that the world simply watched as over one million Tutsis were slaughtered by the Hutus.  The documentary talked about how the whole genocide could have been avoided, as the Western powers, specifically the French, had information on what the Hutus were planning. However, no one was willing to step in and stop this tragedy from starting. Once the fighting started, the countries who had troops in Rwanda still did nothing. One of the commentators in the video said, “Every single one was obsessed only with saving his own expatriates.” Countries sent in rescue missions to pull out their troops while innocent people were being slaughtered around them.

Even though the acts committed in genocide were in clear violation of Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations still abandoned this nation. Article 5 states, “No one shall be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” (un.org). Dallaire explains this by saying that, “Africa didn’t count anymore.” The Western powers did not see the point in saving a country that they could not exploit benefits from.

Perhaps just as alarming that no one did anything to stop the genocide is that ten years later the Western World still did not care. At the tenth anniversary ceremony in Rwanda to remember the horrible history, no one showed up. It seems strange that after reflection they did not learn from their mistakes and realize that there was something that could not have been done. Dallaire comments on this by saying, “the world copped out twice.”

Not only did the world cop out again in Rwanda, but the world has copped out recently in Syria as well.  Since 2011 a violent civil war has been raging in this country, forcing many people to flee their homeland to surrounding countries in hopes of safety. The artist of the political cartoon connects the two events by showing that again the international community has been given an opportunity to do something, but hasn’t. There have been many peace talks in Syria involving the president, the United Nations, and the United States, but no action has been taken. It is like there is this façade of the countries doing something to help, but nothing is actually happening. If the Western world continues to abandon those whose human rights are being violated, who will step in to help? Does this mean that those so called “rights” are only rights for the Western world?

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