When I did some background research regarding the 1994 Rwandan genocide, one of the unfortunate, yet common headlines that I came across described the United Nations as “hopeless.” As far back as I can remember from my many history classes, I have always thought the U.N. was a major contributor and supporter throughout the global community. However, the film Shake Hands with the Devil: The Journey of Roméo Dallaire alarmingly highlighted a time in our world’s history when the U.N. did not live up to their standards. The human rights editorial cartoon that I found portrays the ignorance of other members of the global community, ignorance to shed light on the catastrophe in Rwanda.
The 1994 Rwandan genocide was a mass slaughter of over 800,000 Tutsi in Rwanda, East Africa by members of the Hutu majority. The slaughter was sparked on April 6th, 1994 when an airplane carrying Habyarimana and Burundian President, Cyprien Ntaryamira, was fatally shot down. This is what prompted Canadian General Roméo Dallaire to not only accept the U.N. mission, but to also stay there in hopes of resolving the issue while other members of the global community were withdrawing. The genocide began the following day, yet, as shown in the cartoon, potential international supporters like the United States were too preoccupied by national events going on that same day to send support. For example, in Waco, Texas, a gun siege broke out amidst a search and arrest procedure by
the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). In Detroit during the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, the ex-husband and bodyguard of former figure skating champion, Tonya Harding, hired someone to break the leg of Harding’s opponent, Nancy Kerrigan. The Bobbitt’s were a famous American couple, whose relationship made worldwide headlines when Lorena Bobbitt cut off her husband’s penis with a knife overnight. Between 1993 and 1994, Michael Jackson faced his first child sexual abuse allegations. O.J. Simpson was charged with the murder of ex-wife Nicole Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman in June 1994. In the midst of what were, at the time, major media spotlights in our nation, the streets of Rwanda were being lined with thousands of dead bodies, dead bodies of Tutsi individuals, dead bodies of innocent members of our global community. Thus, the cartoon artist’s message was to depict the pure arrogance of the United States media to shed light on a much more severe event occurring in Rwanda.
The artist also depicted two major human rights violations. According to Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person” (United Nations). Article 10 continues to explain how “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as […] national or social origin, property, birth or other status […] no distinction shall be made on the basis of […] international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs” (United Nations). Regardless of our place of origin, where we live, or what is occurring in our nation, our actions and decisions affect other members of the global community outside of our nation’s borders. The United States was so focused on the happenings aforementioned in the late Spring of 1994 that they did not take note of the bloodshed in Rwanda until tourists traveled to see the memorials that were resurrected years later.
Although I was not around during the time of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, I did not know about it until I watched the documentary for this travel log. This fact alone has touched me profoundly. The fact that the United Nations has established an official document explicitly outlining the human rights of the global community is also baffling to me because we have yet to meet its standards. When one looks back on our world’s history, we have failed to faithfully recognize any of the Declaration’s articles, and the poor , global treatment of these human rights violations has not truly changed. People still kill innocent human lives around the globe, fueled by the discrimination of one’s skin, like the shooting of Michael Brown in 2014, and one’s religious identity, like those of the Islam religion who are under the pressure of recent bombings. As the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, all individuals of the global community hold global responsibility. We are all members of the universal human race, and we are all entitled to creating a better world.