After being introduced to the horrifying events of the Rwandan genocide of 1994 through Shake Hands with the Devil, I was astounded by the lack of global intervention. Given that I was born two years after, I had heard of this atrocity but never fully understood the preface of the issue that led to full-scale massacre. According to the video, conflicts amongst the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups grew increasingly tense during the early 90s. The Hutu people, fearing minority status, waged a war that systematically eliminated a significant portion of Tutsi population. While this was a civil war in which only Rwandans perished, many other nations are blamed simply for their lack of involvement.
For my political cartoon, I have chosen a scene set in the United Nations headquarters that depicts a representative holding up a scroll to an empty room, albeit one person vacuuming, acknowledging “the UN’s role in the Rwanda Genocide.” The second air bubble says, “We won’t do anything” because that is exactly what they did twenty years ago when the violence was at its peak. I believe the artist included a single person seemingly occupied with her vacuum to represent the attitudes of major countries that had the power to prevent the genocide. She is ignoring the address while occupying herself with an arbitrary task in order to avoid acknowledging the issue all together.
Unfortunately, there were many human rights violations in the Rwandan genocide that are represented in this political cartoon. I have chosen three in particular: “everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person” (Article 3), “no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (Article 5) and “everyone has the right to a nationality…no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality” (Article 15) (Universal Declaration of Human Rights). Most obviously, the Tutsi people’s rights stated in Article 3 were infringed as the Hutu people used the rights stated in Article 5 against them. Therefore, the Tutsi people were denied right to a nationality and were treated quite poorly simply because of this. More powerful nations who freely possess these freedoms—like the United States or wealthy European countries—should have defended these human rights. Because these rights are human, every person inherently should have the power to exercise them. The rest of the global community feared involvement because of the widespread panic it would have caused. Instead of protecting human lives, the more powerful nations of the world preferred to turn a blind eye to the situation in Rwanda.
The parallel between the Rwandan genocide and the ongoing Syrian crisis is astonishing. Members of the Islamic extremist group are killing fellow Syrians if they do not agree with nor wish to follow the beliefs set forth. Innocent men and women alike are being slaughtered simply for holding different religious beliefs than those of their extremist counterparts. Fortunately, global treatment seems to have changed as more nations are realizing the severity of this group’s actions. France, England and many others are joining the United States in the fight against ISIS.