Travel Log 7: “Global Responsibility” Part 1 by Brandon Lyons – Florence, Italy

The image displayed below is a political cartoon in reference to the genocide that took place in Rwanda in 1994, the topic of Shake Hands with the Devil: The Journey of Romeo Dallaire. The documentary tells the story of Romeo Dallaire, a Canadian general sent to Rwanda by the United Nations to maintain peace following a recent UN peace agreement. According to Romeo Dallaire, he was not properly briefed on the situation and when he arrived, he soon realized the reality of the situation. The Hutus, one of Rwanda’s main ethnic groups, had been trained to show malice and aggression towards the Tutus, another of Rwanda’s ethnic groups, throughout the twentieth century, culminating in the mass genocide that took place in 1994. When Romeo Dallaire was faced with the challenge of trying to prevent this civil war from breaking out and establishing peace, he informed the United Nations of the situation in Rwanda and was ultimately denied the troops and resources he needed to prevent this from happening.

Rwanda cartoon

The above political cartoon is a very good representation of the Rwandan genocide as told by Romeo Dallaire. In the background there is a burning building, which represents Rwanda, and cries for help can be seen coming from the burning building. There is also a man standing outside of the burning building, jumping up and down trying to attract attention. This man could possibly represent Romeo Dallaire and his efforts to get help from the United Nations. In the foreground we see a soldier sleeping under a tree, paying no attention to what is going on behind him. This soldier represents the United Nations and their indifference to the situation in Rwanda. The overall message of the cartoon is that the UN ultimately turned its back on Rwanda in its time of need.

The genocide that took place in Rwanda is a clear violation of human rights. Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights explicitly states: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” The actions of the extremist Hutus in Rwanda are very clearly examples of cruel/ inhuman treatment towards the moderate Hutus and Tutus. Article 2 of the declaration also states that no one shall be discriminated against based on their ethnicity or beliefs, while the victims of this genocide were targeted on the basis of demographics and politics. The human rights of the people of Rwanda should have been protected by the United Nations, however several factors got in the way. The UN was initially reluctant to send aid to Rwanda and somewhat ignored the situation. After the deaths of ten Belgian soldiers in Rwanda, it became almost certain that other countries would not send their soldiers to possibly face the same fate. Based on my own personal experiences I have seen some improvement in global treatments of these violations (the Kony 2012 campaign that sparked a large global interest/ concern towards African genocide) however both this documentary and my study abroad experience have made me realize that I am far more ignorant towards these kinds of issues than I would like to be. The first step towards solving these kids of human rights violations around the world is raising awareness and concern, which is something that I will take with me from this experience.

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