In the editorial cartoon “She’s Waving Goodbye…” the skeleton of a woman, labeled in red with the name of the country Rwanda, seems to be waving to a group of onlookers who are puzzled as to what she could be waving about. They ask themselves “Now what’s that she’s doing?” “Does she want something?” and some respond by saying “We should wave back, I suppose.” “Yes, indeed. As concerned, nations, we ought not appear rude.”
This cartoon is a representation of the state of foreign relations during the genocide that occurred in Rwanda from April until July of 1994. The Hutu majority in the country targeted members of the Tutsi, and the attacks led to an estimated 800,000 deaths. The genocide was planned by members of the political elite, and was carried out by members of the army, government-backed militias, the Catholic clergy as well as ordinary civilians. Some militias named themselves the “Army of Jesus” as they believed it was their mission to destroy God’s enemies. During this time, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) was operating in the country and were unsuccessful in their peacekeeping efforts. Other countries such as France attempted to send aid to Rwanda, but were also unsuccessful. Overall, many nations failed to even acknowledge the genocide in Rwanda and the UN did not allow many of the ideas put forward by UNAMIR commander Romeo Dallaire.
This is the situation depicted in the cartoon; one where other nations stood by and watched as this mass slaughter took place. The actions taken by the Rwandans and the other nations of the world are most definitely in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was written by the United Nations. Article 1 of the Declaration states that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” and that they should “act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” Some of these rights are mentioned in Articles 3 and 5 such as the right to “life, liberty and security of person” as well as not being “subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” The Declaration also says that every person is equal before the law and is entitled to equal protection of the law. Genocide in itself is a violation of these rights, as humans are murdering one another in cold blood, but other nations such as the United States should also be held responsible. They did not act towards Rwanda in a spirit of brotherhood by acknowledging the situation and sending help, but rather just ignored the situation and tried to make amends following the attacks. It was as though other nations did not see Rwandans as equal before the law and that they did not deserve their human rights of life, liberty and security of person.
There are some reasons why other nations were not as eager to send help, and those are explained somewhat by the cartoon and the film Shake Hands with the Devil: The Journey of Roméo Dallaire. In the cartoon, the bystanders say “As concerned nations, we ought not appear rude” in reference to waving back to the skeleton woman. Dallaire alludes to this notion of diplomacy and manners in the film when he discusses his propositions to the UN, saying they didn’t accept his plans because they did not want to take such extreme measures. The cartoon could also be referring to the actions of countries such as the U.S. after the genocide, when President Bill Clinton gave a speech giving his condolences and apologies on behalf of his country, as a way of “not appearing rude” in the aftermath of such horrors, although the damage has already been done.
A similar situation can be seen today regarding the conflict in Syria. This is often a topic discussed when it comes to United States foreign policy, and it is truly a global issue. Refugees are leaving the country and migrating to others, especially those in Eastern Europe. Unfortunately, governments are becoming less and less accepting of refugees and immigration policies are becoming increasingly strict, particularly and now famously in countries such as the United States following the elction of Donald Trump. It seems as though no one country in particular, or the United Nations as a group, want to take charge and try to stop the conflict or try to handle the refugee situation. Instead, we are getting a similar situation of other countries becoming bystanders and watching as people are killed or displaced from their homes. After crises like these, we take a step back and say “never again”, but hopefully we will finally say “never again” for the last time and begin to actually follow the Declaration of Human Rights and maintain a spirit of brotherhood between the countries of the world.