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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 April, 2004, 10:08 GMT 11:08 UK
Have the lessons been learnt from Rwanda?
Over 800,000 people were killed in Rwanda genocide
Rwandan President Paul Kagame has denounced the "deliberate failure" of international powers to stop the country's genocide 10 years ago.

More than 800,000 minority Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus were killed by the Hutu-extremist government then in power.

ASK THE EXPERTS
Mary Blewitt, director of the Rwanda Survivors Fund SURF, and BBC correspondent Mike Wooldridge in Kigali, answered your questions.


Mr Kagame, who was speaking at the formal commemoration for the genocide in the Rwandan capital Kigali, also questioned whether countries would act differently now.

At the event being attended by people who had witnesses the killings, he also questioned whether countries would act differently now.

Have the lessons been learnt from the Rwanda genocide? How could it have been avoided? What is Rwanda like now?


This debate is now closed. Thank you for you e-mails. Read your comments below.

Your comments:

It does not suffice to apologize for the errors of the international community. We also have to show that we have learnt from the mistakes and will avoid them in the future. But still, no one is intervening in Sudan, despite ethnic cleansing and mass rapes. How long will it take for the UN to use the G-word? How many more meetings and reports do we need until we can take up our responsibility?
Sang-Min, Mannheim, Germany

The UN must be adapted so that it can escape the partisan forces of its membership and act with impunity to intervene
Reg, Sydney

Mostly we have learned that self-reliance is our greatest strength and that divisiveness is the enemy of man. Yet every democratic country is politically divided and the UN is tugged about by the erratic collective will of these same countries and worse. The UN must be adapted so that it can escape the partisan forces of its membership and act with impunity to intervene on behalf of the oppressed. Delay is a weapon in the hands of the oppressor. At the moment nothing has been done that I know of, to stop this from happening again.
Reg, Sydney, Australia

I love the people who comment that Rwanda had no oil so no one cared. The argument is that Saddam slaughtered his people and the US intervened but not in Rwanda. But the world says Saddam's slaughters did not justify intervention according to most media accounts. The lesson here is that the US is at fault when it fails to act (Rwanda) and is at fault when it does (Iraq). But to be serious, every nation has the duty to invade militarily any nation where slaughters of innocents occur. It should be in the UN charter. Unfortunately for Rwanda the US president at their time of need was fairly inept at foreign affairs otherwise something probably would have been done. I think he was too embarrassed over Somalia at the time. Hey, did they have oil in Somalia?
Steve, Los Angeles, USA

Half a century ago the world powers met and decided that the Holocaust should never happen again while the world idly watched. Not long after, the killing fields happened in Cambodia, then Rwanda. I doubt if any lessons have been learned. At what point does a slaughter become genocide. Something is happening in southern Sudan. Maybe sometime in the future we will repeat the tired refrain, 'Never again!' It is much easier than pronouncing the G-word.
Maurice Achach, Nairobi, Kenya

We have learned only one thing - the power of political apologies. We are all "very sorry" this happened, but are thankful it did not happen to us. We see Rwanda as an ignoble mass, and while we regret what has passed, we don't care enough to do anything about it. I hope that someday the world will learn that even one life taken is too high a price to pay for our apathy.
M Forsyth, London, Canada

There were many lessons that came out of Rwanda, we have only just begun to learn them. The international community must persist in learning them, so that this horror can never happen again - ever.
Peter Bolton, US

The Rwandan experience should unite Africans to solve their problems. OAU equally failed the people of Rwanda. I am pleased that the leadership of Rwanda and South Africa continue to work together to harmonise relations in the region. The leaders in the Great Lakes region especially Burundi, DRC, Rwanda and Uganda must resist using the gun as a means of solving political problems. Political pluralism and accommodation of diverging views should be encouraged. Rebuilding Rwandan's institutions should be supported by IMF and World Bank. I believe cancelling their entire debt would be a good gesture from the West.
Kulubya, London, UK

For us Rwandans never again will it be allowed
Raymond K, Kigali

For us Rwandans never again will it be allowed within our borders or even anywhere we can reach using our limited resources. For the International community the lessons will never be learnt, as long as the big nations continue to dominate international community. African countries will continue to be of no importance to the extent of allowing the loss of 1,000,000 people. After the role played by big nations Belgium, France, UK, US in their individual capacity and by using the organs of their UN, IMF and WB Rwandans were left to bear the burden alone in difficult conditions including paying for machetes that killed their sons and daughters. The world is full of injustice. It is full of injustice to listen to the BBC interviewing a condemned criminal - a perpetrator of genocide explaining how he enjoys life at the expense others misery. This is the proof that they have learned nothing.
Raymond K, Kigali, Rwanda

It's an expensive lesson, but it's surely been learnt. The killing of 800,000 people is perhaps the most devastating genocide to occur in history, surpassing the Vietnam disaster. Rwanda lies in ruins now, and Mr Kofi Annan's overt apologies to the country are hardly any consolation. Rwanda has to fight this battle alone, for it has no oil resources to attract international humanitarian intervention.
Anshu, Bangalore, India

Of course we have learned a lesson, but we always learn the lesson after the disasters have taken place: the Balkans, Iraq, Rwanda.
Buykowsky, Santiago, Chile

Just watched BBC Panorama feature on Rwanda. "Why are they killing them?" my eight year old daughter asks. I answer "Because they hate each other". She asks further "Why do they hate themselves?" I have no answer. I am afraid, I see Rwanda in Nigeria.
Dele Babatunde, Lagos, Nigeria

Move on and let real healing begin
Karen, Southampton, England
It seems, unfortunately, that lessons have not been learned. The powers that be are still trying to blame each other for what happened. It is time now to move forward. Not forget - never forget - but move on and let real healing begin.
Karen, Southampton, England

I worked in Rwanda delivering aid to the refugees post conflict in the country. Their reconciliation is a lesson the world can learn from.
Dean Manderson, Sydney, Australia

I regret that the only lesson to be learnt from the tragedy of Rwanda is that Western governments are only interested in intervening if there is something in it for them...such as oil.
Anthony J. Baker, Worthing, UK

The UN was established by Western powers out of a resolve to prevent any future war. The commemoration of Rwanda's genocide should give impetus to the formation of an African peacekeeping force.
Jeff, Harare, Zimbabwe

I don't think that lesson should be learnt on human blood. What is important is that superiors should stop supplying weapons to our merciless rebels.
Steve Mazinga, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

The UN needs to have a faster and more efficient process
Louise, Sydney

The UN needs to have a faster and more efficient process when it comes to determining when countries need assistance. But we must continue to go through the UN when deciding if we should send military assistance into a country.
Louise, Sydney, Australia

If we have to ask this question, the answer is no. This issue haunts my country, and there have never been solutions many issues, including the ones this issue posed here in Canada - the peacekeepers that were mandated by the UN to sit by, idle, for a hundred days of killing. I think it taught Canadians a lesson, don't go in unless you're willing to fight, and we don't need the UN. Sounds ridiculous, "Canada without the UN" but we now use our peacekeepers with Nato or independently. Less than ten percent are under the auspices of the UN.

The lesson we learned was if you want to stop genocide, or at least try to prevent it, resolutions passed by a security council are not even worth the paper they are printed on as the members of the council act in their own interest and not that of humanity. To stop Rwanda, we need to stop playing politics.
Eric Hovius, Toronto, Canada

Yes, "Never Again" but I think those who let the genocide happen should pay for it. I am talking about France mainly. They trained the militia; they are not different from the Interahamwe. I think they should apologise to Rwanda.
Peter, Kigali, Rwanda

Critics have claimed that we Rwandans should stop blaming outsiders and blame ourselves; true to the extent that we killed each other
Gerard, Kigali

Yes, lessons have been learnt by the Rwandese people. Critics have claimed that we Rwandans should stop blaming outsiders and blame ourselves; true to the extent that we killed each other, but that point of view simply ignores our colonial history especially the policy of divide and rule by colonialists who planted the seed of ethnicity and hatred amongst unpatriotic myopic leaders, who in turn exploited the very ignorant, illiterate masses by preaching divisionism to find scapegoats for the social economic ills of the time.

But the greatest lesson to us is that we cannot rely on the international community anymore; be it the UN, EEC, USA or who else. Solutions for African problems will come from Africans themselves. For peace keeping in Africa, Africa must build capacity and strengthen inter-Africa initiatives like NEPAD.

We should convince some genuine friends of Africa into strategic partnerships but the projects must be African in conception and ownership. It's true Europe is responsible to a large extent for under developing Africa and is still doing so, economically (through unfair trade practices), politically (through arrogant political interference and policy dictatorship, conniving with corrupt regimes like Hutu extremists etc; all these are breeding grounds for the social economic conditions that were exploited by extremists here in Rwanda.
Gerard, Kigali, Rwanda

The genocide in Rwanda was really a very sad event that pains many of us to this day.
Paul Batte, Kampala

With France still denying its implication in training and helping the killers, it's clear that nothing has been learned. National interests still prevail on human lives. Belgium, USA and UN did apologize for what happened. But we would rather have heard them saying that never, never will it happen again. Have those countries made plan to prevent further genocide? That's the real question.
Pierre, Brussels, Belgium

Unfortunately, we have learned very little. The fact that 800,000 Rwandans and 250,000 Bosnians were killed in front of the world's eyes shows us that we need a stronger international organization that can replace the incompetent United Nations. Otherwise, the same will happen in other countries, and the victims will only be able to hope that some outside power will come and rescue them. I hope that this tragedy in Rwanda will eventually bring African countries closer together to form an alliance that could possibly deter or stop similar potential tragedies.
Vanja, Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina

Why do we do nothing when we have the power to bring them their freedom?
Henry Smith, Scotland
I find it quite extraordinary that no one mentions democracy. It is blindingly obvious that until the people of the third world get democracy they will continue to be abused by their despotic governments. Why do we do nothing when we have the power to bring them their freedom? It sickens me.
Henry Smith, Scotland

I am a little concerned over the shallow coverage being given the genocide in Rwanda. If I remember correctly, the Watusi (Tutsis) and Hutus were killing each other in large numbers decades before 1994. Violence between the tribes was prevalent in both Rwanda and Burundi as far back as the late 1950's. I think it only fair that the media cover the whole progression of the genocide, not just its final years.
Sewall Lee, Gaithersburg, Md

In this day and age, if you try to go into another country and help militarily, you're an imperialist. No lessons learned yet.
Shane, USA

No one owes Africa a living. Africans have to learn how to be tolerant and take change patiently. Thinking that the rest of the world will always come to our rescue is to put the cart before the horse.
Patrick, Kampala, Uganda

The Rwandan genocide was undoubtedly one of the most terrible events of the last century but it seems that the World Service has been almost entirely taken over by the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of this outrage. The ceaseless wallowing in the horror is becoming very boring. Please let us have an end of it.
David Gaskill, Hong

No - Very little has been learnt from Rwanda, due to Western medias lack of coverage, in the U.S. the 10th Anniversary of the Genocide is getting scant media coverage, and people here remain ignorant of World Issues that don't concern the U.S.
Daniel, New York, USA

Lessons have not been learnt - I remember watching the news and seeing the horrors in 1994 and today if the cameras were looking we'd see killing in Sudan and although nowhere near to the extent of Rwanda the killing of innocent people in Zimbabwe - Where were the international Community? Where the Oil is.
Alan, Manchester UK

Where were the international Community?
Alan, Manchester UK
while watching your recent Panorama series about Rwanda genocide, I couldn't overlook the role of UN security council and US, UK and other powers policy makers. I think that such kind of complete indifference to the problem is, for sure a disgrace for international community. Such kind of hypocrisy is surly something to be ashamed.
Milosh Doshen, Belgrade, Serbia

Had Europe never got involved in colonizing the world, we would not have the problems in the Middle East and Africa that exist today. No, lessons have not been learnt. We are still interfering.
Byron, UK

Yes, we have learnt a very important lesson : No matter what we do, it is wrong. Do nothing and we are hated for being uncaring. Try to do something and we are hated for being neo-colonialists.
A Sweeting, Leicester, UK

The lesson learnt is that if a small group commit murder they may be punished. If a big enough group commit many, many murders then they will get away with it - Rwanda, Bosnia, Cambodia, Liberia, Zimbabwe, Chechnya, Tibet, Indonesia ...
Graeme, England

For the world to show that it has learned some lessons let it disperse millions of dollars to Rwanda so that the Rwandan people may build their lives once again. For what the Rwandan people need now is a prosperous and healthy nation not the endless regrets of what could be done and not.
Musisi John Bosco, Kampala, Uganda

No, the fundamental lesson has not been learnt, and it is one which Mr Kagame still needs to learn. In his haste to blame others for not intervening he has forgotten his nations own responsibility for what happened. People have to learn to take responsibility for their own actions and their own future.

Rwanda, Northern Ireland, the Balkans, Cyprus and several other examples clearly show what happens when each side blames the other for all the problems and then waits for outsiders to get involved. It's time nations like Rwanda started taking responsibility for their own futures rather and then actually doing so than waiting for the UN to come up with the answers.
Richard Loe, Stockholm, Sweden

The poor people of the world will continue to suffer unless they can show the West that they have some resource of value
Robert Wishart, Munich, Germany (USA)
Has Rwanda suddenly become valuable in the geo-political landscape? Seeing as how that answer is no, it only follows that the poor people of the world will continue to suffer unless they can show the West that they have some resource of value. It will always be the same.
Robert Wishart, Munich, Germany (USA)

No - very little has been learned. Africa is a mess, no - one knows how to sort it out. Europe is cautious about interfering in Africa because of colonial guilt and a complete failure to work together on foreign policy. Many African leaders are incompetent. The US blames for UN for all the evils in the world whilst it jettisons international consensus for arrogant self-interest.
Bruce, UK

The World never learns its lessons. We are not so advanced and civilised as we like to think. We just have to look at what is happening the world over. What is happening in Zimbabwe right now? What state is South Africa falling into? Congo? Uganda? Iraq? Israel? How many more countries and instances need be mentioned to make a point? What use is the rest of the World if it will not act? The UN has no teeth. The EU has not spine. So many lessons. So much deliberate ignorance.
A. Booyse, UK

The ostrich-like policy may make our lives easier, but we do it at a huge cost to others
Tim N, Broadstairs, UK

Unfortunately not, It is clear from the many posts to "have your say" over the last year that a large number of British and American people really do believe that the best thing to do is just to turn the other way and pretend nothing is happening.

Until those attitudes change, I fear that such mass killings will continue to be allowed to go unchecked in the future. The ostrich-like policy may make our lives easier, but we do it at a huge cost to others. As only a handful of countries that have the military power required bring about chance, it is imperative that those countries are allowed and indeed encouraged to act in order to save innocent lives when it is clear that normal diplomatic channels have failed.
Tim N, Broadstairs, UK

The lessons of Rwanda have indeed been learned. Whether or not they've been learned by people of any consequence or influence is another matter altogether.
TJ Cassidy, Arlington, USA

The only lesson learned is that western countries would intervene to stop a genocide only if there were clear economic benefits from it, which clearly are totally absent from African countries.
Frank, UK

I don't think the world has got any lesson to learn. What is called the international community is simply a selfish organisation. When Rwandese Defence Forces crossed and crashed the genocide forces the world was more concerned with the possible rooting of Congo minerals than giving moral support to the troops that were trying to eliminate these immoral monsters which the west had deliberately ignored.
Murenzi Ephraim, Kigali, Rwanda

Rwanda should serve as a reminder of precisely how little faith we should have in the UN and the international community, as they are currently formulated. A reminder echoed by the failure of the same to act over Saddam Hussein, or DR Congo.
James Tyrell, Newcastle, UK

Those who would commit genocide against Africans learned from Rwanda that the UN will do nothing to stop it.
Jim, NJ, USA

A lesson has not been learned by the International community from the Rwanda genocide. On a lesser scale it is happening as we speak in Zimbabwe. How many must die before there's action? The UN has failed us once again even more poignant is its own leader Kofi Annan neglecting his continent.
John Zvamba, London, UK

No - right now there are serious human rights abuses going on in the DR Congo. Evidence of mutilation, murder and even cannibalism are there for everyone (who chooses to) to see. What is the international community really doing to stop it? Nothing.
B, Gibraltar

B, Gibraltar: It's hard to believe that people still see Africa in this way. I hope that you do some serious unbiased research before you make claims like this.
Jim, US

It could all happen again tomorrow and we will still stand back and watch it go on
Nick S, Redhill, UK

As someone who has lived and worked in Africa most of his life - No they have not learnt anything. It could all happen again tomorrow and we will still stand back and watch it go on. The African leaders would rather let it happen than welcome aid from the ex-colonials.
Nick S, Redhill, UK

Nick S, Redhill, UK: I think that's a bit unfair of you Nick. Not all African leaders are incompetent and often the problems that much of Africa faces has to do with powerful foreign interests that manipulate situations and people. Surely you can't say that leaders like Ruth Sando Perry, Nelson Mandela, and Dr. Kenneth Kaunda are bad people? You're not the only one who has had an African experience.
Jim, US

Lessons learnt? The question is what lessons the international community want to learn and want to remember. Referring to the Rwandan Genocide as one of the major atrocities and dramas of the 20th century is beyond any doubt. But referring to it as the major genocide after the Second World War, as the BBC does, is a shame for the other genocides that have occurred between 1945 and 1994.

Too often the genocide that happened in Cambodia is forgotten by the international community, where in just four years time (1975-1978) almost 2 million people died from execution, torture, starvation and diseases. A genocide committed by the Maoist Khmer Rouge, the same group that received support from China, plus many western and western-oriented Asian nations till long after they were removed from power by the Vietnamese. The list goes on.
Eric Willemaers, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Learnt lessons? Humans? If you've seen the concentration camps of Germany and visited the Killing fields of Cambodia and then we see the same pictures of mass graves from the Baltic and Rwanda; tell me how have we learnt a single thing as a species?
Jon Ryan, Winchester, UK

The central issue in Rwanda is not blame but the legacy of an artificially contrived country
JohnM, UK

The central issue in Rwanda is not blame but the legacy of an artificially contrived country which is a remnant of a former empire. There are many such countries in the World where no amount of external or internal effort can eliminate the fundamental differences between the country's peoples. Countries like Rwanda need to be rebuilt as two or more separate countries or, at best, as a federation of states. Iraq is another well-known example also looming large on the World scene at the moment.
JohnM, UK

A tragedy of this magnitude is hard to comprehend, 800,000 lives how can one relate? Is the death toll large enough for people to understand the need to confront all despot dictatorships? Where is the UN or France with its close ties to the Hutu on this? Let me guess, everybody is waiting for the USA to take the blame and then to fix the problem. I'd like to see some other countries step up and show real leadership by putting there words into action. Will EU members step up and carry the burden or are you waiting on the USA to take the heat and bear the cost in dollars, lives, and political capital
Bob, Atlanta, USA

I don't think Paul Kagame is dealing with the pertinent issue of averting another genocide by placing the blame solely on the international community. As much as I agree that the international community could have done more to save lives, it was the responsibility of the leaders at the time to at least practice what I will call "accommodative politics" to form a broad base all inclusive government. Since this was never the case and contributed to the genocide, Mr. Kagame should show the lead to practice all inclusive government. By this we can save humanity from the horrors of genocide. All inclusiveness must as a matter of fact be the practice of African politics.
Edward Akuffo, Ghana

Lessons learnt? No. Realising and confronting what happened too late? Yes. There was no 'oil' in Rwanda. Why would the international powers bother putting resources into trying to save the lives of hundreds and thousands of Rwandans, when there was nothing to reap in the end?
Isabelle de Mello, Kampala, Uganda

There was nothing deliberate about the failure to stop the Rwandan genocide. It was just that nobody cared. You don't fix what you don't care about. Kagame does well in condemning the world for its ignorance after the fact but many African leaders tell the world to stay out of the internal affairs of their countries when they are the ones doing the massacring (i.e. Zimbabwe, Zaire, Sudan, etc)! You can't have it both ways!
James , Australia

The UN has, yet again, proven its uselessness and allowed thousands to die. In the US, understanding of the UN's mission is quite confusing since the leaders that profess the greatest cooperation with the UN seem to do the least to take global action, particularly in cases such as Rwanda.
Anon, Chicago, IL USA

It is grotesque that representatives from nations world-wide are meeting in Kigali in part to discuss the prevention of genocide, while, at the same time, on the same continent, Sudan is experiencing events the UN declares to constitute ethnic cleansing. It has long been time for the international community to decide whether it wants to agree upon laws and also actively enforce them, or to not agree upon laws at all. Any nation is individually accountable when it agrees upon such laws and stands idle as they are broken.
Eric, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

This is a lesson learnt but the world always learns backwards
Andrew, Nairobi, Kenya E.A.

This is a lesson learnt but the world always learns backwards! Clearly no lesson learnt if after all the killings continue in Somalia, Sudan, and Uganda by The LRA. Its all about greed and this is fuelled by individual leaders who misrepresent facts claiming that its caused by tribal religious, or racial reasons. It is similar to the war on terrorism and with terrorists and the Western World. It's about wealth and inequalities, fuelled by religious and racial reasons fuelled by the leaders.
Andrew, Nairobi, Kenya E.A.

No sadly, things haven't changed much in Africa. There is still all manner of horror going on and we in the western world are mostly numb to it. I've noticed that simple bloodshed in Africa barely raises an eyebrow, it has to be accompanied by lurid or bizarre details, such as the cannibalism in the Congo or parents denouncing their children as witches in Angola, for the western press to take notice.
Edward, Austin, Texas

I don't think anything has been learned, other than the fact that the UN is a bloated and inept organization. Genocide is still occurring in this world as we speak and in instead of action we have a lot of talk or quiet collusion. Until the international community is ready to 'walk the walk' then they can keep quiet about our own endeavours. You may not like Bush, but when he said he was going to act he did just that.
Jason, Dallas, TX

No, the lessons have not been learned. Whether Afghanistan, Iraq or Haiti, most UN member states don't bother beyond endless doses of lame "resolutions", don't step in until it's too late and desire to withdraw at the first sight of casualties.
Hugh, London, UK

We see once more Africa is being ignored
Katie, Surrey

I would very much like to think lessons had been learnt and that some understanding would have come from these most horrendous events. Looking at the events occurring now in Darfur and once again the western world preoccupation with Iraq and Haiti, we see once more Africa is being ignored
Katie, Surrey

Yes, lessons have been learnt from Rwanda. As the case in Sudan confirms, as long as the West, especially the US, has no self-interested reason (such as oil, control over major waterways) in a country, the people in that country can just go ahead and massacre who they please. However, what has not been learnt, as shown on your debate on Sudan, is that international governmental organisations simply will not help stop a massacre, unless the people being massacred manage to get their plight on TV in the West. Just as the WTO is being 'supplemented' by Free Trade Areas round the globe, so should the UN (esp the Security Council)be 'supplemented' by regional peace keeping forces. It will cost money, but save lives.
Kpdodo, Mauritius

Western powers would act differently now than in 1994 not necessarily because of the lesson learned from the carnage that occurred in that tiny non-geopolitical African country, but because of the present universal nature of terrorist threats. A timely and more proactive action by the UN could have prevented the massacre of close to a million people.
This, however, was not the case as the "powers that be" regarded the pernicious episode as a local cultural phenomenon - "hatred of minds." They failed to realize that it was imperative for them to have taken action to prevent it subject to the Genocide Convention of 1948 that many of them ratified. Based on media reports, Rwandan authorities are using a two-pronged approach namely: reconciliation and judicial proceedings against the 'ring leaders.' Perhaps reconciliation should be emphasized in the interest of forming a unified community rather than trials.
Ayodele Wilson, Freetown, Sierra Leone




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