HOTEL RWANDANow more than 10 years ago, the 1994 Rwandan genocide in today’s memory is almost forgotten and what very few people know little about. Quite similarly with the Holocaust of World War II, this very horrible and devastating event in recent world history recalls the systematic genocide carried out by the Hutu-dominated government of Rwanda against the Tutsi ethnic group and some Hutu moderates and sympathizers in belief that the Tutsi tribes do not belong to the Rwandan soil and are “mere cockroaches” that deserve to die. David Scheffer of the Los Angeles Times (2006) said the brutal genocide “were instigated by Rwandan government, military and media leaders and carried out by thousands of machete-wielding Hutus, ” with resurgent massacres that plagued the countryside for years thereafter. The Oscar-nominated Hotel Rwanda chronicles this very brutal chapter in the Rwandan history yet focuses on the heroism and determination of hotelier Paul Rusesabagina (played by Don Cheadle), who sheltered more than 1,200 people and saved them from the brutal genocide (Holden 2004).
While the film asks the viewers what would you choose between protecting or killing your racial enemies, even at the expense of betraying or losing our loved ones and families, it also begs to ask what the Western countries, and the United Nations, thought of the brutal slaughter of more than 800,000 people in one hundred days.
Genocide and the case of Rwanda Genocide, coined by Jewish jurist Raphael Lemkin, was derived from the Greek word genes, meaning tribe or race, and the Latin word cide, meaning killing. Lemkin, who escaped from Poland in 1939 and eventually emigrated to the United States, championed the passing of by the United Nations of the convention that will make genocide an international crime, above other crimes such as slavery, piracy and other universally recognized “offenses against the laws of nations” (Genzlinger, 2006).
The UN soon passed the convention that aims is to ensure that another holocaust would never again happen or allowed to occur in the history of humanity. The Rwanda’s case is nonetheless a genocide by any standard although at first outsiders thought it was a continuation of the almost never-ending Civil War in this war-torn African country.
Historians pointed out that the 1994 genocide or crime to humanity was traceable to then already brewing tensions between the majority Hutu and minority Tutsi in Rwanda, owing to its long-time-ago Rwandan colonial history. On August 4, 1993, tensions were tempered by the so-called Arusha Peace Accords, signed in Arusha, Tanzania that states the comprehensive peace accord between the Rwandan government and the Tutsi-opposition Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF). However, the shooting down of the airplane, where both the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi—Juvenal Habyarimana and Cyprien Ntayiramira—were aboard, on April 6, 1994, eventuated that sparked and fueled the government-led genocide of Tutsis.
Following Habyarimana’s death, the lawful successor of the deceased president Rwandan Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyamana was also murdered. This was followed by the deaths of ten Belgian peacekeepers, and other moderate politicians. Habyarimana’s rose to power already cultivated a culture of fear and hatred against the minority Tutsis as histories would tell. The death of the president was interpreted as a means for the military to take control of the “collapse of the government” (Scheffer, 2004).
Hutu-controlled army called on fellow Hutus for the total elimination of the Tutsi populace. Lists of Tutsi people’s name and addresses who will be killed were already prepared in advance, and aired on the radio station owned by the government, the Radio Television Libres Des Milles Collines (RTLM). It was a duty of every Hutu to kill Tutsis, the Hutu-dominated government urged their fellow Hutus.