What Canada can learn from Rwanda?

More than twenty years ago, a mass slaughter of the Tutsi people occurred in the African state of Rwanda. One million people were murdered right in front of the world’s eyes and many ignored the genocide that had taken place.

The murders happened in a span of 100 days while the Western world, including Canada, stood by and decided it wasn’t their fight to fight. Many Canadians only know about the Rwandan genocide because of one name: Romeo Dallaire, the Canadian force commander of the United Nations mission in Rwanda.

Dallaire was one of the only individuals that held a significant role in Rwanda that actually did all in his power (at least the power that he did have)to halt the killings and bring peace to the country. He failed and publicly shared this with Canadian population. Despite his failure, he still remains a legacy in Canada.

However, is this all that Canadians took from the Rwanda genocide? Currently, Burundi, which is a state right beside Rwanda, is showing the same pattern as Rwanda did before the genocide.

Similar to Rwanda, Burundi has a long and intense history of conflict between two main ethnic groups including the majority Hutu and the minority Tutsi.

Romeo Dellaire / www.huffingtonpost.ca

Romeo Dellaire / www.huffingtonpost.ca

In Burundi, the Tutsi minority had a majority government for decades, and in 1992 the Tutsi government permitted a democratic election where a Hutu was voted in as president. Tutsi soldiers assassinated this president soon after, resulting in violent conflict in the country for decades.

After thousands of deaths, 12 years of instability and the state barely avoiding a genocide, some peace was brought to the state and agreements were made that the armed forces were to be integrated and all levels of governments were to represent both ethnic groups.

These measures were expected to bring efficient stability, but recently this positive progress has been tested. Current president Pierre Nkurunziza made the decision to change the Constitution so he can remain in office for a third term, which has created aggravated tensions.

This decision is resulting in violent protests, and more than 280,000 Burundians have already fled the country. Along with this, the Imbonerakure, the majority party’s youth wing, is very similar the Hutu Interahamwe during the Rwandan Genocide.

Even though it is a little too soon to be calling this “genocide,” there are still a lot of signs and events to be worried about.

There are conflicting opinions on whether Canadians should do anything about conflicts similar to Rwanda’s or currently, Burundi’s. I mean, yes, many Canadians ask, “why should Canada do anything when we have little interests in the country?”

Many western countries have the same mentality when it comes to African conflicts, but when we look at what happened in Rwanda, it is not the smart move to maintain that mentality.

Our failure to do anything to help Rwanda left many Canadians with shame and guilt. I believe that the Rwandan genocide was avoidable like many violent ethnic conflicts that have happened.

Will Canada and other western states finally realize that countries cannot just sit back and watch? History is there to teach people lessons of the past and that is why many of us have learned about the Rwandan genocide, so why can’t the Canadian government remember past lessons and prevent future failures and mass deaths?

The Brock East African Student Association recently held a candlelight vigil for victims of violence in Burundi on January 7th. The club will also be running events all year to support victims of violence in Burundi and other East African states.

Join them for their Play for Humanity Game Night on Jan. 26 at 5:30.

Madi Fuller

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One thought on “What Canada can learn from Rwanda?

  1. A very well expressed article. It has drawn my attention to a conflict I was not aware of. Not only do I now know about it, I also have a handle on the background of the struggle.

    The article ends with a strong call that Canada should not stand by and watch, but Canada should stand up and do something! Canada should lead the way, take effective action by doing…

    I’m left hanging. What should Canada do? What would effective action in the struggle look like? What means should one sovereign nation take to intervene in the internal affairs of another sovereign state?

    What do you propose?

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