Twenty Years After Genocide

flickr-2259575127-hdRwanda must attempt to grow after surviving its terrible tragedy.

By Peter Bjel.

Twenty years makes a huge difference in a country’s political trajectory, and Rwanda’s experience is proof. The year 2014 marks both the twenty-year anniversary of the Rwandan tragedy and the year that the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda expects to complete its mandate of bringing those responsible to justice. Just this May, the last remnants of the escaped genocidal army, holding out in East Congo, declared they would lay down their arms.

In the spring and summer of 1994, Rwanda lived through a three-month slaughter that was the most unambiguous case of genocide since the Second World War. An estimated 800,000 Rwandans were killed by their countrymen in three months. It was a willful and systematic campaign launched in the wake of government collapse following months of advance planning. Nothing was done to stop the genocide until after the worst of the killing. Part of the global lethargy in responding to it—which remains contentious even today—was the inability and unwillingness to call the massacres what they were. While the lack of swift response from the international community is still mired in perplexity, Rwanda continues to climb up from the pit of tragedy twenty years after the devastation.

n the first half of 2014, Rwanda is no longer referred to in solely pessimistic terms. Its army is one of the most powerful on the continent, and visitors attest to the ground-level safety and stability of the country. Most perpetrators of the genocide, high and low, have been brought to justice at home and abroad. Rwanda’s President, Paul Kagame, is currently in his second (and last) term, and he envisions Rwanda evolving into a continental power. If successful, it would be the ultimate act of closure on the recent past.

Yet there remain political and regional challenges. This same visionary leadership stands accused of …

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