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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

While We Were Distracted

A Coalition for Darfur Post

In 1994, a genocide took place in Rwanda and it is probably safe to say that few of us remember hearing much about it. How was it possible, we now ask ourselves, that we could have so easily ignored the brutal slaughter of nearly one million people.

A look back to those 100 days in 1994 reveals that while we may not have heard much about Rwanda, we most certainly heard a great deal about many other things.

April to July 1994: A Timeline
On April 7, 1994 Rwandan soldiers and trained militias armed with machetes unleashed a murderous campaign to destroy the minority Tutsi population.

On April 8, Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain was found dead in his home from a self-inflicted gun shot wound.

On April 15, an estimated 20,000 Rwandans who had sought shelter Nyarubuye Church were slaughtered by government forces and members of the Interahamwe militia.

On April 22, former President Richard Nixon died and his funeral was held five days later.

On May 5, Michael Fay, an 18 year-old US citizen, was caned in Singapore as punishment for vandalism.

In mid May, the International Red Cross estimated that 500,000 Rwandans had been killed.

On June 17, OJ Simpson led police on a slow speed chase in a White Ford Bronco.

On July 4, the rebel army took control of the Rwandan capitol of Kigali and the genocide came to an end in a country littered with nearly one million corpses.
It is widely acknowledged that the world largely ignored the genocide in 1994 and failed the people of Rwanda. A decade later, it is worth asking if our
priorities have changed.
On September 8, 2004 60 Minutes ran a controversial story regarding President Bush's service in the Air National Guard that relied, in part, on forged memos.

On September 9, former Secretary of State Colin Powell officially declared that genocide was taking place in Darfur, Sudan.

On October 4, Romeo Dallaire, the head of the UN mission in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide warned that the world was responding to the crisis in Darfur much in the same way it responded to the genocide in Rwanda – with complete indifference.

On October 6, comedian Rodney Dangerfield died.

On January 24, 2005, Johnny Carson died.

On January 25, the UN released a report chronicling "serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law amounting to crimes under international law"; among them the "killing of civilians, torture, enforced disappearances, destruction of villages, rape and other forms of sexual violence."

On March 11, Brian Nichols overpowered a deputy, stole her gun and killed three people in an Atlanta courthouse before escaping.

On March 14, the United Nation's estimated that at least 180,000 people have died in Darfur in the last year and a half.

I would also add these "distractions":

On March 18, Terri Schiavo's feeding tube was pulled, and she died 13 days later.

On April 2, Pope John Paul the Great died, and his funeral, the largest in history was held six days later.

On April 18, the conclave to determine Pope John Paul's successor began, and the next day Pope Benedict XVI was elected.
Ten years ago, a genocide unfolded right in front of our eyes, but the media was more focused on the legal problems of various celebrities than it was on the deaths of tens of thousands of people in Africa.

And the same thing is happening today.

One has to wonder if, ten years from now, we'll be saying to one another "I vaguely remember hearing about the genocide in Sudan. It took place about the time of the Michael Jackson trial, right?"

We at the Coalition for Darfur ask you to join us in raising awareness of the genocide and to consider making a small donation to any of the organizations providing life saving assistance to the neglected people of Darfur.

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