It was April 1994 in Rwanda, and I was a 14-year-old boy running for my life. While neighbors and strangers helped save my mother, sisters and me, I can still hear the screams of family members and neighbors who were either hacked to death with machetes or killed by bombs and bullets raining on us like a tropical storm. At the time, we hoped the screams would be loud enough for the whole world to hear. However, the world did nothing until the killing was over.
The Rwandan genocide did not happen in an instant. Rather, it was the tragic culmination of decades of tensions, violence and repression. It was much deeper than Hutu versus Tutsi ethnicity — it was about unresolved grievances and about ignoring the clear warning signs that violence was on its way. A four-year war for control of the country that had displaced more than 1 million people was a clear sign of more violence to come — the genocide could have been prevented.
Twenty-two years later, we found ourselves marking the annual tribute to the victims of Rwanda during Genocide Awareness Month in April. We know now more than ever what the lead-up to mass violence and the outbreak of mass atrocities looks like. We also know how the effects ripple out to the whole world, including the United States, where I moved as a refugee in 1995.
And yet the global community, including the United States, is still very much focused on responding to crises rather than preventing them from breaking out in the first place.
As overwhelming as genocide prevention sounds, something can be done. Right now, the U.S. Senate is considering the Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act (GAPA), a bipartisan bill that would allow the U.S. government to respond quickly and efficiently to the warning signs of violent conflict.
Our own Sen. Bob Corker is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which has jurisdiction over this bill. Senator Corker has been a champion of a strong U.S. foreign policy and national security and should work to pass this bill out of his committee and send it to the full Senate for a vote.
If passed, GAPA would establish a framework for government agency coordination, training and flexibility that is crucial to stop smoldering tensions from erupting into full-fledged atrocities. GAPA would help ensure the U.S. government takes prevention seriously, and it would save taxpayer dollars, save lives and bolster U.S. national security interests.
However, this is about more than just preventing atrocities or the outbreak of mass violence. By focusing energy on preventing global violence instead of responding to it, we can keep more American soldiers and peacekeepers safe at home rather than immersed in violent conflict.
Every day, I live with the screams and cries for help of Rwandan genocide victims. So do other survivors of mass atrocities, like my friends from the Democratic Republic of Congo, who suffered through a preventable war born out of the Rwandan genocide that devastated that country and took more than 6 million lives.
We can’t change decades-old failures, but we can work to end the screams of mass atrocities and genocide happening around the world right this very minute. We may never be able to completely prevent every outbreak of mass violence in the world. But if one fewer person is exposed to the aftermath of atrocities and mass violence because the right actions created a peaceful solution rather than a violent one, then the Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act is a strategy worth investing in.
Claude Gatebuke is a survivor of Rwandan war and genocide, and is executive director and co-founder of the African Great Lakes Action Network (AGLAN) in Nashville.
ITANGAZO K’UMUNSI MPUZAMAHANGA WAHARIWE AMAHORO Y’ABATUYE KU ISI
Ku nshuro ya 30, Isi irizihiza umunsi mukuru washyizweho na ONU buri 21 Nzeri wahariwe amahoro y’abatuye Isi. Kuri iyi nshuro intego n’inyito bya ONU yahaye iyi sabukuru ikaba ari uko « Abaturage bafite uburenganzira ku mahoro n’umutekano ».
Ikigo giharanira kurwanya umuco wo kudahana no kurenganya mu Rwanda (CLIIR) wongeye kunga mu rya ONU wibutsa abayobozi b’U Rwanda ko abanyarwanda bafite uburenganzira bahabwa n’amategeko bwo kugira umutekano n’amahoro bisesuye.
Amahoro aba ku giti cy’umuntu : Umuntu agomba guhabwauburengazira bushobotse mu mibereho ye n’abandi atabangamiye rubanda nkuko nawe atakwifuriza uwamubangamira. Iryo rikaba ihame ridakuka mu Rwanda.
Amahoro ntagurwa kugirango aboneke : Buri muntu agomba kuyiyumvamo, akayaha uwo begeranye noneho amahoro agakwira hose, akanashyigikirwa kuburyo burambye.
Amahoro na Demokarasi birajyana : Iyo kimwe kibuze, ikindi kirahungabana. Ababuze Amahoro na Demokarasi bagatahwa n’ubwoba butuma batagira amahoro yo mu mitima no ku mibiri nkuko bimeze mu Rwanda rw’ubungubu.
Nkuko bigaragagara mu Rwanda nta mahoro akibarizwayo kuko ubona abaturarwanda ntayo bafite. Ibyo bikagaragazwa no guhunga, gushimutwa, kwicwa, ubwoba, urwikekwe gufungwa bya hato na hato, umwana yikanga nyina, umubyeyi akikanga umwana we, inzangano zibarizwa mu miryango abavukana barihakana, …
Ibyo byose birangwa mu gihugu cy’u Rwanda ni ikimenyetso cy’imiyoborere n’ubutegetsi bubi budakorera abaturage, budashishikajwe n’iterambere nyakuri, budatanga amahoro kubo bwakagombye kuyaha. Ntibwubahiriza amasezerano mpuzamahanga bashyizeho umukono n’amahame remezo ya Demokarasi.
CLIIR rero ikaba iboneyeho, gusaba Leta y’U Rwanda, abayobozi bayo, n’umuryango wa ONU gufata iy’ibanze mu gushaka inzira zose z’ukuri Abaturarwanda babona amahoro n’umutekano bisesuye nkuko ari uburenganzira ntakuka bahabwa n’amategeko.
Bikorewe i Buruseli,
21 Nzeri 2014
Alain Duval MUSONI
Komisseri ushinzwe uburenganzira bwa kiremwa muntu