Saturday, July 19, 2008

Of An African Genocide

I recently just watched the fantastic movies Sometimes in April and Shooting Dogs which chronicle the 1994 Rwandan genocide in all of its infamy. If you've seen Hotel Rwanda... I pity you because that is Hollywood. These movies are a much better account, I especially encourage you to check out Raul Peck's Sometimes in April though I warn you it's not an easy movie to watch.



All this got me thinking about how we, as white Westerners, view Africa and the genocides that occur there. Hotel Rwanda was a hit movie. Books such as We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families remain on the top of Chapters and Amazon African best-seller lists (which is not that prominent a list!). There is a big push to know about Rwanda.

I highly encourage people to know about it but I wonder what good it is doing. The recent report is that more than 300,000 have been killed in the genocide in Darfur. Since the downfall of the government in Somalia in the early 1990's hundreds of thousands of died. In the DR Congo. In Ethiopia. In Zimbabwe. In many African countries thousands have died from armed conflict or what we would likely deem 'terrorism' in the West. In South Africa alone 1.8 million people have died from AIDS, according to UNAIDS latest report.

And yet all we can seem to muster is a few books to assauge the guilt of a genocide that occured 14 years ago. It's great to learn about Rwanda if it inspires you to make sure it never happens again. And yet it has taken 3 years for the international community to condemn Sudan's president of war crimes in the genocide there. Nothing has changed. We belatedly believe that watching Hotel Rwanda makes us better people and somehow assures us that it will never happen again. Let me tell you, it IS happening again as we speak in African countries across the continent.

At one point in Sometimes in April one of the US government civil servants who is struggling with the US/UN inaction asks, "Is it because they're African?" When 5,000 Americans die in New York it not only makes news but creates 2 wars. When Canadian soldiers die in Afghanistan it never fails to make the news and parades are held. There is a distinct difference between how wars in Africa are treated and wars in the West. Maybe it is because they are Africans...

What will it take for us to rise up as nations and say this is not acceptable? That lack of ARV treatment for AIDS is not acceptable? That people dying for lack of clean water is not accessible? That nations standing by as systematical genocide is implemented is not acceptable? The sad answer is I don't know, I can't see that line...

4 comments:

Jill said...

Before Hotel Rwanda, Romeo Dallaire wrote Shake Hands With the Devil. I had to read it slowly.

Eric said...

I have his book and have heard him speak a number of times... he is tireless for Africa. He's currently working with child soldiers.

gillian said...

I agree. Its a troubling dilemma. Its hard not to feel helpless to affect a change however. Especially when governments pander to popular opinion to stay in office. The surest way to do that is to improve the voters quality of life, not the qol of someone other other side of the world.

LeiserVampir said...

You know, "Shooting Dogs" might be, in your mind, a much better application of story to movie, but "Hotel Rwanda" unlike S.D, is a true story.

It's not hollywood. In fact, it was a pretty low budget movie, as far as I've heard, and was as close to the truth as they could get it. the violence was toned down a hell of a lot, and there's only one General instead of the 4 or 5 that Paul said he was "bribing" at the time, but otherwise, it's as true as true can get, where as S.D has a hell of a lot less to do with truth in terms of scenes of the movie.

Either way, I agree with the rest of what you said. It makes you think, doesn't it..? :)