By Joseph Pepin, Treasurer
Recently at the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF), the International and Global Studies Department sponsored an event in The Landing to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide, a mass killing of over 800,000 men, women and children.
Divin Gatera, a Rwandan immigrant studying International and Global Studies at UMF, helped set up the observance and spoke in front of students about his views on the genocide. “I feel it’s good for UMF community to learn more about Africa…as an African it’s my role to show to UMF community the good side of Africa and especially how Rwandans have been able to overcome the challenge the Genocide left us and how we have been able to improve for the past years.”
In addition, Celeste Branham, the Vice President of UMF for Student Services, and Linda Beck, Associate Professor of Political Science, spoke in front of students about the background and cultural importance of the genocide. “I think it’s important for our students to be aware of what has happened historically, what we didn’t do, and what we need to do in the future,” said Beck.
The Rwandan Genocide happened in April of 1994 when one Rwandan political group, the Hutu extremists, accused the Tutsis, a Rwandan ethnic group, of causing a plane crash that led to the death of the country’s president. The radical Hutus seized control of the government, killing off any potential Tutsi sympathizers that were in power. They led a propaganda campaign that urged the nation’s citizens to murder all Tutsi individuals on sight. After 100 days of slaughter, almost 1 million people had lost their lives. A controversy that was discussed at UMF’s event and one that is still on the collective mind of the world is why the international community didn’t intervene or try to prevent the genocide.
In Beck’s words, “I think that different actors had different motivations. I think in the case of the United States, we took the attitude that we don’t have a lot of interest in that area; it is a French client and not an American client…we didn’t want to stick our necks out, and I think that’s a shame.”