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G I R L S A&A Y O U N GA W O M E N

The Faces of Genocide: Don't Look Away
Excerpt from New Moon: The Magazine for Girls and Their Dreams

by Joanna Cave

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After the Holocaust, the world said, “We’ll never let this happen again.” Yet genocide has happened in Cambodia, Bosnia, and Rwanda among other places. Genocide is when one group carries out a mass killing of another group because of their race, religion, ethnicity, or nationality. Most often, our world pays little attention. It’s a terrible and scary thing to even think about, but we have to understand it so we can try to stop it. I want to talk about what happened in Rwanda in 1994, and what’s happening in Darfur, Sudan today. Then, let’s discuss taking action to improve our world.

Rwanda, Africa
Rwanda is a central African country of mountain ranges and rolling grasslands. “When God wanders the world, at the end of the day, He comes to Rwanda to sleep because He considers this to be the most beautiful place on Earth” is a famous saying there. But starting in April 1994, Rwanda’s beauty gave way to an ugly genocide that killed more than 800,000 people in 100 days.          

Genocide often happens because of power struggles between two ethnic groups. In Rwanda, two tribes, the Hutas and the Tutsis, struggled for power. On April 6, 1994, someone killed the president of Rwanda by shooting down his plane. The president’s death acted like a signal to Hutu extremists. They began rounding up Tutsis and killing them. Hutu militias raped thousands of women and girls. Many fled Rwanda, but refugee camps in neighboring countries reported countless deaths because of poor living conditions and malnutrition in the camps.       

When the genocide began in Rwanda, Major-General Romeo Dallaire, the United Nations commander in charge of peace-keeping, told the U.N. that he needed more help. But the U.N.refused. Dallaire continued to try to stop the attacks on Tutsis, but his efforts weren’t enough. Eventually, Paul Kagame and the Rwandese Patriotic Front fought the Hutu militias for three months and took power of Rwanda in July of 1994. They ended the genocide, but with almost no help from the international community.          

Today, the Government of National Unity governs Rwanda. It includes representation from all ethnic groups and religions. Under the previous government, women in Rwanda couldn’t own land, have a bank account, or work outside the home. Now Rwanda has the highest percentage of women holding government positions in the world! Women have taken an active role in rebuilding their country in other ways as well, finding homes for orphans, creating support groups for widows, and entering the labor force.

 Darfur, Sudan
Genocide is in the news again because of conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan, in Africa. In September 2004, General Colin Powell told the U.N that the conflict happening in Darfur is genocide; Janjaweed, Arab Sudanese militia groups, are killing black Sudanese villagers. Yet the international community still hasn’t responded. Four-hundred thousand people have died, 2.5 million people are out of their homes, and 3.5 million people are starving.

Help!
We need to take action to stop genocide. Girls can make a lasting impact by planning a fundraiser or awareness campaign in their schools or communities. Write to your local newspaper and get the media involved. As girls, we can make just as much difference in the world as adults. If we all took the initiative to help, think of the impact we’d make!

Brace yourself
One organization, www.savedarfur.org, has started a bracelet awareness campaign called “Not On My Watch”. All of the proceeds go to SaveDarfur.org to raise awareness about genocide.

Write to the White House
You can write to George W. Bush and tell him to take action against the genocide in Darfur, Sudan.

Here’s his address:
President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C, 20500

 

©2005. New Moon Publishing.

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