Leave None to Tell the Story

Genocide in Rwanda

In 1994 a small elite chose genocide to keep power in Rwanda. They used state resources and authority to incite - or force - tens of thousands of Rwandans to kill the Tutsi minority. Within one hundred days, they slaughtered more than half a million people, three quarters of the Tutsi of Rwanda. The major international actors, France, the U.S., Belgium, and the U.N., failed to heed the warnings of coming disaster and refused to recognize the genocide when it began. They withdrew the troops that could have saved lives and made little protest against the genocide, lest condemnation lead to calls for action.

This study, based on Rwandan government records, dissects the deceptive discourse of genocide and shows how ordinary administrative structures and practices were turned into mechanisms of murder. It describes opposition to the killing campaign and how it was broken. In the words of survivors, it relates how they resisted and escaped. Using diplomatic and court documents, the study details the transformation of international indifference into tardy criticism. By showing how even feeble censure caused changes in the genocidal program, the study suggests what might have been the result had the world promptly and firmly cried "Never Again."

Alison Des Forges was Human Rights Watch’s senior advisor in the Africa Division and one of the world’s foremost experts on Rwanda. In the period leading up to the genocide, she worked tirelessly to alert world powers to the impending crisis in Rwanda. Her efforts did not stop when the genocide ended. She continued painstakingly gathering information on these horrific crimes, which she compiled into what has become one of the main reference books on the Rwandan genocide: “Leave none to tell the story: Genocide in Rwanda”, published in 1999.

Alison Des Forges campaigned vigorously for justice for the genocide until her sudden death in a plane crash in the US on February 12, 2009. She also documented human rights abuses by the new government of Rwanda after the genocide and advocated for accountability for all abuses, past and present.

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