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The Future

Even as the international community resolves not to repeat the culpable passivity of 1994, it risks yet another kind of inertia: that of not acting until confronted by a catastrophe similar in kind and scale to that of the genocide. Circumstances have changed. Although some of the insurgents currently attacking the Rwandan government may intend to continue exterminating Tutsi, they lack the means to execute campaigns of the extraordinary scale and speed of the 1994 genocide. Rather they carry out limited but ongoing slaughter that deadens public concern simply by its very repetitiveness. Meanwhile the Rwandan government, eschewing any genocidal ideology, has nonetheless engaged in massive slaughter of civilians whom it counts as supporters of the enemy, both in Rwanda and in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

It is increasingly difficult to assess the nature and extent of violence and to identify leaders responsible for it. Faced with possible punishment for massacring large numbers of civilians, government officials have restricted access to troubled regions, interfered with efforts to gather testimony, destroyed evidence, and misrepresented events. Their opponents, the insurgent leaders, often remain in the shadows, with their programs and even their names unknown. Although their alleged crimes are generally more widely publicized, it is difficult to find the information needed to assess the truth of the charges against them.

International leaders, chasing the ever-moving goal of stability, ignore crimes against humanity and tolerate obstruction of efforts to reveal the full horror of ongoing abuses in the region. By failing to demand accountability for current crimes, they undermine the credibility of justice being meted out for the genocide and by tolerating impunity for present slaughter, they help perpetuate insecurity. As long as they decline to take a principled, public and effective stand against the killings of civilians, they offer neither model nor encouragement to forces—whether in government or in the insurgency—who themselves might oppose such violence. By accepting the “normality” of slaughter for political reasons, they may be contributing to the conditions that will produce the very repetition of genocide they have vowed to prevent.

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