Imran Garda is a journalist currently based in Istanbul, Turkey. He is one of the first people I followed on Twitter not so much for his journalism but for his witty tweets that he often delivers in a very brief manner that I imagine he barely ever has to look at the character count when typing them out. Many of these tweets are related to current events and people making the news.
Around this same time, five years back he tweeted, “I propose we call all weapons chemical weapons if it helps us to stop killing everywhere.” I managed to see this tweet when he pointed it out on Saturday as Britain, France and the US rained missiles on Syria apparently because its leader was using chemical weapons. The British Prime Minister, Theresa May even took the time to remind those listening that the attacks were not about regime change but about use of chemical weapons.
In other words everything maybe tolerated by these western powers but not possession or use of chemical weapons. It is a place we have been to before. At one point Saddam Hussein of Iraq was said to be in possession of Weapons of Mass Destruction and this was reason enough to pound Iraq and plunge it into endless wars all of which have never been paused to show us these deadly weapons. This seems to be the fastest way for western powers to intervene and ‘save’ a situation from getting worse. Libya was also handled almost on a similar template.
When I think about the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda and how the western powers handled it you can’t help but imagine what would have happened if the architects of this horrible moment had been accused of having chemical weapons. What if the letter that was sent to the UN about their plans had mentioned the words chemical weapons? Would time be wasted on debating whether what was going on was real or imagined? We shall surely never know.
The closest interventions that Rwanda saw during this time were the ones where families of the diplomats and expatriates were evacuated and much later where the French soldiers created a corridor for the killers to escape to the Democratic Republic of Congo from where others continued to various western capitals.
Over the years a small number of them have been arrested and brought back for trial while others are still out there on the run for the crimes they perpetuated in Rwanda.
After the Genocide, Rwanda is no longer waiting for people to get definitions right in order to decide whether the lives of Rwandans matter. This is now a deeply engraved guiding principle for the renewed nation. The process of reconciliation was premised on reminding people that Rwanda belongs to all of them and not some of them. Rebuilding and developing the country is also the duty of everyone regardless of ethnic branding or gender.
The country now rides on a clear sense of purpose packaged around dignity and unity. Efforts have been made to ensure that brand Rwanda is not always just defined by a horrible period 24 years ago but that that period marks a history to point at and say Never Again. Many times you hear crisis situations in other countries being described using Rwanda. “I hope this does not become another Rwanda” because the Never Again message applies to all humanity.
Today, Rwanda has risen to be mentioned not only when the topic is Genocide but in many positive issues. When a country finds the courage to ban plastic bags, Rwanda will be mentioned a couple of times. The other day the South Africa president Cyril Ramaphosa was filmed telling his people about having clean streets after what he had seen while on a visit to Rwanda. I have also seen some Zimbabwean media talking about how the Rwanda Development Board CEO, Clare Akamanzi was invited to teach them how Rwanda does it when it comes to Foreign Direct Investments.
Indeed it is possible to deal with a situation without waiting on the talkers to find definitions to guide them on whether they should ‘help’ or just look on. And after a crisis, it is clearly possible to rebuild and surge forward not only to the envy of others but also provide a blue print that others can borrow and apply for the better.
The views expressed in this article are of the author.