As survivors mark the 25th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre during the Genocide in Bosnia, in Rwanda we are celebrating the end of the Genocide against the Tutsi that took place a year earlier.
One cannot miss the similarities in the shortcomings of the international community in both cases.
In Rwanda, when the Genocide started, many Tutsi took refuge at a school where Belgian peacekeepers had set up camp seeking protection. The Belgians abandoned them and they were massacred in their thousands.
As if that was not enough, the United Nations Assistance Mission to Rwanda (UNAMIR) pulled out the quasi totality of its troops leaving the Tutsis to the mercy of their hunters. Had it not been for the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) that stepped in and did the UN’s work, even the few survivors around would be nowhere.
A year later after the fall of Kigali and stopping the Genocide, in northeastern Bosnia, a similar scenario was being played out in Drina Valley that hosted tens of thousands of Muslim Bosniak refugees. The UN declared it a “safe area” under its protection and Dutch soldiers were given the task to protect it.
But once the Serbian forces rolled into the valley, the Dutch stepped aside and an estimated 8,000 men and boys were taken away to be killed. Unlike in Rwanda, women and girls were spared from death but not sexual violence.
Again, unlike in Rwanda where reconciliation has registered tremendous success, in Bosnia, the rifts are getting wider. Denial was mostly found among the fringe extremists, but now it has seeped into the mainstream population.
One wonders whether if all warring parties were left alone in a room anyone would come out alive. It is a ticking time bomb and if the international community fails to live up to expectations, it will be yet another blot on its reputation.