It was so hard to watch, but necessary to watch, your Frontline special on the genocide in Rwanda. I have worked for several years in the Defense Dept. and at times you become cold and indifferent to things that are happening "somewhere" in Asia, Africa, or some other 3rd world "Hell-Hole." It's the "not next door so why should I care mentality." It is very important that PBS broadcast and rebroadcast
such documenteries on Frontline.
Thank you so much for the excellent Frontline edition about Rwanda!
As an advocate for Rwandan refugees, I commend your coverage of these atrocities. So many people do not understand what's going on and do not want to pay attention, but this show put it into such terms that one cannot watch without being moved to action. I had to marvel at the fact that I sat down to watch TV, not knowing that
this show was on and discovering it right at 9 p.m.!!! (Also, just having
checked Mr. Keane's book, "Season of Blood," out of the library last night...pretty amazing!)
Again, thank you for your great coverage of this tragic event which effects the whole human race.
Lisa Ottman, President
The Frontline program about the genocide in Rwanda was an eyeopener. It is unfortunate that it takes three years after the fact to get some of the truth about what happened. Maybe in the future you can do a report on how the U.N. is selective on whom and were they intervene. Once again thank you.
As we watched Frontline this evening in the comfort of our living room we were disgusted to see the nightmare that is Valetina's life and the life of the other survivors. We can not comprehend how any people could pursecute another based on their tribe. It was probably the Hutus that killed the president in the first place and they were looking for a convient excuse to murder the Tutsis. What angers us is that the U.S. was quick to respond to the crisis in the Gulf but did not see the need to respond the butchering of innocent people in Rwanda, a blantant human rights violation. Can you think of any reasons why the Western nations chose not to intervene while the genocide was occurring?
Whitby, Ontario, Can.
Perhaps if those graphic images of death were splattered
on our television screens every day and every night, it
might have moved us enough to react against this gross
injustice against humanity.
It is a shame really, that we here in the West must rely on
special documentaries such as Frontline to witness the
horrors of genocide. Why must we learn about the depth of such tragedy
so long after the fact. What has happened to our daily media?
We are just as guilty.
Your broadcast tonight, April 1, on the genocide in Rwanda was most frightening. It is again proof that our media and politicians are operating on their own agenda instead of serving the public as they were hired to do. Seeing the graphic pictures of death on your show forces one to realize how quickly hatred can turn to death. It's a shame that all Americans won't see the show to help them realize how horrid and petty our hatred of one another is. I often ask myself how we can hate one another and still claim to believe in a higher being, a God. Didn't he create all of us? I sure don't want to tell Him that I hate his work. But that's exactly what bigots do every day. Please keep up the morbid, but necessary, reporting so
that we won't forget that there's an entire world outside our locked front doors.
Copperas Cove, TX
The phrase "Just Following Orders" never seems to go out of style when mass-murder is justified. My parents were survivors of the Nazi concentration camps, and the murders and torment they witnessed affected them, just as the stories they told affected me, and will probably affect my children and future grandchildren and who knows how many more generations.
"Never Again" has become a mockery, echoing like a hollow laugh in the empty places inside where I keep my anger for a world that turned a blind eye to what happened in Armenia, in the Nazi Occupation, in China's invasion of Tibet, in South America's various tin-pot dictators, in the Serb/Croat Conflict, and lately in Rwanda.
Please tell Valentina for me that my heart bleeds for her, and that I
fervently hope she gets her wish and lives to see justice served on the human automatons who chose to follow the voices of hate.
Blanche Wattenberg Nonken
My thanks to PBS for bringing to our awareness the devastating
impact of the genocide in Rwanda. I feel ashamed for our
country both in covering up the true nature and extent of the
massacres and in finally sending aid to the murdering
Hutus. I think the book "The Ugly American," required
high school reading some 25 years ago, remains the truest
account of America's overseas failures both then and now.
Celeste F. De Bease, Ph.D.
I just finished watching Valentina's Nightmare on PBS here in Georgia. This program reignited many of the feelings I experienced covering Rwanda and supporting the U.S. Operation "Support Hope" as an US Air Force Intelligence analyst. I was stationed at the time at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) in Mons, Belgium. Before the genocide began I was a Eurasian analyst for Gen. George Joulwan and his staff at SHAPE in his capacity as Commander in Chief European Command. Because our African analyst was leaving and we needed someone to cover Africa and this crisis I was chosen. Not knowing anything about Africa or Rwanda, I immediately began working up to 20 hours a day to study and support the senior staff at SHAPE with up to the minute information on the situation in and around Rwanda.
Rwanda and the suffering in the region became my life for almost 3 straight months. I was witness to many sources of information that daily described the horrors Valentina witnessed. My heart sank regularly as I read the accounts of the Genocide and was called upon by senior officers to make sense of what was going on and why. Your coverage made me realize how dramatically Rwanda and the
genocide touched my soul. Despite the fact that I haven't closely covered the area now for several years it is never very far from my thoughts.
Thank you for an insightful story. It reminded me how impotent the West sometimes appears when faced with problems it can't rightfully solve, but could at least stop the suffering if it puts its full support behind such an effort.
Douglas M. Deuitch
Robins AFB, GA
After just having seen your program on the massacres of Tutsis in
Ruwanda, I am reminded, once again, how hollow those words "Never Again" truly are. Bosnia and Ruwanda should stand as constant reminders to us that to call ourselves human is a gross overstatement. I wonder if the Tutsi survivors will be comforted that years from now the United Nations and other "concerned" entities will probably erect a comemorative museum as a testament to the horrors they have suffered. Maybe the same words "Never Again" will be shouted in pious compassion by well meaning heads
of state. But the victims of the Ruwandan holocaust, in their utter
silence, will reply...the world did not keep its promise to the children.
We all stand accused.
Good job Frontline. You remind us how far we have to go to be worthy of life.
What I found most disturbing about your story on Rwanda was that the killers were, for the most part, ordinary men with wives and children of their own. Mention was made in your report of the fact that these people were used to living in a society where they were taught blind obedience to the authorities. This echoes the stories of many of those convicted of atrocities during the Nazi holocaust - they were merely following orders.
It troubles me greatly to see that, as a nation, we are losing the ability to think for ourselves and base our actions on moral absolutes of right and wrong. Instead, we are making moral judgements based on cliches, sound bites, visual clips and public opinion polls. While we recoil in horror at the scenes witnessed in your report, I greatly fear that somewhere down the road we may not be immune from such horror in our own land.
Is the answer to the horrible murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent people, to be the murder of thousands of "innocent murderers?" Or is it possible, the cry for justice--shall be placated with the death of a handful of "the organisers", and tens of Hutu prelates who led, urged, and demanded neighbor to murder neighbor.
My heart aches at the pain Valentina carries and for the many more her teacher described as "those scarred inside." I felt a chill rush through me, when Valentina's passive soft voice asked for "death for all those--who killed my family." Although understandable, Valentina's bitterness and desire for revenge, is as self destructive and misguided as the emotions that led the Hutu architects to "the final solution" of murder for the Tutsi and Hutu opposition in Rwanda.
I was outraged by the smile on the face of the condemned jailed Hutu leader, after he said, " It was not genocide." and later when he
said, "I will face my death happily, I will accept it, if it will end the killing, but it will not..."
The killing fields span generations and continents. Where ever
there are uneducated, simple, and poor dupes who are led by
the damnable Hitler's, Pol Pot's, and Begosora's.
This evening I had an opportunity to see the program entitled "Valentina's Nightmare". It is hard to find any words to describe the sorrow one feels after seeing true devastation such as that in this small Rwandan village. Though the program kept me in tears throughout, I thank you for bringing the experiences of children such as Valentina to the attention of we who are so fortunate to lead
secure lives. It is programs such as this one that may motivate the American people to take a second look and reach out a helping hand when our own government refuses to do so. We must not allow ourselves to accept terms such as "isolated incidences of genocide." Again, from the bottom of my heart, I thank and applaud you for your efforts at bringing such a difficult and terrifying issue to our
I am sickened by the lack of effort displayed by the United States
during the Rwanda genocide of 1994. I would not want to endanger
the life of any American or U.N. soldier, but there are times when
action, dangerous as it may be, is humane and necessary. We cannot
proudly exclaim to be a superpower until we are willing
to show courage in the face of madness. Claiming ignorance of the
magnitude of human suffering is unacceptable. If journalists are both
willing and capable of entering into scenes of mass murder, surely
well armed soldiers of the U.N. or U.S. could.
John R. Yacopucci
Awesome show. Another great example of programming found on Frontline. Really shows the horror of Wwanda, almost on a scale of what was done to Jews during WWII, perhaps worse. Goes to show that the world tends to ignore black African countries that don't have oil or gold. Some of the stories I have read show the pure brutally of what happened. I especially liked the point of "should you let the
murderers of your family, live in peace within distance of your home."
I was very saddened and ashamed to see the genocide that happened in Rwanda and our government "the first potence in the world" just stood by and let so many people die. Tonight I felt un-American, I can not describe my feelings seeing the lady avoiding the word genocide, where are we going? Why do we have an organization called United Nations? Sending troops at the time would have cost money of course and some soldiers' live. But we as a civilized society and country should have taken the first step and stop the genocide
when it started. The government and Bill Clinton were not over Somalia yet, 18 americans dead. In Rwanda close to 800,000 men, women and children salvagely murdered. In Kuwait we did not hesitate to send the biggest deployment of troops since the Vietnam war, of couse, they are a rich country run by a monarchy ready to pay the live of American soldiers with black gold. Rwanda a poor African country not worthy of American blood to be "spend."
I just finished watching Frontline and my head is still shaking with disbelief. To think that we all come from the same Being and to still kill each other like animals. I was outraged to hear that the "GREAT" United States didn't do something...anything!
The young children and the horrible horrible memories they will carry for the rest of their scarred lives makes me disgusted...with me...us...human kind. Why do people continue to do these atrocities to each other? In my young trusting mind and heart, I still believe that humans are good. After learning of this real life nightmare, I question myself of a fundamental belief that we are so well conditioned into thinking. Have we lost respect for human life? What will we be doing to each other 20, 40, 60 years from now? Can it be much worse? Will there be people to kill?
Thank you very much for producing journalism that stimulates.
To say that "Valentina's Nightmare" was a moving experience
would be an understatement. That young lady, though
mentally scarred for life, is a testatment to the resilience of the
human spirit. As a Black American, it was painful for me to
visually relive the unspeakable horrors and cruelty that my
African brothers have inflicted on each other. Although
your excellent supporting documentation (i.e., the Chronology)
clearly exposed the complicity of Europeans in encouraging
the hatred between the Hutus and the Tutsis, the Africans
appear to have turned their back on God and sold their
souls to the devil. Genocide is and has always been the
scourge of civilized societies. Rwanda and "Valentina's
Nightmare" is no exception. Your tragic, but excellent,
program makes me realize that this disgusting display of
savagery has diminished the sanctity of life. We all pay
a heavy price for the Rwanda's of this world.
The hour of Frontline was probably the most
startling piece of journalism I have ever seen.
Not that I am not aware of the horrors in Rwanda,
but to have it brought to my own living room,
it sends a thread of uneasiness down my soul.
I hope this presentation will be rebroadcast. The rest
of the world has to see what the Tutsi and Hutus have
seen. The rest of the world has to see what they have
allowed to happen, what they promised would never
happen again after the Holocaust.
I question if the killing or violence will ever come
to conclusion. Probably not, how can a child grow up
in a culture of violence, hatred and vengence, and
not grow up wielding a dagger or pistol against his
or her neighbour?
My heart goes out to the children who will never know
more than blow for blow, blood for blood, life for life.
I have just finished viewing the Frontline program "Valentina's Nightmare." It was a very well reported documentary and long overdue. As I watched, I was engulfed with a flood of memories and emotions. I was living in neighboring Uganda during the days of horror in Rwanda April through July, 1994 and then was a part of the nightmare in Goma from the very first days of the refugee crisis and for several months following.
Our ministry was with Hutu children who had been separated from families or orphaned. They had been witnesses of the hatred, to the slaughter done by their families. We saw it in their eyes, we heard it in their words, we witnessed it acted out in their play and in their drawings. We loved them and cared for them, all the while very much aware of the vast wasteland of death just across the border in Rwanda. We knew of the thousands of children on that side who had been witnesses of atrocities to their families so horrible that the whole world refused to look at it. We wept for all the children, Hutu and Tutsi alike. They are the ultimate victims. They have seen a hatred that is so deep we cannot fathom it; a hatred that is forever seared into their hearts and minds. They have seen the acts of hate. They will, indeed, never be the same. We pray for them, for the 450 names and faces we know personally as well as for the thousands whose names and faces we don't know. We pray that somehow the cycle of hate and killing can stop, that these children of Rwanda will not carry it on to the generations of the future.
Thank you for letting children speak out. Their words desperately needed to be heard and the grim footage you included needed to be seen. Perhaps the simple words of horror by the children will cause
the world to finally pay attention. I pray so. Please don't let this story stop here for it has not ended.
Good job! The Frontline "Valentina's Nightmare" is the kind of
reporting of the Rwandan genocide that Americans need to
see, to feel. Why doesn't the media sock the public with
this type of reporting, over and over until Americans demand
that our government recognize the genocide which occurred and
the potential for it to re-ignite in the ongoing Tutsi-Hutu
struggle which is today's Rwanda, Burundi and Zaire. The
next round can still be stopped.
Again, good job with Valentina, but what about the Hutu
refugees in Zaire and the victims in Burundi. We need to
see their faces, then they will be real and we may then
I am appalled by this and other acts of terror on innocent people around the world. America is build on people (Americans) from all over the world. I believe that we
are the strongest nation in the world and do have an obligation
to keep world peace in the rest of the world. This is a humane thing to do. I believe that the USA should be the world's police and take immediate action upon such horrific actions. Even if we do not fire a shot, our presence should calm this type of behavior. We should not stand by and watch innocent people be slaughtered and then allow photographers to go and bring back these pictures of death. It simply should not be. No wonder why so many foreigners hate us!
West Palm Beach, FL
I caught the last 30 minutes on Rwanda last night. It impacted me in two ways.
I had no concept of the strife and atrocities between the two factions (Tutsis and Hutus) based on my previous exposure to the media episodes when all this occurred. The media conveyed that there was a crisis but it was presented to me as, "just another civil war coupled with expected famine and refugee exoduses." I did not realize the genocidal environmental that prevailed or the deep seated resentment that lies there. I was ashamed that the U.N., U.S. State Department, and Clinton administration tiptoed around this crisis. The shameful truth is our government will provide more care and attention to a race riot in Miami or Los Angles than a genocide of 800,000 in Africa. An atrocity itself.
Lastly, in my rat race world of career, success, and 401k; Frontline made me step back and evaluate my life. Dear God how lucky I am I live in a free, stable, democracy with premium health care, unlimited food supplies, and free of any form of oppression. My day-to-day troubles seemed not so troubling after seeing Frontline. Excellent work. A shame "Dateline, Primetime Live, 48 hours, 20/20 or any number of tabloid TV shows" could not have dedicated an
hour (even with commercials) to present the magnitude of Rwanda. Keep up the Pulitzer prize level of work at Frontline and PBS.
Thank you for revealing to the American public the nature of the Rwandan genocide: the monumental task of bringing the refugees back to live with their neighbors, the necessity of justice for the victims and their families and the obstinate denial of the killers on trial.
I listened to NPR and the BBC all through the massacres and the exodus, so perhaps I had a better understanding of the situation. I only hope that the ignorant didn't let the horrific scale of slaughter drive them to change the channel and that they learned something from the show.
Please keep up the excellent reporting!
I began watching this program and almost turned it off, but
the plight of this child and the other who survived this
terrible massacre tore at my heart and I had to watch - I
had to be educated on what was happening in Rwanda. This
is really the first time I was ashamed to be a Canadian -
why did our Western governments not step in? Was wasn't the
the U.N. doing their job? How could we sit back and WATCH this
happen? I was even more upset when I learned the U.N. came
to the rescue of the refuge camps in Zaire when the Hutus fled
to Rwanda...they were there in days with food and relief.
How could they justify that and justify not stepping in during
the massacre? I agree with some of the other comments on this
subject - if this had happened in Western Europe or to a
wealthy country - the U.N. and the U.S.A. would of been there like
a shot. What makes the Rwandans plight "not worth the
bother". I am very saddened to see the children who are
now without families and who will grow up with hard hearts.
Why must MAN feel the need to control "races" and what right
does MAN have to decide who shall live or die because of
the color of someone's skin or the religion they choose
to have faith in. The saying never again are just words -
as governments all over the world are letting it happen
British Columbia, Canada
My wife and I were both moved and once again angered by the atrocities and injustices portrayed in "Valentina's Nightmare." We were relief workers operating a small camp for Tutsi refugees (Burigi camp) in Tanzania between Dec. of 1994 and June of 1995. The camp provided the most basic necessities, a minimum degree of security, and time to begin healing the deep physical and emotional wounds of
genocide. Unfortunately, the world community turned its back once again on the Tutsis. In spite of our persistent protests and those of the Tutsi's that had sought refuge there, UNHCR made an economic decision to close the camp so that precious resources could be diverted to support the larger Hutu camps. Our operation was shut down on June 28, 1995 forcing many Tutsi to unwillingly return
San Diego, Ca
First of all thank you so much for treating us with quality television. Your program never ceases to impress me.
I watched the Frontline called Valentina's Nightmare last night and just felt compelled to write. After feeling blind and suddenly having the blinders taken off is a remarkable and horrifying at the same time. I often wonder how much more is going on in the world that for some reason we aren't let in on.
People in America complain too much about not funding aid (of any sort) to other countries insisting that our homeless and our natural resources need to be fixed first. Well I can tell you I sure would have given my tax money to stop such genocide in Rwanda.
It sickens me to think of all the wealthy countries sitting by and ignoring such tragedy. How many must die for the U.N. to step in and say enough is enough? Perhaps if Rwanda had a natural resource the wealthier countries could have used, then maybe Valentina would have her mother to hold her at night and wipe away her
I stare into the faces of the people who stare back at me through the camera's eye. I wonder in horrified stillness at what separates these people who willingly murdered their friends and neighbors from me. Then I wonder if anything does separate us. I look within for that lurking monster that would permit me to kill with such impunity, to stop seeing the human faces of those around me and see instead only focuses of my hatred, representatives of political and power-over
machinations that have been going on probably forever. I ask myself the questions and come up with these answers. If I had a choice, would I kill? No, I don't think so. Perhaps because I am thoughtful, perhaps because I am a Jew by Choice and oddly, by adoption sort of once removed. Would I kill if I was threatened with death myself unless I participated? It gets more complicated then. My mind searches for ways in which I would escape and not have to do it, but faced with death, would I be
Be that as it may, I must then face my actual moral dilemma. Yes, I did speak out. I protested, I registered horror. Somewhat more than those around me, I spoke up about what was happening, risking a diminishment of popularity because I believe silence is complicity. I did this when the Cambodian genocide was happening, as well. But did I sometimes succumb to the desire to just live without the travail
of worry and anguish over the fate of others? Oh yes. Did I speak up to the degree of which I am capable or did I make my local noises and pursue it no farther in favor of leading my own safe, comfortable life? Yes, I did that. I am not so far in complicity as the bureaucrats who weaseled out of moral responsibility by refusing to call it what it was--flagrant genocide. And yet, I know I didn't do enough.
So I look at the faces of the wounded and grieving survivors and I am powerfully outraged and aggrieved for them. I remember my father's face when he discovered that his Dutch cousin had perished in the Holocaust. But then I look at the equally human faces of those who wielded the machetes and I see myself there, too. There but for a different culture go I, perhaps.
It has always been easy for us as humans to blame some other group for this sort of behavior. Oh, it was the Germans. Oh, it was the Cambodians. Oh, those Russians--go figure. The bitter truth from which we hide by making everyone but ourselves into the monsters is that this is not an evil exclusive to any particular type of human. This is a flaw, an intrinsic evil of which all humans are capable.
And until we face this in our own hearts, we humans are destined to relive the horror over and over again.
Your show has given me much knowledge about the affairs of the world that cannot be gleaned by watching the nightly news. I do hope you continue to offer a relatively unbiased view of the events, although I appreciate your continued leaning towards a view favoring moral justice.
The first show I fully saw was the report on the Tiananmen Square
massacre. I was moved by the eyewitness accounts and the interviews. The film footage was an absolute surprise to me. The news never showed any of this honest, graphic material. Soldiers gunning down students rushing out to help a wounded friend and so forth. The one question I had was what happened in the years following the report, and with Deng Xiaoping dead, are the students efforts to promote mainstream democracy not as quelled?
I just saw your show on the Tutsi genocide, and was outraged that
the West stood idle while the Rwandan soil soaked up the blood of
hundreds of thousands. The nearly certain postulate is the surviving Tutsi children. They seem to have a great hatred for the Hutus. The result, if such hate is not rooted out is continued bloodshed. I was curious. Have the other children without parents been given homes? Such great trauma is best if carried with the help of others than having the child bear it alone.
I feel ashamed of our government and the other Western powers for
not supplying aid earlier in the genocide. If they had done so, the
bloodshed probably would not have been as great. As free nations, it
seems we should be practicing "love thy neighbor" if we want peace. Even if our neighbor is thousands of miles away. And even if our neighbor, I dare say, is someone else's enemy.
I have always been amazed at what we as people, are capable of. The prosecutor after visiting the church where the bodies lay, two years after the massacre, said it all. He replied that he could not believe that humans could do that to another human being. The pictures were shocking and how it affected the children who
survived is evident. How could they ever be normal, when they have seen, what we only have in our worst nightmares.
The worst tragedy is the U.S.A.'s apparent complacency in allowing it to happen. The news showed the horror of the Hutu refugee camps, but were lax in showing the massacres of the Tutsis. How could our government hide and not help the Tutsis, but then show mercy to the murderers and Hutu's in the camps. I was saddened by the camp pictures and the sick and starving children, but after seeing this documentary, I feel disgust. "Following orders," the man said who admitted to the murders at the church. As in all wars, the soldiers get off by this admission, but it does not take away the obvious. They killed in bloodlust and hatred and after the fact they can say, "it was only orders," but at the moment, they glorified themselves in carnage. I would rather have died than follow those kinds of orders.
Margaretville, New York
Two things bothered me most about the slaughter in Rwanda. First was the
total aloofness of the major powers, and second, the confesser in jail. Hate,
Orders, Murder, then, Indifference to More.
It brought back memories of Vietnam and the detestful "Orders" my ship was given. To chain and transport "Vietcong Sympathisors" to Con Son Island on the USS Monmouth County LST1032 in 1968.
We only made one trip before our involvement was discovered and apparently terminated. I often wonder, how many trips would I have had to make before it became an Indifference to More.
We, as career military are taught by "Conditioning" to take an "Order". Some are very distasteful, but repetition dilutes disdain.
I bless the person for blowing the whistle on that operation. I'm hurt enough by only one trip. I think of it daily.
Thank you for fine programs.
RMCS USN (Ret)
After the numbness subsided all that was left was a profound contempt for what passes as today's media. The drivel that dribbled from America's mouthpiece regarding how these were "acts of genocide" rather than "genocide" seemed to this viewer to be another shameful page from America's PR machine. The men and women at Hill & Knowlton must have been proud. The further irony in what passes as this location's major newspaper, was a buried item mentioning how Mssrs. Brokaw and Rather are taking pot shots at
each other regarding "soft news." They missed the story at East Timor and now this. As grateful as I am for PBS having the courage to tell the tough and often censored stories, I remain deeply disturbed that today's "media" has spiraled down to "McNews"
San Rafael, CA
I watched the film on T.V. last night that you had aired out about Valentina's Nightmare. And I must say that you touched my heart. I am seventeen years old, so I'm not to much older than Valentina or the other kids that had to suffer and go through this horrible tragedy. What most makes me angry is that I knew nothing of this. No one talked about it in school or even on the news. This was a true
tragedy. I feel very sorry for all who's lost their home, family, loved one and most of all their path in life. I hope that they will remain strong and continue to believe in faith and hope. I hope that all who knows about what has happen in Rwanda will look at this as a message to all that violence and hate will not get us anywhere in life. It only takes away from those who need each other. And I think
that we all need each other.
What a heart rending story. The people of Rwanda have suffered terribly. However, how sure can we be that the facts shared in "Valentina's Nightmare" were the complete truth? How can such a passionate story be told free from bias? The Tutsi people now governing the country clearly have vengeance on their minds, albeit
justifiable vengeance. But will their coming flood of executions be less horrific than the wild abandon of the masses committing genocide?
I was disappointed that the program portrayed the Western powers, particularly the U.S., as somehow granting silent consent to the mass murder. We have learned through sad experience that we cannot correct the world's injustices. The societies of each nation must work through these problems in their own way. When ever the U. S.
has tried to impose its view of the world on other cultures it has ended in failure, accusations of imperialism from the international community, and more costly still - the lives of many of our own children.
Broken Arrow, OK
Last night's program was very difficult to watch and
yet necessary to do so. The quiet dignity with which
Valentina faced the horror of her loss haunts me. I
cannot get rid of the image of that poor child spending
a month among those corpses, too afraid to leave in case
she was killed. This is horror on a scale unimaginable
to most of us, especially in this land of plenty where
law and order prevails.
Was it the color of these people's skin that stopped us
from caring? I can remember reading about the massacres
in the news and am appalled at my own lack of reaction at
the time. Only when it is brought to the most base, human
level did the finally horror hit home.
Valentina's story and Fergal's letter to his newborn son
will stay with me for a long time. Every child deserves
the love Fergal feels for his son. I am deeply affected
by the fact that Valentina has been robbed of that kind
Palo Alto, CA
The story of the horrors in Rwanda humanized through the eyes of
Valentina and other children left to heal their unfathomable scars of
genocide reminded me what a vital role such programs and PBS has in giving a political and economic voice to the otherwise marginalized
all over the world. This program and others like it have accomplished perhaps the most difficult step in working towards political and social change: the bridging of resources, both intellectual and material, to the most vulnerable, like Valentina. PBS brings the luxury of access to structural critique and information
indiscriminately to everyone and opens doors for the oppressed in
every society to articulate their experiences and empower themselves to action, whether in healing the wounds of Tutsi survivors in Rwanda or fighting for the human rights of minorities in urban America. You fulfill perhaps an even more vital need in touching the privileged in mainstream America with such issues since that is where much collective power is concentrated and so is often the springboard of social change.
Brooklyn, New York
Once again, PBS has proven that it is the only source of real information that matters. I want to thank Frontline for the enlightening story on the 1994 genocide in Rwanda as we are in the middle of another anniversary. The story gives a human face to the tragedy. On the other hand it exposes the real faces of the monsters.
Those who says that the genocide never happened, how do they explain their position now? The international community can no longer ignore their responsibility in the events. I hope they understand the importance of trying those who are responsible.
The parallels were drawn between Genocide of Jews and that of Rwandese Tutsi. Isn't it the West still pursuing Nazis? Why not help Rwanda heal by advocating justice?
Iowa City, Iowa
So often news reports and newspaper headlines serve to mute our response to human tragedy by failing to name the victims. By telling the story of individuals such as Valentina, Frontline helped convey the full horror of genocide in a way which can never be done by headlines or statistics.
But now the human story has in part been told, we need to hear in much greater detail the political story about how America and Europe turned its back on the Tutsis. Were the politicians simply unwilling to expend political capital on a cause from which they had little to profit? Or must the guilt be shared by politicians, public and media alike?
Corte Madera, California
It is programs such as these that restore my belief in the media....the public media.
I was in Arusha, Tanzania in August 1993 when the Rwandan peace talks started and I remember a group of us non-profit workers (there for another conference) going out to the Mount Meru hotel where most of the delegates were resident and hugging and
kissing complete strangers. Such was the joy and relief that a long-standing dispute was finally being put to a close by this group of people sitting around and talking. Oh, how naive we were! How hopeful!
In April 1994, my family and I were living in Kenya (We have only recently moved here to the U.S.) and I will never forget the anguish and hopelessness, that washed over everyone in the region when the genocide began and continued unabated for the next three months as the West and our own African governments twiddled their thumbs and argued about semantics! Even as I watched the documentary last night I couldn't help the anger that overwhelmed me once again. What is the value of a human life? We may chose to apportion blame to the U.N. and Boutros-Ghali or the U.S. and other Western governments: But what about the media? Where were the primetime reports that could have pushed for a decision in time to save the lives of Valentina's family? The old sliding scale that unfortunately prescribes more value to the deaths of three Englishmen drowning in the Thames, than to those of 19 Pakistani rolling down a hillside in a dilapidated bus, held, oh so true, in these circumstances. We may chose to blame our government
Somehow, I suspect this has not taught the commercial media a thing, that another Rwanda will come along in the future and we will miss out on a chance to save lives because viewers are better served with fluff and "Melrose Place" than on substantive issues that affect our very existence. PBS keep up the great work you are doing.
This was a breathtaking piece. Excellent journalism. As a high school teacher, your program has provided me with the supplemental material I needed to show my students that genocide is alive and doing well in our present times, that studying the Holocaust is a necessary element in our curriculum, and that genocide is a human issue, one that spans all races and shade of skin color. Thank you for your programming, and I guess it's time for me to send in my contribution to my PBS station, even though I'm totally broke!!!
Your brilliant documentary on the horrific events in Rwanda of 1994 raises very disturbing questions about the viability of organizations such as the U.N. and their capacity to effectively respond to crises of that sort. I fear that the attitude conveyed in the report you gave perpetuated the notion that the U.N. can prevent or at least stop such tragic events if the wealthy nations of the "West" only had the will to have it do so. I do not believe this to be the case and think events in countries much closer to "home" (e.g., Bosnia, Albania, Israel/Palestine, etc.) demonstrate this. How can the (leaders of the) United States spend a million dollars a day futilly trying to demonstrate moral leadership by making a have hearted gesture to "save" the beleaguered Tutsi minority of Rwanda when it isn't even willing to put an end to its own domestic crime and advancing
poverty? (The scene with Tipper Gore rang incredibly false! I noticed her sterile gloves...). I'm dismayed at what transpired in Rwanda, but not surprised at the developed world's callous indifference to it. It's a pity a few multi-national corporations
didn't have a profit margin at stake in the preservation of the status quo there. Perhaps then such a catastrophe might have been averted.
Ft. Collins, CO
My schedule does not allow much TV-watching time so it was by chance that I tuned in to see the PBS documentary, "Valentina's Nightmare." Thank you for shedding light on this forgotten subject.
I still cannot erase from my mind the scenes of human beings struck down so horribly and then left to rot without a shred of dignity. Your program brought home the unsettling realization that we all have the capacity to inflict all kinds of suffering upon our fellow man.
The greatest irony was in seeing the imprisoned Hutu murder suspects singing gospel songs and holding up bibles, yet never showing any hint of regret or remorse. What kind of world do we live in?
I would be interested in knowing if there will be a follow-up documentary on Valetina?
Thanks for airing this program. It is difficult to get accurate, up-to-date information on the tribunal and the outcomes of the crisis. I appreciate your willingness to air Valentina's Nightmare.
I have read Gerard Prunier's book on the History of the Genocide and found it most insightful. I spent a month in Rwanda this summer and found that it was certainly one of the most beautiful places on earth. I can see why they call that area of Africa the cradle of civilization.
I continue to keep those I know in Rwanda in my prayers and hope that the country will be able to deal with the repercussions of genocide with support from the outside world.
The program on Valentina does not deal with the root causes of the Rwandan crisis, namely the invasion of Rwanda on October 1990 from Uganda by a branch of the Ugandan army. The Hutu majority was targeted by the Tutsi-dominated troops that were not interested in sharing power with the Rwandan government but in restoring Tutsi control of that country. A million people were displaced, many thousands died. The slaughter that began in April 1994 followed on the assassination of the two Hutu presidents of Rwanda and Burundi. All indications are that the assassination was ordered by the Tutsi-dominated RPF, now in power. YourpProgram fails to deal with the worst problems, namely the continuing massacre of Hutu refugees in Zaire by Tutsi-led troops, trained, armed and accompanied by troops
from Rwanda and Uganda. I can not help thinking that the airing of "Valentina" is just a way to justify current British, American AND Canadian policy in Rwanda. It is hoped that the results of this policy will not be as disastrous
I was shocked to learn the details of the genocide in Rwanda. It seems that similar use of dehumanizing propaganda (comparing the Tutsies to rats that must me exterminated) wasn't enough for the world to recall "The Eternal Jew" and other such horrifying tactics employed by Hitler's Germany. Things truly have not changed very much.
The Clinton administration and the U.N. have, in all likelihood, taught the Hutu refugees and the world a warped lesson by offering only "post-genocidal" relief. It is as much our duty to police these events if we are to make any strides against this dark side of human nature. Ignoring genocide through lack of action or education paints a dark future for all societies.
Thanks very much for the special. Once again, it seems only PBS has offered meaningful documentation of a significant world event.
Forrest H. Senterfeit
German M.A. student
Univ. of CO - Boulder
Thank you for explaining to your viewers what really happened in Rwanda. Up until now, I had not fully understood the tragic events that took place in that part of the world. As has happened many times before with important stories, the major media reported this story in bits and pieces intended more for shock value than for the purpose of informing their viewers. You are to be commended for the work you did in providing the viewing public with the whole story.
As a citizen of the United States and as a human being, I feel deep shame and sadness when I reflect on the fact that the leaders of my country and the international community chose to play games of semantics while innocent men, women and children
were being butchered. It is particularly troubling in light of the fact that we not only had the means, but indeed the legal obligation to provide assistance in accordance with international law.
We spent millions of dollars to protect a monarchy in Kuwait and had the gall to say that we were fighting for freedom. But we know that oil was the main reason we went to war. Perhaps the moral to be gained from all this is that if you want help from the powerful, make sure you can offer something in return. Don't assume that your fellow man will come to your rescue simply on the basis of a just and moral cause.
Juan F. Naranjo
I was fascinated and horrified at the story last evening @ Rwanda's great misfortune. For years I've heard bits and pieces of the story through NPR and other outlets but have not yet felt the whole truth. What struck me with this program was there focus on the U.S. to "fix" the situation before the genocide attempt. It occurs to me that the departing Belgian populace could/should have expected the peasant population to rise up against their Tutsis overseers once they
left the country. Why, then did the program focus on American reaction? Why didn't the hard pressing journalist not put the Belgian Govt. to the question? I've been watching the U.N. and U.S. efforts to "bring peace" under several circumstances for the last several years and frankly, I just don't think we have the wisdom necessary to go in and make order out of chaos.
What's happened in Rwanda is tragic. What will go on to happen will no doubt be even uglier. From my perspective, a minority who was used to oppress a majority is once again in power and the hate and rage will not end here.
I'm sorry the children are paying, that the culture is paying, but I am not surprised that the journalist laid responsibility on the shoulders of distant governments. It's the easiest part of this story.
Silver Spring, MD
Thank you for a powerful and moving program, Valentina's Nightmare. My heart goes out to the people of Rwanda. I am especially concerned about the environmental destruction associated with the refugee crisis. Some of the consequences of political turmoil include destruction of habitat in eastern Zaire needed by the endangered Mountain Gorilla in Virunga National Park. Unless developed countries such as the U.S. follow the Hutu-Tutsi strife with a full commitment to address the long-term consequences of this war, the people of these tropical African countries will be further impoverished by loss of irreplaceable species that are part of their cultural identity and future economy. Frontline brought the human side of the conflict to us compellingly. Please go further still and show us the ways in which we can help protect both the people and their natural heritage.
Alison C. Dibble, Ph.D.
Rwanda's ongoing tragedy is a classic study of how Megalomanical monsters can polarize a society to the point where genocide seems normal.
Given Rwanda's history, they would have needed one of those rare charismatic and righteous leaders such as Ghandi, King, or Tutu for the two cultures to have paused and asked themselves what they're doing. Unfortunately such leaders are indeed rare.
Lacking someone of that stature to support in the midst of a civil war, an outsider such as the United States could not hope to broker a peace between the two sides. The best one could hope for is a military standoff of some kind where neither side has much advantage over the other. Then a diplomat could attempt something like what the Dayton Accords did for Bosnia.
Neither has happened in Rwanda. That's what is so frightening about the situation. I disagree with those who feel that the US should have stepped in militarily. No local leaders of the stature and moral fiber worth backing have come forward. Without this kind of political light at the end of the tunnel, the United States would be committing forces to a very open ended operation. Further, once pulling
troops out of such a situation, the killing would begin anew.
The trials are a start. But the Rwandans will have to heal themselves on a case by case basis. It will be a long journey. I pray that the process will accelerate after the leaders of this horrible nightmare have been convicted. Along the way, I hope people of both sides step forward and find ways of healing the wounds. This is something only they can do.
In my first time watching FRONTLINE, I was just blown away. The subject matter was heavy, and the presentation intense. I came away mad at the U.N., disgusted by the hatred and genocide, and amazed at FRONTLINE's presentation. The format is incredible, the objectivity is a breath of fresh air. Thank you for the education and the information, I am heavy with sadness, and full of anger, but glad to be aware.
Though not to excuse the "Hutus" responsibility for the slaughter of hundreds of thousands, I found your treatment (as I find most portrayals of events in "Africa") of the conflict in Rwanda lacking. We tend to show ourselves - that is, we North Americans and Europeans -- in the shouldering our "white man's burden" of bringing
"relief" and "justice" to such "uncivilized" places. What is our responsibility in these events? Surely it is greater than merely turning a blind eye, as you mentioned the U.N. did. Perhaps, as we did in Biafra, we created the diplomatic and political circumstances necessary to facilitate such a tragedy; not mention the weapons we provided.
Remember: the notion of a monolithic "Africa" is a Western conception.
My students and I viewed the terrible truths of Valentina's
life today in my civilization courses here at Bentonville
High School. We set up the video then also lined up the
PBS web site so that at significant moments in the video we
could stop and turn to the Web to learn more or to show my
kids the different directions their own private studies might when next we go to the Net lab. I am so impressed with this combination of Video, Web, and in class discussion. Thanks PBS for making it happen and thanks Valentina for the valor to share these heart breaking memories.
Bentonville High School
Your April 1 presentation of Valentina's Story was both sobering and
disturbing. I was left with the question "What now?" The only answer offered in your documentary was to continue the taking of life. Execution of those who indiscriminately butchered their neighbors will not serve to help those poor children or prevent this from happening again. The irrational nature of ethnic cleansing does not lend itself to rational attempts at punishment or prevention.
You effectively portrayed a shocking human dilemma and left your
audience with a world of unanswered questions. At first I thought you had shirked your responsibility by leaving the story as you did. After further thought I came to the realization my selfish requirement for understanding is shameful based upon the subject matter.
I will never forget the look in those young girls' eyes or the sound of
I was very impressed with this program. For the first time I began to understand the recent turmoil in Rwanda. The facts were presented simply and logically. I wish I had seen this program years ago. The narrative was straightforward and moving. As an American Jew, I was struck with the similarity of this
politically inspired massacre to the programs my grandparents experienced in Russia, where a peasant population was whipped up by the Czarist government to kill Jews in their beds.
Keep up the excellent work!
Watching footage of systematic, large-scale murder is exquisite torture. Watching the squirming of a State Department press officer was also tough, but I couldn't agree that there was any point to this element of your story. What would armed U.S. Marines have done in this situation? The killing was country-wide with neighbor killing
next-door neighbor. Would Marines have lived in every village like armed Peace Corps volunteers? For how long? Following the implication that we must intervene militarily in these cases, how shall we do it in Zaire? I am deeply proud of our successful interventions in Bosnia and in Kuwait, but Rwanda? I am certain this
would have failed.