photo of skullsGhosts of Rwanda
join the discussion - Does the phrase never again have more meaning today than it did ten years ago? If another Rwanda were to happen, do you think the world would respond differently this time?


Frontline is outstanding television. Is there a connection between Rwanda and 911? I believe so. About the U.S. debacle in Somalia,it has been reported that Bin Laden said that the US was weak and lacked resolve. A few casualties and America would cut-and-run. U.S. "understanding" of Belgium's pullout following the murder of ten of its soldiers and America's non-intervention in Rwanda underscored this apparent weakness of will. It is interesting to note that Richard Clarke was instrumental in both of those decisions.

Joe Mac
Phoenix, AZ


I remember being sickened by the images of machete wielding thugs ten years ago and watching this film was like tearing the scab off of a very old wound.

I think this film should be required viewing by all who argued last year that the US should let the UN handle the situation in Iraq. They would still be passing resolutions today while people are being fed into plastic shredders and Iraqi middle school girls are being raped by Saddam's two sick sons.

The UN utterly failed those poor people in Rwanda. From the Belgian troops assigned to protect the prime minister, who had no orders to fire and handed over their weapons to the rebels, allowing the PM to be butchered while her children were in the other room to the UN bureaucrats who fiddled and refused to utter the word "genocide" the Rwanda situation was a textbook lesson in the impotence of the UN.

Required Viewing Definitely!

Bob Diethrich
Rosenberg, TX


First of all, thank you for this documentary.

As a Belgian expat, it's hard not to feel concerned and also guilty about the role that my country had in what happened in Rwanda. In the old time of colonization, Belgium played the old rule of "divide to reign" and played on that antagonism between Tustis and Hutus. I will not tell about how the government cowardly decided to withdraw its troops after the paracommandos murders... Here we were, crying for 10 soldiers when hundreds of thousands could have lived if the Belgian peace-keepers had stayed.

I am re-reading the conclusion of the 1997 parliamentary commission of the Belgian Senate about Rwanda and I am still amazed at the lukewarm will of taking a share of the responsibility. The United Nations took most of the blame in the conclusion. Nevertheless... it is hard for me to see American officials bickering about qualifying the rwandan massacre as a genocide or seeing President Clinton saying that he did not assess the extent of what happened before it was too late. Images of mutilated corpses were shown everyday on TV for weeks. I remember seeing them. I remember the first reports of 100,000 victim after a week... I remeber this woman screaming at a convoy of Westerners who were evacuated, begging soldiers to take them in their trucks, I remember journalist reports saying that rivers were filled with bodies and how it was unsafe to drink and I remember the images.

So... I am amazed at officials making up those kind of excuses. Rwanda had the misfortune of being a small, out-the-way country with no interest... That should be a lesson.

The only thing that comes to my mind are the final words of Marlon Brando in "Apocalypse Now": "The horror, the horror!".

Mlissa Monaco
Colombus, MT


The assertion by Bill Clinton that this was somehow the fault of the "other party" is one of the most disgusting of him many lies.

To say we did not know is a lie for the entire US government. I was living in Southern China at the time and my lone access to news was the BBC. They told it pretty well, there was no doubt. I was writing to my congressmen urging action. All that mattered at the time it seemed was there were not nasty picture to interrupt the slumber of America's interest in the outside world.

The sad fact of the matter is, there is a time for force to be used, and this was one of them. Of all the blunders of the Clinton administration, this was the worst and history will be the judge of this ineptitude. Being a superpower has it benefits, and responsibilities.

The UN Genocide convention should have been used by the cowardly Security Council to do something. The world was negligent in this genocide. Yet again we hear never again.

Larry Clark
Delaware, Ohio


By the end of the documentary the tears were flowing and I couldn't get to sleep. I am angry with the UN, the US Congress, President Clinton, Amnesty International, the Red Cross and all outside of Rwanda.

The balance of the shame and anger, I have delegated to myself. This happened in my lifetime, not a book of history. Why didn't I do anything, this will haunt me for years to come. I should have been on the phone calling everyone.

I need no longer look for my personal hero for I have found him in Capt. Mbaye Diagne. I printed out his picture and it will be with me always. Why wasn't he nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize?

Gabrielle Pfrommer
Boston, MA


Your recent documentary on the genocide in Rwanda is probably the most compelling appeal to individual practice of humanism, courage, and resistance to evil. The film is also an extraordinarily disturbing unmasking of the sordid, corrupt politics so-called democracies engage in.

At Evian, sixty years ago, the politicians of Western countries agreed that it would NOT be in their interest to open their doors to the Jews who were persecuted and mass-murdered in Nazi-occupied Europe and thus became complicitous in the genocide against 6 million Jews! It was blatant Anti-Semitism, a form of pervasive racism that governed this outrageous, repugnant decision.

In 1994, politicians (of the US and other countries) decided that African lives were really not worth their efforts or their investment.

I regularly teach a freshman seminar (at Rice) entitled: "Between Resistance and Collaboration: Individual Responses to National Socialism." Next time I offer the course, I will start it with the PBS show "Ghosts of Rwanda."

Maria-Regina Kecht
Houston, Texas


Thanks for producing a such pertinent and deep program on Rwanda history.

At the time of the genocide, I was a student at the Panafrican Institue of Development in Cameroon with some Rwandans and Burudians classmates. My classroom was divided between Hutu and Tutsi, there was a strong tension and we have learn enough.

"Never again" doesn't have more meaning today,because of the bureaucraty of International organizations and the interests of the rich countries. That means another Rwanda may happen with the same results.

I just want to remind African countries, their Leaders, and Panafrican organizations that: "There is no dignity for those who wait to receive everything from others". They must be aware to prevent the conflicts and find the solutions of their problems without any hope of help from rich' countries.

Philadelphia, Pensylvania


I have been following the comments posted on this site, and I must say that I feel ashamed as an American that we did nothing. But maybe that was for the best. I remember when I was a young man in the service eastern Nigeria had broken off to form that state of Biafra. The people were starved into submission.

Our occupation of Iraq may yet end in a disaster. We are trying to get a successor government ready to take over for our Coalition forces, but we may have to return to stop a massacre between religious factions (and/or ethnic groups).

The tensions between groups that lead to these "ethnic cleansing" surges might only be able to be calmed after the upwellings of hatred that we see occasionally.

Larry Farren


I watched this documentary last night and am still speechless, it is so hard to put into words all the emotions it evoked: compassion, anger, broken heart, shame, to name a few.

I thought it was especially beautiful that Philippe Gaillard upon returning home with his wife, with whom he had decided not to have any children, felt that after witnessing so much death, the best thing to do was to create life, and so they had a son. How poignant and what a beautiful message of hope for the world!

To answer the question on whether it will happen again, absolutely it will...unless... the world is seriously educated on the matter. Shows like this need to be advertised widely and shown around the world. Please tell me you will show it again or at least make the video available even to non-teachers. There are so many people I want to show it to, beginning with my teenage children. The people need to be educated, so they in turn can demand the change in politicians and governments.

Thank you for educating me.

Nikki Combs
Grandview, MO


I cant recall ever seeing such a film that left me numb. The US and the rest of the international community did nothing; however, Im sure most Americans probably would have disapproved over a decision made to have our troops, loved ones, etc.,march into such a dilemma. I mean, it just goes back to what one of the interviewees said "interest.."

I look at the brave and humanitarian efforts of people like General R. Dalliare, Captain Mbaye Diagne, Phillip Gaillard and Carl Wilkens and wishGod,I wishI could be more like them.

Jeri Lightfoot
Chicago, Illinois


Dealing with the evil in the world takes real leadership. The majority of the world, people will naturally dither and wring their hands and talk about what to do patting themselves mentally on the back for at least considering doing something but in the end doing nothing. This is the path followed in history.

Only when an individual or a few individuals with the bully pulpit of leadership step forward and focus the dithering and talk and make hard decisions is anything done about evil. Roosevelt and Churchill did this overcoming the dithering and leading the people to war (not something that was winning in the polls. George Bush is willing to deal with evil even if you don't agree with his methods. Clinton, Albright and Annin were not. Clinton is gone and will be remembered for his pathetic explanations on Rwanda. The UN is a dead institution with dithering membership and do nothings. The US should lead the building of an organization that is willing to act.

Rwanda should of started us on the path of never again. 9/11 gave us focus...lets make sure the 21st century is one of action against evil, not dithering.

Deborah Hammond
Ridgewood, NJ


At the time of the Genocide, I was in Gitarama, Gitwe, a few hours away from Kigali. I never had the opportunity to thank those heroes who stayed behind, and looked on us as people not just faceless or nameless creatures.

So, I would like to take this opportunity to thank General Romeo Dallaire, Gregory Alex, Phillip Gaillard, Carl Wilkens and other humanitarian workers who were in Rwanda during the genocide. It showed the rest of the world that there is still goodness in people while the rest of the world turned their backs on us and just completely ignored us and left us to die.

A lot of Rwandans would be forever grateful for your kindness and braveness.

Thank you

Claudette Umurerwa M
Gobles, Michigan


Thank you for this moving and thought-provoking documentary. It makes me feel my contributions to PBS are worthwhile.

I believe it is time to give the U.N. police power. As Americans we inherently fear distant central authority, but how else can the U.N. be empowered to act in these circumstances? The U.N. has to rely on troops provided by various nations that make up the membership. Imagine a police department that had to wait until various neighborhoods could muster and send officers before it could respond to a 911 call! The U.N. should have a standing military/police force of its own--volunteers enlisted from all of the member countries.

Tim Shates
Ojai, CA


Last night my wife and I watched Ghosts of Rwanda. I must say it was the single most powerful television program I have ever watched. Talk about Reality TV! I wanted to write to communicate my reaction and to ask a question.

MY REACTION: I found the behavior of the United Nations despicable, and was shocked at the role the US Government played in this horrific event. I am troubled by my own lack of knowledge concerning what happened during this shameful time in human history.

QUESTION: Can this documentary be sent to each member of the United Nations Security Council on behalf of the citizens of the world?

Howard Dion
Philadelphia, PA


Although the UN and the goverments must share the blame in the genocide of Rwanda; moreover: where was the media during this time. What tabloid news kept the news media from making the genocide news. Why did the editors ignore or did not devote enough time on the genocide? Was the genocide not important enough to waste valueable time, space and newprint. Again, WHAT TABLOID NEWS WAS DEEMED MORE IMPORTANT THEN THIS CRISIS. Where were all the reporters in Rwanda?

Kevin Adler
Costa Mesa, CA

FRONTLINE's editors respond:

FRONTLINE's interview with Samantha Power also touches on the question of "where was the media?" Her interview is in the "INTERVIEWS" section of this site.


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posted april 1, 2004

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