Gerald Caplan sits in the office of his Toronto home these snowy days and thinks about the low green hills of Rwanda. The 10th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, one of the bloodiest crimes in modern history, will soon be here, and Mr. Caplan is determined that this tragic milestone will not go unmarked.
Mr. Caplan is a consultant on development and economic issues who has worked in and on Africa for years. In a 1999 report, Rwanda: the Preventable Genocide, that he wrote for the Organization of African Unity's investigation into the killings, he noted the lack of international attention paid to Rwanda.
"There was no [media]reference to the seventh anniversary, no reference to the eighth anniversary. You can't go 48 hours without hearing some news related to the Holocaust -- I profoundly approve of that -- but you can go a lifetime and not hear about Rwanda," Mr. Caplan, 65, said in an interview.
"It's scandalous. It's a second betrayal."
The first, he believes, was the failure of the United Nations, the United States or the rest of the West to intervene as at least 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were hacked to death by Hutu mobs between April and July of 1994.
Mr. Caplan's wife suggested that with the 10th anniversary looming, he should try to organize "something memorable." An informal movement known as Remembering Rwanda was born.
He describes it as "a network, a movement, a cause," one with tentacles spread across the globe, although its formal structure consists only of Mr. Caplan and two friends: Carole Ann Reed, director of the Toronto Holocaust Centre, and Louise Mushikiwabo, a Washington-based Rwandan human-rights activist who lost much of her family and many friends in the genocide.
"The hope," said Mr. Caplan, "is simply that if you remember, it will be harder for it to happen again."
The group worked with Ibuka, the worldwide network of survivors of the genocide, and with the Rwandan government, and created a steering committee that includes Stephen Lewis, the UN Secretary-General's special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, and Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire, the Canadian commander of the UN force in Rwanda during the country's genocide.
Today the 57-year-old former general is to begin testifying at an international tribunal on Rwanda. He is to bear witness against four former Rwandan army officers alleged to have masterminded the 100-day slaughter, said Roland Amoussouga, a spokesman for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania.
Several months before the killings began, Gen. Dallaire warned the UN about the escalating hostilities and wanted to raid a Hutu militia arms cache, but was overruled by UN headquarters in New York. The general, who took early retirement in April, 2000, because of post-traumatic stress disorder, will join Mr. Caplan in Kigali on April 7 to mark the day the genocide began. It will be his first return to the country.
Although Remembering Rwanda has no funding, the group has lined up memorial events around the world: an official day of commemoration in Ethiopia, a congressional hearing in Washington; theatrical performances across the United States about women raped in the genocide, documentary screenings in Europe, and vigils in Halifax, Montreal and Vancouver, where some of the names of the thousands of dead will be read.
Mr. Caplan hopes the events will generate the political will -- and the funds -- for a serious effort to piece together the events of the genocide, as has been done with considerable success in Cambodia.
"Rwandans themselves and their supporters have no such critical mass, no such resources," he said. He has visited the existing Rwandan effort: three staffers and a couple of secretaries in a small office in the basement of a sports stadium in Kigali. "It's one of the saddest things I've ever seen," he added.
Ms. Mushikiwabo, in Washington, is hoping for a political response.
"For many Rwandans, it would be comforting to think that the millions of Rwandans who died brought some change in policy: There must be a policy on early response so that events like those in Rwanda do not become a genocide," she said.
"And we need to draw attention to the fact that the reconstruction of Rwanda is an ongoing process -- that even 10 years later, Rwanda still needs help."Report Typo/Error