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Alice Musabende
Alice Musabende

Alice Musabende

Why Libya but not Rwanda? Add to ...

After surviving the Rwandan genocide at the age of 14 and losing a family and everyone I loved, I realize that, if we want to understand the world in which we live, we must understand everyone's uniqueness and respect their pain. Over the years, I've learned we should never compare the sufferings of people.

So I'm deeply saddened and concerned about what's happening to the Libyan people because of a bloody regime led by Moammar Gadhafi. I also agree that the world had to intervene in Libya, to stop the killings of civilians, even though this isn't the kind of intervention I thought would be effective.

I must confess that, for a brief moment, I felt a little jealous of the Libyan people. Shocking? I felt this intervention was unfair because it made all the other wars and genocides in Africa - and elsewhere where despots decide the fate of everyone - seem so, well, little.

I hate to make this comparison, but it took only a few weeks and several emergency meetings at the United Nations for some of the world's most powerful countries to decide to deploy their might on the African continent, to save civilians. It took the world three months to even recognize that genocide was happening in Rwanda, never mind that military intervention seemed to be necessary.

And no, I'm not a bitter person. I'm just not happy with the international community's hypocrisy. Even Canada, now my home and the place where I came to find peace, seems to have lost its legendary care about the world's most unfortunate.

So let me ask this: What made the Libyan people's blood more important than that of the Congolese women who are raped and killed every day in numbers we can't even start to imagine?

What made the Libyan intervention a priority of the UN and the U.S., France and Canada, way ahead of Ivory Coast, a war-torn nation that's descended into chaos since November's presidential election? What made the world suddenly intervene in Libya, a country not far from Sudan, where another genocidal despot became the first sitting head of state to be indicted for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court?

It's been said many times that the Libyan intervention happened because powerful countries wanted to avoid another Rwanda. I find this explanation too simplistic, and it creates too much unnecessary drama when the world uses my tragedy to justify strategic international interventions.

I know very well that it's not up to the West to solve Africa's problems. I also know that the international community can't be everywhere at the same time. But, again, why Libya?

Maybe if the world could explain why Libya and not Congo or Darfur or Zimbabwe, it would help me understand why not Rwanda in 1994. Although it's been 17 years since that bloody April when Rwandan Hutus slaughtered Tutsis and moderate Hutus, it's still a vivid memory in the minds and souls of the Rwandan genocide survivors.

As Rwandans across Canada mark the genocide's anniversary, I can't help but realize that my own commemoration will be unusually sour. If protecting the afflicted is a value of the civilized world, why don't we give as much weight to the pain of all who are oppressed?

Why do I feel that the much acclaimed "responsibility to protect" is only applicable to those whose resources are in the interests of the West? Today, more than ever, I'm hoping that an answer to this question will help my search for a way to understand the Rwandan genocide.

Alice Musabende is a journalist and producer based in Ottawa.

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