Stephanie Young, 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor this evening to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide. Below are his remarks and a link to the video:
Click here to watch the video.
“Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Never again. We intone those words: never again. We intone those words because we have seen horror and felt guilt that it happened on our watch. And so we say never again.
“Mr. Speaker, I had the honor of chairing the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe. That commission was formed as a result of the signing of the Helsinki Final Act in 1975 by President Gerald Ford and leaders of 34 other European nations, including the Soviet Union, including West Germany, including East Germany. Never again. The... Holocaust that cost the lives of millions and millions and millions and millions more. Not only the Holocaust, where six million Jews were taken from us, taken from their family, taken from their countries, taken from life, but millions more in Russia, Ukraine, and literally scores of other venues murdered. Murdered not because of their engagement in war, not because of their engagement in crime, but because of who they were. What religion they had. What ethnic background they claimed. Murdered. Murdered because of what they were. And the murderers did not like what they were. Not their character, not their intellect, not their conduct. But who they were.
“So here we are, twenty years later, having watched as genocide was again perpetrated in Rwanda. The genocide in Rwanda, the 20th anniversary of which we mark this week, provided Americans with one of our most painful examples of our failure to act. But not Americans alone, Mr. Speaker – the entire civilized world waited, watched, lamented, but did not stop the genocide. America and much of the world waited far too long to become involved in Rwanda, and, even then, international peacekeepers were not given a mandate for the resources to stop the killing.
“I'm sure many of us, Mr. Speaker, saw the movie ‘Hotel Rwanda.’ Nick Nolte played the blue-helmeted colonel who was in charge of the UN unit. When carnage was occurring and the colonel that Nolte was playing was watching, someone asked, ‘why aren't you doing something?’ And his response was, ‘because that is not our mandate – it is to report.’ I will say in a minute that thousands of lives were saved by the blue helmets and by others, but the UN mandate was not to stop it but to report it.
“President Clinton has expressed regret that the United States did not act in time to save lives, saying last year, and I quote: ‘if we'd gone in sooner, I believe we could have saved at least a third of the lives that were lost.’
“Now the figure of 800,000 is being used, but that's an estimate. As little, perhaps, as half a million and as many as a million plus. It's estimated that more than a million men, women, and children were killed in the span – as Reverend Cleaver, Congressman Cleaver, my friend, Emanuel Cleaver, said – a million in 100 days. Ten thousand victims every day. Seven people shot or hacked to death with machetes every minute. Every minute. And the world watched and wrung its hands and said how wrong that was. And the machetes kept hacking.
“More than just killing, the Rwanda genocide left hundreds of thousands of people infected with HIV as a result of another implement of war that those who perpetrate genocide have used – rape. A crime not of sexual desire, but of violence, of injury, of hate. Widows of murdered men were infected and, in many cases, left to bear the children of their rapists – children, of course, who were infected too. The violence left 400,000 orphans – small children who then had to learn at a young age how to care for their younger siblings on their own.
“Mr. Speaker, the Rwandan genocide provided the world with yet another lesson in our shared responsibility, not just to say the words ‘never again,’ but to mean them. Mr. Speaker, we are our brother's keeper, and our brother needs our vigilance and our help, as we need his. And we are our sister's keeper, just as well.
“Just as genocide displayed humanity’s darkest side, it also provided us with proof of human courage and defiance in the face of evil. From the outnumbered UN peacekeepers who saved lives wherever they could – and that ability was far too limited – to the individual Rwandans who risked death and rape to protect their neighbors, we acknowledge those few moments of moral clarity in the midst of great evil.
“I said that I was the Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe. 250,000 Bosnians lost their lives in a genocide perpetrated by Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic. We finally acted in that case and saved literally hundreds of thousands more, deposed Milosevic, and put him in the dock for war crimes in the Hague. But not before 8,000 souls in Bosnia were gunned down and murdered and in Srebrenica. UN troops failed to stop that – again, insufficient resources.
“So, Mr. Speaker, as we mark this 20th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda, I join my colleagues in mourning those who were killed and in recognizing the many changes Rwanda has undergone over the past two decades. We all wish Rwanda continued success in its efforts to take from the ashes a successful society, to protect the safety and freedom of its people. I hope Americans across the country will take some time this week to reflect not only on the Rwandan genocide but all genocides, to remember its horrors and to promise never to let our nation sit idly by as a genocide takes place.
“Mr. Speaker, it's a complicated conclusion, too long, too often delayed. I want to thank my colleagues for joining me to recognize this solemn anniversary. I want to thank in particular my dear friend, Emanuel Cleaver, who preaches to his flock, who preaches to his constituents, and, yes, who preaches to all of us, to look to the better nature of our souls, to reach out, to lift up, to protect, to give solace, to give sympathy, to give empathy, to give understanding. And to be our brother's keeper.”