I have been doing a lot of writing of late. Every day, I log into JokeZoom and do their brainstorming tool. I write every day.
A few weeks ago, I started a consulting job with No Business with Genocide and the International Campaign for the Rohingya. I have also been doing everything I can to raise awareness of what has happened to Paul Rusesabagina. The west has to do more to help him.
And then this feel more like a confessional than a blog but whatever. In 2001, I took a job at the United Nations. I was in the UN Information Centre in Washington, DC. Many people pronounce that work “UNIC” but that sounds a little too close to eunuch and that doesn’t seem like the right word for that agency.
My job was to promote the work the UN did to American media. This office was part of the office of the Secretary-General. I had access to a host of reports from all over the world. Some of the most upsetting came from Africa. The Congo was a site of a lot of horrors then.
Let’s go back a bit. In 1992-1994, I was obsessed with Bosnia. When I lived in France (1991-1992) I read a lot about Bosnia. I moved to Washington, DC in 1992 and apparently I talked about Bosnia so much that my friends got mad at me. One said, “You have to stop talking about that. They call this “happy hour” not “sad hour.” Ok, then.
My dance card for atrocities was full when I read about Rwanda. I knew something was happening there. Something bad but I was overwhelmed by Bosnia. I am not going to lie. I have to wonder if that was some inherent racism inside me. That I cared more about Europeans being slaughtered rather than the Africans.
So, there I was sitting at my desk, reading about families jumping into crocodile-infested waters to escape rebels, finding the UN offices and compounds were surrounded by desperate people and the UN could do nothing and hearing tales of faxes received during the 1994 genocide that were allowed to fall behind furniture to avoid dealing with their contents… well, the guilt I felt was overwhelming. I cared so much about Bosnia but never lifted a finger for Rwanda.
Later, Kofi Annan, (SG when I was there but head of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) in 1994) said his actions or inactions during the genocide were his worst failures. I think he was a great man but he is right. When I watch Hotel Rwanda, Didi Myers words about “acts of genocide” in Rwanda haunt me. I also like Bill Clinton but he failed here. Moreover, Anan and Clinton’s failures in 1994 led to their quick embrace of Paul Kagame.
I used to say that the war in Rwanda in 1994 didn’t really end in 1994, it just moved next door. Nevermind that the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) and is leader Kagame, was a major force in Congo. I still wanted to think Kagame was the hero of the 1994 story.
Nevertheless, I also thought the world needed to pay better attention to the situation in Congo. I can admit this now, I would have gotten in trouble back then. I sent out press releases about what was happening in Congo relentlessly. Finally, a reporter in Denver said she would write something if I stopped sending them.
Today, as I sit in an idyllic place and I am still writing about Rwanda. While I am in Stony Book, Paul Rusesabagina sits in a jail in Rwanda where is has been charged with a myriad of serious crimes, including terrorism. Paul is a U.S. resident and Belgian citizen. He never should have been brought to Rwanda where he has been denied medication, access to his lawyers and t the documents he needs to work out his defense.
If you have read this far, please go a step further with me and read, sign and share this petition. Oh, and if you want to Tweet @DonCheadle to see why he is so quiet about this, that would be awesome. I ask only as me, not as the rep of any organization. The anger at him is all mine.