From the Archives: The Rwandan Genocide, 20 Years Later

Twenty years ago today, after Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana's plane was shot down as it approached the Kigali airport and the president was killed, the central African country of some seven million people descended into one of the 20th century's worst incidents of mass killing. The country's Hutu majority attacked Rwanda's Tutsi minority with machetes and guns. More than 800,000 died, and the country's very name became synonymous with genocidal brutality and Western indifference.

In the years since, Rwanda has worked to transform itself into a modern, middle-class state, trading violence and murder for clean streets, a strikingly progressive gender balance in its government, and generous education and healthcare systems.

Today, the use of the word "Rwanda" has also become a rallying cry against global inaction in the face of Darfur's genocide and the mass killings taking place in Syria and the Central African Republic. But the promise of "never again" has done little to spur a coherent global response to the human tragedies that have followed Rwanda.

To mark the anniversary of Rwanda's genocide, a singular moment in post-Cold War history, FP has published a full slate of articles. John Norris recalls life in Rwanda immediately after the genocide. Michela Wrong investigates whether the government of Paul Kagame has assassinated several of its critics. John Hudson reports on how lawmakers on Capitol Hill are responding to those accusations. Jonas Claes explores why efforts to prevent mass atrocities remain weak. James Traub reflects on Rwanda's impact on doctrines of humanitarian intervention. Lauren Wolfe describes how the Rwandan genocide has fueled violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Marie Berry argues that the policies that supposedly transformed Rwanda are leaving many women behind.

To make sense of where Rwanda has come from -- and where it may be going -- we've also dug into the FP archives to look at how we've covered the intervening years. Without further ado, here is a selection of gems from FP's archive about Rwanda.  

Anna Polonyi, "Confronting Ghosts," France convicts a Rwandan of genocide -- and grapples with its own role in the horrific events of 1994. March 17, 2014.

Daniel Scher and Christine Macaulay, "How Tradition Remade Rwanda," The secret ingredient in Rwanda's efforts to rebuild its nation after the violence of genocide. Jan. 28, 2014

Anjan Sundaram, "Our Man in Kigali," For years, Rwanda's budding dictator, Paul Kagame, has gotten away with murder, while winning praise (and billions of dollars) from the West. But is the blind support for this strongman finally drying up? August 3, 2012.

David Dagan, "The Cleanest Place in Africa," Once synonymous with genocide, Rwanda is now a budding police state. It's also a stunning African success story. Oct. 19, 2011.

Nick Donovan, "The War Criminal Next Door," Why are there 1,000 suspected torturers and génocidaires in America right now? Sept. 9, 2010.

Robert Kreuger, "The Paul Kagame I Know," Rwanda's president fought to end the country's 1994 genocide -- then used it to justify his own awful rule. August 5, 2010.

Elizabeth Dickinson, "Locked Up in Rwanda," An American lawyer is arrested in Kigali for genocide denial. Is it a sign of President Paul Kagame's creeping authoritarianism? June 1, 2010.

Mark Doyle, "Rewriting Rwanda," Twelve years after the genocide, the fight over the historical record -- and who is at fault for the genocide -- has begun. April 25, 2006.

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In Afghanistan, Western Journalists Are Increasingly in Crosshairs

Anja Niedringhaus and Kathy Gannon were among the most experienced journalists working in Afghanistan. Together, they have reported from war zones around the world, frequently escaping death by the skin of their teeth.

On Friday, Niedringhaus's luck ran out. Gannon, a writer for the Associated Press, and Niedringhaus, a photographer for the wire service, were traveling in a convoy with poll workers, protected by the Afghan National Army and police in the eastern province of Khost when they attacked by an Afghan police officer. Gannon survived, Niedringhaus did not.

Friday's attack is the third high-profile attack on Western journalists during the past month that has resulted in the death of a reporter. In early March, a gunman shot and killed Nils Horner, a reporter for Swedish Radio, in an upscale area of Kabul. A week and a half later, gunmen attacked the Serena Hotel in Kabul, killing Sardar Ahmad, a senior reporter for Agence-France Presse, his wife, and two of their three children.

The killing of Niedringhaus, who won a Pulitzer Prize for her work in Iraq, and the wounding of Gannon add to what has become an increasingly precarious security environment for journalists working in Afghanistan in the run-up to Saturday's presidential election. While the Taliban has pledged to disrupt the elections by stepping up attacks, there is no concrete evidence to indicate that the recent spate of attack on Western journalists is part of a coordinated effort to target members of the media. "We are ascribing her death to being on a dangerous assignment rather than murder per se," Bob Dietz, the Asia program director for the Committee to Protect Journalists, said in an interview.

Investigators have been unable to link the attacks that killed Horner and Ahmad to a larger pattern of efforts to target Western journalists and intimidate reporters from staying away from the country. The death of Ahmad and members of his family have been described as an instance of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. And while a Taliban splinter group claimed responsibility for the killing of Horner, it is unclear whether he was deliberately targeted as a member of the media.

Western journalists, of course, aren't the only ones paying a price for their work in Afghanistan. According to a report published last week by Reporters Without Borders, local journalists have experienced increased attacks and threats ahead of the election.

Regardless of intent, the killing of three Western journalists in recent weeks sends a clear message to media organizations looking to cover Saturday's pivotal elections: The Taliban considers all Westerners fair game for attacks -- and that includes members of the media.

In all three instances, the journalists killed at the hands of the Taliban were experienced war correspondents aware of the risks of working in a country such as Afghanistan. All understood how to take appropriate security precautions.

Despite the lack of a clear statement of intent from the Taliban, their deaths are difficult to interpret as anything less than an effort to discourage Western media outlets from sending reporters to Kabul, even if no concrete evidence has emerged indicating that insurgents have made a conscious decision to target journalists.

Increasingly, that's a distinction without a difference.

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