unusually for someone her age, she already had a career-defining
crisis behind her, one in which she has played an important role: the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
to Samantha Power, Rice's advice to the Clinton White House in the critical
early phases of the killing there was to avoid any public recognition that
actual genocide was being committed, because to do so would legally require the
United States to take action, and this (echoes of Benghazi?) might affect
upcoming congressional elections.
senior State Department officials who knew Rice in her next job, as assistant
secretary for African affairs, give her great credit for not giving up on
Africa. Stephen Morrison, a senior vice president at the Center for Strategic
and International Studies and a policy planning official at the State
Department during this period, told me that Rice's predecessor, George
Moose, had been told by higher-ups to "keep Africa off the screen, because it
she took a different approach, and said it does matter, and we're not doing
enough in Africa," Morrison said. "And she got the president to make two trips
to the continent, and deserves some credit for that."
enormous part of why it mattered, however, was bound up in America's failure to
stop the genocide in Rwanda. And it is Rice's takeaway from that tragedy, and
from her role in it -- arguably more visceral, personal and emotional than
rational -- that shaped her approach to the continent ever since.
public response to the genocide was to issue a number of powerfully worded
statements with the air of mea culpa about them. They have amounted to a
paraphrasing and elaboration on the famous post-Holocaust oath of "Never
to the hard test of African realities, however, this pledge quickly shrunk and
withered into something far more narrow and selective. Indeed, it failed its first
test, in Congo, right next door to Rwanda. Since Rice's famous expressions
of contrition began, more than five times as many people have died in a series
of wars in Congo than were killed in the Rwandan genocide.
pertinent to this discussion, as the United Nations and reports by a variety of
international human rights organizations have exhaustively documented, a great
many of these people were killed in wars of targeted ethnic extermination,
implicating the U.S.-supported post-genocide Rwandan armed forces and a number
of surrogates, who have invaded the vastly larger and richer Congo repeatedly.
Even in times of relative peace, they have sought to control large swaths of the country's
this leaves us with, in effect, is a policy stripped of any real moral force.
Never again, in effect, has come to mean never let down Rwanda's post-genocide
regime and its leader, Paul Kagame.