US Embassy Rwanda Remembers 26 Local Employees Killed in 1994 Genocide

Posted: 12:25 am EDT
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To read about the frustrations of dealing with inaction from Washington, see Ambassador Prudence Bushnell interview, A Soul Filled with Shame via ADST. Below is an excerpt:

Once the RPF took over Rwanda, I was sent to check things out. It was yet another surreal experience. The countryside of one of the most populous countries in the world was literally deadly quiet. Berries ready to harvest were rotting on the coffee trees; houses stood vacant. The man who served as the ambassador’s driver drove us. When we were stopped by child soldiers at checkpoints, I learned never to look them in the eye. As we drove we heard the story of how the driver had hidden and what happened to some of the other embassy employees. Many were dead.

I participated in a memorial service for the FSNs [local Foreign Service employees] who were killed. I will never forget looking into the stony faces of employees who had been abandoned by the U.S. government. American officers who came up to speak would weep, to a person. The Rwandans just looked at us. I can only imagine what they were thinking and the trauma that was still with them.

She was asked what was the rationale for not getting involved:

“We had no interest in that country.” “Look at what they did to Belgian peacekeepers.” “It takes too long to put a peacekeeping operation together.” “What would our exit strategy be?” “These things happen in Africa.” “We couldn’t have stopped it.” I could go on….

I could and did make the argument that it was not in our national interest to intervene. Should we  send young Americans into a domestic firefight, possibly to be killed on behalf of people we don’t know in a country in which we have no particular interest? From the perspective of national interest, people like Richard Clarke will argue we did things right.

In terms of moral imperative there is no doubt in my mind that we did not do the right thing. I could have a clear bureaucratic conscience from Washington’s standpoint and still have a soul filled with shame.


US Embassy Rwanda Remembers 25 FSNs Killed in the 1994 Genocide

On April 12, 2012, the US Embassy in Kigali, Rwanda had its 18th Genocide Commemoration for the 25 Foreign Service National (FSN) employees of the U.S. Embassy and USAID who were killed in the 1994 Rwanda Genocide. During this annual occasion, the Embassy staff in Kigali meets with the orphans and members of the families of the fallen employees who lost their lives in 1994.

US Embassy staff with Genocide orphans and members of the families of embassy employees who perished during the 1994 Rwanda Genocide
(Photo from US Embassy Rwanda taken during the April 14, 2010 memorial ceremony).

Below is an excerpt from the April 12 remarks by Ambassador Donald Koran:

We are here to share, as a community, our sorrow, our memories, and our losses, and we are here to gain strength from our colleagues and friends.  We are not here to dwell on the past, but to pay our respects to those who are no longer with us, and to honor those who remain with us today.  Our thoughts and support go out to the families of our fallen colleagues, to the orphans, widows and widowers.  And to those colleagues who worked at their side.  We offer you our gratitude.

As I tried to prepare for today, I found it difficult to think of what I could say to you.  I can’t presume to even begin to understand the magnitude of the losses you suffered, or of your feelings today, 18 years after this unimaginable tragedy.  What I can offer, however, is one outsider’s perspective on the amazing renaissance I see in you.  I have seen how much you have accomplished in such a short time.  I think it is fitting that the theme of this year’s commemoration is “to learn from history to shape a bright future.”  I can see this bright future today, in a way that I did not yet see it 10 years ago when I last served here.
Let me speak now to the young men and women here today who are the children of our Embassy colleagues, whose parents were felled in the genocide.  Your drive and determination, and your desire to move forward and live strong, meaningful lives is your personal victory against the shadows of the past.  It is a victory for all Rwandans who share the dream of an enduring peace.  You are the foundation of the bright future  that all Rwandans seek.  Some of you are still pursuing your studies, others have already graduated.   I salute you for your resolve to be the generation that fashions a new Rwanda for yourselves and for the generations that come after you.

The United States supports your commitment, and the commitment of everyone here, to build a Rwanda where peace, stability and prosperity reign.  I can think of no more fitting way to honor those lost in Rwanda 18 years ago, and to pay tribute to the survivors.  All Rwandans, no matter where you were in 1994, lost something in those horrible 100 days.  But here you are.  You  are a testimony to the resilience of the human spirit.

Read in full here.

An OIG report indicates there were over 38,000 FSNs/LE staff members working for the Department overseas in 2007.  A more recent number puts the State Department total workforce number at over 66,000, including foreign service, civil service, and locally employed staff (LE staff) worldwide.  As of September 30, 2010, Foreign Service Nationals or Locally employed staff  (LES) composed 56% of the State Department’s total workforce (via GAO).

Also, since 1998, far more FSNs/LE staff members have been killed in the line of duty than have American Foreign Service employees (via OIG). We thought we should mention that.

Domani Spero