As the last troops withdrew from Afghanistan in recent weeks, pulling down the metaphorical curtain on the west’s involvement, there’s a jarring symmetry that we are just days away from commemorating the events that set the war in motion. It somehow implies a neat narrative, but the reality is far from that.
As the news unfolded on that September day, I was interviewing a water engineer at an NGO in Oxford about another crisis with devastating consequences in a different region of the world. Like the impact of 9/11, the ramifications of the 1994 Rwandan genocide are still being felt today. In just three weeks, 800,000 mainly Tutsis were massacred in an organised campaign of genocide by Hutu militia.
I was undertaking research for a journalism MA on British media coverage of the genocide, and how far it was defined by racism and stereotypes. How many column inches were devoted to it on average as the story unfolded? Where did it sit in national newspapers? And how far did tropes about “tribal violence” obfuscate the reality of what was happening on the ground?
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