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Curing the Somalia Syndrome: Analogy, Foreign Policy Decision Making, and the Rwandan Genocide



If Rwanda had been better understood at the outset of the 1994 genocide, would the world have responded differently? That the international community was afflicted with a “Somalia Syndrome,” suppressing the appetite for intervention in Rwanda, is not a new claim. What is new, however, is the effort this article makes to unravel the reasons for which two largely unrelated and distinct conflicts—Somalia and Rwanda—were perceived within many critical policy-making quarters around the international community as identical “African” conflict-types. It raises and explores the possibility that had Rwanda been perceived outside of this contorting “African” schema and its associated Somalia analogy, different policy responses could have been legitimized, opening the potential for a radically different international response.