Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Good Man in Hell: Rwanda and the Western Response
Robert Hadley
US History
Time Frame:
1 class period (60 minute period)
Primary Source Analysis

Grade Levels:
11, 12

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:

Interactive Lecture and discussion


The purpose of this lesson is to explore US Foreign policy. This lesson will be part of a larger unit that is designed for students to think critically about the United States role in the world we live in. The specific lesson is designed for students to explore the complexity of United States and United Nations decision-making and its impact on individuals. Students will also confront the issue of the impact of colonialism on Africa today and the issue of racism inherent in Western response to problems in Africa.

District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met:

NHS US Standard 1: Recent developments in foreign and domestic politics

CIM Benchmarks:

Understand the purposes and functions of the United Nations, and the role of the United States in the United Nations. Understand and give examples of how international organizations influence policies or decisions.


2. Continuity and change in the history of Missouri, the United States and the world

6. Relationships of the individual and groups to institutions and cultural traditions

KANSAS STANDARDS (High School-US History)

Benchmark 5: The student engages in historical thinking skills.

1. (A) analyzes a theme in United States history to explain patterns of continuity and change over time.

3. (A) uses primary and secondary sources about an event in U.S. history to develop a credible interpretation of the event, evaluating on its meaning (e.g., uses provided primary and secondary sources to interpret a historical-based conclusion).

4. (A) compares competing historical narratives in United States history by contrasting different historians' choice of questions, use of sources, and points of view, in order to demonstrate how these factors contribute to different interpretations.

Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:

A Good Man in Hell and clips from "Hotel Rwanda"

Primary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
Technology Required:

DVD/VHD "A Good Man In Hell" from United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (Available free upon request)Selected clips from "Hotel Rwanda"

Full description of activity or assignment.


Prep: In this lesson you will explore one of the worst and quickest Genocides of the 20th Century. This took place in 1994 in the Central African Country of Rwanda. The peace deal signed between the Hutu controlled government and the Tutsi through the Arusha accords was in the process of implementation. The United Nations sent in over 1000 peacekeepers under the command of General Dallaire (Canada) to assist in the process of implementing the accords. On April 6, 1994 Rwandan President Habyarimana's plane was shot down and he was killed along with the President of Burundi. This set off a signal for mass killings of Tutsi by the majority Hutu. They had planned this event for some time and all indications point to the downing of the plane being done by Hutu extremists. Over the next 10 weeks some 800,000 Tutsi and moderate were murdered by Hutus all over the country.

This lesson will explore the response to the Genocide by the Western Powers and the United Nations. For this lesson you might start by showing select clips from the Movie Hotel Rwanda. The scene where the United Nations is pulling every Western person from the country is helpful to understand the indifference the west had. Also the scene where hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina calls western contacts seeking help (two scenes like this in the film) shows that with a little effort much could have been done to intervene.

Lesson:1. Pass out the cable warning that General Dallaire sent to the UN about mass killings being planned. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/evil/warning/cable.html Ask these questions to prompt class discussion:a. What do you think the General should have done with this information? His orders were simply to observe the situation. b. What should the United Nations do with this information? Ask yourself is it reliable information? Should the UN change its orders for the General? c. Considering we are the leader in the world...what should the United States do with this information? Remember the United States was best prepared to deal militarily with such an issue. Remember also the US had been dealt a blow only a year earlier in Somalia (see Black Hawk Down for reference). How do you think that might influence our reaction?

2. Now watch the 12-minute video called "A Good Man in Hell" After viewing this film, prompt class discussion with the following three questions. d. If the United States had responded and asked for volunteers to go to Rwanda in order to prevent the possibility of Genocide, would you volunteer? Explain e. Should the United States ever respond when we have no interest outside of Humanitarian ones in a conflict? (compare our intervention into Iraq with our non action in Rwanda)f. If the US does act, should it do so on its own? or with the United Nations? Explain why?

3. As a wrap up for this discussion, Have your students respond in writing to the following question History never records the actions not taken. The "what if's" always leave us with the unknown of what we prevented in taking action. How does this leave leaders in a difficult bind when confronted with issues like Rwanda?

Full explanation of the assessment method and/or scoring guide:

You can assess student responses primarily to the interaction of students in the class discussion. You can also assess students written responses to the last question.