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Bill Clinton: we could have saved 300,000 lives in Rwanda

Rex Banner | Getty Images

Former U.S. president Bill Clinton admitted that if the U.S. had gone into Rwanda sooner following the start of the 1994 genocide, at least a third or roughly 300,000 lives could have been saved.

Speaking to CNBC Meets' Tania Bryer, Clinton explained that the failure of his administration to act during the genocide, which claimed the lives of around a million Rwandans, was one of the reasons behind the establishment of the Clinton Foundation.

"If we'd gone in sooner, I believe we could have saved at least a third of the lives that were lost...it had an enduring impact on me."

While Clinton added that the U.S. didn't have the same presence in Africa in 1994 that it does now, if he had sent around 10,000 troops into the country thousands of lives could have been spared.

In the 19 years since the atrocities, many historians and analysts have criticized the inactivity of the U.S. and other Western nations for not supporting the small UN peacekeeping force in Rwanda at the time.

Classified documents released in 2004 revealed that the Clinton administration knew of a "final solution to eliminate all Tutsis" well in advance of the genocide.

In a reference to the tribal tensions between the Hutus and Tutsis that were at the center of the genocide, Clinton explained the Foundation's goals: "I want people to revel in our diversity and respect it without thinking that we have to refer to each other in negative terms. That is, I can be proud of my heritage without dismissing yours."

Clinton said he was proud of other international efforts during his eight-year presidency between 1993 and 2001, including peace efforts in the Middle East which culminated in the 1993 Oslo Accords and the Northern Ireland Good Friday agreement, as well as the resolution of the Bosnian War.

"We tried to pull the world together. I think that's a good model for America's world today…Make it work for everybody, prove what the role of government is, and then just try to keep pulling things together by building new networks," he said. "You can't stop every bad thing from happening."

The full interview with President Bill Clinton can be seen on CNBC Meets on March 20.

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  • Showtimes

    EMEA (CET)

    Wednesday 25 March 23:00

    Saturday 28 March 23:30

    Sunday 29 March 18:30

    Wednesday April 22 23:00

    Saturday April 25 23:30

    Sunday April 26 18:30

    Wednesday May 20 23:00

    Saturday May 23 23:30

    Sunday May 24 18:30


    CNBC World (EST)

    Saturday March 28 22:00

    Sunday March 29 16:30

    Saturday April 25 22:00

    Sunday April 26 16:30

    Saturday May 23 22:00

    Sunday May 24 16:30


    Asia (SIN/HK)

    Saturday March 28 17:30

    Sunday March 29 19:30

    Saturday April 25 17:30

    Sunday April 26 19:30

    Saturday May 23 17:30

    Sunday May 24 19:30


  • Tania Bryer is a guest presenter and executive producer of CNBC Meets. In this series, she profiles some of the world’s most successful business people to find out what makes them tick. Bryer previously worked for BBC and Sky Television.