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Rwanda/UN: Acknowledging Failure
Mar 31, 2004 (040331)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
"Some 2,000 personnel from several countries, including France,
United Kingdom, United States and Italy, had come to evacuate their
expatriates and though they were stumbling on corpses, they
remained firm in totally ignoring the catastrophe." - retired
General Romeo Dallaire, former commander, UN mission in Rwanda.
General Dallaire was speaking at a Memorial Conference on Rwanda
Genocide at UN headquarters earlier this week, along with
Secretary-General Kofi Annan, UN Special Adviser for Africa Ibrahim
Gambari, as well as representatives of genocide survivors.
Ambassador Gambari, who served as Nigeria's representative on the
UN Security Council at the time, acknowledged that "Without a
doubt, it was the Council, especially its most powerful members
that had failed the people of Rwanda in their gravest hour of
need." He continued, "The controversy over the international
community's culpability for its failure to prevent the genocide in
Rwanda would not easily go away."
Conference speakers, in acknowledging the failure 10 years, were
less than confident that the international community was yet ready
to respond differently today. Improvements in planning for
peacekeeping and response to conflict were mentioned. But the
reports from the conference fail to note whether any speakers
addressed the parallel lack of political will today to respond to
the thousands dying daily from the AIDS pandemic, or to the
cumulative toll from conflicts that fail to reach the threshold
required to be be defined as genocide.
This AfricaFocus Bulletin features excerpts from an editorial by
Gerald Caplan, founder of "Remembering Rwanda" and one of the
authors of the report on the genocide produced in 2000 at the
request of the Organization of African Unity. Also included are
excerpts from the UN press release on the Memorial Conference, and
links to several of the major reports produced on the genocide and
the international failure to respond.
Another issue of AfricaFocus Bulletin sent out today contains a new
report from the National Security Archive, including declassified
documents and details on information available to the U.S.
government at the time of the genocide in Rwanda.
NOTE: The Public Broadcasting System in the U.S., in a documentary
co-produced with the BBC, will air a two-hour special documentary
"Ghosts of Rwanda," beginning tomorrow April 1, 2004 A companion
website will be available. For more details, see
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++
Rwanda Ten Years after the Genocide: Some Reminders of the
International Response to the Crisis
Slightly abridged. The full text of this editorial originally
published in Pambazuka News for February 5 is available at
[Gerald Caplan was on the staff of the International Panel of
Eminent Personalities appointed by the Organization of African
Unity to investigate the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, and is the
founder of "Remembering Rwanda: The Rwanda Genocide 10th
Anniversary Memorial Project".]
Around the world, commemorations of the 10th anniversary of the
Rwanda genocide are about to be launched. The central actors
responsible for allowing Hutu extremists to perpetrate the genocide
are well known: the government of France, the United Nations
Security Council led by the USA with British backing, the UN
Secretariat, the government of Belgium, and, by no means least, the
Roman Catholic Church. The Organization of African Unity also
refused to condemn the genocidaires and proved to be largely
irrelevant throughout the crisis. As a consequence of these acts of
commission and omission, 800,000 Tutsi and thousands of moderate
Hutu were murdered in a period of 100 days. ... The following is a
selection of some of those events. ...
- Time and again in the months prior to and during the genocide,
the Commander of the UN military mission to Rwanda (UNAMIR) pleaded
with the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations in New York to
expand his very limited mandate. The only time his request was ever
approved was in the days immediately after the Rwandan president's
plane was shot down, triggering the genocide. UNAMIR was then
authorized to exceed its narrow mandate exclusively for the purpose
of helping to evacuate foreign nationals, mainly westerners, from
the country. Never was such flexibility granted to protect
- Heavily armed western troops began materializing at Kigali
airport within hours to evacuate their nationals. Beyond UNAMIR's
2500 peacekeepers, these included 500 Belgian para-commandos, 450
French and 80 Italian troops from parachute regiments, another 500
Belgian para-commandos on stand-by in Kenya, 250 US Rangers on
stand-by in Burundi, and 800 more French troops on stand-by in the
region. None made any attempt to protect Rwandans at risk. Besides
western nationals, French troops evacuated a number of well-known
leaders of the extremist Hutu Power movement, including the wife of
the murdered president and her family. All non-UNAMIR troops left
within days, immediately after their evacuation mission was
- From the beginning of the genocide to its end, no government or
organization other than NGOs formally described events in Rwanda as
- From beginning to end, all governments and official bodies
continued to recognize the genocidaire government as the legitimate
government of Rwanda.
- The months of the genocide happened to coincide with Rwanda's
turn to fill one of the non-permanent seats on the Security
Council. Throughout those 3 months, the representative of the
government executing the genocide continued to take that seat and
participate in all deliberations, including discussions on Rwanda.
- Almost all official bodies remained neutral as between the
genocidaires and the Rwandan Patriotic Front, the mostly Tutsi
rebels in the civil war that was being fought at the same time as
the genocide. As if they were morally equivalent groups, both the
genocidaire government and those fighting to end the genocide were
called upon by the UN, the Organization of African Unity and others
to agree to a cease-fire. They did not call on the genocidaires to
stop the genocide. Had the RPF agreed to a cease-fire, the scale of
the genocide behind governemtn lines would have been even greater.
- Only days after the genocide began, 2500 Tutsi as well as Hutu
opposition politicians crowded into a Kigali school known as ETO,
where Belgian UN troops were billeted ... the Belgian soldiers were
ordered to depart ETO to assist in evacuating foreign nationals
from the country. They did so abruptly, making no arrangements
whatever for the protection of those they were safeguarding. As
they moved out, the killers moved in. When the afternoon was over,
all 2500 civilians had been murdered.
- After 10 Belgian UN soldiers were killed by Rwandan government
troops the day after the Rwandan President's plane was shot down,
Belgium withdrew all its troops from the UN mission. So that
Belgium would not alone be blamed for scuttling UNAMIR, its
government then strenuously lobbied the UN to disband the mission
in its entirety.
- Two weeks after the crisis had begun, with information about the
magnitude of the genocide increasing by the day, the Security
Council did come very close to shutting down UNAMIR altogether.
Instead, led by the USA and the United Kingdom, it voted to
decimate the mission, reducing it from 2500 to 270.
- After the deaths of 18 American soldiers in Somalia in October
1993, the United States decided to participate in no more UN
military missions. The Clinton administration further decided that
no significant UN missions were to be allowed at all, even if
American troops would not be involved. Thanks mostly to the
delaying tactics of the US, after 100 days of the genocide not a
single reinforcement of UN troops or military supplies had reached
- Bill Clinton later apologized for not doing more to stop the
genocide. However, his claim that his administration had not been
aware of the real situation was a lie.
- French officials were senior advisers to both the Rwandan
government and military in the years leading to the genocide, with
unparalleled influence on both. Virtually until the moment the
genocide began, they gave unconditional support as well as
considerable arms to the Hutu elite. ... To this day the French
have never acknowledged their role nor apologized for it.
- After 6 weeks of genocide, France, which offered no troops to
the UN mission, suddenly decided to intervene in Rwanda. Within a
week of the decision, Operation Turquoise was able to deploy 2500
men with 100 armored personnel carriers, 10 helicopters, a battery
of 120 mm mortars, 4 Jaguar fighter bombers, and 8 Mirage fighters
and reconnaissance planes---all for an ostensibly humanitarian
operation. The French forces created a safe haven in the south-west
of the country which provided sanctuary not only to fortunate Tutsi
but also to many leading Rwandan government and military officials
as well as large numbers of soldiers and militia---the very Hutu
Power militants who had organized and carried out the genocide. ...
- The Roman Catholic Church in Rwanda was the largest and most
influential denomination in the country, with intimate ties to the
government at all levels. It failed to denounce the government's
explicit ethnic foundations, failed to denounce its increasing use
of violence against Tutsi, failed to denounce or even name the
genocide, failed to apologize for the many clergy who aided and
abetted the genocidaires, and to this day has never apologized for
its overall role. The Pope has refused to apologize on behalf of
the Church as a whole.
- Within months of the end of the genocide, relief workers and
representatives of the international community in Rwanda were
telling Rwandans they must "Quit dwelling on the past and
concentrate on rebuilding for the future" and insisting that "Yes,
the genocide happened, but it's time to get over it and move on."
- George W. Bush, during the campaign for the 2000 Republican
presidential nomination, was asked by a TV interviewer what he
would do as president if, "God forbid, another Rwanda" should take
place. He replied: "We should not send our troops to stop ethnic
cleansing and genocide outside our own strategic interest. I would
not send US troops into Rwanda."
- The new Rwanda Patriotic Front government inherited a debt of
close to $1 billion, some of it incurred by the previous government
in genocide preparations---expanding its army and militias and
buying arms. After the genocide, the RPF was obligated to repay in
full the country's debt to its western lenders.
- Following the genocide, the World Bank was left with a $160
million program of aid to Rwanda that it had extended to the
previous government. . Even though the new government was
penniless, the Bank refused to activate that sum until the new
government paid $9 million in interest incurred by its predecessor.
A Bank official told a UN representative: "After all, we are a
commercial enterprise and have to adhere to our regulations. " The
sum was eventually paid by some donors.
- In the first nine months after the genocide, the donor
community provided $1.4 billion in aid to the Hutu refugee camps in
eastern Zaire and Tanzania. Since, as was universally known,
genocidaires had taken over the camps, a good part of these funds
went to feed and shelter them and to fund their re-training and
re-arming as they planned cross-border raids back into Rwanda. For
Rwanda itself, while donor funds for reconstruction were generously
pledged, in the first year after the genocide only $68 million was
actually disbursed. To this day, Rwanda has never received
reparations remotely commensurate with the damage that the
international community had failed to prevent.
- Once the genocide ended, the UN military mission was finally
expanded. As UNAMIR II, it remained in Rwanda for almost two more
years as a peacekeeping force, costing the UN $15 million a month.
But the main challenge had become less one of peacekeeping and more
one of peace-building--- the reconstruction of a totally devastated
country. UNAMIR had the equipment, the skills and the will to play
a major role in reviving the country's shattered structures. What
it lacked was the mandate and modest funding from the Security
Council to perform such a role. But UN headquarters never sought
such authorization from the Security Council, nor did the Council
ever initiate such a move. ...
- So far as is known, not a single person in any government or in
the UN has ever been fired or held accountable for failing to
intervene in the genocide. In fact, the opposite is true. Some
careers flourished in the aftermath. Several of the main actors
were actually promoted. We can consider this the globalization of
- Despite the unanimity of every major study undertaken and in
the face of the testimonies of survivors and the first-hand
accounts of international humanitarian workers in Rwanda at the
time, denial of the genocide persists. Deniers include Hutu Power
advocates, many of them still active in western countries, as well
as lawyers and investigators working for Hutu clients at the
International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Denying the Rwandan
genocide is the moral equivalent of denying the Holocaust.
Memorial Conference on Rwanda Genocide
Press Release AFR/868 HQ/630
Secretary-General Says Silence In Face
Of Past Genocide Must Be Replaced with "Global Clamour"
[Excerpts only: for full text of UN press release, including
summaries of remarks of all panelists, see:
The silence that had greeted genocides in the past must be replaced
by a global clamour, and a willingness to call what was happening
by its true name, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said this morning at
the opening of a one-day conference in memory of the genocide in
Rwanda 10 years ago.
The Memorial Conference on the Rwanda Genocide, which had started
with a minute of silence for the victims, was co-chaired by the
Foreign Ministers of Rwanda and Canada and moderated by Ruth Iyob,
Director of the Africa Programme, International Peace Academy,
andDavid M. Malone, President of the International Peace Academy.
During two panels that followed the opening of the Conference,
participants in the event remembered the 1994 tragedy and
considered means to ensure a more effective international response
to genocide in the future. The Conference attracted representatives
of governments, international organizations, non-governmental
organizations, academics and members of the Rwandan Diaspora.
The international community had failed Rwanda, the
Secretary-General stated. If it had acted promptly, it could have
stopped most of the killing. But neither the political will nor the
troops had been there. If the United Nations, government officials
and the international media had paid more attention to the
gathering signs of disaster, it might have been averted.
The Rwandan genocide raised questions that affected all humankind,
including fundamental questions about the authority of the Security
Council and the effectiveness of United Nations peacekeeping, Mr.
Annan continued. If confronted by a new Rwanda today, would the
international community respond effectively? He had suggested a
number of measures that would better equip the United Nations and
its Member States to meet genocide with resolve, including a
special rapporteur on the subject. More must be done, and he was
currently analysing what further steps could be taken.
The Foreign Minister of Rwanda, Charles Murigande, stressed the
need to learn from the tragic failures in Rwanda, saying that no
other nation or people should be allowed to suffer what the people
of Rwanda had suffered. ...
The international community, while it had learned what needed to be
done, still lacked political agreement to prevent a Rwanda from
happening again, said the Foreign Minister of Canada, Bill Graham.
Harsh words were said about the role of the international community
in Rwanda during the first panel - entitled "In Memoriam: Bearing
Witness", which was chaired by the Foreign Minister of Rwanda.
While the head of the Association of the Widows of the Genocide,
Speciose Kanyabogoyi, and genocide survivor, Eric Nzabihimana,
recounted the events of April-August 1994, when some 800,000 people
were murdered, former Commander of the United Nations Assistance
Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR), Romeo Dallaire, said that the Mission
had been "a last priority" for the international community. It had
no budget and no structure at the time the killing began. The
Security Council had made it a point not to consider the threats
and warnings about Rwanda, and as the months went by and the peace
agreement was "falling to pieces", there was political stagnation
and no real desire to put any resources into the Mission.
He also recalled that some 2,000 personnel from several countries,
including France, United Kingdom, United States and Italy,
"remained firm in totally ignoring the catastrophe" as they
fulfilled their mission of evacuating their expatriates, "though
they were stumbling on corpses". On 22 April, when over 100,000
people had been killed, the bulk of the Force was ordered to
withdraw, but 450 African and 13 Canadian troops were told to stay
on the ground and observe. As millions were internally displaced,
killed and injured, the Mission was able to save some 30,000, and
on top of that, he had been ordered to abandon them. The order had
come from the Security Council, and nobody objected.
"Never Again: Toward a More Effective International Response of
Genocide" was the title of the second panel, which was chaired by
Canada's Foreign Minister. Its keynote speakers included Ibrahim
Gambari, United Nations Special Adviser for Africa, Ramesh Thakur,
Vice-Rector of United Nations University and Danilo Turk, Assistant
Secretary-General for Political Affairs. ...
Mr. Gambari said that the real key to preventing conflict and
genocide was political will to act promptly and decisively. Without
a doubt, it was the Council, especially its most powerful members
that had failed the people of Rwanda in their gravest hour of need.
The controversy over the international community's culpability for
its failure to prevent the genocide in Rwanda would not easily go
Major reports on the Genocide in Rwanda, available on-line
Note: Two sites with extensive links for background as well as
notes on current activities are Remembering Rwanda, at
the Rwanda Commermoration Project
Several of the major reports, such as those produced for the UN and
the OAU, are no longer available at the original URLs on the sites
of these institutions. The links here, provided by other
organizations, were located through Google.
(1) Organization of African Unity
International Panel of Eminent Personalities
Rwanda: The Preventable Genocide - 2000
for press release and excerpts.
for full report
(2) United Nations
Report of the Independent Inquiry into the Actions of the United
Nations during the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda - 1999
for UN press conference
for full report
(3) Human Rights Watch
"Leave None to Tell the Story" - 1999
for press release and excerpts
for full report
Human Rights Watch also has issued a short note "Ten Years Later", available
(4) Joint Evaluation of Emergency Assistance to Rwanda
by international agencies and NGOs
The International Response to Conflict and Genocide:
Lessons from the Rwanda Experience - 1996
Journal of Humanitarian Assistance
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