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Rwanda: Genocide and U.S. Policy, 2
Rwanda: Genocide and U.S. Policy, 2
Date distributed (ymd): 980526
Document reposted by APIC
Region: Central Africa
Issue Areas: +security/peace+ +US policy focus+
This posting contains the second part of congressional testimony by Holly
Burkhalter on behalf of Physicians for Human Rights on the 1994 Rwandan
Genocide and U.S. Policy, together with additional on-line references on
Rwanda. The first part is continued in the previous posting.
Physicians for Human Rights
110 Maryland Ave. NE #511
Washington, DC 20002
Phone: (202) 547-9881
Fax: (202) 547-9050
The 1994 Rwandan Genocide and U.S. Policy
Testimony of Holly Burkhalter, Physicians for Human Rights
Subcommittee on Human Rights and International Operations
May 5, 1998
[continued from part 1]
Within days, Belgium had deployed 850 troops under its own flag to evacuate
Belgian citizens from Rwanda. Once that was accomplished, Brussels withdrew
its 420 soldiers from UNAMIR. Other soldiers panicked and were sent out
of the country, and Dallaire was left with a weakened force while troop
contributing nations were demanding assurances that they were not in jeopardy.
For two weeks, the Security Council discussed the fate of UNAMIR, with
Washington strongly supporting complete withdrawal of the force on the
grounds that it could neither carry out its duties nor be protected. On
April 21, the Security Council voted to drawn down UNAMIR to a skeletal
force of 250.
The decision essentially to withdraw the force as the genocide was gathering
speed had enormous practical and political consequences inside Rwanda.
It made it impossible for existing troops to expand their efforts to protect
the tens of thousands of Tutsi who had taken refuge in churches and schools
throughout the country, and sent an unmistakable message to the genocidal
forces that there would be no impediment to their finishing the job.
The Clinton Administration defends its support for the Security Council
decision on the grounds that no nation wanted to contribute troops and
that there was no mandate for UNAMIR to use lethal force to even protect
itself, much less Rwandan civilians. But in retrospect, one can imagine
a host of different responses. When the decision was made, killings were
still largely confined to Kigali and its environs and it is possible that
in the early days of the genocide a relatively small force which had appropriate
vehicles, weapons, and mandate, could have protected itself and concentrations
of Tutsi in the capitol, and sent an unmistakable signal to the presidential
guard and militia to stop the killings. Such a force could also have dismantled
the road blocks which were erected in Kigali and were rapidly going up
all over Rwanda, and helped keep Tutsi civilians in their homes.
This last point is crucial. As noted by Col. Scott Feil, in "Preventing
Genocide, How the Use of Force Might Have Succeeded in Rwanda," Rwandan
Tutsi are thoroughly integrated into communities and are not easily identified
by appearance or name. Thus the militia and Rwandan army soldiers bent
on exterminating the Tutsi had to first get whole villages moving and funnel
everyone through checkpoints where identity cards could be checked and
Tutsi then separated for extermination. "Under these circumstances,
measures to prevent people from leaving their villages would be extremely
important; "safe sites," smaller and more easily defended community
groupings, would be the best way to stabilize and secure the population
Sabotaging Humanitarian Intervention: In the days following the April
21 decision to reduce UNAMIR forces, mass killings skyrocketed. On April
29, Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali asked the Security Council
to reconsider its decision and to consider "forceful action to restore
law and order and end the massacres." On May 2, the Secretary General
wrote to African heads of state requesting troops for an African peacekeeping
force -- a force that at the time the Clinton Administration said it would
help finance, equip, and transport.
The African force never materialized. In part, U.S. refusal to commit
its own troops to the effort reduced the prestige of the mission and discouraged
troop-contributing nations which would have been eager to join an American-led
intervention. Accordingly, the U.N. Secretary General floated a new plan
-- a UNAMIR II which would enlarge the existing contingent by 800 men and
augment it with another battalion within a few weeks. The mandate for UNAMIR
II was limited to obtaining a cease-fire, supporting humanitarian assistance,
and opening the airport. The U.S. offered an alternative plan, and weeks
were lost in negotiating the differences. Finally on May 17, the Security
Council voted unanimously to support a compromise plan. But even then,
the U.S. insisted that the mandate of the force (which included no Americans)
not be expanded to include the use of force to stop killings and demanded
a review of the plan before its actual implementation, including before
initial planned deployment of 150 military observers. Moreover, the Pentagon
successfully blocked even the provision of vehicles and equipment, which,
had they been provided, could at least have been used by the existing UNAMIR
troops to enhance their security and enable them to travel outside of Kigali
to defend concentrations of displaced Tutsi in the countryside.
The case of the mythical armored personnel carriers (apc) is a good
example. The U.N. formally requested 50 apc's from the U.S. on May 19 and
Washington agreed to provide them two weeks later. For the next two months
the U.S. managed to stall on its commitment: weeks were lost while bureaucrats
dithered over how much the U.S. would be reimbursed for their use. Weeks
later there were hot debates over whether to use tracked or treaded vehicles.
Further time was lost while it was determined that the vehicles were the
wrong color, then no one was able to figure out how to transport the vehicles
from Frankfurt to the African continent, and so on. The upshot of such
shenanigans was that the carriers were ready to roll long after the RPA
had seized control of Rwanda and ended the genocide.
A New Peacekeeping Policy: The unhappy fate of UNAMIR and UNAMIR II
illuminate several policies which could be developed which would permit
a more useful response in the event of future genocides.
First, because of American leadership at the Security Council, the U.S.
has the capacity to slow deliberations on humanitarian intervention to
a virtual standstill, even when there are no American troops involved.
Some of the obstruction and delay in 1994 were necessitated by the fact
that expanded UNAMIR and other humanitarian initiatives were ad hoc, and
American representatives, ever mindful of Congress's opposition to paying
its U.N. dues or participating in its operations, put the brakes on while
they scrutinized every detail of each new initiative. That is understandable,
but in 1994 the genocidal killers moved much more quickly than did the
U.S. and U.N. bureaucrats. While U.S. officials demanded reviews, plodded
through Pentagon and U.N. procurement bureaucracies, and checked Congress's
pulse about intervention, hundreds of thousands of civilians were butchered.
But if it were the policy of the U.S. government to respond vigorously
and affirmatively to genocide, a different outcome might be possible. First,
peacekeeping policy as articulated in Presidential Decision Directive 25
must be changed, and here, Congress has a very important obligation. PDD
25 was promulgated at the height of the genocide, on May 5, 1994. It appeared
to have been designed to thwart American participation in situations just
like Rwanda's, including such requirements that any U.N. mission must be
a response to threats to international peace and security, must advance
American interests at acceptable risk, and must have adequate command and
control procedures and an exit strategy. To my knowledge, there were very
few public criticisms of the limited nature of PDD 25 by the Congress and
no clamor at Congressional hearings to amend the policy in such a way so
as to permit an appropriate response to the genocide which at that very
moment was unfolding in Rwanda.
If peacekeeping policy was changed so that suppressing genocide was
identified as a vital American interest and included among the purposes
of U.S. peacekeeping policy, one can imagine a host of activities that
the executive branch might engage to operationalize that goal. Steps could
include offering U.S. military advice to the U.N. peacekeeping office to
draw up interventionary plans on an urgent basis in advance of an actual
outbreak of genocide so that the weeks of fumbling during the Rwanda genocide
might be avoided. The Pentagon should be ordered to do what the U.N. has
long desired: locate, refurbish, and designate a supply of vehicles and
equipment which could be seconded to the U.N. on an urgent basis when needed.
The Pentagon's red tape for procurement is exceeded only by the U.N.'s.
That red tape must be obliterated in times of genocide. The President should
order that supplies and equipment and vehicles be identified now, for possible
use in times of crisis, and supply them immediately. Congress should warmly
support the initiative. But in some cases, these measures alone may not
be sufficient to prevent or stop genocide if there are no troops to intervene.
In such circumstances of genocide, our own government should offer troops,
as well as the material and technical assistance described above, to stop
Additionally, there are many sophisticated proposals for an international
interventionary force and it is not within the expertise of Physicians
for Human Rights to endorse any of them in particular. I would note, however,
that the standing rapid reaction interventionary force which was proposed
many years ago by Sir Brian Urquhart, still offers a vision for preventing
and responding to genocide. While we realize that there does not now exist
the political will to establish such a force, we urge policy makers to
reconsider such an initiative, in light of the genocide in 1994 Rwanda
and in Bosnia.
The African Crisis Response Initiative may at some point be able to
serve such a function, at the behest of the U.N. or the OAU. As you know,
as it is currently configured, ACRI is not designed to play a Chapter VII
role; it is, rather, a classic peacekeeping (Chapter VI) initiative. But
the ACRI model -- advance training of certain units ina number of countries
in advance of any specific crisis -- may lend itself to a different role.
One proposal I have heard discussed would be for ten countries (not necessarily
all African) to each designate 5,000 troops that would train together as
a unit on a regular basis at aU.N./U.S. peacekeeping training facility.
They would be reimbursed at U.N. rates, and groups of them would be available
for an operation. Commanders for each unit would have been identified long
before the intervention and would have trained with the troops and familiar
to each other. Thus instead of a pick-up scramble at the last minute --
when chances of success are lowest -- a trained and ready fighting force
would be available for intervention before a genocidal situation spiraled
out of control. In the absence of a standing U.N. rapid deployment force,
the ACRI-plus model or other plans which involve advance training of designated
units, deserves close consideration. A key component of any such project
must be advance training, drill, and discipline in the laws of armed conflict.
Peackeepers have themselves committed extremely serious abuses against
the unarmed local population.
Finally, it is worth noting that the failure of troop-contributing countries
to supply the United Nations with troops to separate armed men from the
gigantic Rwandan refugee camps in Zaire has contributed to the continued
killing of Tutsi in the region. As you know, the genocidaires, operating
from the refugee camps, exterminated thousands of Zairian Tutsi and launched
continuous military operations across the border, killing thousands of
Rwandan Tutsi civilians.
Responding to Genocide Today: Mr. Chairman, most of my policy suggestions
relate to situations where it is government authorities who are engaged
in genocide. In Rwanda today, the attempt to exterminate the minority Tutsi
is of course not a government initiative but rather a continuation of the
1994 genocide by the defeated Rwandan military (now known as ex-FAR) and
the militia. To my knowledge, the government of Rwanda, which is engaged
in active counterinsurgency measures, has not requested international intervention
of any type to suppress the genocidaires. Nonetheless, the insurgents have
inflicted huge casualties on Rwandan Tutsi civilians, and attacks appear
to be spreading throughout the country. Rwandan Hutu civilians who do not
necessarily support the genocidaires, are forced to give them food, and,
all too often, are targets of reprisals by Rwandan government forces. Numerous
human rights organizations, including my own, have reported on killings
of Hutu civilians by the RPA in the context of a counterinsurgency campaign
which has been extremely brutal.
Physicians for Human Rights believes that the United Nations should
take specific actions to help suppress the insurgency, including taking
into custody ex-FAR and militamen engaged in the killing of Tutsi civilians,
and delivering them for prosecution for genocide. We also would support
the provision to the Rwandan authorities of intelligence and other military
assistance which would enable them to respond to attacks by the insurgency
if attacks and reprisals by the RPA against civilians have stopped and
the perpetrators have been punished.
Mr. Chairman, I would conclude by noting that the West's refusal to
suppress the genocide in Rwanda was extraordinarily costly in three ways:
first and foremost, it was costly in the terrible loss of hundreds of thousands
of Tutsi Rwandan men, women, and children and of the courageous Hutu civilians
who sheltered them. A second casualty of the genocide was the image and
thus the potential effectiveness of the United Nations and its various
organizations. In particular, the U.N.'s failure to stop the genocide and
subsequent refusal to disarm the camps -- assured, in part, by the United
States -- has contributed to a "go it alone" mentality on the
part of the Rwandan authorities that has had disastrous consequences for
human rights in Rwanda and Congo.
As you know, the Rwandan authorities repeatedly appealed to the international
community to disarm the refugee camps. When such action was not forthcoming,
the Rwandan army took matters into its own hands and emptied the camps.
That action eliminated a very important source of support for the insurgency,
but many thousands of unarmed refugees died as a result. When the insurgency
surged within Rwanda, as the genocidaire began to return home with the
refugees, the RPA again took care of things its way: at the cost of thousands
of civilian lives.
Physicians for Human Rights in no way equates RPA killings of Hutu civilians
in the Congo and Rwanda with the genocide. We do note, however, that the
ruthless character of both the invasion of Congo and the counterinsurgency
at home and Rwanda's desperate go-it-alone approach are part of the legacy
of the genocide and the West's failure to suppress the genocidaire today.
Accordingly, we urge that Rwanda's donors target their military assistance
to programs which support reform elements within the Rwandan military and
which upgrade both troop behavior and military justice systems designed
to address violations by the military. We also urge Rwanda's donors to
help the country recover from the genocide by providing generous non-military
aid so that health care, housing and jobs may be increased considerably,
and shared by all Rwandans.
Additional Rwanda References on the Web
International Response to Conflict and Genocide
The full 1996 report from the Joint Evaluation of Emergency Assistance
to Rwanda, the indispensable source on the international reaction to the
genocide and its aftermath.
UN Relief Web
Detailed and frequent updates on the Great Lakes region from a variety
InterMedia Tribunal Reports
Regular coverage of the International Criminal Tribunal Africa for Rwanda,
in English and French.
INCORE Country Guide
1997 guide to Internet Sources on conflict and ethnicity in Rwanda.
UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Strategic Humanitarian Coordination in the Great Lakes Region 1996-1997
An independent study released March 1998.
U.S. Committee for Refugees
Testimony on Genocide and the Continuing Cycle of Violence
This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the Africa
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