Get AfricaFocus Bulletin by e-mail!
Print this page
This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published
by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action
from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived
document may not work.
Rwanda: UN Report
Rwanda: UN Report
Date distributed (ymd): 991218
Document reposted by APIC
Region: Central Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +security/peace+
This posting contains a summary of the press conference at the
UN on presentation of the inquiry on UN actions during the
1994 genocide in Rwanda, as well as several brief excerpts
from the report of that inquiry. The full text of the report
is available at http://www.un.org/News/ossg/rwanda_report.htm;
additional press releases, including a statement by SecretaryGeneral
Kofi Annan, can also be found in the news section of
the UN web site (http://www.un.org).
A front-page story in the New York Times (December 17, 1999)
noted that the U.S. "had provided the investigators with scant
help and no documents during their six-month study." It also
noted that while there are now on record detailed official
investigations of French, Belgian and UN actions during the
1994 genocide, there has as yet been no official study of
actions by the U.S. government.
APIC/ECA Electronic Roundtable (begins January 2000)
Send an e-mail message to
firstname.lastname@example.org and put in the body of the message:
subscribe africanrealities-L firstname lastname
APIC Africa Web Bookshop (recently updated)
16 December 1999
PRESS CONFERENCE ON REPORT OF RWANDA INQUIRY TEAM
A lack of resources and a lack of the commitment necessary to
prevent genocide constituted the "overriding failure" behind
what happened in Rwanda in 1994, correspondents were told at
a Headquarters news conference today.
The United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) was
"slow to be set up, suffered from administrative difficulties
and lacked sufficient troops and equipment", said Ingvar
Carlsson, the Chairman of the independent inquiry into the
actions of the United Nations during the 1994 genocide. The
report of the inquiry has just been released.
Mr. Carlsson said he and his two colleagues, Han Sung-Joo of
the Republic of Korea and General Rufus Kupolati of Nigeria,
had spent some six months conducting the inquiry and
interviewed more than 100 people -- including survivors,
witnesses and government officials in Rwanda itself, Tanzania,
Brussels, Paris, New York and Washington, D.C.
They had had full access to United Nations archives, he said,
including all the relevant cable traffic, but had not seen
national government papers. They had not been able to
interview the United States Secretary of State, Madeleine
Albright, her country’s Permanent Representative at the United
Nations at the time of the genocide, but had talked to other
senior United States officials who were familiar with their
Government’s actions, Mr. Carlsson said.
"There was a serious gap between the mandate and the political
realities of Rwanda, and between the mandate and the resources
dedicated to it", Mr. Carlsson said.
"The Mission was not functioning as a cohesive whole when the
genocide started -- there was a lack of coordination and
discipline", Mr. Carlsson added, but individual United Nations
personnel "risked their lives" to save civilians and political
There were also "organizational problems" in the Secretariat
in New York, he said. He also drew attention to certain
States, "including my own country" [Sweden], who turned their
backs on Rwanda altogether.
It would "always be difficult to explain" why the United
Nations decided to reduce its peacekeeping troop presence in
Rwanda once the genocide had started, and increase it again
only once it was over, Mr. Carlsson told journalists.
The responsibility spread out to include the
Secretary-General, the Security Council, UNAMIR and Member
States, he said, adding that an "action plan" intended to
prevent genocide in the future would have to include a clear
statement that "without adequate resources there will be no
The members of the inquiry team were asked several questions
about an 11 January cable which UNAMIR Force Commander
Brigadier-General Romeo Dallaire had sent to New York. The
report says the cable features prominently in discussions
about what information was available to the United Nations
about the risk of genocide.
Mr. Carlsson said the cable contained "very important
information -- most of which turned out to be correct. This
cable was so important that it should have been shared with
the Secretary-General and the Security Council as a whole. The
serious mistake with the cable was the follow-up".
However, he added, the Secretariat could not be blamed for
failing to instruct the Rwandan Mission to search for reported
weapons caches. That had not been within the Mission's
mandate, which had anyway been reduced by the Security
General Kupolati added that it was not true to say the
Secretariat had ignored the cable. "Within a period of 24
hours there were four further cables between the Secretariat
and Kigali", he said. "The concern of the Secretariat was the
safety of UNAMIR people. It reacted appropriately. The failure
was in not following up [the cable]."
Asked why the team was "apologizing for the Secretariat", Mr.
Carlsson said he was not: it was a mistake that the cable had
not been sent direct to the Department of Peacekeeping
Operations, but it had been shared with the head of that
Another journalist asked why the issue was not "considered
more grave than it is". Why hadn’t it immediately been brought
to the attention of the Secretary-General? Should there now be
Mr. Carlsson said that "in most cases" the Secretary-General
was well- informed.
Asked whether Kofi Annan, then Under-Secretary-General for
Peacekeeping Operations, was guilty of negligence, Mr.
Carlsson said the inquiry had been assigned only to find out
the truth about what had happened, not to enforce
Mr. Han told journalists that few academics or people working
in non- governmental organisations in Rwanda at the time
"foresaw the possibility of genocide as such".
"Until the genocide actually began on 7 April, it seemed to
consist of mass killing, which was serious enough, but it was
not clear to the Secretariat" that genocide would follow, he
added. "We criticize the Secretariat [in the report] for a
lack of understanding of the situation ... But it was
difficult, if not impossible, for the Secretariat to conclude
from the cable that genocide was in the offing."
Asked by a journalist how that could have been the case, given
the language of the cable, Mr. Han emphasized that the
Secretariat lacked the right expertise and analytical
Asked whether the inquiry members thought the United Nations
should apologize for what happened in Rwanda, Mr. Carlsson
said there should be an apology from the whole international
community. He said the report recommends efforts to establish
a new relationship with Rwanda, but "it behooves the
Secretariat and the international community to acknowledge
their mistakes and the fact that they did not do enough".
In response to another question, General Kupolati said that as
far as the military issues surrounding peacekeeping were
concerned, the UNAMIR Force Commander, General Dallaire, was
working with a "flawed mandate ... . He did not have the men
he needed, they arrived late and without the right equipment.
Given this background, General Dallaire acquitted himself well
-- but he was handicapped". He also said that there were
problems with the rules of engagement, and that some of
General Dallaire’s officers had disagreed with those rules.
Asked whether he thought the United States Government bore a
special responsibility for what happened in Rwanda, Mr.
Carlsson said: "Remember the shadow of Somalia. This had an
enormous impact on the American public. The United States
changed the rules for participating in peacekeeping operations
- probably as a result of Somalia."
He emphasized that the report criticized the Security Council
for reducing the United Nations force after the genocide
began; he said the Belgian Government had pressured other
governments to withdraw after its own contingent left Rwanda.
Another correspondent asked whether the Security Council and
the Secretariat weren’t trying to shift blame onto each other
-- the former by saying it lacked information from the latter;
the latter by saying it lacked a mandate.
"There is no mathematical formula for apportioning blame, Mr.
Carlsson said. "If you read the report, you will see that for
every failure we try to isolate actors. We have not avoided
telling the truth, but hindsight is easy."
REPORT OF THE INDEPENDENT INQUIRY INTO THE ACTIONS OF THE
UNITED NATIONS DURING THE 1994 GENOCIDE IN RWANDA
15 DECEMBER 1999
Approximately 800,000 people were killed during the 1994
genocide in Rwanda. The systematic slaughter of men, women and
children which took place over the course of about 100 days
between April and July of 1994 will forever be remembered as
one of the most abhorrent events of the twentieth century.
Rwandans killed Rwandans, brutally decimating the Tutsi
population of the country, but also targetting moderate Hutus.
Appalling atrocities were committed, by militia and the armed
forces, but also by civilians against other civilians.
The international community did not prevent the genocide, nor
did it stop the killing once the genocide had begun. This
failure has left deep wounds within Rwandan society, and in
the relationship between Rwanda and the international
community, in particular the United Nations. These are wounds
which need to be healed, for the sake of the people of Rwanda
and for the sake of the United Nations. Establishing the truth
is necessary for Rwanda, for the United Nations and also for
all those, wherever they may live, who are at risk of becoming
victims of genocide in the future.
In seeking to establish the truth about the role of the United
Nations during the genocide, the Independent Inquiry hopes to
contribute to building renewed trust between Rwanda and the
United Nations, to help efforts of reconciliation among the
people of Rwanda, and to contribute to preventing similar
tragedies from occurring ever again. The Inquiry has analysed
the role of the various actors and organs of the United
Nations system. Each part of that system, in particular the
Secretary-General, the Secretariat, the Security Council and
the Member States of the organisation, must assume and
acknowledge their respective parts of the responsibility for
the failure of the international community in Rwanda.
Acknowledgement of responsibility must also be accompanied by
a will for change: a commitment to ensure that catastrophes
such as the genocide in Rwanda never occur anywhere in the
The failure by the United Nations to prevent, and
subsequently, to stop the genocide in Rwanda was a failure by
the United Nations system as a whole. The fundamental failure
was the lack of resources and political commitment devoted to
developments in Rwanda and to the United Nations presence
there. There was a persistent lack of political will by Member
States to act, or to act with enough assertiveness. This lack
of political will affected the response by the Secretariat and
decision-making by the Security Council, but was also evident
in the recurrent difficulties to get the necessary troops for
the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR).
Finally, although UNAMIR suffered from a chronic lack of
resources and political priority, it must also be said that
serious mistakes were made with those resources which were at
the disposal of the United Nations.
1. The overriding failure
The overriding failure in the response of the United Nations
before and during the genocide in Rwanda can be summarized as
a lack of resources and a lack of will to take on the
commitment which would have been necessary to prevent or to
stop the genocide. UNAMIR, the main component of the United
Nations presence in Rwanda, was not planned, dimensioned,
deployed or instructed in a way which provided for a proactive
and assertive role in dealing with a peace process in serious
trouble. The mission was smaller than the original
recommendations from the field suggested. It was slow in being
set up, and was beset by debilitating administrative
difficulties. It lacked well-trained troops and functioning
materiel. The mission's mandate was based on an analysis of
the peace process which proved erroneous, and which was never
corrected despite the significant warning signs that the
original mandate had become inadequate. By the time the
genocide started, the mission was not functioning as a
cohesive whole: in the real hours and days of deepest crisis,
consistent testimony points to a lack of political leadership,
lack of military capacity, severe problems of command and
control and lack of coordination and discipline. ...
The responsibility for the limitations of the original mandate
given to UNAMIR lies firstly with the United Nations
Secretariat, the Secretary-General and responsible officials
within the DPKO for the mistaken analysis which underpinned
the recommendations to the Council, and for recommending that
the mission be composed of fewer troops than the field mission
had considered necessary. The Member States which exercised
pressure upon the Secretariat to limit the proposed number of
troops also bear part of the responsibility. Not least, the
Security Council itself bears the responsibility for the
hesitance to support new peacekeeping operations in the
aftermath of Somalia, and specifically in this instance for
having decided to limit the mandate of the mission in respect
to the weapons secure area. ...
Discussions within the Security Council during these first
weeks of the genocide show a body divided between those, such
as the United States, who were sympathetic to the Belgian
campaign to withdraw the mission, and others, with the NAM
Caucus in the forefront, advocating a strengthening of UNAMIR.
In presenting his three options to the Security Council in a
report dated 20 April (S/1994/470), the Secretary-General did
state that he did not favour the option of withdrawal.
Although the Secretary-General has argued that he made his
preference for strengthening UNAMIR clear through a statement
by his spokesman to the press, the Inquiry believes that the
Secretary-General could have done more to argue the case for
reinforcement in the Council.
The decision by the Security Council on 21 April to reduce
UNAMIR to a minimal force in the face of the killings which
were by then known to all, rather than to make every effort to
muster the political will to try and stop the killing has led
to widespread bitterness in Rwanda. It is a decision which the
Inquiry finds difficult to justify. The Security Council bears
a responsibilty for its lack of political will to do more to
stop the killing. ...
b. The lack of will to act in response to the crisis in Rwanda
becomes all the more deplorable in the light of the reluctance
by key members of the International Community to acknowledge
that the mass murder being pursued in front of global media
was a genocide. The fact that what was occurring in Rwanda was
a genocide brought with it a key international obligation to
act in order to stop the killing. ...
10. The lack of political will of Member States
Another reason for the main failure of the international
community in Rwanda was the lack of political will to give
UNAMIR the personnel and materiel resources the mission
needed. Even after the Security Council decided to act to try
and stop the killing, and reversed its decision to reduce
UNAMIR, the problems that the Secretariat had faced since
UNAMIR's inception in getting contributions of troops from
Member States persisted. ... Recognition is due here to those
troop contributing countries, in particular Ghana and Tunisia,
which allowed their troops to remain throughout the terrible
weeks of the genocide, despite the withdrawal of other
contingents. In sum, while criticisms can be levelled at the
mistakes and limitations of the capacity of UNAMIR's troops,
one should not forget the responsibility of the great majority
of United Nations Member States, which were not prepared to
send any troops or materiel at all to Rwanda. ...
A general point about the need for political will is that such
will must be mobilised equally in response to conflicts across
the globe. It has been stated repeatedly during the course of
the interviews conducted by the Inquiry that the fact that
Rwanda was not of strategic interest to third countries and
that the international community exercised double standards
when faced with the risk of a catastrophe there compared to
action taken elsewhere.
This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the
Africa Policy Information Center (APIC). APIC's primary
objective is to widen international policy debates around
African issues, by concentrating on providing accessible
policy-relevant information and analysis usable by a wide
range of groups and individuals.