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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 Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.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

+++++++++++++++++++++Document Profile+++++++++++++++++++++

Region: Central Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +security/peace+
Summary Contents:
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.

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United Nations

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 leaders.

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 peacekeeping".

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 Council.

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 Department.

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 greater accountability?

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 accountability.

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 capacity.

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

I. Introduction

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 future.

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.

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