Rwanda: OAU Report, 07/07/00

Rwanda: OAU Report, 07/07/00

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Region: Central Africa Issue Areas: +peace/security+ Summary Contents: This posting contains a press release on the release of the new Organization of Africa Unity report on the genocide in Rwanda, which places the blame on the UN Security Council for failing to act. It also contains Chapter 10 of the report, which focuses on "What the World Could Have Done" The report denounces the double standard which allowed the UN forces to stretch their mandate to rescue expatriates, but failed to extend the same protection to Rwandan victims.

The full report is available on the web at:

For links to earlier reports and on-line sources, see

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UN Department of Public Information (DPI) (

7 Jul 2000

International community to blame for Rwanda genocide, says expert panel

An international panel investigating the 1994 genocide in Rwanda issued its findings today, placing the brunt of the blame on the United Nations Security Council, the United States, France and Belgium for their failure to prevent the massacres, and calling for reparations to be paid by those who failed to stop the bloodshed.

The 296-page report, which was launched this morning at UN Headquarters in New York, was welcomed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan as "another important contribution" towards efforts to shed more light on the Rwanda tragedy. "The Secretary-General hopes that this report will make an effective contribution to the success of the international community's ongoing efforts as it continues to grapple with the complex challenges of preventing genocide," Mr. Annan's spokesman said in a statement.

Commissioned by the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and prepared by a seven-member International Panel of Eminent Personalities, Rwanda: The Preventable Genocide explores the circumstances that led to the slaughter by a small group of Hutu extremists of an estimated 500,000 to 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu in just over 100 days.

"It is of course true that there would have been no genocide had a small group among the Rwandan governing elite not deliberately incited the country's Hutu majority against the Tutsi minority," the Panel said. "But this terrible conspiracy only succeeded because certain actors external to Rwanda allowed it to go ahead."

"Of these, the most important was the United Nations Security Council. Its members could have prevented the genocide from taking place. They failed to do so."

Introducing the report at a UN press conference, one of the panel's members, Ambassador Stephen Lewis of Canada, drew particular attention to the role of France and the United States.

"We repudiate the position of the Government of France, the position that asserts that they had no responsibility," Ambassador Lewis said, speaking on behalf of the panel. "They could have stopped the genocide before it began. They knew exactly what was happening." In addition, France facilitated the exodus of a huge number of genocidaires under the cover of Operation Turquoise, "thereby ushering in the larger Great Lakes catastrophe" and "even engaged in the shipment of arms throughout the genocide and after," Ambassador Lewis said.

On the role of the United States, Ambassador Lewis said that the role of the US Government in blocking a more effective UN intervention force throughout the entire genocide was "an almost incomprehensible scar of shame" on American foreign policy. "The United States too knew exactly what was going on," he said.

The Panel also singled out the role of the Catholic and Anglican churches in the events, noting that the church leaders had done nothing to discourage the killings. The report said that since the end of the genocide, several parties have apologized for failing to stop the massacres, including President Clinton, Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the Prime Minister of Belgium and the Anglican Church, but pointed out that no apology had yet come from the French Government or the Catholic Church.

In accordance with its mandate, the Panel also presented a list of 32 specific recommendations addressed to three distinct audiences - the people of Rwanda, the rest of Africa and the international community. Particular "cogency" among the many proposals was the conclusion that reparations were owed to Rwanda by actors in the international community for their roles before, during and since the genocide, Ambassador Lewis stressed. The Panel called for the establishment a commission to determine a formula for reparations and to identify which countries should be obligated to pay. The funds paid as reparations should be devoted to urgently needed infrastructure developments and social service improvements on behalf of all Rwandans, the Panel said.

The Panel was chaired by Sir Ketumile Masire (former President of Botswana), with Amadou Toumani Toure (former Head of State of Mali) serving as vice-chair. The other members of the Panel are P.N. Bhagwati (former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India); Hocine Djoudi (former Algerian Ambassador to France); Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (former Liberian Government Minister); Stephen Lewis (former Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Canada to the UN); and Lisbet Palme (Chairperson of the Swedish Committee for UNICEF, Expert on the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child).




10.1. If there is anything worse than the genocide itself, it is the knowledge that it did not have to happen. The simple, harsh, truth is that the genocide was not inevitable; and that it would have been relatively easy to stop it from happening prior to April 6, 1994, and then to mitigate the destruction significantly once it began. In the words of one expert, 'This was the most easily preventable genocide imaginable.'[1 - footnotes in on-line version at]

10.2. The conspirators may have seemed formidable in local terms, but in fact they were small in number, modestly armed, and substantially dependent on the outside world. On the few occasions when the world did protest against the human rights violations being perpetrated, the abuses largely halted, if temporarily. This has been documented thoroughly. Conversely, each time the world appeased the latest outrage, it enhanced the sense of Hutu Power impunity. Since no one was ever punished for massacres or human rights abuses, since the Habyarimana government remained a favourite recipient of foreign aid, and since no one demanded an end to the escalating incitement against the Tutsi, why would Hutu radicals not believe they could get away with just about anything? [2]

10.3. The plot leaders were in it for the spoils. Even a hint, let alone a threat that further aid or loans or arms would not be forthcoming was taken very seriously indeed. Such threats were invoked with success to force Habyarimana to sign the Arusha accords. They were rarely made in connection with human rights abuses or ethnic persecution, however, and when they were, the threats were never followed up, reflecting the reality that human rights were not high on the agendas of many foreign governments.

10.4. Beyond this, some outsiders were blinded by their faith in multipartyism as a panacea for all Rwanda's woes. The atrocities aimed at the Tutsi were mistaken for more violence flowing from the civil war. End the civil war and implement the Arusha accords, they reasoned, and ethnic violence will automatically stop. To forward the goal of peace, it was necessary to remain engaged. Withdrawal of aid was therefore seen as counter-productive.

10.5. Few bothered to learn the lesson from Arusha's utter failure that no agreement mattered unless Hutu Power was shattered. Precisely the same crucial analytical error was repeated throughout the period from April to July, when the Security Council and the United Nations Secretariat consistently took the position that ending the civil war took primacy over ending the genocide. When the Nigerian ambassador complained that too much attention was being paid to cease-fire negotiations and too little to stopping the massacres, he was largely ignored. The Carlsson Inquiry, appointed by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 1999 to look into the role of the UN in the genocide, criticizes the entire U N family for this 'costly error of judgment.'[3] In fact, this seems to us too generous an interpretation of the world's failure.

10.6. Here was a clear-cut case of rote diplomacy by the international community. As the UN's own Department of Peacekeeping Operations later concluded, 'A fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the conflict contributed to false political assumptions and military assessments.'[4] Security Council members blithely ignored both the discrete realities of the situation and the urgent advocacy of the non-governmental agencies who were crying out the truth to whomever would listen.[5] Instead, the automatic reflex was to call for a cease-fire and negotiations, outcomes that would have coincided perfectly with the aims and strategy of the genocidaires. The annihilation of the Tutsi would have continued, while the war between the armies paused, and negotiators wrangled. In reality, anything that slowed the march of the RPF to military victory was a gift to Hutu Power. In the end, its victory alone ended the genocide and saved those Tutsi who were still alive by July. We count Rwanda fortunate that a military truce - the single consistent initiative pursued by the international community - was never reached.

10.7. It should only have taken the information at hand to formulate a correct response. It may well be that the mass media did not at first grasp the full extent of the genocide, but that was not true of the world's decision-makers. Eyewitness accounts were never lacking, whether from Rwandans or expatriates with the International Committee for the Red Cross, Human Rights Watch, the US Committee for Refugees, or others. Week after week for three months, reports sent directly from Rwanda to home governments and international agencies documented the magnitude of the slaughter and made it plain that this was no tribal bloodletting, but the work of hardline political and military leaders. At the same time, the reports spelled how countless people could still be saved, identifying exactly where they were hiding, and what steps were needed to rescue them. Yet the world did less than nothing. As subsequent chapters fully document, the world powers assembled as the UN Security Council actually chose to reduce, rather than enhance, their presence.

10.8. The obvious, necessary response was a serious international military force to deter the killers; this seems to us a self-evident truth. This Panel wants to go on record as one that shares the conviction of UN Assistance Mission to Rwanda ( UNAMIR) Commander General Romeo Dallaire: "The killings could have been prevented if there had been the international will to accept the costs of doing so." [6] As we have seen, that will was at best half-hearted before April 6, and it collapsed entirely in the early stages of the genocide. Virtually every authority we know believes that a larger, better-equipped, and toughly mandated force could have played a critical role, possibly in deterring the conspiracy entirely or, at the least, in causing the plotters to modify or stall their plans and in significantly reducing the number of deaths. It seems certain that appropriate UN intervention at any time after the genocide began would have had a major role in stopping the killings.[7]

10.9. Dallaire has always insisted that with 5,000 troops and the right mandate, UNAMIR could have prevented most of the killings. In 1998, several American institutions decided to test Dallaire's argument. The Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict, the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and the US Army undertook a joint project to consider what impact an international military force was likely to have had.[8] Thirteen senior military leaders addressed the issue, and a report based on their presentations as well as on other research, was prepared for the Carnegie Commission by Colonel Scott Feil of the US Army. His conclusion was straightforward: "A modern force of 5,000 troops...sent to Rwanda sometime between April 7 and April 21, 1994, could have significantly altered the outcome of the conflict... forces appropriately trained, equipped and commanded, and introduced in a timely manner, could have stemmed the violence in and around the capital, prevented its spread to the countryside, and created conditions conducive to the cessation of the civil war between the RPF and RGF." [9]

10.10. Of course, we understand that this was a strictly theoretical exercise, and it is easy to be wise after the fact. On the other hand, we have no reason to question the objectivity of this analysis or of any of the participants. Neither they nor the author seem to have had a vested interest in this conclusion. Moreover, even those analyses that have recently stressed the logistic complications in swiftly mobilizing a properly equipped force do not deny that scores of thousands of Tutsi, 'up to 125,000,' might have been saved at any time during the months of the genocide.[10] By any standard, these American reports stand as a humiliating rebuke to the US government whose influence was so great in ensuring that no adequate force ever was sent.

10.11. Rather than respond with appropriate force, the opposite happened, spurred by the murders of the Belgian Blue Berets and Belgium's withdrawal of its remaining troops. Exactly two weeks after the genocide began - following strenuous lobbying for total withdrawal led by Belgium and Britain, and with American UN Ambassador Madeleine Albright advocating the most token of forces and the United States adamantly refusing to accept publicly that a full-fledged, Convention-defined genocide was in fact taking place - the Security Council made the astonishing decision to reduce the already inadequate UNAMIR force to a derisory 270 men.[11]

10.12. Today, it seems barely possible to believe. The international community actually chose to abandon the Tutsi of Rwanda at the very moment when they were being exterminated. Even that was not the end of it. The UN Secretariat officials then instructed General Dallaire that his rump force was not to take an active role in protecting Rwandan citizens.[12] To his great credit, Dallaire maneuvered to keep the force at almost twice the size authorized, and UNAMIR was still able to save the lives of an estimated 20,000 to 25,000 Rwandans during the course of the genocide.[13]

10.13. In a sense, the fact that it was possible to save thousands of lives with 500 troops makes the Belgian and the UN decisions much more deplorable. The available evidence reveals the considerable authority exerted after April 6 by even a small number of Blue Helmets with a UN flag. 'The general rule' was that 'Rwandans were safe as long as they gathered under United Nations protection ... It was when the United Nations forces left the site that the killings started'.[14] This rule was most infamously demonstrated in the case of the Kigali technical school, l'Ecole Technique Officielle (ETO), where 100 Belgian soldiers kept a horde of murderers at bay. As the UN troops withdrew through one gate, the genocidaires moved in through another. Within hours, the 2,000 Tutsi who had fled to ETO for UN protection were dead.[15] We will return to this shocking incident later in this report.

10.14. With the exception of the deliberate murders of the 10 Belgian Blue Helmets, experiences showed that a few UN troops could provide significant defense for those under their protection with little risk to themselves. This "power of presence" was not to be underestimated. Yet when France sent 500 soldiers to evacuate French citizens and Akazu members on April 8 and 9, Dallaire's UN troops were immediately ordered - by the Secretariat in New York, and under strong pressure from western countries - to work with the French to evacuate foreign nationals rather than protect threatened Rwandans.[16] This can only be described as a truly perverse use of scarce UN resources. No doubt innocent expatriates were threatened by a conflagration that was none of their making. But exactly the same was true of Rwanda's Tutsi, who were peremptorily abandoned by the Blue Helmets.

10.15. Equally startling were the guidelines Dallaire was given. These seem to have received little notice until documented by the Carlsson Inquiry report, yet they seem to us of extraordinary significance. 'You should make every effort not to compromise your impartiality or to act beyond your mandate,' the April 9 cable from Kofi Annan and Iqbal Riza stated, 'but [you] may exercise your discretion to do [so] should this be essential for the evacuation of foreign nationals. This should not, repeat not, extend to participating in possible combat except in self-defence.'[17] This double standard seems to us outrageous. No such instructions were ever given to Dallaire about protecting innocent Rwandan civilians. He was never explicitly directed that the Blue Helmets should protect such civilians and could fight in self-defence if attacked while doing so. He was never told, 'exercise your act beyond your mandate' when it came to Rwandans. On the contrary, every time he raised the issue, he was specifically instructed not to go beyond the rigidly circumscribed mandate approved by the Security Council under any circumstances. Is there a conclusion we can draw from this incident other than that expatriate lives were considered more valuable than African lives?

10.16. The lesson to be learned from the betrayal at ETO and other experiences was that the full potential of UNAMIR went unexplored and unused, and, as result, countless more Rwandans died than otherwise might have. If anyone in the international community learned this lesson at the time, it was not evident at the UN. For the next six weeks, as the carnage continued, the UN dithered in organizing any kind of response to the ongoing tragedy. The Americans, led by US Ambassador Madeleine Albright, played the key role in blocking more expeditious action by the UN.[18] On May 17, the Security Council finally authorized an expanded UNAMIR II to consist of 5,500 personnel.[19] But there is perhaps no distance greater on earth than the one between the Security Council chambers and the outside world. Once the decision to expand was finally made, as we will soon show in detail, the Pentagon somehow required an additional seven weeks just to negotiate a contract for delivering armed personnel carriers to the field; evidently it proved difficult to arrange the desired terms for "maintenance and spare parts."[20] When the genocide ended in mid-July with the final RPF victory, not a single additional UN soldier had landed in Kigali.


Message-Id: <> From: "APIC" <> Date: Sat, 8 Jul 2000 15:43:20 -0500 Subject: Rwanda: OAU Report

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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