Date: Fri, 17 Dec 1999 12:53:24 -0600 (CST)
Copyright 1999 InterPress Service, all rights reserved.
UN Failed to Halt 1994 Genocide in Rwanda
By Jim Wurst, IPS, 16 December 1999
UNITED NATIONS. Dec. 16 (IPS) - An independent panel of inquiry has faulted the United Nations, the UN Security Council and member states of the world body for failing to prevent or halt the genocide in Rwanda in 1994.
"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," a report by the panel declared.
The report was the second in the past month to find that the United Nations had failed to prevent a massive human tragedy. In November, a report by Secretary-General Kofi Annan concluded the UN did not forcefully try to stop the 1995 massacre of Bosnian civilians by Serb forces in the town of Srebrenica.
The Rwanda genocide was launched in April 1994 by Hutu extremists in the government and army against the country's Tutsi population and moderate Hutus. Approximately 800,000 people were slaughtered in 100 days.
The independent commissioners who wrote the report had demanded unrestricted access to relevant people and UN documents.
Its members included Ingvar Carlsson, former Swedish Prime Minister, Han Sung-Joo, former Foreign Minister of South Korea, and Rufus Kupolati, a retired army general from Nigeria.
At a news conference Thursday, Carlsson said, "We underlined every failure. We not only tried to explain what happened and what mistakes were made but also who...was responsible. We have not avoided telling the truth."
Annan said, in a written statement, that he acknowledged the UN's failure and expressed his "deep remorse."
"I fully accept the conclusions, including those which reflect on officials of the UN Secretariat, of whom I myself was one."
As during the time of the Srebrenica massacre, Annan was UN's Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping.
One of the most glaring failings in Rwanda, according to the commissioners, was the decision to reduce the peacekeeping force after the slaughter had begun.
The UN peacekeeping mission, UNAMIR, had been established by the Security Council in October 1993 to help monitor a peace agreement reached that year between the government of Rwanda and the Tutsi- led Rwandese Patriotic Front.
However, the Council's mandate rejected some of the proposals of then UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali and UNAMIR thus was "deliberately weakened," according to the report.
Once the massacres began - including the killing of 10 Belgian peacekeepers - and Belgium withdrew from the mission, the Council reduced UNAMIR to a "minimal" force.
"It is a decision which the Inquiry finds difficult to jusfify. The Security Council bears a responsibility for its lack of political will to do more to stop the killing," said the panel report.
Kupolati said, "The mandate was flawed...and was not appropriate for the situation in the field. This should have been recognized by the UN." He also said the troops arrived "in bits and pieces," without equipment or with the wrong equipment.
The troops "were not at all, to say the least, of the standard that one would expect to find in a peacekeeping operation," he added.
The commission also faulted the Council for "the delay in identifying the events in Rwanda as a genocide."
The report also placed great importance on a cable sent from the Rwandan capital of Kigali to UN Headquarters in New York on January 11, 1994. The message said an informant had alerted the UN to the fact Hutus were registering all Tutsi in Kigali, with plans to exterminate them.
The way that cable was handled demonstrated "the lack of coordination" within the system, Carlsson said.
The cable, written by the UN force commander, Gen. Romeo Dallaire, was addressed to Boutros-Ghali's military advisor, Gen. Maurice Baril.
The commission said the cable should have been sent at least to the under-secretaries-general for Peacekeeping and Political Affairs, and noted that while Baril showed the cable to Annan and other Peacekeeping officials, neither the Boutros-Ghali nor the Security Council were informed.
"It is incomprehensible to the Inquiry that not more was done to follow-up on the information provided by the informant," the report said. "Information received by a United Nations mission that plans are being made to exterminate any group of people requires an immediate and determined response."
The only action taken was that UN officials in Kigali were told to brief Rwandan President Habyarimana of Rwanda and the ambassadors of the United States, Belgium and France.
There was no further reaction to the cable. Less than three months later, the plane carrying Habyarimana and the president of Burundi was shot down and the genocide began.
In his statement, Annan said, "Of all my aims as Secretary-General, there is none to which I feel more deeply committed than that of enabling the United Nations never again to fail in protecting a civilian population from genocide or mass slaughter."
The report listed 14 recommendations to prevent a repeat of the UN's failure.
One proposal is that the UN Security Council and troop contributing countries "must be prepared to act to prevent acts of genocide or gross violations of human rights wherever they may take place."
Other recommendations included improving the early warning capacity of the United Nations, better coordination on the ground, improved communications within the secretariat and between the secretariat and the Security Council and with "outside actors" such as non-governmental organizations.
Annan said some of the recommendations in the report already had been undertaken, such as improved communications within the UN secretariat and with the Security Council. A representative of Annan said the UN now "is very quick" to report any potential problems. (END/IPS/jw/mk/99)
[c] 1999, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS)
May not be reproduced, reprinted or posted to any system or service outside of the APC networks, without specific permission from IPS. This limitation includes distribution via Usenet News, bulletin board systems, mailing lists, print media and broadcast. For information about cross- posting, send a message to <firstname.lastname@example.org>. For information about print or broadcast reproduction please contact the IPS coordinator at <email@example.com>.