Examine the responses of Western countries to the Rwandan genocide of 1994. To what extent can they be said to have been complicit in the atrocities?
‘The evil represented in this museum is incontestable. But as we are its witness, so must we remain its adversary in the world in which we live. So we must stop the fabricators of history and the bullies as well. Left unchallenged, they would still prey upon the powerless; and we must not permit that to happen again’
On April 22nd 1993 President Bill Clinton dedicated the United States Holocaust museum with a clarion call. ‘Never again’ would evil be allowed to reign uncontested. ‘Never again’ would the world stand idly by as innocent people were killed for no reason other than their ethnic background. ‘Never again’ would responsibility be so flagrantly flouted. Yet less than a year later the Clinton administration stood at the forefront of an international community that either looked on, or looked away, as 800,000 people were killed in one hundred days in a small country in equatorial Africa. As the fastest, most efficient campaign of slaughter in human history [is this true? or ‘one of’?] was being carried out, countries in Europe and North America, and even the United Nations, either denied the nature of the killing, or repudiated an impetus to act to stop it.
Responsibility for the Rwandan genocide is not easily attributed; it is, of course, much easier to respond retrospectively to the events in and around the genocide than it could possibly have been at the time. Lack of knowledge is the most frequently cited defence of those arguing that no less was done than could have been done. Of course with hindsight we are able to examine all angles, to have a far greater breadth and depth of knowledge than was available both as atrocities were being planned and as they were ongoing. There can [cut? - therefore] be no truly comprehensive appraisal of the actions of the leaders, politicians and bureaucrats who made, or chose not to make, the decisions that allowed the Hutu militia to act with almost complete impunity as they sought to exterminate the Tutsi population. There is also a volume of literature that contests that even if the international community had been in possession of a full understanding of the situation in Rwanda it would still have been essentially unpreventable. Yet all actors involved now acknowledge that mistakes were made and that more could and should have been done. This essay aims to explore the extent to which the wealthiest, most powerful nations in the world failed to respond to the desperate cries for help of an impoverished population being slain in their thousands. While few of the parties involved can be said to be entirely free from blame I intend to focus on the actions of three: the United States, the United Nations – with particular emphasis on the role of Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali – and France.
These three all played a significant part in determining the course of events in the time leading up to the genocide, as well as during it. The US, as global hegemon, was in the strongest position to act; the United Nations with its responsibilities for maintaining international peace and security should and could have done more; France, with its relationship with the Francophone Hutu leaders in Rwanda, may be seen to have had some active responsibility for the fact that the genocide was not stopped sooner. Ultimately, in the international realm, political interest prevailed over morality, humanitarianism and collective responsibility as the driving force behind behaviour [cut? - and the Rwandan genocide gives us no reason to doubt this]. For too long events in Rwanda were passed off in the West as ‘civil war’ and ‘internal conflicts’, with responsibility for killings and clashes equally ascribed along both sides of the ethnic divide.
I will begin by looking at the definition of genocide and the problems associated with identifying it. Did the various authorities genuinely miss the signs of genocide or did they deliberately choose to ignore them in order to avoid the obligation to act?
The UN Genocide Convention of 1948 defines genocide as acts committed with the ‘intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group’ (emphasis added) and says that ‘whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, [it] is a crime under international law which they undertake to prevent and to punish.’.The clause ‘whether committed in time of peace or in time of war’ is [cut? – both] particularly important and particularly troublesome, especially with regard to Rwanda. War can and does draw an obfuscating veil over abhorrent acts of human rights violation. The Rwanda-Burundi region of Africa had been in an almost permanent state of conflict since shaking off the shackles of colonialism in the 1960s, with no secret made of the violent rivalry between the majority Hutu tribe and the minority Tutsi. [Is this relevant to the argument here – perhaps put in the footnote? As colonial masters the Belgians had favoured the Tutsi and stirred a simmering cauldron of already heated resentment between the tribes. ]
Genocide is not an act of war and has no inherent relationship to war. Nevertheless, international bureaucrats and the policy-makers used the civil war in Rwanda as a legal, if not moral, excuse for inaction. The view of the outside world was that the post-colonial history of Rwanda was littered with violent outbreaks and tit-for-tat tribal massacres and that this was simply accepted as the status quo. While peace between the Hutu and the Tutsi was obviously desirable, with animosity so deeply embedded in the culture there could only be ‘African solutions to African problems’; neither side was deemed especially more responsible than the other and there was little external actors could do to resolve the dispute.
It is important that we maintain a consistent understanding of what is meant by the term ‘complicity’. I do not mean to suggest, and there is no evidence to support any claim, that the wealthy Western powers were active conspirators in the genocide, or that they had any direct responsibility for it. Nonetheless, either wittingly or unwittingly, they allowed the genocide in Rwanda to occur. In legal terms, failure to act to your full capacity to prevent a crime from taking place is complicity, and a crime in itself. [Even if unwitting?] This is the understanding of the term I will be employing throughout this essay.
The Clinton administration, elected on an almost entirely domestic and economic platform and without a majority [majority of popular vote? or in Congress?] had no consistent foreign policy direction. Partly this could be attributed to Clinton’s lack of experience in foreign affairs, partly to his lack of a mandate, partly to the ambiguous nature of foreign relations in the early post-Cold War era. The result, however, was that when it came to international issues Clinton was a follower rather than a leader, preferring to take a back seat wherever possible. The loudest national voices on US foreign policy at this time did not emanate from the White House, as tradition would have had it, but from Capitol Hill and Congress, the de facto [?is de facto what you mean – or conventional/traditional?] seat of domestic responsibility. Republican Senator Bob Dole, one of the most aggressive proponents of intervention in Bosnia, made one of the strongest statements on US intervention in Rwanda when he said ‘I don’t think we have any national interest there… as far as I’m concerned, in Rwanda, that ought to be the end of it.’ It was of [? – cut more] experienced figures such as Dole that the Clinton administration took heed. Even before Somalia went terribly wrong, a goal of the administration was to avoid being drawn by the UN into foreign military engagements where US interests were not at stake. At the time, this was for budgetary reasons as much as from fear of accumulating US casualties [really ‘as much as’? Not just ‘as well as’?] When Rwanda erupted into crisis the administration’s response was already fully formed, with policy, rather than facts, determining the way in which events were interpreted; and therefore the response. Having predisposed itself to a foreign policy based on the expansion of American economic interests, only involving itself in conflicts where American interests were directly at stake, the administration failed to recognize an international legal and moral imperative when it arose. Even as late as May 25th 1994 Clinton’s rhetoric was that of reticence, retreat and reluctance: ‘Whether we get involved in the world’s ethnic conflicts,in the end, must depend on the cumulative weight of the American interest at stake.’ As Douglas Brinkley put it, ‘He is more interested in helping Toys ‘R’ Us and Nike to flourish in Central Europe than in despatching Marines to quell unrest in economically inconsequential nations.’
Without a popular electoral mandate and with no political capital to spend, the White House assumed a highly risk-averse stance, inclined only to pursue policies that would bolster Clinton’s popularity. Humanitarianism just didn’t qualify. UN peacekeeping operations were unpopular enough in Washington before the Somalia mission imploded; the fallout – also known as ‘Somalia Syndrome’ - from ‘Black Hawk Down’ proved decisive. It was a question of politics and interests and it was perceived in the White House that the administration could only lose by despatching more troops to Africa, and the American people would not respond well. It can be argued however, that the administration underestimated the people. A poll taken in 1994 asked: ‘If genocidal situations occur, do you think that the UN, including the US, should intervene with whatever force is necessary to stop the acts of genocide?’ A significant majority – 65 per cent – responded ‘always’ or ‘in most cases’, with only 23 per cent saying ‘only when American interests are also involved’.
However, ‘American interests’ were precisely what drove America’s African policy: Washington ‘saw Rwanda through the prism of Somalia.’ There were warnings, even from American officials. In March 1994 Prudence Bushnell, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, visited Rwanda to meet with the leaders of the RPF and the Rwandan government and urge both sides to take steps to curb the violence. In her report she warned Washington that ‘The failure to reach accomodation could result in tragedy for all Rwandans.’ Similarly, in a fax to the Secretary of State for African Affairs, the US amabssador to Rwanda, David Rawson, articulated fears of a coup d’etat and warned that ‘the results of any coup would be catastrophic and could result in ethnic backlash throught the countryside.’ Further warnings were issued by the CIA in December 1993, when it found that four million small arms had been transferred from Poland to Rwanda – while the Rwandan government was supposedly committing itself to the peace process – and in January 1994, when it informed the State Department of its analysis that should conflict in Rwanda resume, ‘the worst case scenario would involve one-half million people dying.’
However, it seems that in the upper echelons there were no ears to hear: there was ‘no incentive to go beyond their misconceptions to understand the situation. Rwanda was poor, remote and African – irrelevant to the national interest.’ When Rwandan human rights activist Monique Mujawariya went to Washington to articulate the situation in her country and to push for US intervention, she met with the President’s National Security Adviser Anthony Lake. Having offered his resignation in the aftermath of the Mogadishu disaster, he was personally affected but politically disabled, in no position to urge another US military operation into the heart of Africa. One congressional offical responsible for Africa told Mujawariya: ‘The United States has no friends; the United States has interests. In the United States there is no interest in Rwanda.’
Even when it was clear that massacres were taking place in Rwanda, the US simply refused to recognize that a genocide was taking place. Officials would go no further than speaking of ‘acts of genocide’. In a State Department press briefing on Rwanda WHEN?? spokesperson Christine Kelly was asked: ‘How many acts of genocide does it take to make genocide?’ To which her response was: ‘That’s not a question I’m in a position to answer.’ Similarly, for the then US amabassador to the United Nations, Madeline Albright, the question of genocide was ‘a legal definitional thing’. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs George Moose was [when?] more straightforward: ‘the discussion was about how we might be viewed if we declared that there was a genocide and then we are not ready willing and able to do anything about it.’
Yet whatever the resistance of the US to involvement in ‘ethnic conflicts’, the act of genocide carries an altogether higher level of responsibility: the genocide convention places a legal obligation on signatories to intervene.
The most important single figure in the UN at the time of the Rwandan genocide was the Secretary General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali [an Egyptian – cut – better left till later, when you explain how this is relevant]. While decisions on whether or not to authorise [the creation of] a peacekeeping mission are ultimately made by a vote of member states in the Security Council, the head of the Secretariat has responsibility for overseeing operations. The Secretariat is supposed to act as the eyes and ears of the Council, the link between the Council and the mission, assimilating all the information and reports provided by commanders on the ground and passing them on to the emissaries of the member states. Boutros Boutros-Ghali was instrumental in both the creation and the operation of the peacekeeping mission to Rwanda, named the United Nations Assistance Mission In Rwanda (UNAMIR), established in October 1993 and arriving in Rwanda in November. For Boutros-Ghali UNAMIR was the perfect vehicle to demonstrate the capability of the peacekeeping department to carry out a successful mission and he lobbied hard to bring it into being. [This sounds as if Boutros-Galli the good guy! Spell out specific mission of UNAMIR, what was the state of the conflict in Rwanda at the point when it was dispatched, what were the limitations of its mandate as compared with e.g. UNOSOM? Also suggest foll. sentence really belongs in this section: The US had been reluctant to support even the most tentative of UN operations in Rwanda, and they were certainly not going to back an operation with a stronger mandate to act.]With the 1993 Arusha Accords between the government of Rwanda and the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF )in place and believed to ?, it was sold as a traditional operation, requiring a minimal mandate and minimal resources - essentially little more than a symbolic presence.
[Give full name first?]UNOSOM had been the first instance of a Chapter VII [do you need to explain what’s meant by Chapter VII?] peacekeeping mission installed without the permission of a sovereign government. It was deemed to be an exception because there was no recognized sovereign government in place in Somalia to provide such consent. Rwanda, while recognized as fragile, was considered to be significantly less problematic: there was an interim government in place and full diplomatic relations were established. Lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire was to be the commander on the ground, and it was clear to him from early on that the task was not to be so simple. He had been warned of the dangers posed by militias and extremists and ‘the UN needed to get a peacekeeping force on the ground as soon as possible to prevent such forces from increasing their grip.’ In the aftermath of Mogadishu states were reluctant to provide either troops or resources for the mission, and Dallaire arrived in Kigali with a skeleton operating force. The battalion under his command was made up mostly of Belgian commandos and Ghanaians, severely underequipped and underfunded, with troop numbers far below the level Dallaire thought necessary.
On 11th January 1994 Dallaire sent to the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations in New York a telegram which has since become famous. His unit had been approached by an individual known as ‘Jean-Pierre’, a high-ranking [Hutu? army?] officer willing to provide information of the plot to derail the Arusha Accords and embark upon a campaign of violence on the most egregious scale. The Hutu elite he said, were transforming the militia group known as the Interahamwe into ‘a machine of extermination’ not just of the RPF but of all Tutsi. Jean-Pierre also said that the conspiracy included a plan to force a UN withdrawal by killing a number of the Belgian troops who provided the backbone of the mission. Dallaire relayed the information to the DPKO in New York, saying that ‘[Jean-Pierre] has been ordered to register all Tutsi in Kigali and suspects it is for their extermination. Example he gave was that in 20 minutes his personnel could kill up to 1000 Tutsis.’ Jean-Pierre had also apprised the peacekeepers of the locations of a number of weapons stockpiles that were intended not merely for the armed forces but for civilian Hutu distribution. Dallaire went on to inform the DPKO that, though wary of being set up, he felt the informant was a reliable source and he intended to investigate the weapons caches. He was not requesting permission because he had no doubt that such investigations were well within his mandate. The UN response, however was an unequivocal rejection: ‘We cannot agree to the operation contemplated in paragraph 7 of your cable, as it clearly goes beyond the mandate entrusted to UNAMIR under resolution 872 (1993).’ Michael Barnett rightly provides a defence of the officials in charge of the DPKO at the time, saying that ‘If the telegram is wrenched from its historical and organizational context, then it is an unimpeachable warning sign that cannot be ignored or misinterpreted. Once it is properly situated, however, then its Nostradamus-like qualities disappear.’
Barnett however, goes on to critique this defence himself, arguing that the response of the DPKO was overtly [?overly] influenced by context and, more significantly, by the bureaucratic mentality of the United Nations. It was not that Dallaire’s message [cut? was in any way conventional or that it] didn’t ring any alarm bells within the department – as would later be claimed – it was that the UN chose not to hear the warning. Post-Somalia the bureaucrats were limited in what they could do but ‘those limits proved comforting to those individuals who wanted to play it safe because they were worried about the UN’s survival.’ The fallout from Somalia had been that member states’ enthusiasm for peacekeeping had declined significantly; another failed mission or catastrophic event could be the final nail in the coffin for the department. Keeping peacekeepers out of harm’s way had become the number one, number two and number three priorities of the DPKO, with the actual mission itself barely a consideration. Chasing up an unreliable lead on weapons caches – the exact circumstances in which Pakistani troops were killed in Mogadishu – was out of the question. BARNETT QUOTE???
Dallaire’s memo was not the only message sent from the Rwanda mission warning of the precarious ethnic knife-edge on which the Arusha Accords stood, but the UN was resigned to doing nothing, if they could possibly justify inaction. [cut? - As evidential as they were,] Outbreaks of ethnic violence were sporadic and seemingly random, and so could be ignored. This all changed on the night of 6th April. When Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana’s plane was shot down on landing at Kigali’s airport the plans of the genocidal conspirators were rapidly brought to realisation. The Hutu extremists of the Interahamwe and the presidential guard began a systematic campaign of killing, beginning with Tutsi politicians, moderate Hutus [?] and, as Jean-Pierre had forecast, ten Belgian peacekeepers. On 5th April the UN Security Council had met to discuss the future of UNAMIR, with little progress having been made towards implementing the Arusha Accords and the coalition power-sharing government no closer to forming. The Secretary General’s report prepared for this meeting was ‘optimistic in tone’ and omitted Dallaire’s ten-page military assessment ‘highlighting his serious deficiencies in capabilities and equipment’. Following the assassination of the President the council immediately reconvened for two weeks of emergency talks to determine the international response. This should have been the point at which the Secretariat, and Boutros Boutros-Ghali in particular, took the lead, as the body with [the most] direct jurisdiction over UNAMIR
Boutros-Ghali’s role, as Secretary General, was to inform the Security Council, to assimilate the reports he was receiving from the mission on the ground, and to funnel [what? Such reports as he thought significant?] to the Council to aid the decision-making process. However, when it came to Rwanda the Secretariat and Boutros Boutros-Ghali ‘always straggled one or two steps behind the Security Council and almost always mimicked its recent conclusions.’ The Security Council debate is often shaped by recommendations from the Secretariat; as the violence in Rwanda rapidly escalated ‘no such recommendations were forthcoming.’ Dallaire’s reports were increasingly alarming and specifically emphasised the scale of the violence and its one-sided ethnic dimension, but the information passed on to the Security Council was tempered with regard to both. The ‘Secretariat’s mentality’ shaped its view of Rwanda and its response to the unfolding carnage; its reaction was not to provide the Council with the best recommendations for the mission but to offer the recommendations to which it felt the Council would be most receptive. Dallaire himself favoured simply a demonstration of a willingness to employ force, believing that such a move would be enough to halt the killings; but in an interview given just a few days before Habyarimana’s assassination Boutros-Ghali expressed his view that ‘To use force is an expression of failure. Our job is diplomacy, the peaceful resolution of disputes.’ Iqbal Riza, Kofi Annan’s deputy in the DPKO, stated that: ‘Our mandate was not to anticipate and prevent genocide.’ The mission was paralysed from the start by a risk-averse command structure that refused to accept that the violence was the product of anything other than a breakdown of politics, that would not consider the idea that politics might not provide the answer, and that could not or would not perceive a dimension of the situation that was distinct from the civil war.
The Secretary General’s relationship with the genocide was not limited to his official capacity as head of the United Nations. Prior to taking the UN position Boutros-Ghali had been an Egyptian statesman and in 1990, as the RPF were launching their invasion into Rwanda, was working as a minister for foreign affairs. As the RPF offensive appeared to be an ever-increasing threat to Habyarimana’s Rwandan army, the government was desperate to find a new supplier of weaponry. Egypt had, for seven years, refused to sell arms to Rwanda; on the 28th October 1990, 12 days after a meeting between Rwandan amabassador to Egypt Celestin Kabanda and Dr Boutros Boutros-Ghali, an arms contract for US$5.889 million was signed between the two countries. This would be the first of several transactions of this kind to occur, coming as they did, as Belgium was attempting to engineer peace talks between the RFP and the Rwandan government. There was nothing illegal in Boutros-Ghali’s actions: in his own words, he was only doing his job as a minister of foreign affairs for Egypt and he ‘would have helped any government wanting arms from Egypt.’ He nonetheless was far more intimately connected and informed about the precarious situation in Rwanda than his subsequent actions as Secretary General might suggest. From this point up until the genocide began – with a population of only eight million people - Rwanda would become [was? – ‘would become’ implies escalation – was this the case – if so make clearer] the third largest importer of weapons in Africa, behind only Nigeria and Angola.
[Can you make a link here? Seems as if while Egypt was selling arms, France was going further, providing direct military aid to the Hutus? Don’t think foll. sentence works - how was relationship triangular? Sounds more like two separate relationships?] There was a triangular relationship between Boutros-Ghali, France and the Rwandan government led by President Juvenal Habyarimana. Under Habyarimana ‘the [Hutu] political elite embraced Paris as a source of cultural identity and protection.’ This embrace was reciprocated by the French government, who actively supported the Francophone Hutus, providing them with arms and combat training to fight against the RPF, who oriented themselves on the Anglophone sphere. This was coupled with high levels of financial aid [from the French? To Rwanda? To the Hutus?], amounting to US$10 million in 1993. Corporal Jean Damascent Kabure described an ‘ideological indoctrination against Tutsi as the French trained the Hutu Interahamwe’. In the early 1990s the RPF had lauched a number of attacks, originating from Uganda, against the Rwandan army, to bring a halt to Hutu massacres of Tutsi civilians; in response to each of these offensives France increased its military support for the Rwandan army (FAR). In February 1993 the RPF were on the verge of taking the capital Kigali when several hundred French troops were despatched. According to Alain Destaxhe ‘French intervention was the determining role in stopping the RPF advances.’
We cannot say that the genocide would not have occurred had Boutros-Boutros Ghali not arranged the sale of arms to the Hutu government or had France not been actively involved in supported the Hutu government [cut - there is no reason to suppose that it wouldn’t]. We cannot even say that the arms sale would not have taken place had Boutros Boutros-Ghali not helped to orchestrate it. We can, however, say that both the future United Nations Secretary General and the French government were instrumental in the supply of an enormous quantity of weapons which were later used to carry out the genocide.
In his speech at the Holocaust museum Bill Clinton also said: ‘We must live forever with this knowledge, even as our fragmentary awareness of crimes grew into indisputable facts, far too little was done. Before the war even started, doors to liberty were shut.’ The President was talking about events a half-century earlier; but his words would take on a fresh resonance and [a duality of – or just ‘another/ a new’] meaning just eighteen months later in Rwanda. When it comes to the subject of what was known by whom and when, our conclusions are at best speculative: we can accept, if we choose, the standard stock sentiment of the politicians and bureaucrats that they ‘did not fully appreciate the depth and the speed with which you were being engulfed by this unimaginable terror’ without absolving them of blame. When it came to Rwanda the response preceded the stimulus. That is to say that long before the genocide itself began, the reaction of the international community had been settled. While the various individuals, groups and governments were not expecting a genocide to occur in Rwanda, when it began the signs were there, and the signs were ignored.
 While no doubt a factor that is, however, meant as background, and not a facet of the sculture of complicity I am looking to build here. Colonialism, while significant, cannot be said to have had a causal responsibility for the genocide.
 Quote from Samantha Power, Atlantic Monthly article – date, page no.?
 PB Frontline: Ghosts of Rwanda ?where?
 Douglas Brinkley ‘Democratic Enlargement: The Clinton Doctrine’ Foreign Policy 106 Spring 1997 (p. 125)
 Stephen Kull ‘What the Public Knows that Washington Doesn’t’, Foreign Policy 101, Winter 1995/1996
 Allison Des Forges, Leave None To Tell The Story – book? article? where?
 Samantha Power: A Problem From Hell p338
 Samantha Power: Bystanders To Genocide
 Ghosts of Rwanda
 Romeo Dallaire Shake Hands With The Devil
 Ibid p60
 Literal translation from Kinyarwanda: ‘We who fight together’
 Barnett p78
 Michael Barnett Eyewitness to a Genocide p80
 Barnett p81
 Malvern: The Security Council: Behind the Scenes
 Barnett p108
 Malvern: The Security Council: Behind the Scenes
 Melvern: Behind the Scenes at the Security Council
 Linda Melvern The Role of the West in Rwanda’s Genocide (p33)
 Chris McGreal France’s Shame – The Guardian 11/1/2007
 Alain Destexhe Rwanda and Genocide in the Twentieth Century p52
 Clinton apology http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/africa/jan-june98/rwanda_3-25a.html