excerpted from the book
Deliver Us from Evil
by William Shawcross
Touchstone Books, 2000, paper
Genocide in Our Time
O N the evening of April 6, 1994, the plane carrying the president
of Rwanda, together with the president of Burundi, was shot down
as it prepared to land at Kigali, Rwanda's capital. Everyone aboard
was killed. The assassinations proved the signal if not the cause
of the third terrible genocide of the century-first Armenians,
then Jews, now Rwandan Tutsis. (The mass murder of over a million
Cambodians was committed by other Cambodians, the Khmer Rouge.
'Autogenocide" was an extralegal term invented to describe
Outside of intelligence agencies and the killers themselves,
no one knows who fired the missile that brought down the presidents'
plane. Among those who have since been blamed are the Rwandan
Patriotic Front (RPF - the Tutsi-dominated rebel army-the Belgian
government, the Hutu Presidential Guard and senior figures from
the Rwandan army. In any case, the crash was used as an excuse
by Hutu extremists to embark on their well-planned genocide of
Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The next twelve weeks were among the
most bloody in human history. One calculation is that the daily
killing rate was five times that of the Nazi death camps.
In the grotesque final act of a four-year civil war, close
to a million Tutsis are thought to have been murdered in brutal
hand-to-hand attacks by Hutu soldiers and police and by their
Hutu neighbors; the Rwandan Patriotic Front recommenced its war
against the regime in Kigali.
Looked at another way, into these few weeks in Rwanda more
human tragedy and far more deaths were compressed than had occurred
in four years in the former Yugoslavia. This time the response
of the outside world was even more restricted. Once again the
United Nations appeared to stand by, impotent.
As in Yugoslavia, the world was quick to assign "ancient
ethnic hatreds" or similar explanations to the genocide.
But as in Yugoslavia such shorthand was often misleading. The
violence in Yugoslavia and Rwanda may have had historical ethnic
components, but it also had political drivers. Leaders exploited
existing problems, attempted to transform them into crises and
drove their countries deliberately to destruction for their own
political ends. Violence was chosen; it was not inevitable.
Rwanda is about the size of Vermont-some ten thousand square
miles-and is one of the most densely populated countries in sub-Saharan
Africa. Its two principal peoples are the Tutsis and the Hutus,
who share a common language, culture and political system. The
Tutsis make up only about 10 percent of the population, but for
centuries they had ruled over the Hutu majority. The Tutsis inevitably
felt superior to the Hutus, but distinctions between the two groups
were not rigid and there was intermarriage between them. In the
early twentieth century the Germans set up a colonial administration
based on the existing hierarchy. The Belgians, who replaced the
defeated Germans after World War I, did the same, and the Tutsis
used the levers of colonial authority to extend their hold over
the Hutus. The Belgians allowed only Tutsis to hold official posts
and obtain higher education, and introduced a system of identity
cards showing ethnic affiliation. Hutu resentment grew, and after
the death of an esteemed king in 1959 it exploded into violence;
the Hutus overturned the monarchy, killed thousands of Tutsis
and drove tens of thousands of Tutsis into exile.
After Rwanda gained independence from Belgium in 1962, exiled
Tutsis tried to fight their way back into the country. The Hutu
government used the attacks as a pretext to kill and drive away
more Tutsis. The incursions and the killings ended in the late
1960s, but the government carried out the same sort of discrimination
against the Tutsis as the monarchy had previously used against
the Hutus. During the next thirty years the regime became more
and more totalitarian and dedicated to excluding Tutsis from all
positions of power. For twenty years from 1973 the regime was
led by Juvenal Habyarimana, who set up a political movement called
MRND (Mouvement Republicain National pour le Developpement, later
called MRNDD, Mouvement Republicain National pour la Democratie
et le Developpement) which was devoted to the promotion of the
Hutus. In 1986, Tutsi exiles in neighboring Uganda helped Yoweri
Museveni overthrow the government of Milton Obote. Museveni then
encouraged the Tutsis to set up the rebel army called the Rwandan
Patriotic Front in the refugee camps; in 1990 it invaded a corner
of northeastern Rwanda and declared war on the regime in Kigali.
President Habyarimana had developed a dose relationship with
French president Francois Mitered. By the early nineties, hundreds
of well-armed and well-equipped French paratroopers were fighting
alongside the mainly Hutu Rwandan army keeping the mainly Tutsi
rebel army at bay. Among French motives was that the rebels, coming
out of Uganda, were seen as part of an Anglo-Saxon attack on Francophone
Africa. Rivalry between "la francophonie" and "les
anglo-saxons, " promoted by Paris, was an important subtext
to the tragedy.
Cease-fires were honored mostly in the breach. The Rwandan
army began training militias and paramilitaries. The government
repressed opposition and the press. The Organization of African
Unity supported regional talks designed to persuade the Hutu-controlled
government to deal with the Tutsi rebels and with moderate Hutus
in Rwanda itself. The government bought arms from Egypt-underwritten
by France-and from South Africa. In February 1993 the rebels launched
a major offensive which was stopped outside Kigali with the help
of the French troops stationed there.
That August the two sides finally seemed to come to a powersharing
agreement signed in Arusha, a small town in Tanzania. Under the
Arusha accords they agreed to a cessation of hostilities, the
repatriation of refugees and the installation of what was called
a Broad Based Transitional Government (BBTG), in which Habyarimana
agreed to share power with the Hutu moderate opposition and the
Tutsi-led RPF. The transitional government was to be set up within
thirty-seven days. The rebel forces would be merged with the Rwandan
army. The agreement also called for the deployment of a neutral
international peacekeeping force within five weeks. The problem
with the accord was that it carried ]the political support, particularly
on the government side. The rebel delegation at Arusha had been
much more effective and united than that sent by President Habyarimana.
Hard-line Hutu groups in Rwanda saw Arusha as a setback that they
should reject. Tensions remained high.
When human rights groups urged France and Uganda to cut off
their arms supplies to the belligerents, France defended its role
and Uganda denied it. Boutros-Ghali sent a team to Rwanda to assess
how best to set up the peace force envisioned by Arusha. Its report,
recommending two battalions of about five thousand men, took weeks
to find its way to the top of the UN hierarchy. The Security Council,
preoccupied with both Bosnia and Somalia, displayed no more sense
of urgency. Resolution 872, setting up UNAMIR, the UN Assistance
Mission to Rwanda, was passed by the Security Council on October
5, two days after the deaths of the eighteen American soldiers
in Mogadishu. The U.S. now suggested a force of just five hundred
for Rwanda. The council compromised and authorized the secretary
general to deploy only one of the two battalions he had requested.
Soon after, Tutsi rebels in neighboring Burundi staged an
abortive coup and killed the Hutu president. Tens of thousands
of Hutus and Tutsis were killed by each other, and about 350,000
fled into southern Rwanda during a drought, adding enormously
to that country's problems. All this increased Hutu paranoia against
the Tutsis in Rwanda and reinforced the often odious and inciteful
propaganda against the Tutsis on Hutu radio stations such as Radio
Mille Collines. Some of the new refugees were recruited into the
Interahamwe, the militia of the MRNDD Party, which became part
of Hutu Power, the ideology of ethnic solidarity.
Boutros-Ghali appointedJacques-Roger Booh-Booh of Cameroon
as his special representative in Rwanda. The UNAMIR force commander
was a Canadian general, Romeo Dallaire. A good-looking, ramrod-straight
soldier with short graying hair and a gray mustache, he arrived
in mid-October. He was to become a lonely, brave and tragic hero
in the drama of the coming months.
UNAMIR was from the start a poor relation of UNPROFOR in the
former Yugoslavia. Dallaire wrote later that he was told by UN
officials that Rwanda was not a strategic interest of any nation
and that UNAMIR was to be conducted on the cheap." The Security
Council mandate itself ordered the secretary general to seek economies
in personnel and funding. "We never had sufficient funding
to conduct our mission," Dallaire said. Five weeks was the
deadline set by the Arusha accords for the deployment of a neutral
international force. Five months later the required force was
still not there. Dallaire was appalled.
From the start UNAMIR was hampered by serious shortcomings
in equipment, personnel, training, intelligence and planning.
Civilian staff took a long time to hire, let alone deploy; six
months after the mission began they were still trickling in. The
UN Development Program's resident coordinator was also supposed
to coordinate humanitarian efforts, reintegrate demobilized soldiers
and oversee national reconstruction. In Dallaire's view, he and
his staff were unable to do so much. There were tensions among
the UN civilian hierarchy, the major funding agencies and some
nongovernmental organizations. All in all UNAMIR was much less
proactive than it should have been; like UNTAC, its credibility
was damaged by its tardiness, and it was unable to win the confidence
of the various parties.
Worst of all was what Dallaire saw as "international
indifference" to the Rwandan crisis. The peacekeeping operation
was mandated but it was never adequately equipped. Dallaire was
sent half battalions from Bangladesh and Belgium and a battalion
from Ghana. This meant a command and control structure which was
totally inefficient; far too few troops were available for operations.
Such was the need for men that the Ghanaian battalion had to be
deployed for two months without their equipment. The Bangladeshi
transport company was short of trucks, and its engineer company
had less than a third of the equipment it needed to carry out
mine clearance and road repair. Its troops were unable to sustain
themselves. They did not even have a kitchen. The Bangladeshis
were unable to move themselves, let alone the Tunisian company
attached to them. They were supposed to have twenty armored personnel
carriers, but had only five in working order. There were no spare
parts, manuals or mechanics to service these vehicles and the
crews had never even fired their main weapons. UNAMIR's military
observers deployed around the country had almost no communications.
UNAMIR's command was consumed by the daily logistics of sustaining
both itself and the rebel battalion which arrived in the capital
at the end of 1993. Under the Arusha accords, this battalion was
to protect the Tutsi political leaders who were to be part of
the Broad Based Transitional Government. The command was also
severely taxed by the turmoil in Burundi and the resulting refugee
crisis. Detailed planning and implementation were delayed.
The mission had no stocks of water, food, ammunition, fuel,
lubricants or spare parts. Dallaire could not call up enough skilled
mechanics or logisticians. National and local bureaucracies spent
a lot of time negotiating pay rates. "Logistics," said
Kofi Annan, "are the glue which binds fighting forces and
makes them effective-or not." All in all, UNAMIR's logistics
problems seriously hampered its operations. The Security Council
had dispatched men from several nations in a state of readiness
that was dose to a shambles and in which no nation would or should
have ever deployed its forces. It was, Dallaire thought, bound
to lead to disaster in the face of violence. He kept asking for
help and so, he said, did Kofi Annan's peacekeeeping department
at the UN in New York. It was not forthcoming. Since the resources
provided were so desperately unmatched to the gravity of the growing
crisis, Dallaire wondered whether it would have been better for
the mission to withdraw rather than stay on, pretending it was
On December 30, 1993, the secretary general reported to the
Security Council that the parties had failed to establish the
Broad Based Transitional Government and that the situation was
very f agile. He urged that UNAMIR's second proposed battalion
be deployed and stressed that if resources were not increased,
UNAMIR's credibility would be damaged and the peace process jeopardized.
On January 6, 1994, the council agreed to the second battalion.
Obstacles to progress grew all the time. Violence always seemed
to disrupt any deadline. There was always a pretext for one or
the other side to balk at implementing the process. Years later
one particular cable from Dallaire became controversial after
it was published by Philip Gourevitch, a writer for The New Yorker.
On January 11, 1994, Dallaire reported to Annan's office in New
York that "a very, very important government politician"
had put him in touch with a Hutu informant, who said that he had
been in charge of the previous Saturday's demonstrations, which
had been intended to target deputies of opposition parties and
Belgian soldiers; deputies were to be killed and the Belgians
provoked and killed in the belief that this would lead to Belgian
withdrawal from Rwanda, as had happened with the Americans in
Somalia. According to the informant, the demonstrations were organized
by government officials who also participated in them.
The informant was a former security guard of the president
and was apparently paid handsomely to train the Interahamwe militia
to kill Tutsis. They had 1,700 men in the capital. Since UNAMIR
arrived he had trained about three hundred people in discipline,
weapons, explosives and dose combat tactics. "Since UNAMIR
mandate he has been ordered to register all Tutsis in Kigali,"
Dallaire cabled. "He suspects it is for their extermination.
The example he gave was that in 20 minutes his personnel could
kill up to 1000 Tutsis." The informant supported the opposition
to the Rwandan Patriotic Front but not the killing of innocent
people. He also said he believed the president did not have full
control over all the factions in his party.
Dallaire wrote that the informant was prepared to reveal a
cache of about 135 weapons. He had already distributed 110 others.
He wanted a UN guarantee of protection for himself, his wife and
four children. Dallaire said he was going to act within the next
thirty-six hours, and though he admitted he had some reservations
about the informant's sudden change of heart, and the accuracy
of his information, he recommended that the informant be given
In New York, there was reluctance. UNOSOM had been destroyed
in Somalia by its attempts to seize arms. Iqbal Riza, who was
handling Rwanda for Annan, sent an immediate response: "Information
is cause for concern but there are certain inconsistencies. We
must handle this information with caution." In a second cable
he wrote that New York could not agree to the action Dallaire
proposed "as it dearly goes beyond the mandate entrusted
to UNAMIR under Res 872." Instead he instructed Dallaire
and Booh-Booh to inform President Habyarimana of the threats by
the Interahamwe: "You should assume he is NOT aware of these
activities, but insist that he must immediately look into the
situation and take the necessary action to ensure that these subversive
activities are immediately discontinued and inform you within
48 hours of the measures taken in this regard, including the recovery
of the arms which have been distributed."
Before seeing the president, Riza advised, Dallaire and Booh-Booh
should see the ambassadors of Belgium, France and the United States
and suggest that they make a similar de'marche to the president.
Dallaire was asked to consult New York "if you have major
problems with the guidance provided above. We wish to stress however
that the overriding consideration is the need to avoid entering
into a course of action that might lead to the use of force and
Dallaire and Booh-Booh met with the ambassadors the next morning.
Dallaire reported back to New York, "They expressed serious
concern and indicated they would consult with their capitals for
instructions." The two men then went to see the Rwandan president
to tell him that they assumed he was unaware of such activities
and must look into them to make sure they were discontinued. They
told him if there was any violence they would bring the matter
to the attention of the Security Council immediately.
The president appeared alarmed, denied knowledge of the alleged
activities of the militia and promised to investigate. Dallaire
also complained about the harassment of both UNAMIR personnel
and Rwandan civilians by the Hutu Power militia at the demonstrations
on January 8.
For his part the president said how difficult it was proving
to set up the Broad Based Transitional Government called for in
the Arusha accords. He was very worried about the country's precarious
Later that day Dallaire and his colleagues met again with
the president and the national secretary of the MRNDD. Once again
the UN officials shared their information about the threats from
subversive groups in Kigali "as well as the storage and distribution
of weapons to those groups. They both denied *...." Dallaire
had the impression that they were bewildered and unnerved that
the UN had obtained so much specific information, and he thought
that as a result the weapons had been quickly distributed. But
he also thought that confronting those accused by the informer
was sensible and might force them to think of alternative ways
of disrupting the peace process, particularly in the Kigali area.
In an interoffice memo of January 21, Dallaire wrote that the
political impasse in the country was raising ethnic tensions:
"The vast amounts of weapons which have been freely distributed
in the past are seemingly readily available. No overt offensive
action has been taken [by UNAMIR] as of yet against these weapons
caches, due to the ongoing political initiatives."
UNAMIR, he wrote, could not sustain even its current level
of operations because all troops had been on duty since mid-December
and were exhausted; vehicles were overused and undermaintained;
VIPs on both sides needed extra protection. He thought things
would get only worse and he expected more aggressive demonstrations
which might "be aimed against UNAMIR as a good third party
scapegoat." He feared that "UNAMIR does not have the
size of force to cope with this scenario, nor does it have a logistics
base to sustain operations.... The overall situation ... is ripe
for increased turmoil and potential open conflict."
On February 2, Annan's office cabled Dallaire to agree that
there was a "need for some concrete initiative to facilitate
the recovery of illegal weapons" in Kigali. But they were
concerned that any attempt to recover them throughout the country
would be "ambitious if not unrealistic"-and perhaps
not consistent with the mandate under Resolution 872.* Dallaire
was told, 'We are prepared to authorize UNAMIR to respond positively
on a case by case basis to requests by the government and the
RPF for assistance in illegal arms recovery operations. It should
be clearly understood however that while UNAMIR may provide guidance/advice
for the planning of operations, it cannot repeat cannot take an
active role in their execution. UNAMIR's role during the execution
phase should be limited to a monitoring function." Crossing
the Mogadishu line held too many risks.
On February 3, Dallaire informed the military adviser to the
secretary general, his compatriot General Maurice Baril, at UN
headquarters that grenade attacks by militias, banditry and illegal
small demonstrations were causing unusual unrest in the capital,
and as a result the defense and interior ministers had just asked
that UNAMIR support the gendarmerie in collecting illegal arms
and ammunition. They felt it was 'high time to stop the indiscriminate
Dallaire wrote that as force commander he had a healthy skepticism
of Rwandans bearing gifts, but the fact that all those involved
in security matters had publicly asked for UNAMIR's help in supporting
their efforts to crush the violence and banditry in Kigali meant
that he should be given the authority to support the recovery
of illegal arms and ammunition. He was not.
Years later, the Secretariat published an explanation of its
failure to allow Dallaire to seize the arms and to inform the
Security Council itself. It acknowledged, 'With hindsight, the
Secretariat perhaps could have sounded the alarm bells more loudly.
The Security Council could have been requested in January 1994
to reinforce UNAMIR and endow it with the appropriate mandate
to undertake operations as the one envisaged by General Dallaire."
But it also pointed out again that the basic problem was not lack
of information but lack of will on the council.
Boutros-Ghali writes in his memoirs that he was not informed
about Dallaire's cable at the time. He states that the Secretariat
did not make more of it because " situations and alarming
reports from the field, though considered with utmost seriousness
by United Nations officials, are not uncommon within the context
of peacekeeping operations." But, he asserts, the fact that
Dallaire had informed the U.S., French and Belgian ambassadors
meant that "the powers that could have acted to prevent the
ensuing massacre . . . had indisputably and immediately been informed
by the United Nations of the severity of the threat."
Iqbal Riza told Philip Gourevitdh in 1998, "We get hyperbole
in many reports. If we had gone to the Security Council three
months after Somalia, I can assure you no government would have
said, 'Yes, here are our boys for an offensive operation in Rwanda.'
Annan was criticized in newspaper articles for not doing more
about Dallaire's information. He said later that no UN peacekeeping
mission-not even the NATO force in Bosnia-had ever been given
a disarmament mandate. "When a general is going to take an
action he has first to make sure that he has the capacity-because
if not, he will risk the lives of a lot of people including his
own soldiers," Annan contended.
In any case, on February l0, 1994, Boutros-Ghali's senior
political adviser, Chinmaya Gharekhan, informed the Security Council
that the failure of the Rwandan parties to agree on the establishment
of the transitional institutions had created a climate of tension
and a worsening of the security situation. He said this raised
questions about the commitment of the parties to the Arusha accords.
The council took no action. Rwanda remained in a state of tension.
On April 6, within an hour of President Habyarimana's plane
being shot down, the genocide began. It had been well prepared.
The Presidential Guard and Hutu militiamen immediately set up
roadblocks all over Kigali and started murdering Tutsis. Radio
Mille Collines, the radio station of the Habyarimana clique which
for months had been broadcasting hate propaganda against the Tutsis,
immediately announced that the president had been killed by the
Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front and by UNAMIR Regardless of who
killed Habyarimana, the fact remains that the organizers of the
genocide were primed to exploit his death instantaneously. (In
Burundi, whose president had also been killed in the crash, the
army broadcast appeals for calm-and there was no explosion.)
The Presidential Guard had lists of people to kill. Their
first targets were moderate Hums who did not subscribe to the
racist paranoia of Hutu Power. Early on the morning of April 7,
the house of the Hutu prime minister, Agathe Uwilingiyimana, was
surrounded; she tried to jump over a garden wall but was caught
At this moment another awful event, one which was crucial
to the outside world and the international community, occurred.
Ten Belgian soldiers had attempted vainly to protect the prime
minister. They were captured and disarmed by hostile troops. They
were then driven by soldiers to an army camp, tortured, murdered
and mutilated. When the news reached Belgium a few hours later
there was an understandable outcry and demands for the withdrawal
of the rest of the Belgian contingent. This was just what Hutu
Power had intended.
Gangs of Hutu assassins went on killing leading politicians,
civil servants, journalists, human rights workers and other leaders
of what is often today called civil society. Then they began the
general attacks on all Tutsis, starting with men, youths and even
the youngest boys. Educated Tutsis were in especial danger, just
as educated Cambodians were attacked by the Khmer Rouge. But the
killings were not discriminate; Hutu killers attempted to murder
all Tutsis they could find. "You cockroaches must know you
are made of flesh," declared one radio broadcaster quoted
by Philip Gourevitdh in his book, We wish to inform you that tomorrow
we will be killed with our families. 'We won't let you kill; we
will kill you," exulted the radio. By the hundreds, by the
thousands, by the tens of thousands, Tutsis were macheted to death,
burned alive, thrown dead or alive into pits and latrines, forced
to murder their own friends and relatives.
Roadblocks were set up, telephone lines were cut, and disinformation
as well as hatred was spewed forth by the radio stations controlled
by Hutu organizers of the genocide. Early press reports accurately
described the horror, though some of them ascribed it more to
"ancient tribal hatreds" than to a carefully organized
criminal campaign of genocide. After foreign journalists left
the country and UNAMIR observers were evacuated from outlying
areas, refugees were the principal source of information and press
coverage was sporadic. But there were enough reports through April
for the international community to be well aware of the scale
of the disaster.
The Belgian foreign minister, Mark Eyskens, rushed to see
Boutros-Ghali in Bonn. According to the secretary general, Eyskens
said Belgium had decided to withdraw all its forces and he wanted
the secretary general to withdraw all other UN troops as well.
"Belgium was afflicted with 'the American syndrome': pull
out at the first encounter with serious trouble," Boutros-Ghali
wrote in his memoirs. The secretary general asked the Belgians
to change their minds or, if they insisted on pulling out, to
leave behind their heavy weapons for the use of other UNAMIR forces.
Belgium refused to do even that. Boutros-Ghali wrote to the Security
Council that the Belgian decision would make it very hard for
UNAMIR to carry out its tasks effectively. He asked the council
to replace the Belgians; otherwise UNAMIR might have to withdraw
Caution ruled. With the important exception of Ghana, governments
ordered their troops to protect themselves first of all, even
if that meant standing by and waiting as lightly armed drunken
thugs hacked women and children to death. (Some Tutsis who had
cash managed to purchase a quicker death by firearm.)
Dallaire was particularly distressed that within a week of
the genocide, 1,500 well-trained French, Italian and Belgian troops,
with several hundred U.S. Marines standing by in Burundi, flew
into Kigali to evacuate expatriates and a few Rwandans, then left
again at once. That the "emasculated" UN force had to
face the clear and present dangers alone was, in Dallaire's view,
"inexcusable by any human criteria."
He felt that both Rwanda and UNAMIR had been abandoned; UNAMIR
had neither the mandate nor the supplies to face the disaster.
He said later that he lacked defensive stores, ammunition, medical
supplies and water, and had only survival rations that he called
rotten or inedible. All of this, he thought, was "a description
of inexcusable apathy by the sovereign states that made up the
UN that is completely beyond comprehension and moral acceptability."
Definitions were important. It was dear to Dallaire, to other
UN officials and to those few journalists in Rwanda that what
was happening was a planned and deliberate campaign by Hutu Power
to terrorize and murder Tutsis. It was genocide. Western human
rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch and then Amnesty
International declared it so. Boutros Boutros-Ghali and the pope
did so, though more slowly than some human rights organizations
wished. But major heads of state refused to follow suit.
Their reluctance was easy to explain. The 1949 UN Convention
on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide requires
its signatories to "prevent and punish" genocide-defined
as acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part,
a national, ethnic, racial or religious group-as a crime against
humanity. Among the many states party to the genocide convention
are all the permanent members of the Security Council and Rwanda
itself. The major powers continually shied away from any mention
of genocide and the implications thereof
On April 17, Dallaire reported that the young Hutu militia
were killing "to their own unruly/drugged tune. They are
a very large, dangerous, and totally irrational group of people.
Force commander considers them to be a most dangerous threat."
He asked for a new mandate, arguing that the UN "cannot continue
to sit on the fence in the face of all these morally legitimate
demands for assistance/protection." But with his present
troop numbers he could do nothing. He urged the quick reinforcement
of UNAMIR to five thousand men and a change in its mandate that
would allow him to enforce peace. The troops would be directed
to stop the genocide, to assist refugees to return from Tanzania
and Zaire, to deliver humanitarian aid, to assist in obtaining
a cease-fire. A strengthened UNAMIR should in formal terms "re-establish
peace and security, thereby facilitating a return to the Peace
Process of the Arusha Accord and assisting in the establishment
of a Broad Based Transitional Government," Dallaire wrote
This was undoubtedly a tall order in the midst of the bloodletting
but Dallaire believed that with five battalions it would be possible.
A subsequent study by the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly
Conflict agreed with him. There would certainly be opposition
by government forces or the Rwandan Patriotic Front, or perhaps
even both, but Dallaire considered that it would be intermittent
and sporadic rather than fully organized opposition by main force
units of either side. The Carnegie group later suggested that
the Division Ready Brigade of the American 101st Airborne Division
(Air Assault) possessed the firepower, staff capability, and combat
support and logistics functions required.
Speed was of the essence to save lives. Any outside intervention
would have had to take place before the end of April; after that
the massacres had expanded across the countryside and far more
troops would have been needed to stop them. If sufficient combat
forces could have been introduced before the end of April and
authorized to seize critical points throughout the country, the
political calculations of the participants would have been changed
completely. But no force could have been created without at least
the United States taking the lead to generate resources and at
least transporting the troops to Rwanda. The United States was
interested in doing no thing.
In the third week of April, as the killings increased, Boutros-Ghali
sent a report to the Security Council outlining three options:
Dallaire's choice of immediate and massive reinforcement of UNAMIR
with Chapter VII enforcement powers to stop the killing; downsizing
of UNAMIR to 270 so that it would just act as an intermediary
between the two sides and seek a cease-fire; and complete withdrawal
The secretary general's spokesman said he preferred massive reinforcement.
But it was already late in the day for this.
There was no enthusiasm for real intervention. The British
permanent representative, Sir David Hannay, said at one Security
Council meeting that reinforcing UNAMIR would only mean a repetition
of Somalia with its well-known and dire consequences." He
was against pulling out the whole mission as this would have "a
negative impact on public opinion." The U.S. delegate, Ambassador
Karl Inderfurth, spoke of "a strong feeling in Washington"
that the peacekeeping force "was not appropriate now and
never will be." By contrast, the Nigerian ambassador, Ibrahim
Gambari, said that tens of thousands of civilians were dying.
"Has Africa dropped from the map of moral concern?"
Kofi Annan and others in the peacekeeping department spent
many hours on the telephone and in meetings with delegates trying
to persuade countries to contribute troops. Later Annan said that
he had spoken to representatives of about one hundred different
governments at this time. The replies were not encouraging. He
agreed that Dallaire could save hundreds of thousands of lives
with five thousand troops. "He did not have the capacity
not because it did not exist but because the will to provide men,
the will to act was not there," Annan stated in 1998.
On April 21 the Security Council met to decide the fate of
UNAMIR. The council, by macabre coincidence, included the government
of Rwanda at this time. Its representative continued to serve
the self-proclaimed regime which took power on the death of Habyadmana.
He was allowed to speak and to vote on resolutions concerning
Rwanda, despite the convention that representatives should not
play an active role in considering conflicts in their own states.
By this stage the regime was in favor of the return of UN forces
to enforce a cease-fire; the rebels, on the other hand, were advancing
on Kigali and wanted no intervention of UN troops between the
Madeleine Albright and other U.S. officials argued that the
mass killings were being caused by renewed warfare. In fact, the
genocide had led the Rwandan Patriotic Front to renew its attack
upon the government precisely in order to try to end the mass
killing. In the end, Washington compromised and argued for a token
UN force to remain. This was largely because the public relations
implications of total withdrawal in the face of what was now being
widely called genocide (even while U.S. officials squirmed to
avoid the word) were so awful. The Security Council rejected the
idea of reinforcements, ordered UNAMIR cut down to a token force
of 270 men and restricted its mandate to mediation and humanitarian
On April 29, Boutros-Ghali wrote to the Security Council stressing
that UNAMIR's revised mandate would not enable it to bring the
massacres under control. He urged the council to reexamine its
decision of April 21 and to consider what action, including forceful
action, the council could take, or authorize member states to
take, in order to restore law and order and to end the massacres.
Still the killing went on, with its organized nature now dear
to the outside world. Hums were exhorted by the leaders of Hutu
Power and by the radio to kill. "Take your spears, clubs,
guns, swords, stones, everything," said a typical broadcast.
"Sharpen them, hack them, those enemies, those cockroaches....
Hunt out the Tutsi. Who will fill up the half-empty graves? There
is no way the rebels should find alive any of the people they
claim as their own." A secret US. Defense Intelligence Agency
report stated: "There is an organized effort of genocide
being implemented." Washington and London still turned away.
In response to the horror, other members of the Security Council-Czechoslovakia,
New Zealand and Spain- began to urge that UNAMIR be reinforced.
On May 9, Boutros-Ghali submitted a "nonpaper" (a
deniable discussion paper printed without identification of the
author) to the Security Council proposing to expand UNAMIR to
5,500 troops along the lines Dallaire had urged weeks before.
A vote was scheduled for May 13. Albright had it postponed. She
said on May 11, 'We have serious reservations about proposals
to establish a large peace enforcement mission," and said
it was unclear what it was to do. Boutros-Ghali later commented,
"Of course, Albright and everyone else knew perfectly well
that the mission was to stop the genocide then in progress. The
behavior of the Security Council was shocking, it meekly followed
the United States lead in denying the reality of the genocide."
On May 17-almost six weeks after the mass murders began-the
Security Council did vote through Resolution 918, which would
enlarge UNAMIR to 5,500 men, but at US. insistence it authorized
the secretary general to deploy only one infantry battalion (800
men). The council indicated that it would further review the situation
before authorizing the deployment of the rest of the force. From
then on, the United States acted to delay deployment. A group
of African countries offered to send an intervention force, and
the UN asked Washington to provide fifty armored personnel carriers.
The Clinton administration eventually agreed, but demanded that
the UN pay $15 million to Washington. Boutros-Ghali asked Washington
to jam the inflammatory broadcasts of Radio Mille Collines; he
said he was told that it would be too expensive.
Meanwhile Dallaire and his few men were, Dallaire wrote later,
"standing knee deep in mutilated bodies, surrounded by the
guttural moans of dying people, looking into the eyes of children
bleeding to death with their wounds burning in the sun and being
invaded by maggots and flies. I found myself walking through villages
where the only sign of life was a goat, or a chicken, or songbird,
as all the people were dead, their bodies being eaten by voracious
packs of wild dogs." For the first crucial eight weeks he
had had an inadequate mandate, no reinforcement and only one unreliable
phone line to the outside world. "I felt the ghost of Gordon
of Khartoum waiting over me," Dallaire wrote. "Dying
in Rwanda without sign or sight of relief was a reality we faced
on a daily basis."
The Security Council, Dallaire said, "floundered in the
face of mounting heaps of bodies growing daily.... As long as
these states procrastinated, bickered, and cynically pursued their
own selfish foreign polices, the UN and UNAMIR could do little
to stop the killing...."
The French intervened. Through April and May reinforcements
of the Tutsi rebel army, the Rwandan Patriotic Front, fought their
way toward Kigali. In mid-June they neared the capital and total
victory. France's traditional Hutu allies faced total defeat.
Paris had always seen the Tutsi-led RPF as a stooge of Uganda's
president, Yoweri Museveni, and, through him, of Washington and
of the wider 'Anglo-Saxon world." The prospect of an RPF
victory dismayed many French officials, who argued that Rwanda
would be only the first domino to fall to "les anglo-saxons,"
and that Burundi and Zaire would be toppled next. Central Africa
could become a Trojan horse projecting 'Anglo-Saxon" influence
throughout France's client regimes, known as "la francophonie".
The French now proposed a unilateral Chapter VII enforcement
mission to the Security Council. There was reluctance among some
members of the council, and others elsewhere who were wary of
France's involvement with the Hutu leadership. Nonetheless, a
majority of the council, aware of how little anyone had done for
Rwanda so far, approved France's "humanitarian" mission.
The 2,500 French troops of Operation Turquoise arrived in
southwest Rwanda in early July, after most of the killings, but
they may have saved up to 15,000 Tutsis. Leaders of the RPF were
convinced that the French were at least as interested in saving
the remnants of the Hutu regime, from whose extremist wing the
genocide sprang, as in saving innocent lives. Indeed, the French
made few bones about it; they declared the area of southwest Rwanda
that they with their Senegalese partners occupied a "safe
zone." Even former French president Valery Giscard d'Estaing
asked, "Safe for whom?" and accused the government in
Paris of "protecting some of those who had carded out the
In Kigali, with only five hundred UN troops, General Dallaire
watched the French deployment with incredulity if not dismay.
After all, until quite recently the French had been helping the
Rwandan army fight the RPF. Operation Turquoise and UNAMIR had
the same master-the Security Council-and Franco-African soldiers
served in both forces. Predictably, the RPF reacted violently
against UNAMIR troops, who were now entirely deployed behind RPF
lines. Dallaire had to evacuate his Franco-African troops as fast
as he could from Rwanda, thus further weakening UNAMIR. He thought
the fact that the UN had sanctioned two operations, one peacekeeping
and one peace enforcement, in the same country at the same time
and with almost no coordination showed, above all, "individual
states running roughshod over the Secretariat and even the Security
By August the Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front army had swept
through most of Rwanda and was able to set up a government in
Kigali. The Hutu leaders of the genocide fled across the borders
into Burundi, Tanzania and then Zaire, forcing or encouraging
the population of hundreds of villages and towns to come with
them. The motive was clear: one senior army officer said, "The
RPF will rule over a desert," and the leader of an extremist
party declared, "Even if the RPF has won a military victory,
it will not have the power. It has only the bullets; we have the
The flood of refugees captured international attention and
concern in a way which the unseen massacres inside Rwanda never
did. By mid-July there were some two million people squatting
in appalling conditions just outside Rwanda. Almost a million
people crossed into Tanzania over four horrible weeks in July.
Cholera broke out in several camps, and in one, in Goma, Zaire,
fifty thousand people had to be buried.
The exiles fell under the care of the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees and hundreds of Western nongovernmental
organizations, which swooped down into eastern Zaire and Tanzania
to set up their tents and their banners to save lives. For the
next two and a half years these camps were sustained by the same
world which had proved incapable of intervening in Rwanda to stop
The Hums in effect built a government in exile in the camps;
Hutu towns and villages had been transplanted across the border.
Shops, discos, brothels all operated in the camps much as they
had at home in Rwanda. Arms trafficking was better; the Hutu militias
sold international aid on the black market to buy weapons, they
recruited troops from among the camp populations they terrorized
and they mounted increasingly fierce attacks into Rwanda.
In November, fifteen of the more serious nongovernmental organizations
in the camps in Goma complained that UNHCR was quite unable to
fulfill its mandate of protecting and assisting refugees because
everyone in the camps was hostage to the extremist leadership.
Medecins sans Frontieres (France) was one of the first nongovernmental
organizations actually to pull out, saying, "The continued
diversion of humanitarian aid by the same leaders who orchestrated
the genocide, the lack of effective international action regarding
impunity, and the fact that the refugee population was being held
hostage, presented a situation contradictory with the principles
of humanitarian assistance."
Other agendas left also, but there were always new ones to
take their place. Humanitarianism has a commercial imperative.
"The humanitarian machinery was running at top speed, and
I think everyone enjoyed that," Romy Brauman, the former
head of Medecins sans Frontieres, told John Pomeret of the Washington
Post. "The problem was that we were bringing massive help
to the criminals. All of our resources went through their hands,
allowing them to strengthen their power over the refugees. This
humanitarian operation was a total ethical disaster."
The International Rescue Committee, an American organization,
also pulled out-the first time in its sixty-four-year history
it had done such a thing. Roy Williams, a senior vice president
of IRC, said it was a terrible decision to make because it cost
innocent lives in the camps. "Still, the whole aid community
has been overtaken by a new reality. Humanitarianism has become
a resource . . . and people are manipulating it as never before.
Sometimes we just shouldn't show up for a disaster."
Sadako Ogata argued that UNHCR did not have the luxury of
leaving. "So long as there were people who had crossed an
international border in an asylum situation, I didn't have the
freedom to leave them, however complicated the group was,"
she said. But UNHCR officials became more and more desperate.
The Hutu leaders in the camps spread propaganda about real
and alleged atrocities committed by the new Rwandan government
against the Hums, and threatened those who nonetheless still expressed
an interest in returning home. There were grounds for criticism
of the new RPF government in Kigali. It sometimes seemed that
it ignored revenge killings; a UNHCR report that detailed the
extent of these was suppressed because Western governments, guilty
over their failure to prevent the genocide, were reluctant to
criticize the new regime. Inevitably, that regime was composed
almost exclusively of Tutsi exiles, many of whom had either lived
outside the country since the 1960s or had been born abroad. It
was very much a minority regime, whose members had never known
government before, attempting to restore a shocked, mutilated
society. The economy had collapsed; there was no local or central
administration because a large proportion of those who had run
it had been murdered or were gone. On top of that, 800,000 Tutsi
exiles had come back home with the victorious RPF. They all needed
homes. Property rights became a major and contentious issue. Apart
from the two million in refugee camps, another million Hums were
in camps for displaced people inside Rwanda.
There was no functioning judicial system, so while tens of
thousands of Hums were held in horrific prisons and detention
centers, no trials of those guilty of the genocide took place.
In November 1994 an international war crimes tribunal on Rwanda
was established in Arusha. Important though its symbolism was,
it could deal with only a tiny fraction of those responsible for
the mass murder of the Tutsis and moderate Hums.
The Hutu-run camps were dearly a "threat to peace and
security," but for two years the Security Council did nothing
Boutros-Ghali informed the council that a force of up to twelve
thousand men would be needed to separate the genuine refugees
from the murderous leaders. Just to try to establish minimal security
without separation would take between three thousand and five
thousand men. Only Bangladesh offered to send troops for even
this lesser option. In desperation, Kofi Annan commissioned a
study from ADL, a British company, on subcontracting a private
security service to control the camps. A group of South African
mercenaries, Executive Outcomes, was a possibility. This suggestion
could have been quickly implemented, but Annan was told that the
United Nations could not subcontract in this manner. Eventually
UNHCR employed a Zairean police contingent, but it was hardly
The dilemma for UNHCR, and indeed for the UN in general, was
a familiar one. As Mrs. Ogata pointed out, international responses
to internal conflicts and the resulting humanitarian crises are
usually of a reactive and ad hoc nature: 'As a refugee crisis
fades from the front pages of the newspapers and CNN, we witness
an evaporation of international concern, financial contributions
and political involvement. No international humanitarian organization
or NGO can solve political conflicts.... We need political will,
the involvement of governments and their leaders, of the UN and
regional organizations, to maintain and build peace." On
the borders of Rwanda they did not get it.
The way in which the world responded at all stages-before
the genocide, during the genocide and after the genocide-was not
just partial, it was counterproductive. Halfhearted and ineffectual
intervention and the deliberate confusion of humanitarianism and
politics kill. Boutros-Ghali pointed out later that not so long
ago the world had said "never again" to genocide. "But
here was genocide once more; in Cambodia, where more than a million
victims fell to the Khmer Rouge; in the former Yugoslavia, where
genocide was called 'ethnic cleansing'; in Somalia, where genocide
by starvation resulted when warlords deliberately withheld food
aid from the starving and sick and where 350,000 died before the
Security Council decided to step in. In Rwanda close to a million
people were killed in what was genocide without doubt; yet the
Security Council did nothing."
In early 1999 Annan commissioned a report on the United Nations'
role in the genocide, which was due to be published at the end
of that year. Till then the most comprehensive study was the eight
hundred-page report written for Human Rights Watch by Alison Des
Forges and published in spring 1999. Des Forges documented conclusively
both the organized nature of the genocide and the sloth with which
the world reacted. "The Americans were interested in saving
money, the Belgians were interested in saving face, and the French
were interested in saving their ally, the genocidal government,"
wrote Des Forges. 'All that took priority over saving lives."
She pointed out that, to be effective, "international interventions
must be prompt, strong, and smart."
General Dallaire asked, "Did the ineffectiveness of the
UN mission in grasping the situation and poor handling of the
political, humanitarian and military response in extremis abet
the genocide?" It was an alarming question. So was Dallaire's
"I believe it did."
Dallaire's belief was underwritten by the devastating independent
report which Annan published at the end of 1999.* It found that
the United Nations had failed the people of Rwanda at every level.
Its "overriding failure . . . was the lack of resources and
political will to stop the genocide. UNAMIR was not planned, dimensioned,
deployed or instructed in a way which would have enabled the mission
to stop the genocide. UNAMIR was also the victim of a lack of
political will in the Security Council and on the part of Member
States." The inquiry described errors of judgment on the
part of officials, including Boutros-Ghali, Kofi Annan, and UNAMIR
personnel. And "there was a lack of will to identify the
massacres in Rwanda as a genocide which was deplorable."
As if that was not enough, the failure of the international
community to do anything but apply an inappropriate humanitarian
poultice to the Rwandan refugee crisis in 1994, 1995 and 1996
led directly to a new and appalling refugee crisis in 1997 in
which up to 200,000 people may have been killed, the war over
Zaire, the replacement of a bad government there with one that
sometimes appeared even worse and then the so-called Great War
of Africa, which engulfed up to fourteen countries of Central
Africa in 1998 and 1999.
Us From Evil
International War Crimes