Genocide in Rwanda: international response

Topics: Rwandan Genocide, United Nations, Rwanda Pages: 10 (3465 words) Published: January 11, 2014

In the course of a hundred days in 1994, over 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu were killed in the Rwandan genocide. It was the fastest, most efficient killing spree of the twentieth century. My thesis is that the international community utterly failed to prevent and stop this atrocity. I will focus on numerous interconnected aspects that led to international inaction and also on the main actors, Belgium, the United Nations Secretariat, the United States and France, that knew that there was genocide underway in Rwanda - therefore, they had a responsibility to prevent and stop the genocide, but lacked political will. This led to inaction at the level of the Security Council (SC), where member states fixated on the ongoing civil war rather than discussing the genocide, which would have required them to act under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948, article 5)1. Finally, it will be shown that this international letdown had dreadful consequences for the United Nations Assistance Mission For Rwanda (UNAMIR), which, with neither adequate resources nor mandate, became an eyewitness to the extermination.

The article focuses on the course of the events in the civil war in Rwanda, parallel with the decisions made by the honourable diplomats in the forum for international community, the UN. In 1990, the Tutsi-dominated Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) invaded Rwanda from their exile in Uganda, setting off a civil war with the Hutu-dominated Government of Rwanda. The international community did not pay a lot of attention to the systematic discrimination and violation of human rights in the country, since the government was generally quite stable. Three years later, this conflict was seen as a good opportunity for international community (the UN) to reestablish its reputation after a failed intervention in Somalia. They believed that the conflict will be solved successfully, since after almost two years of fighting, the RPF and three opposition parties pursued to negotiate a peace agreement. This would become known as the Arusha Accords, signed in August 1993. UNAMIR was sent to Rwanda to help the implementation of the Accords, with Romeo Dallaire as its commander. The UN, at that time, faced escalating costs for peacekeeping operations, so they granted a reduction of force sent there, on request of the US, Belgium and the UK. During the years before the beginning of the genocide, Hutu Power (Hutu extremist, anti-Tutsi movement) began systematically distributing weapons and spreading propaganda about Tutsi via the Radio et Television Libres des Milles Collines (RTLM). The genocide would be systematic, planned, and had nothing to do with ancient warfare or tribal inclinations. By 1994, tensions were high. On January 11th, Commander Dallaire sent a fax to the UN headquarters in New York, warning of a massive slaughter being prepared in Rwanda. Also, the reports from intelligence agents were always present during this period, so the representatives of Belgium, France and the US were very well informed about the situation rising. “In January, an analyst of the US Central Intelligence Agency knew enough to predict that as many as half a million persons might die in case of renewed conflict and, in February, Belgian authorities already feared genocide” (Des Forges 1999, 20). The UN Secretariat is the United Nations’ bureaucratic arm. As such, it passes on vital information to decision-making bodies such as the SC. The Secretariat and the Secretary General, however, have come under considerable criticism for failing to pass on information before and during the Rwandan genocide. Despite ample information about the genocide, staff spoke in terms of a “civil war” and the need to obtain a ceasefire. As a result, non-permanent members in the SC, who rely on the Secretariat for information, did not come to see the killings as genocide and they misjudged the...

References: Barnett, Michael N. 1997. The UN Security Council, Indifference, and Genocide in Rwanda. Cultural Anthropology 12 (4): 551–78. Dostopno prek: (9. december 2013).
Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. 1948. Sprejeta in razglašena z resolucijo 260 (III) A Generalne skupščine Združenih narodov, 9. decembra. Dostopno prek: (9. december 2013).
Des Forges, Alison. 1999. Leave None to Tell the Story: Genocide in Rwanda. New York: Human Rights Watch. Dostopno prek: (9. december 2013).
Goose, Stephen D. in Frank Smyth. 1994. Arming Genocide in Rwanda. Foreign Affairs 73 (5). Dostopno prek: (9. december 2013).
Putterbaugh, Samantha. 2010. Abandoning Rwanda: The International Community’s Failure to Preventand Stop Genocide. ITT Technical Institute. Research paper.
I will focus our debate on four discussable questions – each one of them related to the international response to the Rwandan genocide. Firstly, in my seminar I presented the role of France as a Rwandan government 's number-one supplier of weapons. Does this fact alone make France more culpable for the genocide than the rest of the international community? How should responsibility be allocated for what happened, both inside and outside Rwanda? How has the international community, in particular Belgium, France, the United States, and the UN, faced up to the question of responsibility and blame in the years since the genocide? Secondly, the UN authorized the troops as the "peace-keepers," not "peace-makers." By UN mandate, UN troops were permitted to use their weapons only in self-defense. If the generals had disobeyed orders and authorized their troops to fire on fighters who were killing masses in front of their eyes, would they have done the right thing? Next, I mentioned that various factors contributed to the inactivity of the international community, such as the disastrous U.S. humanitarian intervention in Somalia in 1993, less than a year before, which ended with the U.S. helicopter shot down and the bodies of U.S. soldiers dragged through the streets of Mogadishu. Does this justify the U.S. and the UN 's refusal to intervene? Can we risk our own citizen 's lives in order to save foreign and can we risk the reputation of an intergovernmental institution, which possibly could never be restored again in order to help – even if that means that some major countries may not want to cooperate at all in the future? Finally, I will also encourage a debate over possible solutions for halting genocide and violation of human rights – when and how should the governments act, who should contribute the resources etc.
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