Saturday, June 19, 2010
THE RWANDAN GENOCIDE
UNAMIR (United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda) was hampered from the outset by resistance from numerous members of the United Nations Security Council to becoming deeply involved first in the Arusha process and then the genocide. Only Belgium had asked for a strong UNAMIR mandate, but after the murder of the ten Belgian peacekeepers protecting the Prime Minister in early April, Belgium pulled out of the peacekeeping mission.
The UN and its member states appeared largely detached from the realities on the ground. In the midst of the crisis, Dallaire was instructed to focus UNAMIR on only evacuating foreign nationals from Rwanda, and the change in orders led Belgian peacekeepers to abandon a technical school filled with 2,000 refugees, while Hutu militants waited outside, drinking beer and chanting "Hutu Power." After the Belgians left, the militants entered the school and massacred those inside, including hundreds of children. Four days later, the Security Council voted to reduce UNAMIR to 260 men.
Following the withdrawal of the Belgian forces, Lt-Gen Dallaire consolidated his contingent of Canadian, Ghanaian and Dutch soldiers in urban areas and focused on providing areas of "safe control". His actions are credited with directly saving the lives of 20,000 Tutsis. The administrative head of UNAMIR, former Cameroonian foreign minister Jacques-Roger Booh-Booh, has been criticized for downplaying the significance of Dallaire's reports and for holding close ties to the Hutu militant elite.
The US government was reluctant to involve itself in the "local conflict" in Rwanda, and refused to even refer to it as "Genocide", a decision which President Bill Clinton later came to regret in a Frontline television interview in which he states that he believes if he had sent 5,000 US peacekeepers, more than 500,000 lives could have been saved.
The new Rwandan government, led by interim President Théodore Sindikubwabo, worked hard to minimize international criticism. Rwanda at that time had a seat on the Security Council and its ambassador argued that the claims of genocide were exaggerated and that the government was doing all that it could to stop it. Representatives of the Rwandan Roman Catholic Church, long associated with the radical Hutus in Rwanda, also used their links in Europe to reduce criticism. France, which felt the US and UK would use the massacres to try to expand their influence in that Francophone part of Africa, also worked to prevent a foreign intervention.
Finally, on May 17, 1994, the UN conceded that "acts of genocide may have been committed." By that time, the Red Cross estimated that 500,000 Rwandans had been killed. The UN agreed to send 5,500 troops to Rwanda, most of whom were to be provided by African countries. This was the original number of troops requested by General Dallaire before the killing escalated. The UN also requested 50 armoured personnel carriers from the U.S., but for the transport alone they were charged 6.5 million U.S. dollars by the U.S. army. Deployment of these forces was delayed due to arguments over their cost and other factors.
On June 22, with no sign of UN deployment taking place, the Security Council authorized French forces to land in Goma, Zaire on a humanitarian mission. They deployed throughout southwest Rwanda in an area they called "Zone Turquoise," quelling the genocide and stopping the fighting there, but often arriving in areas only after the Tutsi had been forced out or killed. Operation Turquoise is charged with aiding the Hutu army against the RPF. The former Rwandan ambassador to France Jacques Bihozagara has testified, "Operation Turquoise was aimed only at protecting genocide perpetrators, because the genocide continued even within the Turquoise zone." France has always denied any role in the killing.