The Rwandan Genocide

(from Z Magazine, April 1996, with corrections and footnotes)

The Rwanda Genocide:
The Nightmare That Happened

Stephen R. Shalom


For a hundred horrendous days in 1994, genocide took place in the small African country of Rwanda. The term "genocide" has been used with varying degrees of precision, but even under the most demanding definition there is no doubt that the events in Rwanda between April and July 1994 qualified as genocide.

Members of the Tutsi ethnic group, who made up about 14 percent of Rwanda's eight million people, were targeted for extermination. The victims were all unarmed civilians. Neither age nor gender nor infirmity were protection against the killers. Those who sought refuge in churches, hospitals, or schools were butchered just the same. The killers were not content to merely expel the Tutsis from Rwanda; Tutsis had been allowed to leave in 1959, the genocide's ideologues declared, but the same mistake would not be made again.{1} The number of Tutsi dead may never be known, but serious estimates place the toll at between half a million and a million. Gérard Prunier, in his extremely valuable The Rwanda Crisis: History of A Genocide (Columbia University Press), puts Tutsi deaths at 800,000.{2}

The killers were all from Rwanda's majority Hutu ethnic group, but the extremists who orchestrated the massacres went after Hutus as well, eliminating politicians, human rights activists, journalists, and any other moderate Hutu thought to stand in the way of the genocidal project. Prunier estimates that some 10-30,000 moderate Hutus were slaughtered.{3}

The massacres were not the result of spontaneous ethnic frenzy, but of systematically planned and organized killing directed from the center. The extremists, however, were not satisfied to kill on their own, for they were determined to implicate as many Hutus as possible in the murders, getting them to kill their neighbors and even their relatives (for intermarriage was fairly common in Rwanda). Many Hutus refused to participate and some tried at great personal risk to save Tutsis. The extremists did succeed, however, in involving thousands in the butchery, coercing some, and appealing to the fears or greed of others.

The killers and their victims were all Rwandans. The genocide, however, cannot be understood without grasping the crucial role played by outsiders.

The Colonial Legacy

In pre-colonial Rwanda, the categories "Tutsi" and "Hutu" were somewhere between castes and ethnic groups. The boundaries between the two groups were permeable, with movement permitted between them. Some members of each group were local chiefs and there was no systematic Tutsi-Hutu violence.{4} The brief period of German colonial rule brought European racial theories to Rwanda: the more European-featured Tutsis were deemed to be the natural-born local rulers and the Hutus destined to serve them. These theories were then put into practice by the Belgians who took over from the Germans after the First World War. They replaced existing Hutu chiefs with Tutsis{5} and issued identity cards indicating each person's ethnic group, thus eliminating some of the social mobility of the old system.{6} High status Tutsis used Belgian rule and the penetration of western capitalism to gain Hutu land, but not all Tutsis were high status; indeed a study in the mid-1950s found that, if one excluded the minority of Tutsi office holders, the average financial situation of Hutus and Tutsis was about the same.{7}

The Rwandan state was always highly centralized -- a function of the country's extremely dense population -- but became even more centralized under Belgian rule, and life for the average Rwandan became even more oppressive. Forced labor was made more onerous, taxes were increased, and beatings became standard. A UN mission in 1948 found that of 250 peasants interviewed, 247 had been beaten.{8}

In the 1950s, elite Tutsis began agitating for independence, and the Belgians began to shift their support to the Hutu elite, who would likely be easier to control since they lacked the experience of domination. Communist governments at the UN championed the cause of Rwandan independence, further straining relations between Belgians and Tutsis. In 1959, ethnic clashes broke out, and the Belgians allowed Hutus to burn down Tutsi houses without intervening. Two weeks later, there were 300 dead and most of those arrested by the Belgians were Tutsi.{9}

Starting in 1960, the Belgians replaced most Tutsi chiefs with Hutus, who proceeded to organize persecution of Tutsis. The UN tried to promote some form of reconciliation, but the Belgians, to forestall any further UN interference, arranged in 1961 for the Hutu elite to engineer a legal coup and declare its independence. The Hutu elite claimed they represented democratic majority rule, but they were establishing a racialist state, seeking to maintain their control over the impoverished Hutu population by portraying the Tutsis as a well-off, alien minority, just as European elites had earlier used anti-Semitism. The UN Trusteeship Commission reported with much accuracy that an "oppressive system has been replaced by another one."{10}

Anti-Tutsi violence continued, driving many Tutsi into exile, some of whom organized raids back into Rwanda. After a major exile raid was repulsed in December 1963, some 10,000 Tutsis were slaughtered over the next two months. By the end of 1964, there were 336,000 Tutsi refugees.{11} Some integrated themselves into neighboring societies, but others kept alive the idea of one day returning to Rwanda. Within Rwanda, ethnic quotas were established to limit Tutsi participation in schools, the civil service, and other government employment, and refugees were denied any right of return.

Neighboring Burundi shared Rwanda's colonial background and ethnic make-up. However, the Tutsi elite there, seeing where "democratization" had led in Rwanda, had ruthlessly held on to power through their control of the army. In 1972, after a failed uprising by some Hutus, the Tutsi leaders responded by massacring any Hutu with an education. Four months later, conservative estimates put the death toll at 80,000-100,000 in a nation of 3.5 million.{12} Among themselves, U.S. officials characterized what was going on at the time in Burundi as "selective genocide," but Washington issued no public criticism, made no private remonstrance, and gave no consideration to using its extensive leverage over the Burundian economy to force an end to the killing.{13}

In Rwanda, the Hutu ruler tried to use the Burundian massacres as an excuse for anti-Tutsi actions, hoping that the popular mobilization might bolster his faltering regime. A few dozen Tutsi were killed, propelling more into exile, but the Hutu elite split and in July 1973 Major-General Juvénal Habyarimana (a Hutu) took over in a bloodless coup.{14}

The Habyarimana Regime

Under Habyarimana discrimination against Tutsis continued, but as long as they didn't try to involve themselves in politics they were generally left in peace,{15} and there were no ethnic massacres between 1973-90.{16} Habyarimana, however, was a dictator and he established one party rule. His National Revolutionary Movement for Development (MRND) was, in Prunier's words, "a truly totalitarian party"; administrative control under Habyarimana "was probably the tightest in the world among non-communist countries."{17} This did not make his regime unpopular with foreign aid donors, who rather appreciated the tight ship he ran. That every Rwandan citizen had to participate in collective labor on Saturdays may have been harsh, but, in the eyes of donor countries, effective.{18}

Habyarimana's Rwanda saw improvement in per capita income,{19} but in the mid to late 1980s the prices of coffee and tin collapsed. The precipitous drop in coffee prices was not just the result of random market fluctuations, but of a decision by the U.S. government under political pressure from large coffee trading companies. Rwandan export earnings declined 50% between 1987 and 1991 and famines erupted throughout the Rwandan countryside.{20}

The Rwandan elite had had three main sources of enrichment: coffee, tin, and skimming off foreign aid. With the first two no longer available, foreign aid became more critical than ever,{21} but in order to have access to this source of income one had to have control of the government, which increased the incentive for Habyarimana's inner circle to resist any sort of democratization.{22}

In June 1990, French President François Mitterrand called for multi-party systems in Africa (a position from which he was soon to retreat). Back in 1975, Paris had signed a military cooperation and training agreement with Kigali, and France had gradually been replacing Belgium as the dominant power in Rwanda. A month after Mitterrand's comments, Habyarimana declared that he agreed with the French position.{23} Despite his insincerity, the political space was seized upon by the country's democratic opposition -- Hutu and Tutsi -- to press for a multi-party system and democratic reforms.

In September 1990, the International Monetary Fund imposed a structural adjustment program on Rwanda, freezing government salaries and devaluing the Rwandan franc. The imposed devaluation added to the country's other economic problems, contributing to inflation and the collapse of real earnings. The living standards of an already impoverished population became critical.{24}

In October 1990, the Rwandan Patriotic Front, an organization made up primarily of Tutsi refugees from Uganda, invaded the country in an effort to obtain the right to return to Rwanda and to overthrow the dictatorial Habyarimana regime. Many of the RPF soldiers were veterans of civil war in Uganda, where they had fought for a non-ethnically based regime, some rising to high positions in the Ugandan military. In 1987, the Tutsi refugees formed the RPF with the intention of establishing a non-ethnic state in Rwanda. A few Hutu Rwandans joined the RPF, but it remained largely a Tutsi organization; it had a progressive ideology, though some of its members were Tutsi supremacists.{25}

Prunier suggests that the Ugandan president likely knew the general outline of the RPF invasion plan and didn't try to stop it, but certainly wasn't behind it. The Ugandan leader assumed Habyarimana also knew about the invasion, the threat of which would make him more willing to negotiate on the refugee question. In fact, argues Prunier, Habyarimana knew about the coming invasion and determined to use it to crush his internal opposition.{26}

Belgium and France sent troops to Rwanda to evacuate their nationals from the country. Belgium withdrew its forces promptly and cut off military aid in a situation of civil war.{27} French troops, however, stayed on. To Paris, Africa was the one place where the glory of the French empire could still live on. "Without Africa," Mitterrand had written in 1957, "France will have no history in the 21st century."{28} Prime Minister Edouard Balladur explained that "France sees itself as a world power. This is its ambition and its honor." And its "main field of action is Africa," especially French-speaking Africa.{29} But it was not just a matter of honor. Corrupt African rulers helped finance French political parties, aided with money laundering, provided sweetheart deals to well-connected French companies, and voted with Paris at the UN.{30} And Rwanda held a special connection to France: Mitterrand's son was then head of the Africa Office at the Elysée and personally close to the Habyarimana family.{31}

Habyarimana arrested almost 10,000 of his political opponents, while some 350 Tutsi civilians were massacred in the countryside, the killers acting under the authority of local officials. In early 1991, further massacres were carried out.{32} The Rwandan army grew ten-fold from October 1990 to mid-1992, and France provided all the weapons, either directly or by secretly arranging foreign arms contracts from Egypt or South Africa.{33} The Rwandan government gave a French military officer overall command of counter-insurgency operations,{34} and the French staffed roadblocks, fired artillery, and served as advisers to Rwandan field commanders.{35}

Other governments made representations in Kigali to protect particular individuals in danger or to protest major abuses, but only Belgium and Germany really distanced themselves from the Habyarimana regime. The European Christian Democratic Party declared in 1992 that "there is no alternative to the MRND."{36} In the same year, U.S. officials publicly stated "Our relations with Rwanda are excellent...and there is no evidence of any systematic human rights abuses by the military or any other element of the government"{37} -- despite the fact that human rights groups were reporting that the failure to bring a single human rights abuser to justice indicated that violators were acting at the direction or under the protection of the most power political figures in Rwanda.{38} Washington had provided Kigali with a significant amount of economic aid before 1990 and a small amount of military assistance. This continued during the civil war.{39}

Habyarimana's repression, however, was not able to intimidate the democratic opposition. In January 1992, 50,000 people marched in a pro-democracy demonstration in Kigali. Some members of Habyarimana's inner circle favored violence on a massive scale to crush the opposition, but for the moment Habyarimana agreed to form a coalition cabinet. Members of the opposition parties took over a number of cabinet positions, including that of prime minister. Habyarimana, however, was by no means conceding defeat. His party remained the largest in the government, controlling the Defense and Interior portfolios among others. Death squads were set up within the military. MRND civil servants countermanded instructions from opposition ministers. And in March 1992, the Habyarimana clique employed a new tactic, foreshadowing the genocide to come: the interahamwe, the MRND's "youth group" -- but actually a militia organization, trained, armed, and indoctrinated in racial hatred by the regime -- was used to massacre Tutsi civilians.{40} That same month a new political party formed, the Coalition for the Defense of the Republic, CDR, even more committed to Hutu extremism than Habyarimana. It had its own militia which was backed by the Presidential Guard and other elements of the Rwandan army.{41} France, as part of its military aid to the Rwandan government, also provided training to both militia groups -- possibly without realizing it.{42}

These developments were all taking place during the rather low-level civil war between the government and the RPF. In June 1992 the opposition parties took the brave step of meeting with the RPF and the RPF announced that its armed struggle was over. In July a cease-fire was signed and negotiations began in Arusha, Tanzania, to set up a transitional government that would include the RPF. Habyarimana, however, blocked progress every step of the way, sometimes publicly disavowing the government negotiators at Arusha and other times organizing additional massacres.{43}

In January 1993, an international human rights commission visited Rwanda. Its report documented abuses on all sides, but found that most of the 2,000 civilians killed were Tutsis whose murders were approved at the highest levels of the Rwandan government, including by Habyarimana. As soon as the commission left the country, another 300 people were killed, and the MRND announced that it rejected the power-sharing agreement just worked out at Arusha.{44}

The RPF responded on February 8 by breaking the cease-fire. Militarily it fared much better than before, but it declared a unilateral cease-fire on February 20, fearing possible French intervention, but probably more concerned about alienating moderate Hutus and the Hutu population generally, many of whom fled the advancing RPF troops.{45}

France accused the RPF of unprovoked aggression -- not mentioning Habyarimana's sabotaging of the Arusha talks, nor its own violation of an Arusha agreement that all foreign troops leave the country -- and sent in additional soldiers and at least fifteen transport planes full of arms.{46} On February 28, the French Minister for Cooperation called upon the opposition to make common cause with Habyarimana against the RPF, an alliance that could only be ethnically-based. The opposition rejected the proposal, but Habyarimana was able to split the opposition parties, finding some elements in each party willing to join him in an extremist Hutu front.{47}

The signs of the approaching crisis were plain to see. The existence of death squads in Rwanda had been exposed in October 1992.{48} The arming of the militias was regularly denounced by human rights groups. A top ideologue of the MRND was known to have given a speech in November 1992 calling for genocide.{49} In August 1993 a UN investigator warned of the threat of ethnic killings in Rwanda.{50} That same month, an agreement was signed at Arusha spelling out the terms of transition, but the extremists blocked its implementation. In September, members of Habyarimana's inner circle set up a new radio station, RTLM -- a particularly potent medium in a country 60% illiterate{51} -- and used it to denounce the peace agreement and whip up ethnic hatred.{52} In October 1993 the Hutu president of Burundi, freely elected a few months earlier, was killed in an attempted coup by extremist Tutsi army officers. Unlike in 1972, the international community didn't ignore the crisis, with Washington and others suspending aid, and the coup was defeated. But Hutu extremists encouraged massacres of Tutsi peasants in the countryside and the army responded by slaughtering Hutus. All told perhaps 50,000 were killed -- somewhat more Tutsis than Hutus -- and 300,000 Hutus fled across the border into Rwanda, adding to the latter's ethnic tensions.{53}

The signatories to the August Arusha agreement asked the UN to provide a neutral military force to monitor compliance. The RPF was especially eager to have the UN replace the unabashedly pro-Habyarimana French troops. In October 1993, the Security Council established the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda, UNAMIR. Under strong U.S. pressure to minimize UNAMIR's size and to "seek economies," the Council deployed 2,500 Blue Helmets to Kigali. Meanwhile the French announced their withdrawal but secretly kept behind some 40-70 soldiers.{54}

Habyarimana continued to stall on any actual transfer of power. He was aided in this regard, perhaps inadvertently, by the U.S. ambassador and the Secretary General's special representative. Both dismissed evidence presented by the RPF of the planning going on for genocide, and both endorsed the demand by the ultra-extremist CDR for a seat in the new National Assembly. Since the CDR was openly calling for the extermination of Tutsis and denouncing the Arusha accords, urging its inclusion could only undermine the peace process and infuriated both the RPF and the democratic Hutu opposition.{55}

Over the next few months, UNAMIR reported and protested the continued arming and training of militias, the secret importation of weapons by the government, and incendiary broadcasts on RTLM.{56} The Belgian foreign minister described the situation as "five minutes to midnight"{57} and warned that under its mandate UNAMIR (which included Belgian troops) could not stop the distribution of arms to civilians.{58} No change was made in UNAMIR's mandate.


As assassinations and mob violence spread through Kigali, intense international pressure was brought to bear on Habyarimana to accept the transitional arrangements.{59} On April 6, 1994, Habyarimana was returning to Kigali in his presidential plane (a gift from Mitterrand), when the aircraft was shot down killing all on board. No conclusive proof is yet available as to who fired the missile, but it is almost certain that the perpetrators were Hutu extremists from Habyarimana's own inner circle.{60} Perhaps they feared that he was giving in to the international pressure, or perhaps they were simply willing to sacrifice him to their cause, concluding from recent events in Burundi that the death of a Hutu president could be used to inflame the population. In any case, within an hour of the plane's downing the Presidential Guard set up roadblocks throughout Kigali and proceeded to liquidate moderate Hutus whose names were on prepared lists.{61} Among their early victims were the Hutu prime minister and ten Belgian peacekeepers. Then the militias went after every Tutsi they could find. At this point the RPF announced that it was breaking the cease-fire in order to put an end to the killings. Some later claimed that the massacres were a response to the renewed civil war, but this exactly reverses cause and effect.{62}

The militias were under central control at all times, and in fact almost the entire civil service participated in the slaughter, which is what made it so efficient.{63} This was not a case of a "failed state," then, where chaos broke out as state structures collapsed. On the contrary, it was the authoritarian state structure itself that carried out the killings.

With the president and the prime minister dead, the extremists announced the formation of a new "interim government" consisting entirely of those committed to genocide. They hoped to convince the world that what was going on was just random inter-ethnic violence, rather than premeditated genocide. In this they were aided by many in the West who disseminated misinformation, even though there was compelling evidence from very early on regarding the actual nature of the killings.{64} Ignorant journalists referred to Hutus and Tutsis "slaughter[ing] each other"{65} and asserted that the "Hutu government does not appear to have any real control over the militiamen."{66} Worse yet, UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali characterized the situation more than three weeks into the genocide as one of "Hutus killing Tutsis and Tutsis killing Hutus."{67} The next day, President Clinton called on the Rwandan army and the RPF to agree to an immediate cease-fire and declared that it was "time for the leaders of Rwanda to recognize their common bond of humanity and to reject the senseless and criminal violence that continues to plague their country" -- a particularly innocuous, and misleading, formulation.{68}

One reason that events in Rwanda were characterized as inter-ethnic killing was because this view fit nicely with Western stereotypes of savage Africans. (This was, in former New York City mayor Ed Koch's words, "tribal warfare involving those without the veneer of Western civilization."{69}) But another reason was that U.S. officials shared with the interim government an interest in denying that genocide was taking place. For so long as what was going on in Rwanda was just some mutual and chaotic killing, there was not much that Washington could be expected to do. And thus, two months after the genocide began, the Clinton administration was still instructing its officials to refrain from using the term "genocide."{70} Not until June 15 did Clinton agree to use the term, but only because a virtually unanimous Senate Foreign Relations Committee was about to send him a letter demanding that he do so.{71}

The real priority for the international community was evacuating its nationals from Rwanda. French paratroopers landed on April 9 and Belgians the next day. Belgium asked the UN to modify UNAMIR's mandate to allow international soldiers to stop the slaughter, but Paris rejected the idea. As part of its operation, France evacuated Habyarimana's family and -- pretending they were orphanage employees -- some MRND leaders. The Belgian and French troops withdrew, leaving behind African partners of mixed-race couples and the French embassy's Tutsi personnel.{72} In Washington, Senator Robert Dole declared: "I don't think we have any national interest here. I hope we don't get involved there." The "Americans are out. As far as I'm concerned in Rwanda, that ought to be the end of it."{73}

Unable to change UNAMIR's mandate,{74} and facing public revulsion at the killing of ten of their peacekeepers, Belgium urged the Security Council to withdraw the Blue Helmets. Washington strongly urged the total withdrawal of UNAMIR, but, finding much resistance from the Council's non-permanent members, relented and agreed to reduce the force to a token presence of 270 troops.{75} It's hard to know what an empowered UNAMIR might have accomplished,{76} but surely the reduction in the international presence sent a powerful message to the killers that they could murder with impunity.

U.S. officials claimed that it was the UN, not the U.S., that should have done more to muster a force to prevent Rwanda's violence. But the UN cannot act independently of its most powerful members. Even when Washington does not use its veto, its economic and military strength ensure that it will be, in Phyllis Bennis's words, "calling the shots" at the UN.{77}

The Clinton administration had earlier determined that Washington would sharply limit its support for peacekeeping operations. Clinton told the UN in September 1993 that the organization had to learn "when to say no," and to ask "hard questions" before dispatching any further peacekeeping forces. In March 1994, this new policy was formalized in Presidential Decision Directive 25. The specific tough questions that had to be answered included, in essence, being able to predict how the operations would develop, which effectively barred virtually all peacekeeping.{78}

Some have argued that Clinton was here responding to public opinion, particularly after the debacle in Somalia. In fact, however, in April 1995 four out of five Americans believed the UN had a responsibility to intervene in conflicts marked by genocide.{79} And despite the obfuscation by U.S. officials as to what was going on in Rwanda, a poll taken in June and July 1994, during the genocide, found that 61% would have favored U.S. participation in a "large" UN force to "occupy" Rwanda and "forcibly stop the killing."{80}

Admittedly, Americans weren't enamored of the Somalia operation. But that intervention had come after months of international and U.S. neglect and indifference (and U.S. haggling over the cost of peacekeepers) and took place after the famine was essentially over; Operation Restore Hope was designed as a public relations mission for the Pentagon, not to save Somali lives.{81}

Unlike the public, the mass media were urging that Rwanda be ignored. The New York Times editorialized that "the world has little choice but to stand aside and hope for the best" (April 23), Clinton "has rightly resisted" the call to expand UNAMIR (May 18), and deserves credit for his "prudence" (July 30).{82} The New Republic in an editorial entitled "Why Not Rwanda?" acknowledged that genocide was going on, and that the catastrophe dwarfed that going on in Bosnia, but nevertheless considered it appropriate to do nothing more than provide humanitarian relief in Rwanda because Rwanda's "chaos may trigger a parallel disaster in its sister republic of Burundi, but nowhere else," while neutrality in the Balkans might encourage chaos in "strategically vital parts of the world."{83}

More recently, Michael Lind wrote in the same journal that Washington ought to leave the UN because it is dominated by countries that "singled out South African apartheid" while ignoring the Rwandan genocide.{84} In fact, the U.S.-led effort to reduce UNAMIR was denounced by many African countries and the Organization of African Unity.{85} Third World nations wanted to increase, not reduce, the strength of UNAMIR.{86}

Two weeks after the Council ordered the reduction in UNAMIR, the Secretary General -- responding to public outrage and the insistence of some small countries{87} -- put Rwanda back on the agenda. The Council agreed to authorize a new force, UNAMIR II, 5,500 strong, for dispatch to Rwanda under an expanded mandate. However, as Human Rights Watch explained, "last minute hesitations" by Washington "resulted in orders to deploy in the first instance only a small force of several hundred troops and about 150 unarmed observers." The deployment of the rest of the force was to depend upon "progress towards a new cease-fire between the RPF and the government, the availability of resources, and further review and action" by the Council.{88}

Some commentators have complained that no African country sent new or additional troops to Rwanda once the killing began.{89} But these are poor countries, lacking proper equipment and the means of transporting their troops to Rwanda. On May 25, Ethiopia offered 800 troops, fully equipped and trained, but needing transportation. None was found until mid-August.{90} Nigeria, Senegal, and Zimbabwe offered troops as well, but needed equipment. Ghana was prepared to dispatch troops as soon as they could be equipped with armored personnel carriers.{91} Washington offered to provide these, but not for free, and the price tag would include the cost of getting them to Africa. "As the death toll mounted in Rwanda," reported the New York Times, the U.S. and the UN "negotiated for weeks."{92} Not until mid-June did Washington agree to speed up the delivery.{93} National Security Adviser Anthony Lake later boasted that "We have done what we said" and the Ghanian battalion was "about half deployed now."{94} Unfortunately, these comments were made when the genocide was already over.{95}

Pursuing A Cease-Fire

In fact, as African Rights argues in its powerful report, Rwanda: Death, Despair and Defiance (2nd edition), if UNAMIR II were used in pursuit of the same goals as were sought by U.S. and UN diplomatic efforts, the results would likely have been counter-productive in terms of saving Rwandan lives, for the diplomatic efforts were thoroughly misguided.{96}

In situations like Rwanda, where the bulk of the deaths are due not to military conflict, but to genocide being carried out behind the lines of one of the combatants, often far from the front,{97} then a cease-fire will just permit the killing to continue unimpeded. If the international community were not going to stop the genocide itself, then it had an obligation to let the RPF -- the one force that could stop it -- do so. Nevertheless, the thrust of international diplomacy was precisely to try to promote a cease-fire between those committing genocide and those committed to stopping it.

Thus, the Secretary General's April 20 report deplored the fact that "Despite the best efforts of UNAMIR" the RPF was able to resume the civil war, and identified the resumption of the cease-fire as the "most urgent" task.{98} On May 12, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights urged both sides to agree to a cease-fire and resume negotiations on a political settlement. He didn't even include a direct demand to stop the killing as part of his appeal.{99}

Some calls for a cease-fire also demanded an end to the killing, but without requiring that the latter be a precondition for the former. The RPF stated that it was willing to accept a cease-fire only if the massacres stopped. It even went along with a 96-hour cease-fire to test the international insistence that that was the way to end the genocide. The killing continued.{100}

Significantly, one of the strongest cease-fire advocates was the genocidal regime itself.{101} Indeed, it wanted UNAMIR to be reinforced so that it could impose a cease-fire. This, more than anything else, should have given pause to those who called for a cease-fire. Indeed, it should have given pause as well to those who called for a UN intervention without clarifying whether its mission would be to stop the killing or the fighting.

Nevertheless, on May 7 Clinton called on the Rwandan army and the RPF to agree to an immediate cease-fire, adding that it was "time for the leaders in Rwanda to reject the criminal violence that continues to plague their country," but his statement neither attributed blame for the "criminal violence" nor made its end the precondition for the cease-fire.{102}

By the end of May, the Secretary General finally understood what was at issue: "It would be senseless to attempt to establish a cease-fire and to allow deliberate killings of civilians in the Rwandan government forces zone to continue." Therefore, "a halt to the killings of civilians must be concomitant with a cease-fire."{103} A U.S. government statement issued the same day, however, continued the muddled policy.{104}

A UN representative stated on April 29, 1994 that "we must not be seen to be taking sides."{105} But as African Rights pointed out, diplomatic neutrality "was not appropriate for Rwanda."{106} Neutrality makes sense when there is right on both sides, not when one side is committing genocide. In mid-May, the Security Council imposed an arms embargo on all parties to the conflict in Rwanda. This was inappropriate. Instead, the embargo should have been imposed on the interim government alone. This does not mean that the RPF was above criticism, but only that it was the sole force capable of promptly stopping the genocide. The international community should have tried to facilitate its victory, not stall it.{107}

African Rights argues that in its "obsession with the despatch of troops, the international community, and specifically the U.S. and U.N., were overlooking other courses of action" that "could have been far more effective."{108} Here are some things that could have been tried, but were not.

First, given the dependence of Rwanda on outside aid, the international community could have made clear to the killers that no assistance would be forthcoming to a regime based on genocide.{109} Washington resisted making such a declaration.{110}

Second, the international community could have announced that no diplomatic recognition would be extended to a genocidal regime. Washington never made such a statement. Indeed, Washington continued its diplomatic relations with the interim government until the RPF took Kigali. Only then did Clinton self-righteously declare that the U.S. "cannot allow representatives of a regime that supports genocidal massacre to remain on our soil."{111} Even worse was the behavior of France and Egypt which officially received and lent respectability to representatives of the interim government.{112}

Third, the interim government could have been isolated by expelling its representative from the UN Security Council, where it ironically was permitted to retain its seat throughout the genocide. Moreover, it was allowed to participate in debate and votes on Rwanda, while the RPF was denied the opportunity to present its views.{113}

Fourth, the leaders of the genocide were known. The international community could have identified them by name, warning them that they would be held personally accountable at war crimes trials. Washington did sometimes name the culprits and call upon them to stop the killings, but the statements did not condemn the named individuals, nor threaten them with consequences.{114}

And, fifth, France had special leverage with the interim government, being the regime's main foreign supporter. The one and only time Paris did use its clout, it was able to stop militia members from killing people at a hotel in Kigali. As African Rights observed, this raises the prospect that "more vigorous French action could have stopped the genocide."{115}

But if Paris was in a good position to stop the genocide, then Washington was too, by pressuring France. June 1994 was the fiftieth anniversary of the D-Day invasion, and the U.S. government was joining France in commemorating the event. Had Clinton made a special appeal to Mitterrand to get the killers to stop, perhaps even threatening not to participate in any celebrations of the joint victory over fascism so long as France was allowing a new genocide to take place, this might have forced Paris to act.{116}

France's complicity, in fact, goes deeper than failing to take steps to stop the slaughter. While the genocide was going on, French arms were actually being delivered to the killers. And some of these deliveries came after the Security Council imposed its arms embargo on Rwanda. The arms shipments may not have been authorized by the president's office, but despite Paris's denials there can be little doubt that they took place.{117} Moreover, it is quite possible that Washington knew about the secret French arms deliveries. On May 3, shortly before the arms embargo was imposed, the Voice of America reported that U.S. Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright stated that the Clinton administration had reason to believe that someone was supplying weapons, "but she refused to name that country."{118} If the U.S. knew that France or anyone else was delivering arms to those committing genocide -- whether before or after the embargo -- it had a moral obligation to expose and condemn them.

To repeat, none of these alternative strategies for dealing with the genocide was pursued. Instead, embarrassed by the interminable delays in deploying UNAMIR II, the Security Council accepted an offer of a "humanitarian" military intervention from an unlikely source: France. On June 21, 1994, Paris offered to send in troops to save lives until UNAMIR could arrive. France, which said it would be joined by Senegal, insisted that its intervention would have to be under French command and control and would not be part of UNAMIR (thus following the U.S. unilateralism in Somalia the year before).{119} Washington and the Secretary General endorsed the idea, but there was considerable skepticism from other Council members, and even more outside the chamber.{120}

The RPF was the most vociferous opponent of the French intervention, and this opposition led Brazil to abstain on the vote in the Security Council.{121} New Zealand, which also abstained, sharply refuted the claim that there was no alternative to French intervention: If France were to "redirect" the resources of its intervention to transporting and equipping UNAMIR, the latter's delays would "disappear overnight."{122}

Hesitancy by some Council members did get the enabling resolution revised to stress that the operation would be "impartial and neutral" and would "not constitute an inter-position force between the parties."{123} Even then it only received ten affirmative votes, one more than the minimum necessary.{124} And of the ten, one came from France, and another from the interim government of Rwanda! The latter's representative called the French initiative "timely and commendable" and urged that "All efforts must focus on bringing about a cease-fire."{125}

Operation Turquoise

A number of motives can be discerned for the French intervention, called "Operation Turquoise." This was an election year in France and politicians were competing for the high moral ground; additionally, France was receiving bad international press from its various acts of complicity in the genocide, and the intervention might salvage its reputation.{126} But there were more sinister motives as well. Jacques Baumel, the vice president of the defense committee in the French National Assembly, declared that the RPF is "threatening the privileged position of France." To many French officials, the fact that the RPF had come from Uganda, where English was spoken, made it part of an "Anglo-Saxon conspiracy."{127} Operation Turquoise, Baumel went on, has shown that France has the means to undertake "a rapid and effective intervention. Friendly countries on the black continent, and with whom we have sometimes signed treaties of military assistance can be reassured: we have just proved that we are still capable of acting in Africa. Fast and well."{128} French troops on the ground gave Paris the ability to control events, perhaps even to save the interim government.{129}

The French government -- at Prunier's suggestion -- met in Paris with the RPF for the first time in the entire conflict to try to allay the latter's fears. The RPF modified its position, saying it would not oppose a purely humanitarian mission, but remained deeply suspicious.{130} The French troops were welcomed by the interim government and its army, militias, and radio; interahamwe units produced a sign proclaiming "Welcome French Hutus."{131} Rwanda's southwestern corner, where the French forces arrived, was still under the control of the interim government. As the troops spread out into the country, their intentions remained unclear. One official declared that the RPF could not be allowed to achieve a military victory; an army captain spoke of drawing "a line in the sand"; the French defense minister declined to say how far the troops would advance or whether they would move into RPF areas; and a military spokesperson would not confirm whether French soldiers would fight the rebels in the event of a confrontation.{132}

As it turned out, after a minor clash between French and RPF forces,{133} a confrontation was averted. France declared the establishment of a "safe humanitarian zone" in the southwest (without waiting for UN authorization{134}), but pulled its troops back from the northwest and the key city of Butare. And the RPF agreed to halt its advance toward the zone, provided that the French disarmed all militias and military personnel within it.{135} It is possible that France's hesitations regarding the aims of Operation Turquoise were resolved by the feelings of its own troops. "This is not what we were led to believe," a noncommissioned officer said upon finding Tutsi corpses. "We were told the Tutsis were killing Hutu, and now this."{136}

There in fact were not very many Tutsis left alive in the French zone, and killings of those in rural areas within the zone, where French troops did not go, continued. African Rights estimates that Operation Turquoise might have saved 12-15,000 Tutsis; Prunier reckons the number at 13-14,000 at most.{137} Such numbers, of course, are nothing to sneeze at, no matter how small they seem compared to the 800,000 killed. As noted above, however, there is no reason France could not have used its resources instead to equip and transport UNAMIR contingents, to save the same lives. This would have been far preferable, not simply because France had unclean hands, but because the same set of imperial interests that led to France's unclean hands in the first place led France to carry out Operation Turquoise in a way that caused great harm.

France allowed the organizers of the genocide to enter its safe zone and escape into Zaire, without being arrested by French troops.{138} By the time the French left, there was not one killer in custody to be turned over to the UN. Survivors claimed that they had identified major war criminals to the French forces to no avail, even though some of these criminals had been threatening people after the French arrival. Nor were the French simply passive. Ethiopian forces who later took over from the French found that some leading killers had been allowed to escape from custody and saw French vehicles being used to transport Rwandan army personnel to safety in Zaire. And a BBC reporter met the former Rwandan chief of staff traveling in a French military jeep inside Zaire in late July 1994.{139}

The organizers of the genocide wanted to escape into neighboring Zaire, but they wanted to bring with them as many as possible of Rwanda's Hutus, no matter how much suffering such a large scale population displacement might entail. A mass exodus would deny the RPF a functioning society, provide a vast sea of refugees within which the killers could hide and thus escape punishment, and allow the killers the opportunity to rebuild a military force to overthrow the victorious RPF-led regime.

Leaders of the former government used a variety of means to promote this mass exodus. Some people were driven out by force and some followed the orders of their local officials, as they had been accustomed to doing for years. But, as a UN study later concluded, the displacement of the population might well have been containable had it not been for "deliberately inflammatory broadcasts from radio stations controlled by the 'interim Government'."{140} As the RPF advanced, the extremists needed to relocate their radio transmitters. RTLM relocated to the French safe zone and broadcast its incendiary propaganda until mid-July with no French effort to find and destroy the transmitter.{141} (From the beginning of the genocide human rights groups had unsuccessfully called on the UN to destroy the RTLM transmitter.)

French perfidy, however, did not end here. According to investigations by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, France continued to provide military training for the ex-Rwandan army in the Central African Republic, and France and Zaire, flouting the arms embargo, continued to provide weapons to the leaders of the former Rwandan regime in Zaire.{142}

The Exodus

The architects of the genocide were successful in panicking some two million Hutus to flee Rwanda. This huge exodus created a major humanitarian crisis, for there was inadequate food, water, or sanitary facilities to sustain such a massive influx of people. Cholera broke out in the refugee camps and the international community responded with a gigantic relief effort.{143} The prompt international response managed to bring the death rate in the refugee camps down to close to normal.

TV cameras transmitted the horror of the cholera epidemic on the Zairian border into the world's living rooms; the genocide in Rwanda, however, had been untelevised and thus in comparison had much less of an impact. This led to an inaccurate public political understanding of the situation, abetted by those with a particular interest in promoting confusion.

When Mitterrand was asked about the genocide, he replied: "The genocide or the genocides?" This was the double genocide gambit,{144} the claim that there had been two genocides, one victimizing Tutsis and the other Hutus. The numbers, however, were vastly disproportionate: 800,000 Tutsis massacred and 50,000 Hutu cholera deaths. But more significant is the fact that the former were intentional deaths, the latter were not; and if anyone is to be held responsible for the cholera deaths it is precisely the interim government officials who engineered the exodus, not the Tutsi-led RPF. As Alain Destexhe, the former head of the relief agency Doctors Without Borders, has written in his critique of misplaced humanitarianism in the Rwanda crisis, Rwanda and Genocide in the Twentieth Century (New York University Press), during the slaughter of the Tutsis the word "genocide" rarely appeared in media headlines; but "'genocide' and 'Holocaust' were frequently and quite inaccurately applied, even by the most widely respected journalists, in reference to the subsequent cholera epidemic."{145} Clinton said Rwanda could be "the world's worst humanitarian crisis in a generation," but he referred to the refugee situation, not the genocide.{146}

The refugee camps were under the control of the very people who organized the (one and only) genocide. The senior civilian and military officials of the interim government tended to live in plush conditions in hotels and houses outside the refugee camps, but they were able to keep an iron grip on the refugees through their soldiers and militias in the camps.{147} And they acquired added leverage over the camp population through their control of the relief supplies. Thus, humanitarian aid had the perverse consequence of strengthening the authority of those who had been responsible for the genocide. And the aid had two other negative consequences: making the living conditions in the refugee camps better than in surrounding Zaire or back home in Rwanda, thus discouraging refugees from returning home; and providing the killers with relief supplies that could be diverted and resold in order to help finance their rearming.{148}

Doctors Without Borders closed down its program in the refugee camps so as not to be used by the killers,{149} but for most charitable organizations the refugees in Zaire provided them with their biggest fundraising opportunity in years, and they weren't about to give it up so easily. Many of these organizations, being totally ignorant of the situation, did no screening in their hiring of local personnel, so numerous people implicated in the killings were on their payrolls.{150} These individuals helped spread the extremists' message among refugees that those returning to Rwanda would be killed by the Tutsis.

In the meantime, the victorious RPF had set up in Rwanda a government of national reconciliation. The prime minister was the Hutu chosen to be transitional prime minister as part of the 1993 Arusha accords, the president was one of the RPF's Hutu members, and most of the cabinet were Hutus. The vice-president and defense minister was Paul Kagame, the leader of the RPF's military arm, the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA). Despite this formal structure, however, the RPA, with the only arms, vehicles, and communications equipment in the country, was the dominant component of the new government.{151}

The conditions confronting the new government were absolutely staggering. Eight hundred thousand were dead. Among the living were untold numbers suffering from serious wounds and profound trauma. Children had been orphaned, spouses widowed, women raped. In some areas of the country just about every Tutsi house had been demolished.{152} Many who had participated in the killings were still around.{153} There was no police force. There was no court system. Yet trials of the perpetrators of the massacres were essential, both to break the culture of impunity which had flourished for so long in Rwanda, and to answer the victims' cry for justice, without which there was the grave danger of private retribution. The RPA needed to remain mobilized, given the continuing threat on the borders from the troops of the former regime, yet the new government lacked even the funds to pay its soldiers.{154}

If ever there were a government in need of massive international assistance, both financial and technical, this was it. Yet, as a top official at the U.S. Agency for International Development remarked in September 1994, he had never witnessed a situation in which the international community had essentially marginalized a government to the extent it had in Rwanda.{155} While millions of dollars poured into the refugee camps dominated by the killers, hardly anything went to the Rwandan government. The new prime minister was baffled: "We appreciate what is happening to help the dying in the camps. But beyond that, what? Must we get cholera to be helped?"{156}

International donors told the Rwandan government that aid was contingent on its making conditions within the country secure for the return of the refugees.{157} But security required precisely the aid that was being withheld. Numerous human rights reports had found no evidence of genocide or systematic atrocities on the part of the RPF.{158} The RPF had maintained fairly good discipline and had generally restrained revenge killings on the part of its members. But as the destitution of the Rwandan government continued, the situation worsened. Unpaid soldiers began to hire themselves out to settle private vendettas.{159} The lack of judges, prosecutors, and investigators -- in November 1994 the country had only three prosecutors and fewer than ten judges{160} -- made the process of arresting genocide suspects increasingly arbitrary. Tutsi supremacists began to gain in strength. This was a classic case of the self-fulfilling prophesy.{161}

International assistance was particularly inadequate in the area of human rights.{162} African Rights argues that the UN's Human Rights Field Operation seemed to view its mission not as helping to deal with the aftermath of the genocide by assisting in bringing the perpetrators to justice, but as single-mindedly seeking out human rights violations on the part of the RPF. Some of the human rights monitors bitterly complained to African Rights that they found themselves being told that their job was "nailing the RPA." They had no problem, they said, with exposing and criticizing RPA violations, but they resented the fact that this had become their exclusive task. And Rwandan survivors of the genocide resented this even more. One UN human rights monitor told African Rights that the reluctance to work on the genocide suggested that "political pressure" was being exerted by countries who did not want "the full truth about the genocide made public knowledge."{163}

The Security Council set up a war crimes tribunal to deal with the Rwandan genocide,{164} but it was much delayed and under-funded. Moreover, the enabling resolution -- as Lawyers Without Borders and the Rwandan government noted -- was worded in such a way as to exclude from the scope of the tribunal's consideration various crimes: among them, crimes committed before January 1, 1994 (for example, the drawing up of lists of victims in 1993); crimes committed outside of Rwanda by non-Rwandans (for example, French citizens who delivered arms to Zaire, for shipment to the interim government in Rwanda); and crimes committed by states, effectively letting France and Zaire off the hook.{165}

The international tribunal issued its first indictments only in December 1995, but the whereabouts of the eight indictees was unknown.{166} The Security Council "urged" -- but did not require -- states to arrest and detain potential war criminals;{167} few are likely to actually stand trial.

In July 1995, only 15 percent of the international aid pledged to Rwanda had been disbursed.{168} The next month a coalition of 33 human rights and humanitarian groups sent a letter to the White House: "Governments and international organizations have promised much since last year's genocide," it recalled. "Now is the time for them to deliver." The letter went on to warn that "the Hutu extremist perpetrators are rearming in exile, Tutsi extremists are gaining ground within Rwanda, and the international community has failed to provide the resources to rebuild the country and strengthen the moderates."{169}

Disbursements have since increased (they stood at 69 percent of pledges in January 1996; the U.S. accounted for 10 percent of the pledges).{170} But even the total pledges were far from adequate, and they came too late to prevent seriously deteriorating conditions: some Hutu ministers have resigned from the government as ethnic tensions have increased; relations between the government and both aid agencies and UNAMIR have become strained, with potentially grave consequences; and vast numbers of refugees remain on the border, while the perpetrators of the genocide continue preparations for a military comeback. Meanwhile, the situation in neighboring Burundi is a powder keg that the international community has only begun to address.

Rwanda has experienced, in the words of Boutros-Ghali, "what would have been a nightmare had it not actually come to pass."{171} And other nations bear a deep responsibility for that nightmare. On July 26, 1994, after the genocide was over, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs George Moose told a Senate committee: "Through the UN, the United States has taken a leading role in efforts to protect the Rwandan people. We strongly supported the UN arms embargo and the expansion of UNAMIR, with a revised mandate to help protect threatened populations and relief efforts."{172} No mention was made of the U.S. refusal to expose those who were providing arms to the killers, of the U.S.-led effort to reduce UNAMIR, of the U.S.-inspired delays in deploying UNAMIR II, of the U.S. insistence on a cease-fire, of the U.S. refusal to call genocide "genocide," to pressure Paris, or to work to isolate the genocidal regime. France is the foreign country bearing primary culpability for Rwanda's nightmare, but there is little in the record of the United States of which to be proud.



  1. Robert Block, "The Tragedy of Rwanda," New York Review of Books, 20 Oct. 1994, p. 6.[return]


  2. Gérard Prunier, The Rwanda Crisis: History of a Genocide, New York: Columbia University Press, 1995, p. 265. See also U.S. Department of State (hereafter D/S), "Rwanda Human Rights Practices, 1994," Feb. 1995; Letter 9 Dec. 1994 from the Secretary-General to the President of the Security Council, attaching Final report of the Commission of Experts established pursuant to Security Council resolution 935 (1994), S/1994/1405, Report, para. 57; Washington Post, Aug. 8, 1994 cited in AID, Consolidated Rwanda Report, Update #4, Aug. 5-8, 1994.[return]


  3. Prunier, 265.[return]


  4. Prunier, p. 39.[return]


  5. In 1959 43 out of 45 chiefs were Tutsi as well as 549 of 559 sub-chiefs. Prunier, pp. 26-27.[return]


  6. Philip Gourevitch, "Letter from Rwanda: After the Genocide," New Yorker, 18 Dec. 1995, p. 85.[return]


  7. Prunier, pp. 28, 50.[return]


  8. Prunier, pp. 27, 35.[return]


  9. Prunier, pp. 47, 49.[return]


  10. Prunier, p. 53.[return]


  11. Prunier, pp. 54, 56, 62.[return]


  12. René Lemarchand and David Martin, Selective Genocide in Burundi, London: Minority Rights Group, Report No. 20, 1974, pp. 5, 14-15.[return]


  13. Thomas Patrick Melady, Burundi: The Tragic Years, Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1974, pp. 15, 107-08; Michael Bowen, Gary Freeman, and Kay Miller, Passing By: The United States and Genocide in Burundi, 1972, Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1973, pp. 3-4, 6, 25.[return]


  14. Prunier, pp. 60-61.[return]


  15. Prunier, pp. 75-76.[return]


  16. Alain Destexhe, Rwanda and Genocide in the Twentieth Century, New York: New York University Press, 1995 (originally published in French; updated in the translation), p. 45.[return]


  17. Prunier, pp. 76-77.[return]


  18. Lindsey Hilsum, "Settling Scores," Africa Report, May/June 1994, p. 16. As the New York Times (hereafter NYT) put it, Habyarimana "excelled at strengthening ties to the West and attracting foreign aid and investment at a time when a number of other African leaders were being accused of running corrupt and inefficient governments." Ronald Sullivan, "Juvenal Habyarimana, 57, Ruled Rwanda for 21 Years," NYT, 7 April 1994, p. A10. Rwanda, however, had its share of corruption. See Prunier, p. 88.[return]


  19. Prunier, p. 78.[return]


  20. Michel Chossudovsky, "IMF-World Bank Policies and the Rwandan Holocaust," Third World Network Features, Published by Third World Network 228, Macalister Road, 10400, Penang, Malaysia. Growth of GDP per capita declined from 0.4 percent in 1981-86 to -5.0 percent in 1987-91. World Bank, Adjustment in Africa, New York: Oxford UP, 1994, p. 138.[return]


  21. Foreign aid went from 11 percent of gross national product in 1986 to 22 percent in 1991. Prunier, p. 79.[return]


  22. Prunier, p. 84.[return]


  23. Prunier, pp. 89-90.[return]


  24. Chossudovsky.[return]


  25. Prunier, pp. 67-73.[return]


  26. Prunier, pp. 94, 97-99.[return]


  27. Prunier, p. 108.[return]


  28. African Rights, Rwanda: Death, Despair and Defiance, London: rev. ed. Aug. 1995, pp. 1104-05. Hereafter cited as RDDD.[return]


  29. Marlise Simons, "France's Rwanda Connection," NYT, 3 July 1994, p. I:6.[return]


  30. Michael Elliott, "Do You Own Your Backyard?" Newsweek, 7 Nov. 1994, p. 51; P103; Howard W. French, "Prostitution Trial Upsets France-Gabon Ties," NYT, 23 April 1995, p. I:10; Prunier, p. 103-04.[return]


  31. Prunier, pp. 100-101; RDDD, p. 1106.[return]


  32. Prunier, pp. 108n29, 109-110, pp. 136-37; S/1994/1405, Report, para. 55.[return]


  33. Prunier, pp. 113, P149n37; Frank Smyth, "Blood Money and Geopolitics," Nation, 2 May 1994, p. 586.[return]


  34. Prunier, p. 149.[return]


  35. Marlise Simons, "France's Rwanda Connection," NYT, 3 July 1994, p. I:6; Frank Smyth, "Blood Money and Geopolitics," Nation, 2 May 1994, p. 587; P110-11. Human Rights Watch/Africa has noted that whatever the military significance of French support, "the importance of French soldiers and French military aid in terms of moral and political support for President Habyarimana is unquestionable." Human Rights Watch/Africa, "Beyond the Rhetoric: Continuing Human Rights Abuses in Rwanda," News from Africa Watch, vol. 5, no. 7, New York, June 1993, p. 26. Hereafter cited as HRW, June 1993.[return]


  36. Rakiya Omaar and Alex de Waal, "Genocide in Rwanda: U.S. Complicity by Silence," Covert Action Quarterly, Spring 1995, no. 52.[return]


  37. Prunier, p. 162n5.[return]


  38. Human Rights Watch/Africa, "Rwanda: Talking Peace and Waging War; Human Rights Since the October 1990 Invasion," News from Africa Watch, vol. 4, no. 3, New York, 27 Feb. 1992, p. 28. Hereafter cited as HRW, Feb. 1992.[return]


  39. Hilsum, p. 16. Human Rights Watch/Africa noted in February 1992 that the United States "has given important financial assistance to Rwanda, especially in the past year. With few exceptions, the US has failed to tie this aid to specific requirements that the government improve its human rights record." HRW, Feb. 1992, p. 30.[return]


  40. Block, p. 4.[return]


  41. S/1994/1405, Report, para. 65.[return]


  42. Prunier, p. 164-65.[return]


  43. Prunier, pp. 150, 170.[return]


  44. HRW, June 1993, 4-5; Prunier, p. 173.[return]


  45. Prunier, pp. 177-78.[return]


  46. HRW, June 1993, p. 26; Prunier, pp. 176-77.[return]


  47. Prunier, pp. 178-79. The U.S. response to the renewed fighting in February 1993 was to "condemn the ethnic and political violence" (though without attributing responsibility) and to "deplore" the RPF's breaking of the cease-fire. (Statement by D/S spokesperson Richard Boucher, Feb. 9, 1993, D/S Dispatch, vol. 4, no. 7, 15 Feb. 1993) After the International Commission issued its report in March 1993, it became more difficult to ignore Habyarimana's actions. Belgium recalled its ambassador for consultations, and the U.S. State Department announced that it was "deeply disturbed" by the conclusions of the report. The U.S. aid package was shifted to increase humanitarian and reduce economic assistance; the small military aid program -- training six Rwandan officers a year -- was continued unchanged. Washington warned that Rwanda was being placed on a "watch list" and that continued aid depended on improved performance in several areas, including protection of human rights. (HRW, June 1993, p. 26; see also Statement by D/S spokesperson Richard Boucher, Mar. 9, 1993).[return]


  48. Prunier, pp. 168-69.[return]


  49. Block, p. 6; S/1994/1405, Report, para. 63.[return]


  50. RDDD, p. 1103.[return]


  51. Prunier, p. 133. The CIA (World Factbook, 1995) puts literacy at 50%.[return]


  52. Human Rights Watch/Africa, "Genocide in Rwanda, April-May 1994," [newsletter] vol.6, no. 4, New York, May 1994, p. 2 (hereafter cited as HRW, May 1994); Amnesty International, "Rwanda: Mass murder by government supporters and troops in April and May 1994," 23 May 1994, New York, AI Index: AFR 47/11/94, pp. 3-4.[return]


  53. Prunier, p. 199. In the U.S. State Department's annual report on human rights practices in countries receiving foreign aid, the section on Rwanda, dated January 31, 1994, conveyed little of the crisis building there. "The Constitution provides that all citizens are equal before the law, without any discrimination because of race, color, origin, ethnicity, clan, sex, opinion, religion, or social standing," the report explained. "Rwanda's political parties' law bans parties based on ethnic origin or religious affiliation. In practice, a number of groups experience discrimination." There was no mention of parties organized to promote Hutu extremism, the public calls for genocide, or the arming of militias. The existence of death squads was said to be not confirmed. D/S, "Rwanda Human Rights Practices, 1993," Jan. 31, 1994.[return]


  54. Phyllis Bennis, Calling the Shots: How Washington Dominates Today's UN (Brooklyn, NY: Interlink/Olive Branch Press, 1996), p. 128; Prunier, p. 214n3.[return]


  55. Omaar & de Waal, Covert Action Quarterly; Prunier, p. 204; VOA, Alex Belida, Nairobi, Apr. 29, 1994. Omaar and de Waal (of the London-based human rights group African Rights) note that throughout this period the U.S. ambassador -- who had earlier served as deputy chief of mission in Somalia when U.S. arms were sent to dictator Siad Barre to help him brutalize his own people -- showed considerable sympathy for Habyarimana.[return]


  56. Subject: 5819: Security Council Extends Mandate of Rwanda Mission until 29 July, Security Council, SC/5819, 3358th Meeting, 5 April 1994 Night Summary, Take 1; HRW, May 1994, 9; AI, AFR 47/11/94, pp. 12-13; Report of the Secretary-General on the Situation in Rwanda, 31 May 1994, S/1994/640, para. 11.[return]


  57. RDDD, p. 1102.[return]


  58. Prunier, pp. 205-06.[return]


  59. Prunier, p. 209-11.[return]


  60. See Prunier, pp. 213-229, esp. 221.[return]


  61. HRW, May 1994, p. 3.[return]


  62. HRW, May 1994, p. 4; AI, AFR 47/11/94, p. 4.[return]


  63. Prunier, pp. 244-45.[return]


  64. For example, Amnesty quoted in VOA, Christine Furnell, Apr. 26, 1994; HRW, May 1994, 10. See also RDDD, p. 1143.[return]


  65. VOA, Adam Phillips, Washington, Apr. 28, 1994; see also VOA, Sonya Laurence, Nairobi, Apr. 24, 1994 and May 22, 1994.[return]


  66. AP, "Rwanda militia reported slaughtering 170 seeking sanctuary in church," Newark Star Ledger, 12 June 1994, p. I:5.[return]


  67. RDDD, p. 1126.[return]


  68. Radio Message by the President on the Situation in Rwanda, April 30, 1994.[return]


  69. Quoted in Richard Goldstein, "Rwanda Matata," Village Voice, 9 Aug. 1994, p. 6.[return]


  70. Douglas Jehl, "Officials Told to Avoid Calling Rwanda Killings 'Genocide'," NYT 10 June 1994, p. A8. "Genocide is a word that carries an enormous amount of responsibility," said a senior administration official, accurately. A State Department spokesperson explained that "Although there have been acts of genocide in Rwanda, all the murders cannot be put into that category" (Prunier, p. 274) -- as if every one of Hitler's murders had to be so categorized before the term "genocide" applied.[return]


  71. Michael R. Gordon, "U.S. to Supply 60 Vehicles For UN Troops in Rwanda," NYT, 16 June 1994, p. A12. The Pope and the Secretary General had used the term weeks before: HRW, May 1994, 8-9; VOA, Michael Bowman, Washington, 5 May 1994.[return]


  72. Prunier, pp. 234-36.[return]


  73. Elaine Sciolino, "For West, Rwanda Is Not Worth the Political Candle," NYT, 15 April 1994, p. A3.[return]


  74. Milton Leitenberg, "Rwanda, 1994: International Incompetence Produces Genocide," Peacekeeping & International Relations, Nov.-Dec. 1994, p. 6, states that soon after the massacres began, the head of UNAMIR asked that the mandate be changed so he could protect civilians; the request was rejected.[return]


  75. Paul Lewis, "Security Council Votes to Cut Rwanda Peacekeeping Force," NYT, 22 April 1994, p. A1; HRW, May 1994, p. 9.[return]


  76. The head of UNAMIR claimed that he could have saved hundreds of thousands of civilians' lives. RDDD, p. 1133.[return]


  77. Bennis. As the U.S. Ambassador to the UN told a House subcommittee: "...the United States is one of five countries with the power to veto any UN peace-keeping operation. I can assure you that we will use our influence--and if necessary our veto--to block operations that would harm our interests. I can also assure you that our continued right to the veto is not negotiable." Albright before a subcommittee of the House Appropriations Commmittee, 5 May 1994, D/S Dispatch, v. 5, no 20, May 16, 1994.[return]


  78. Leitenberg, pp. 7-8. See D/S Dispatch, v. 5, no 20, May 16, 1994.[return]


  79. Barbara Crossette, "Poll Finds American Support for Peacekeeping by UN," NYT, 30 April 1995, p. I:17.[return]


  80. Program on International Policy Attitudes, Center for the Study of Policy Attitudes and the University of Maryland Center for International and Security Studies, "Americans on UN Peacekeeping: A Study of US Public Attitudes," Washington, DC., 05/28/1995.[return]


  81. See Stephen R. Shalom, "Gravy Train: Feeding the Pentagon By Feeding Somalia," Z magazine, Feb. 1993, pp. 15-25, for details.[return]


  82. "Cold Choices in Rwanda," NYT, 23 April 1994, p. I:24; "Look Before Plunging Into Rwanda," NYT, 18 May 1994, p. A22; "Lifesaving Aid for Rwanda," NYT, 30 July 94, p. I:18.[return]


  83. The Editors, "Why Not Rwanda?" New Republic, 16 May 1994.[return]


  84. Michael Lind, "The Case for Old-style Diplomacy. Twilight of the UN," New Republic, Oct. 30, 1995.[return]


  85. RDDD, p. 1118; Special Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda, 20 April 1994, S/1994/470, para. 14; AP, "Aid Groups Assail UN Pullout in Rwanda," NYT, 23 April 1994, p. I:6.[return]


  86. Paul Lewis, "UN Council Urged to Weigh Action on Saving Rwanda," NYT, 30 April 1994, p. 1.[return]


  87. The Czech Republic, New Zealand, Spain, and Argentina.[return]


  88. HRW, May 1994, p. 10.[return]


  89. E.g., Leitenberg, p. 7.[return]


  90. RDDD, p. 1130.[return]


  91. S/1994/640, paras. 40, 21.[return]


  92. Michael R. Gordon, "UN's Rwanda Deployment Slowed by Lack of Vehicles," NYT, 9 June 1994, p. A10.[return]


  93. Michael R. Gordon, "U.S. to Supply 60 Vehicles For UN Troops in Rwanda," NYT, 16 June 1994, p. A12.[return]


  94. White House Press Briefing, 29 July 1994.[return]


  95. The Secretary General, who has to be extremely tactful in his criticisms of permanent Council members, reported that there had been "deplorable delays in the reinforcement of UNAMIR." He stated that "the failure of Member States to reinforce the military component of UNAMIR with the necessary speed severely limited its capacity to reduce human suffering that accompanied the civil conflict and the deliberate massacre of civilians..." (Report of the Secretary-General on the Situation in Rwanda, 3 Aug. 1994, S/1994/924, para. 19) Acknowledging that the "slow bureaucratic processes within the Secretariat have been partly responsible for these regrettable delays," Boutros- Ghali asserted that "the major cause has been the reluctance of Governments possessing the required resources to make them available to the United Nations." (Letter dated 1 Aug. 1994 from the Secretary-General addressed to the President of the Security Council, 3 Aug. 1994, S/1994/923.)[return]


  96. Additionally, it is far more difficult to have to undertake what is essentially a new intervention than to maintain or enhance a peacekeeping force that's already on the scene.[return]


  97. Prunier, p. 266-67.[return]


  98. S/1994/470, paras. 3, 5.[return]


  99. VOA, Alex Belida, Nairobi, May 12, 1994.[return]


  100. VOA, Sonya Laurence, Nairobi, Apr. 24, 1994; S/1994/640, paras. 9, 34; Alex de Waal, "Intervention Unbound," (based on African Rights, Humanitarianism Unbound? Current Dilemmas Facing Multi-Mandate Relief Operations in Political Emergencies," London: Nov. 1994); RDDD, p. 1120.[return]


  101. HRW, May 1994, p. 10; S/1994/470, para. 14.[return]


  102. VOA, 7 May 1994.[return]


  103. S/1994/640, paras. 38, 39.[return]


  104. It called for "an immediate end to the killings, cessation of hostilities, and resumption of talks between the warring parties," without specifying that the cease-fire could only follow the end of the killing. (Rwanda: Arms Embargo Statement issued by the Departments of State and Commerce on May 27, 1994, and released by the D/S, May 31, 1994, D/S Dispatch, vol. 5, no. 23, 1994.) A D/S statement a week later continued to emphasize the cease-fire: "We ... repeat our call for an immediate end to this horrific violence. The warring parties must agree to an immediate cease-fire. We ... urge the two sides to stop fighting now, for the sake of their country and its people. (Statement by Acting D/S spokesperson Christine Shelly, Washington, DC, June 9, 1994, D/S Dispatch, vol. 5, no. 24, 1994.)[return]


  105. RDDD, p. 1120. The New York Times editorialized in June that "The UN's purpose is to save lives and end a savage civil war, not to take sides." NYT, 24 June 1994, p. A26.[return]


  106. RDDD, p. 1120.[return]


  107. In the words of African Rights's Alex de Waal: "In extremis, one side may be guilty of a horrendous crime, such as genocide, of which the other is innocent - a state of affairs that obliges selective action against one party to the conflict." ("Intervention Unbound.")[return]


  108. RDDD, p. 1134.[return]


  109. Even if the ringleaders of the genocide had not been dissuaded by international isolation, many of their followers might have disavowed them if they knew there would be no aid and thus that the interim government would surely fail. Alison Des Forges, "Genocide: It's a Fact in Rwanda," NYT, 11 May 1994, p. A25.[return]


  110. HRW, May 1994, p. 11.[return]


  111. Statement by White House Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers, July 15, 1994, D/S Dispatch, vol. 5, no. 30, 1994.[return]


  112. Paris even welcomed the head of the CDR. Belgium and the United States refused them visas. HRW, May 1994, pp. 11-12; Prunier, pp. 277, 278n134; RDDD, p. 1104.[return]


  113. As Human Rights Watch/Africa noted, "customarily representatives do not play an active role in considerations of conflicts that affect their own states." (HRW, May 1994, p. 10) The UN legal department noted that Britain had voted at the Security Council during the Falklands dispute, (Paul Lewis, "Rebels in Rwanda Said to Slay 3 Bishops and 10 Other Clerics," NYT, 10 June 1994, p. A1, A8) but one violation of the Charter (article 27 states that states shall refrain from voting on disputes to which they are a party) doesn't justify another. Re RPF, see S/1994/640, para. 33.[return]


  114. HRW, May 1994, p. 11; VOA, April 30, 1994, editorial.[return]


  115. RDDD, p. 1108.[return]


  116. Alison Des Forges suggested a U.S. appeal to Mitterrand at the time: "Genocide: It's a Fact in Rwanda," NYT, 11 May 1994, p. A25.[return]


  117. A French official acknowledged it to Prunier in May 1994, the French military attache in Kinshasa as much as admitted it in mid-June (Prunier, pp. 278, 287), and independent investigations by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International added confirmation. (Letter Dated 26 January 1996 from the Secretary-General Addressed to the President of the Security Council, transmitting interim report of the International Commission of Inquiry, S/1996/67, 29 January 1996, para. 56; see also RDDD, p. 1107.)[return]


  118. VOA, Elaine Johanson, UN, 3 May 1994.[return]


  119. Letter dated 19 June 1994 from the Secretary-General addressed to the President of the Security Council, 20 June 1994, S/1994/728, para. 12.[return]


  120. The French intervention was opposed by human rights and humanitarian groups (Editorial, NYT, 24 June 1994, p. A26; VOA, Alex Belida, Nairobi, June 19, 1994), the UN Human Rights Commission investigator for Rwanda (RDDD, p. 1141), the prime-minister designate under the Arusha agreement, and the OAU (Prunier, pp. 286-87; RDDD, p. 1141). The Belgian defense minister warned that the intervention "should be looked at with the necessary caution" (Alan Riding, "France Seeks Partners for Rwandan Venture," NYT, 17 June 1994, p. A8), and the head of UNAMIR refused to endorse it (RDDD, p. 1144). Even the "very people whom the French were claiming to 'save'," African Rights has noted, were dubious: surviving Tutsi priests in Cyangugu, Rwanda, pointed out that France had failed to condemn or pressure the "interim government" (RDDD, p. 1142).[return]


  121. Subject: 5864: to Contribute to Protection of Civilians at Risk in Rwanda, Security Council, SC/5864, 3393rd Meeting, 22 June 1994 PM, Summary, Take 4.[return]


  122. SC/5864, 22 June 1994, Take 7.[return]


  123. SC/5864, 22 June 1994; Madeleine K. Albright, Statement before UN Security Council, June 22, 1994, D/S Dispatch, vol. 5, no. 26, 1994.[return]


  124. SC/5864, 22 June 1994.[return]


  125. SC/5864, 22 June 1994, Take 5.[return]


  126. RDDD, p. 1139; Prunier, p. 286n10.[return]


  127. RDDD, p. 1105; see also Prunier, pp. 104-06, 281.[return]


  128. RDDD, p. 1106.[return]


  129. Raymond Bonner, "France Backs Away from Battle in Rwanda," NYT, 6 July 1994, p. A6.[return]


  130. Prunier, p. 291.[return]


  131. RDDD, p. 1144; Gourevitch, p. 86. Meanwhile, in a part of Kigali under RPF control, demonstrators, mostly Tutsi, protested the French intervention. (VOA, Grace Richards, Nairobi, 6/25/94)[return]


  132. Raymond Bonner, "French Establish A Base in Rwanda To Block Rebels," NYT, 5 July 1994, pp. A1, A7 (also Raymond Bonner, "French Force in Skirmish in Rwanda," NYT, 4 July 1994, p. I:2); Raymond Bonner, "French Establish A Base in Rwanda To Block Rebels," NYT, 5 July 1994, pp. A1, A7; VOA, Sonja Pace, Goma, 6/29/94; VOA, Grace Richards (Jackie Northum), Nairobi, 7/2/94; VOA, Grace Richards, Nairobi, 7/2/94.[return]


  133. Raymond Bonner, "French Force In Skirmish In Rwanda," NYT, 4 July 1994, p. I:2.[return]


  134. Raymond Bonner, "French Establish A Base in Rwanda To Block Rebels," NYT, 5 July 1994, pp. A1, A7.[return]


  135. AP, "Rwandan Rebels Halt Drive Toward French-Held Haven," NYT, 7 July 1994, p. A2.[return]


  136. Raymond Bonner, "Grisly Discovery in Rwanda Leads French to Widen Role," NYT, 1 July 1994, p. A1. The next day Bonner reported the comments of Sgt. Maj. Thierry Prungnaud: "We were manipulated," he said. "We thought the Hutus were the good guys and the victims." ("As French Aid the Tutsi, Backlash Grows," NYT, 2 July 1994, p. I:5.[return]


  137. RDDD, p. 1147; Prunier, pp. 292-93, 297n37. African Rights notes that the French prevented Tutsi survivors from going to RPF areas where they might have joined RPF. RDDD, p. 1148-49.[return]


  138. Alan Riding, "France Recognizes Rebels," NYT, 20 July 1994, p. A6; Destexhe, Rwanda and Genocide, p. 54; Prunier, p. 308.[return]


  139. RDDD, pp. 1151-54. The reporter was Lindsey Hilsum.[return]


  140. S/1994/924, para. 6.[return]


  141. Destexhe, Rwanda and Genocide, p. 54. See also Charles Mironko and Susan Cook, "Broadcasting Racism, Reaping Genocide: Radio Television Libre des Milles Collines (RTLM) and the Rwanda Genocide," Paper presented at the Annual Conference of the American Anthropological Association, November 16, 1995, Washington, DC.[return]


  142. Human Rights Watch, Rearming With Impunity: International Support for the Perpetrators of the Rwandan Genocide, New York, May 29, 1995; S/1996/67, 29 January 1996, para. 56; "Guilty Governments," Economist, 3 June 1995, pp. 37-38. France denied the charges. Conceivably, Paris might have argued that elements of its government, particularly the secret services, carried out these activities without authorization. Its denials of any French involvement at all (S/1996/67, 29 January 1996, para. 43), however, have no credibility. Zaire reacting indignantly to the charges and endorsed the idea of a UN investigation. A UN commission reported, however, that though Zairian authorities prevented them from carrying out an unimpeded investigation, they saw enough to justify suspicions that clandestine military support was being given to the former Rwandan government. (S/1996/67, 29 January 1996, para. 37.)[return]


  143. Washington committed substantial funding and U.S. troops provided significant logistical support.[return]


  144. Prunier, p. 339.[return]


  145. Destexhe, Rwanda and Genocide, p. 32.[return]


  146. Clinton said the flow of refugees across Rwanda's borders had created "what could be" the world's worst humanitarian crisis in a generation. (Presidential Press conference, 22 July 1994); a week later Secretary of State Warren Christopher stated: "In Rwanda, we confront what President Clinton called 'the world's worst humanitarian crisis in a generation.'" (Statement before House Foreign Affairs Committee, July 28, 1994, D/S Dispatch, vol. 5, no. 31, 1994.)[return]


  147. Report of the Secretary-General on Security in the Rwandese Refugee Camps, S/1994/1308, 18 November 1994.[return]


  148. Jeff Drumtra, "Rwandan Refugees: Updated Findings and Recommendations, October 25, 1995, Site Visit Notes," U.S. Committee for Refugees, Washington, DC; S/1994/1308, 18 November 1994; HRW, Rearming With Impunity; Joshua Hammer, "Tutsi Roll," New Republic, Jan. 9 & 16, 1995.[return]


  149. Alex de Waal and Rakiya Omaar, "The Genocide in Rwanda and the International Response," Current History, April 1995, p. 161; Prunier, p. 313; Reuters, "Group Aiding Rwandans Stops, Citing Terror," NYT, 15 Nov. 1994, p. A10; Alain Destexhe, "A Border Without Doctors," NYT, 9 Feb. 1995.[return]


  150. Drumtra, "Rwandan Refugees"; African Rights, Rwanda: "A Waste of Hope": The United Nations Human Rights Field Operation, London, March 1995, p. 63.[return]


  151. Prunier, p. 300.[return]


  152. African Rights, Waste of Hope, p. 12.[return]


  153. AID, Consolidated Rwanda Report, Update #10, Aug. 30 - Sept. 8, 1994.[return]


  154. De Waal & Omaar, "Genocide in Rwanda and International Response," p. 160.[return]


  155. Drumtra, "Rwandan Refugees."[return]


  156. Donatella Lorch, "In Rwanda, Government Goes Hungry," NYT, 18 Sept. 1994, p. I:4.[return]


  157. Donatella Lorch, "In Rwanda, Government Goes Hungry," NYT, 18 Sept. 1994, p. I:4.[return]


  158. See D/S, "Rwanda Human Rights Practices, 1994," Feb. 1995; HRW, May 1994, p. 7; RDDD, pp. 1062-87; Amnesty International, "Rwanda: reports of killings and abductions by the Rwandese Patriotic Army, April-August 1994," 20 Oct. 1994, New York, AI Index: AFR 47/16/94, p. 1; S/1994/1405, Report, para. 98.[return]


  159. Prunier, p. 322.[return]


  160. Martin Garbus, "Jurists Without Borders," NYT, 17 Nov. 1994, p. A25.[return]


  161. See S/1994/1308, 18 November 1994; Prunier, p. 324-25.[return]


  162. At the beginning of August 1994, the UN Human Rights Commissioner asked for 147 human rights observers to be sent to Rwanda. By early September, there was just one, with no budget, no car, and no local staff. By mid-November, the number had only gone up to four, still without adequate support, and the first observer had resigned in disgust. Prunier, p. 343.[return]


  163. African Rights, Waste of Hope, pp. 44, 13.[return]


  164. UN Security Council Resolution 955 (1994), 8 November 1994.[return]


  165. Avocats sans Frontiéres, Open Letter Regarding the Need to Expand the Jurisdiction of the International Tribunal for Rwanda; Raymond Bonner, "Top Rwandan Criticizes U.S. Envoy," NYT, 8 Nov. 1994, p. A11.[return]


  166. Barbara Crossette, "Judge Urges World to Heed Rwanda Crisis," NYT, 31 Dec. 1995, p. I:4.[return]


  167. Human Rights Watch/Africa and Federation Internationale, Des Ligues Des Droits De L'homme, "Rwanda: The Crisis Continues," April 18, 1995, New York & Paris.[return]


  168. Progress Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda, S/1996/61, 30 January 1996, paras. 33-34.[return]


  169. Rwanda/Burundi: InterAction Statement, Aug. 4, 1995.[return]


  170. S/1996/61, 30 January 1996, paras. 33-34.[return]


  171. S/1994/924, para. 36.[return]


  172. D/S Dispatch, vol. 5, no. 31, 1994.[return]