During the early weeks of slaughter international leaders did not use the word genocide, as if avoiding the term could eliminate the obligation to confront the crime. The major international actorspolicymakers in Belgium, the U.S., France, and the U.N.all understood the gravity of the crisis within the first twenty-four hours even if they could not have predicted the massive toll that the slaughter would eventually take. They could have used national troops or UNAMIR or a combined force of both to confront the killers and immediately save lives. By disrupting the killing campaign at its central and most essential point, the foreign soldiers could have disabled it throughout the country. By serving as a counterweight to the elite forces under Bagosora, they could have encouraged dissenters to step forward as active opponents of the genocide.
Major international leaders were ready to collaborate on the common goal of evacuating their own citizens and expatriate employees, but they refused any joint intervention to save Rwandan lives. Instead they focused on issues of immediate importance for their own countries: Belgium on extricating its peacekeepers with a minimum of dishonor; the U.S. on avoiding committing resources to a crisis remote from U.S. concerns; and France on protecting its client and its zone of Francophone influence. Meanwhile most staff at the U.N. were fixed on averting another failure in peacekeeping operations, even at the cost of Rwandan lives.
Rather than undertake innovative and potentially costly ways to halt the slaughter, international leaders and the U.N. staff treated the extermination campaign as an unfortunate consequence of the war and devoted their energies to trying to obtain a cease-fire between the belligerents. They waited two weeks before taking action and then it was to reduce the number of peacekeepers in Rwanda.
Bagosora and his Hutu Power supporters exploited the two weeks of international inaction to argue that their program of genocide could in fact succeed without significant international reaction. They intimidated dissenters into silence and recruited growing forces to the killing campaign.
As political leaders in various national capitals and at the U.N. did nothing but talk, some of the peacekeepers took the initiative to save lives. Insignificant in terms of the numbers who needed to be saved, their effort to carry out their mission nonetheless protected thousands who would otherwise almost certainly have been killed.UNAMIR
As the killers began their assaults, everyone in RwandaRwandan and foreignerlooked to UNAMIR to see what it would do. The killers watched to see if it would threaten them; by and large, it did not. People at risk counted on it to protect them; for the vast majority of Rwandans, it did not do that either. Its success in protecting some Rwandans was commendable but also served to show how many more could have been rescued had the Security Council ordered that mission and provided the means to execute it.
Defensive Survival Exercise
The UNAMIR mandate permitted the peacekeepers to use force in self-defense, which was defined as including resistance to attempts by forceful means to prevent the Force from discharging its duties under the mandate of UNAMIR. They were allowed to use their weapons to defend themselves, other U.N. lives, or persons under their protection against direct attack and, even more broadly, they were directed to use armed force when other lives are in mortal danger.1 In addition, the strong language of Paragraph 17 of the Rules of Engagement specified that the force was morally and legally obligated to use all available means to halt ethnically or politically motivated criminal acts and that it will take the necessary action to prevent any crime against humanity.
Since January, however, headquarters in New York had insisted repeatedly on a narrow definition of what was permitted under the mandate and the Rules of Engagement. Consequently General Dallaire ordered troops over and over to negotiate and to avoid the use of armed force. Col. Luc Marchal, head of the Kigali command, had reinforced these orders with his men at the end of March, just before the start of the genocide, following two incidents in which UNAMIR soldiers had fired their weapons unjustifiably.2 After April 6, officers on the spot believed that the rules must be revised before they could use force more freely in the changed circumstances. U.S. and Belgian authorities appear to have concluded the same and the Belgians at first asked New York for a broader interpretation of the rules. Headquarters said no change was necessary and that Dallaire had the authority to interpret the rules according to the needs of the situation. Iqbal Riza, the assistant secretary-general who directed the Rwandan operation, repeated in an interview later that Dallaire had broad authority to act. He asserted also that firing to prevent loss of life was within the broad rules of engagement that apply to allpeacekeeping operations. Even if doing so were not strictly within the mandate, nobody would have blamed peacekeepers had they opened fire to save lives.3 But this was not the official position at the time, as is shown in Annans remarks below. Officers in Rwanda understood that New York had confirmed the restrictive rules in place since January.4 Some Belgian soldiers believed that there were virtually no circumstances in which they could legitimately fire their weaponssome attribute the capture of the ten peacekeepers who were later executed to that beliefand many Rwandan soldiers and militia believed that the UNAMIR soldiers would not fire, regardless of the provocation.5 The policy on the use of firearms symbolized the more general and long-established reluctance of UNAMIR to take any deterrent action. As Dallaire had predicted in February, some Rwandans perceived this reluctance as weakness and were emboldened by it.
Even had Dallaire and his officers chosen to follow Paragraph 17 and use all available means against the violence, the means available to them were seriously limited. Administrative bungling and reluctance to spend money had left the force ill-prepared to deal with any crisis. It had food for less than two weeks, drinking water in some posts for only one or two days, and fuel for two to three days. It was critically short of ammunition and medical supplies. Its few armored personnel carriers, inherited from peacekeeping operations elsewhere, were in such poor condition that often only one or two were functioning at any given time. It had no ambulance.6
In addition to lacking supplies, UNAMIR was short on qualified, experienced troops, a problem which Dallaire had repeatedly asked his superiors to remedy. The mainstay of the force in Kigali was the 440 man Belgian contingent and some 200 Ghanaians recently brought down from the demilitarized zone in the north. Themost numerous contingent in the capital, more than 900 soldiers from Bangladesh, were poorly trained and poorly equipped.7 Once the shooting began, they could not be relied on to follow orders. On the afternoon of April 7, they refused even to open the gate of the stadium where they were quartered to admit a group of Belgian soldiers who were entrapped just outside by a crowd of Rwandan military and militia. The standoff between the Belgians and the hostile crowd went on for some two hours until the Belgians opened fire, ran to the stadium, and climbed over the fence.8
Within hours of the plane crash, Dallaire sent a message to New York saying, Give me the means and I can do more. His superiors in the peacekeeping office, probably Gen. Maurice Baril, replied that nobody in New York was interested in that. In a similarly futile telephone call on December 10, Dallaire again asked for 5,000 troops and a clear mandate to stop the killings.9
Despite the lack of support from New York, UNAMIR officers increased the number of peacekeepers on patrol around the city and the number assigned to protect political leaders. At first, the U.N. soldiers patrolled with National Policemen as they had in the past, but as the hours passed, fewer and fewer National Police showed up for these missions.10 Some UNAMIR patrols went out unaccompanied. They encountered a growing number of threatening situations as did the peacekeepers guarding government leaders. After dawn, the rumor spread that Belgians had participated in shooting down Habyarimanas planemisinformation later broadcast by RTLMand Belgian officers ordered their men to use great caution and to restrict their movements to the bare minimum.11
When peacekeepers assigned to protect government leaders saw assailants arrive, usually in groups of twenty or thirty, they sometimes left almostimmediately.12 In other cases, they attempted to negotiate, as did three Belgian peacekeepers who were protecting the home of PSD leader Félicien Ngango early in the morning of April 7. Informed of the attack at Ngangos house, UNAMIR officers called for help from Bangladeshi peacekeepers, who had a functioning armored personnel carrier nearby, but got no response. A Belgian sergeant arrived with three soldiers and tried to persuade the assailants to allow the family to leave. They refused but were willing to let the Belgians depart alone. The peacekeepers left and not long after the Rwandan soldiers attacked the house and slaughtered the family.13
In a similar situation shortly after, the sector headquarters asked soldiers under the command of Lt. Luc Lemaire to save a Tutsi named Joseph Habimana if possible. When a group of twenty police refused to allow the UNAMIR soldiers to take Habimana from his home, Lemaire himself went to negotiate. Unable to obtain satisfaction from the police on the spot, he and Habimana went to the local police headquarters, where he found the atmosphere hostile to Belgians and the angry subordinate officers barely controlled by their lieutenant. They insisted that Habimana had a gun and had shot at them. Judging this rescue to be not possible, Lemaire returned Habimana to his home and went back to his post.14
In a cable the next day, Dallaire identified protecting government leaders as the major task for the force, one which must be undertaken even at the risk of the lives of UNAMIR soldiers. Protecting these persons was the last means of instituting the proposed new government and saving the peace process. By the time Dallaire wired this message to New York, however, virtually all the major political leaders who needed protection were dead or in flight, in part because their UNAMIR guards had refused to take risks to protect them.15
As the force came under firesometimes deliberate, sometimes randomseveral times in the next day or two, UNAMIR moved into what Dallaire called a defensive survival exercise where protecting its own men became its primary concern. Plans for UNAMIR had called for a rapid deployment group to be established, but it was not yet functional and there was no reserve available torescue peacekeepers caught in a difficult situation. Particularly after the murder of the ten Belgian peacekeepers, Dallaire was ordered not to risk further losses or take actions that might lead to reprisals. He passed on the orders to his men, even though he disagreed with them. Dallaire later commented:
An operation should begin with the objective and then consider how best to achieve it with minimal risk. Instead, our operations began with an evaluation of risk and if there was risk, the objective was forgotten. You cant begin by asking if there is a risk. If there is no risk, they could have sent Boy Scouts, not soldiers.16
Rwandans who suffered or saw others suffer while peacekeepers departed safe and sound from threatening situations did not know about the orders to avoid risk or the limitations on the mandate or the lack of supplies; they knew only that the soldiers to whom they looked for protection had disappeared.
The Mandate and Passive Witnesses to Genocide
As news of the crisis in Rwanda reached Europe, the Belgians reacted first with an effort to strengthen UNAMIR. When they had tried unsuccessfully to expand its mandate in late February, they had warned U.N. staff that public opinion would never tolerate having Belgian peacekeepers remain passive witnesses to genocide. On April 7, Belgian Foreign Minister Willy Claes, who was in Bucharest, echoed those words. He wired Belgian diplomats that a military coup détat or widespread massacres17 might take place as a result of the killing of Habyarimana. He then commented, If there should be many deaths, public opinion would not understand if UNAMIR remained passive, hiding behind the limitation of its mandate. He asked how authorities in New York, Washington and Paris would view the role of the peacekeepers in such a situation and suggested that UNAMIR should be able to protect political leaders within the terms of its mandate and without sacrificing its neutrality.18
Not yet aware that Belgians had been killed in Rwanda, Claes also asked how the U.N. would view the possibility of the peacekeepers protecting or helping evacuate Belgians or other foreigners.19 He treated this question as distinct from that of assistance to Rwandans but linked by the common issue of the limitations of the mandate.
In the absence of the secretary-general, who was in Europe, the Belgian ambassador to the U.N. raised these issues with Kofi Annan, the under secretary-general in charge of peacekeeping. Annan replied that UNAMIR would protect political leaders as much as it could, given the means at its disposal. As a result of contacts with UNAMIR, Annan and his subordinate Iqbal Riza knew at this time that government troops were already carrying out massacres of Tutsi in addition to murdering political leaders. Annan told the ambasador that UNAMIR will do everything in its power to try to prevent or reduce the massacres.20
Concerning foreigners, Annan specified that Dallaire could order peacekeepers to help them, but only if this did not entail increased risk. He remarked that whatever was done must be governed by the Rules of Engagement and that the peacekeepers could not use armed force to save Belgians if they themselves were not threatened. At most, they could intervene by negotiation. Annans reading of the rules seems unjustifiably restrictive, particularly as regards Paragraph 13 (b)(4) which permits peacekeepers to use armed force when other lives are in danger. His interpretation did at least apply the same standard for foreigners as for Rwandans, rejecting armed intervention in both cases.
In response to the Belgian interest in seeing UNAMIR play a more active role, Annan replied that such a decision would require troop reinforcements as well as a change in the mandate. He stressed the time that would be required and the difficulty involved in moving from a Chapter VI to a Chapter VII operation, particularly because UNAMIR was only nominally supported by the U.S., the U.K., and the Russian Federation. He added that the member states which had contributed the troops would also have to be consulted. He emphasized again the need for the same treatment for Rwandans and foreigners:
Finally, it would be politically delicate to limit this broadening of the mandate to the protection of foreigners. It would of course have to be meant for the whole Rwandan population.21
In contrast to Annans emphasis on the obstacles to prompt action, Riza would later assert that had the council wanted to act, the troops and tanks could have been airlifted in two days to Rwanda.22
By the evening of April 7, U.N. staff as well as the members of the Security Council knew that the Presidential Guard had killed Belgian peacekeepers, assassinated political leaders, and begun massacres of civilians.23 In its first statement on the crisis, the council deplored the slaughter of government leaders and many civilians and strongly condemned these horrific attacks and their perpetrators. The council then demanded that the Rwandese security forces and military units and paramilitary units halt the killings.24 At this point, the council could have declared an emergency and moved to a Chapter VII mandate, but instead it delayed a decision until the secretary-general presented a written recommendation nearly two weeks later.
From the declaration, it is clear that council members knew that Rwandan government forces and militia were responsible for the slaughter, but it is not clear how many of them knew that many of the civilians were Tutsi and that that they were being targeted on an ethnic basis. Notes of the briefing that preceded the vote on the resolution make no mention of this information.
Certainly the U.S., French, and Belgian delegates knew that ethnic slaughter had begun and anticipated extensive disorder. Both the Belgians and the U.S. began planning to evacuate their citizens by the evening of April 7 and the French wereconsidering the move the next day.25 General Christian Quesnot, then head of military affairs for the French presidency, recalled that political as well as military leaders understood immediately that we were headed towards massacres on a scale far beyond any that had taken place before.26 At a meeting on April 8, senior French military officers reportedly predicted that 100,000 Tutsi would die.27
Yet the U.S. decided on the evening of April 7 that the mandate could not be broadened from Chapter VI to Chapter VII and it began to suggest even that UNAMIR should be simply withdrawn. Several members of the Security Councildescribed as permanent and westernshared these points of view, probably meaning that at least the U.K. supported the U.S. position.28 These U.N. diplomatsand presumably the U.N. staff who assisted theminsisted that UNAMIR must remain neutral. To permit any apparent deviation from this position could result in military action against UNAMIR, a weak and lightly armed force unable to defend itself. Were UNAMIR attacked, member states might have to provide additional troops or funds to rescue it. They feared also creating a precedent (i.e., having another failure) that would have repercussions on other peacekeeping operations. They recalled the unfortunate consequences of a too assertive policy in Somalia, where the need for neutrality was ignored and failure ensued. Rather than intervene more actively to protect the population, all that the troops could do was to patrol and be visible in the city.29 Both the U.S. and the U.K. had considered total withdrawal in February,30 so it is not surprising to find them adopting the same position againexcept that in the meantime, massive ethnic slaughter had begun.
Although UNAMIR could not actively protect Rwandans, Assistant Secretary-General Riza suggested that it might be able to assist foreigners if its mandate were changed.31 From this comment, it appears strong signals from certain permanent western members had caused the secretariat staff to consider applying the rules differently for foreigners and for Rwandans.
By April 8, as massacres of Tutsi increased, Belgium moved from seeking to use UNAMIR to protect both Rwandans and foreigners to proposing that the force help just foreigners. Claes once more used public opinion as a pretext for policy. The public which in February supposedly would not accept passivity in the face of a genocide and which the day before would not accept UNAMIR hiding behind the limitations of its mandate in the face of many deaths, now was said to find it unacceptable for UNAMIR soldiers to stay passive32 if there were more Belgian victims.
The secretary-general also foresaw using UNAMIR to assist foreigners, but he proposed helping an even more limited group, U.N. personnel exclusively. He wrote from Europe to ask the council to change the mandate and Rules of Engagement and to plan for recruiting an additional two or three battalions in order to make this assistance possible.
But that afternoon Annan in effect rescinded the request made by Boutros-Ghali and told Belgian, U.S., and French diplomats that sending two or three battalions under U.N. command would be too costly in time and money. It would be preferable for national governments to send troops for a humanitarian intervention, i.e., to evacuate foreigners. With the problems of troops to be resolved in this way, the question of mandate was no longer a problem. The U.S. in any case stated that there was no need to change the mandate which was already quite broad enough (if interpreted flexibly). The French had also indicated that the question of restrictions in the mandate could be resolved without difficulty.33 They all preferred not to discuss a broader mandate, probably because they realized, as had Annan, that any greater authority for UNAMIR would raise the issue of using that authority to protect Rwandans.
Under the plan for a humanitarian intervention by national governments, UNAMIR would cooperate in the evacuation of foreigners, including all U.N. staff.And, Annan proposed, UNAMIR itself should leave Rwanda with the evacuation force.34
That solution, proposed on April 8, certainly accorded with the thinking of certain permanent western members of the council, and would have kept UNAMIR soldiers from being passive witnesses to genocide.The Evacuation Force
If the U.S. and others made it impossible to use UNAMIR to influence events in Rwanda, various national governments could have employed their own troops. The possibility that they might do so was greatest for Belgium and France, the two countries most likely to launch an operation to evacuate foreigners from Rwanda. On April 8, the Belgian cabinet discussed the possibility of intervening with its own troops, if Rwandan authorities should request such an action. The Belgian ambassador believed it unlikely that the Rwandans would ask and the cabinet in the end found the idea inadvisable because it would constitute interference in an internal Rwandan conflict. A warning from Annan about the possible negative consequences on UNAMIR of any military intervention may have been meant to discourage such action. The Rwandan ambassador at the U.N. too hastened to react to rumors of an imminent Belgian military intervention under the cover of pseudo-humanitarian reasons.35 Through the good offices of the French ambassador of the U.N., he cautioned that the Presidential Guard controlled the airport and that the Belgians should not try even to evacuate their citizens. A French force, he said, would be welcome.36
In testimony before the Belgian Senate inquiry on Rwanda, Claes maintained that he sought support for such a military intervention, but that Paris said a firm no and the Americans would not even think of it.37 According to him, the French would support only a brief humanitarian intervention, an assertion that is confirmed by notes from Security Council consultations on April 8. But General Quesnot has a different recollection. At the French parliamentary inquiry on Rwanda, he remarked concerning stopping the massacres:
There was a French effort anyway to try to do it: there were conversations with the Belgians and with the Italians. There were 300 American marines at Bujumbura. After a hope on the Italian side, it came to nothing. It was a political decision: France could not again intervene alone. What would they not have said? Stealing the victory from the RPF....38
Regardless of who should be credited with the idea and who blamed for its collapse, the plan was never realized. Instead Belgium and France cooperatedwith some U.S. support at a distancein a humanitarian action to evacuate foreigners, the idea proposed by Annan and favored by the U.S. and others on the Security Council.
The evacuation force comprised some 900 elite Belgian and French troops. They were backed up by an additional 300 U.S. marines at Bujumbura, less than half an hour away by plane, who were never called on to enter the country. Some eighty Italians arrived somewhat later than the others. Had these troops been combined with the 440 Belgian and the 200 Ghanaians UNAMIR soldiers available in Kigali, they would have made a force of nearly 2,000 capable soldiers. Had they needed reinforcements, there were another 600 Ghanaians north of Kigali in the demilitarized zone, 800 Belgian troops on standby in Nairobi, and hundreds of other U.S. marines just off the East African coast.39
Estimates of the number of Rwandan troops in Kigali on April 6 range up to some 7,000, but most military observers agree that of the total, only about 2,000 troopsthe Presidential Guard and several hundred troops each from the paracommando and reconnaissance batallionsrepresented a serious force.40 The likelihood that the Rwandan army would have attacked foreign troopsparticularly if French soldiers were among themwas very small. A substantial number of the government soldiers were engaged in fighting the RPF. Others among them, recognizing that they were less well trained and armed thanthe foreign troops, would certainly have wished to avoid confronting them. In killing civilians, the military was backed by some 2,000 militia, but they had little formal military training and were armed at most with light firearms. They were hardly the equal of a professional fighting force. On the one occasion when UNAMIR soldiers opened fire on a mixed group of Rwandan military and militiaduring the confrontation at the stadium described abovefifteen Rwandans were killed and the others fled immediately. They did not even stop to take the Belgian vehicles, some of which had been left with their motors running, and they caused no further trouble in the area for the next twenty-four hours.41
Having observed the situation and the relative strength of the forces on the ground, Dallaire believed that UNAMIR in combination with the evacuation force could easily have stopped the massacres and showed the people at the barriers that it was dangerous to be there. They would have gone home.42 Marchal agreed and stated afterwards that the responsible attitude would have been to combine the evacuation force with UNAMIR to restore order in the country. There were enough troops to do it or at least to have tried.43 General Quesnot was not in Rwanda at the time, but as a senior officer in the army most linked with the Rwandan forces, he presumably was well-placed to assess the force that would have been needed to end the massacres. He estimated that 2,000 to 2,500 determined soldiers would have sufficed to halt the slaughter.44 The RPF, with more than three years experience fighting the Rwandan army and with the benefit of substantial local information, expected that 900 soldiers could stop the massacres.45 An American colonel later estimated that 5,000 soldiers would havebeen the maximum needed, but he was referring to the period after the killings had become widespread throughout the country.46
The RPF seemed unlikely to oppose foreign military intervention, if it were limited to ending the slaughter of civilians. On April 7 they had asked that UNAMIR troops begin protecting civilians and on April 8, they had urged that more UNAMIR troops be brought to Kigali.47 They also asked Belgians to land their troops in the capital on April 10. Two days later they abruptly changed their position on the presence of the evacuation forces and warned the Belgians as well as the French to withdraw their troops within sixty hours or risk their being treated as hostile forces.48 Had the Europeans insisted on staying to protect Tutsiso long as they made no move to aid the Rwandan armythe RPF would not have been likely to engage them in combat.
In the days from April 8 to April 15, the very period when foreign governments were deciding on and executing the operation to rescue their citizens, Bagosora was in the process of establishing his power, winning support among military colleagues and installing a civilian government. It was the time when thousands of Rwandans were deciding how far they would oppose or collaborate with authorities whose program was genocide. During those days, soldiers and National Police opposed to the slaughter tried to work with UNAMIR and to hinder the attacks by the militia. Leading military officers opposed to Bagosora and his genocidal program made contact with Dallaire and with U.S., Belgian, and French diplomats or military figures to ask them to not desert Rwanda.49
During this week, large-scale massacres began claiming thousands of lives. If foreign troops, alone or in combination with UNAMIR forces, had stopped the killers in the capital, assailants throughout the country would have ceased theirattacks. In this highly centralized system, there was no alternative center of power to take over if the genocidal command structure had been dismantled in Kigali. An impressive show of foreign force would have demonstrated to all that the regime was not going to win foreign approval and would have swayed as yet uncommitted military officers and political leaders. With foreign troops as a potential counterweight to the elite troops engaged in slaughter, officers in charge of other units would have been in a stronger position to demand that Bagosora stop the carnage.
Assessing the role of foreigners who could have intervened and did not do so, Colonel Marchal wrote:
When people rightly point the finger at certain individuals presumed responsible for the genocide, I wonder if after all there is not another category of those responsible by....omission.50
General Quesnot concurred, stating that:
...he would have wanted the international community to intervene at the start of the massacres because, from a technical point of view, they could have been stopped at that time since at the beginning, the abuses were the work of the militia and of the presidential guard which was behaving disgracefully. If the international community, not France alone, had not been so shortsighted...it could have stopped the massacres launched in Kigali.51
Even after the U.N. and the Belgian and French governments had decided that troops under their control would not attempt to restore order in Rwanda, they still had the opportunity to save Rwandan lives in the process of evacuating foreigners. Taking Rwandans out of the country was a solution that could help only a tiny number of those at risk, but the presence of the evacuation force and the convoys they organized presented a chance to bring Rwandans to places of refuge within Kigali.
When plans were first discussed for evacuating U.N. personnel, the rule was that no Rwandans, staff or not, could be taken along. Colonel Balis stated that hequestioned Dallaire twice about the directive and was told, Orders from New York: No Locals.52 The rules were not always followed, even by the authorities in New York or by some U.N. agencies. In some cases, Dallaire was directed by headquarters to make an exception and rescue a particular Rwandan and he was deluged with similar demands from abroad as various governments sought to assure the safety of Rwandans whom they esteemed. In other cases, one or another peacekeeper was so overcome by the human tragedy of the genocide that he simply ignored the orders and did what he could to save lives.53 When Lt. Luc Lemaire was ordered to evacuate only foreigners, he responded that the order was impossible to execute and that he and his men had already rescued Rwandans. On April 7, the Senegalese Captain Mbaye Diagne and a U.N. employee named Le Moal rescued the five children of Prime Minister Uwilingiyimana, who then left the country through the efforts of a French professor, André Guichaoua, who was in Kigali at the time.54 Throughout the next weeks, Captain Mbaye became virtually a legend among Rwandans for his bravery and inventiveness in saving people and in deterring soldiers who sought to enter the Hotel Mille Collines at night to kill those whom he had saved during the day.55
UNAMIR did attempt at one point to evacuate a significant number of Rwandans by plane to Nairobi. But the government of Kenya, a long-time ally and supporter of the Rwandan government, refused entry to all those who did not have guarantees of safe conduct from other nations. Of course, none of the refugees had been able to obtain such documents before leaving Kigali. The plane was sequestered for a time in a cargo hanger, making it possible for two or three people to escape. But all the rest were returned to Kigali. This policy of the Kenyan government effectively ended efforts by UNAMIR to fly Rwandans at risk out of the country.56
The number of lives saved by UNAMIR soldiers was limited by the refusal of most to take risks. But some willing to take chances gave Rwandans an opportunity to escape. On April 11, for example, the Belgian peacekeeper Lieutenant DeCuyper was charged with escorting some fifty vehicles transporting some Rwandans as well as foreigners to the airport. After having passed through a barrier, Lieutenant DeCuyper noticed that Rwandan soldiers had halted the latter part of the convoy and were forcing the Rwandans to get out of their cars. He intervened and confronted a crowd that at first just threw stones and then began threatening him with grenades. He stood his ground and got all the Rwandans back in their vehicles and on their way. As he drove off, a sniper fired at him. He had to argue and bluff his way through several more such situations before delivering the convoy safely to the airport.57 The reaction to this and similar incidents was an order from sector headquarters to take no more Rwandans in the convoys. The order was effectively countermanded the next day, however, when UNAMIR soldiers were told to include in airport covoys all Rwandans who wanted to go.58
A second constraint on the number of lives saved was simply the small number of soldiers and vehicles available to escort civilianswhether Rwandan or foreign to the airport or to some other haven in Kigali. In the allocation of resources, foreigners got priority, even though they were far less at risk than Rwandans. Except for the Belgians who had been targeted over a long period by RTLM, most foreigners had not been even threatened, far less actually attacked.59
Although Annan had initially told the Belgians that UNAMIR obviously had other priorities than helping evacuate foreigners, this task did become their priority mission.60 On April 10 and 11, UNAMIR was busy escorting foreign nationals leaving the country, according to a subsequent report to the Security Council.61 The log of the Belgian battalion of UNAMIR makes clear that thosesoldiers believed evacuating foreigners was their most important objective at that time. On April 11, Lt. Col. J. Dewez ordered Lieutenant Lemaire to send part of his troops to Gitarama, some forty miles south of Kigali, to escort some Belgians back to the city. The lieutenant answered that to do so would diminish the security of his post and reduce troops available to rescue refugees, meaning Tutsi and Hutu at risk because of their political beliefs. The Gitarama mission has priority, Dewez replied.62
National governments also had to decide whether to evacuate Rwandans and, if so, whom to chose among the thousands who wished to go, including employees and friends but also others who had congregated on the grounds of embassies or ambassadorial residences. Some, like the U.S. government, did not want to take out any Rwandans and the ambassador simply told the several hundred people gathered at his residence that they would have to disperse because he was leaving. Others, like the Belgians and the Swiss, rescued hundreds of Tutsi and Hutu politicians, clergy, human rights activists, and other leaders of civil society. Many of those fortunate enough to be saved had persistent friends abroad who bombarded their own governments and the U.N. with demands that these people be rescued.63 A few individuals, like the cook employed by one Belgian family, just happened to be present when the evacuation escort arrived and were taken along.64
The French were in a position to save Tutsi and others at risk with relatively little difficulty and yet they chose to save very few. French troops moved easily around the city, even when transporting Rwandans. Militia cheered them and gave them the thumbs up sign, while they greeted Belgian soldiers with a gesture of cutting their throats. In some cases, Belgian soldiers even removed insignia which identified them as Belgians and passed themselves off as French.65 In at least one case, French embassy personnel made no response to pleas for help from a Tutsi employee and in another they refused assistance to a Hutu prosecutor well-known for his opposition to Habyarimana. French soldiers on one occasion balked at escorting some Rwandan clergy to a safe haven but in the end gave in to pressurefrom UNAMIR soldiers and did so.66 The French assisted the departure of some 400 Rwandans, virtually all of them closely linked to Habyarimana. They evacuated Madame Habyarimana and her family as well as a number of adult men apparently inexperienced in child care who were passed off as caregivers for children from an orphanage associated with Madame Habyarimana.67
In most cases, the evacuation troops, like the UNAMIR forces, did not intervene when they saw Tutsi being attacked. Nor did they make any systematic effort to escort Tutsi from their homes to places of greater safety. During the days when some 4,000 foreigners were evacuatedfew of whom were actually at risksome 20,000 Rwandans were slain.68
The foreign troops returned home to general applause for a job well done, even as television coverage showed them standing by while Rwandans were slain just next to them.
The Ecole Technique Officielle: Do Not Abandon Us!
In the end UNAMIR would make its greatest contribution to Rwandans at risk not by getting them out of Kigali but by affording some of them protection within the city. In the first days, this seemed unlikely to be the case. UNAMIR officers in charge of security and their superiors in New York feared that taking in Tutsi and others at risk would discredit the neutrality of the U.N., particularly since the interim government identified all Tutsi with enemies of the country. Some feared that the presence of displaced persons might lead to attacks, either from outside the U.N. compounds or from infiltrators who might enter, armed, among crowds of civilians.69 In the first hours of the crisis, a U.N. officer directed a U.N. staff person to send away a Very Important Person who had sought refuge with him. The Very Important Person, code for an important political leader, was PrimeMinister Uwilingiyimana. She was not, in fact, forced to leave but was later discovered and captured in her hiding place.70
Dallaire was never ordered by headquarters to take in people at risk but he did so. He believed that both the mandate of contributing to the security of the city and the Rules of Engagement justified this decision.71 As one person connected with UNAMIR commented, If you wanted to do some good, you just had to do it and not ask New York.72 It seems that Dallaire permitted rather than ordered his subordinates to grant refuge as well. A Belgian military commission investigating the performance of Belgian troops concluded later that the head of each local post in fact decided whether or not to admit Rwandans seeking refuge.73
Some who ended up under U.N. protection were rescued by peacekeepers, but most came to the posts on their own.74 A trickle of Tutsi, frightened by rumors of impending violence, had been arriving even before April 6. With the beginning of the slaughter the next day, the trickle swelled rapidly. On April 7, for example, residents of the neighborhood of Gatenga fled to the Ecole Technique Officielle (Official Technical School, ETO), as Rwandan soldiers and militia swept through the area killing, raping, and robbing Tutsi and members of parties opposed to the MRND. The ninety UNAMIR troops posted at the ETO heard the gunfire and explosions of grenades all day long without attempting to intervene, but they did permit Tutsi to take refuge at the school. That night, Colonel Marchal ordered that all Rwandan displaced persons be out the gate of UNAMIR posts by 6 a.m. the next morning.75 The order was not uniformly enforced any more than were other bans on assistance to Rwandans. When the Salesian Fathers, who ran the ETO, insisted that the people who had sought refuge with them be allowed to stay, Dewez agreed, saying that the Fathers had the right to determine who stayed on the property. Thenext morning at 5:17 a.m., shortly before the announced deadline, Lieutenant Lemaire asked his superior whether he should protect the displaced at the school or only the priests. Captain Choffay answered that he should protect everyone, in effect countermanding the order of the night before.76
On April 9, the Belgian command told its officers that all of UNAMIR might leave Rwanda since the cease-fire had collapsed and ordered troops to prepare to evacuate. That evening Lemaire had the foresight and concern to raise the difficult question of what would become of the displaced persons at the school when UNAMIR left. The log of the battalion, which records his question, does not record a similar query being made by other officers, although there were several who faced the same dilemma, nor does it record any answer.77
Lemaire discussed the problem first with the burgomaster of Kicukiro, one of the communes of the city of Kigali, who had taken refuge at the school and then presented it to the assembled Rwandans. He climbed up on a stool to address the crowd and explained that he might at any time be ordered to leave the school for another post. The crowd was panic-stricken and insisted that they would not be left behind, that the peacekeepers would have to take them along wherever they were going.78
By April 10, the number of displaced persons had grown to 2,000, at least 400 of them children, and many of them desperately needing food and medical care. Lemaire sought help in vain from Médicins sans Frontières, who could not get through to the post. Finally he got some sacks of rice from Colonel Rusatira who had come to the school looking for family members. Still with no answer to the question of what was to become of the Rwandans when the UNAMIR troops left, Lemaire asked Rusatira for help. Rusatira explained that he headed a military school, not an operational command, and had no soldiers available to defend the ETO. He reportedly passed the request for help to Ndindiliyimana, chief of staff of the National Police, but he could not or would not help.79
On April 11, at about 10:30 a.m., French soldiers came to evacuate the expatriates andafter strenuous objectionsRwandan clergy from the school. With the foreigners gone, the UNAMIR troops could be withdrawn as part of the regrouping ordered earlier to free soldiers for the priority missions of evacuating other expatriates. Aware that he would have to go, Lemaire preferred sooner rather than later, given the more and more serious pressure from the armed bands around the school. Remarking that the road just taken by the French troops with the evacuees was still open, he requested clearance to move his men out. Dewez checked with Marchal and then gave Lemaire and his troops authorization to leave. The log notes that the departure of the troops left 2,000 Rwandans unguarded and threatened by armed bands. The senior Belgian officers knew this and knew as well what the armed bands were prepared to do as soon as UNAMIR left, but they made no attempt to provide for the Rwandans at ETO or in other similar situations elsewhere in the city.80 Dallaire, who gave the initial order to regroup the troops dispersed throughout the city, supposedly knew nothing about the details of this case until informed sometime later by the RPF.81
Lemaire knew that some of the Tutsi had asked his men to shoot them rather than leave them to die at the hands of the militia. To avoid any difficulties at the time of departure, he gave the impression that his men were preparing to leave for a routine exercise and would be gone only briefly.82
The displaced persons at the ETO, who included human rights activists Fidele Kanyabugoyi and Jean-Paul Biramvu and their wives, had seen French troops arrive to escort the expatriates and the handful of chosen Rwandans to safety in the late morning. Shortly after 1 p.m., they saw the Belgian soldiers line up their jeeps, preparing to move out, but they could not believe that they were being deserted before arrangements had been made for their protection. At the order to depart, the soldiers jumped into their jeeps and rapidly pulled out of the gate. Some of the Rwandans hurried to lie down in the road to block the departure, but they were too slow to stop the convoy. As some ran after the departing jeeps, shouting Do not abandon us! they were driven back by the UNAMIR soldiers firing over their heads. Lemaire had advised the displaced persons to try to leave in small groupsunder cover of night, but there was no question of that. As the Belgian troops left, the militia and Rwandan soldiers rushed through one gate and the displaced began fleeing out another.83
At 1:45 p.m. Lieutenant Lemaire moved out from the ETO with his ninety soldiers, including the battalion chaplain. He reported to his commanding officer by radio that he was leaving behind two vehicles that were no longer usable and one electric generator. He did not repeat that he was leaving behind 2,000 people.84
Lemaires men were needed for various missions to protect and evacuate foreigners. At the Hotel Meridien, the sector headquarters, Dewez awaited his arrival to provide escort service for people from the Coopération Militaire Technique, the Belgian military assistance mission, an escort that was, in the end, provided by other troops.85
In his subsequent testimony at the international tribunal, Lemaire compared the situation at ETO to a large fire and says he was equipped only with a fire extinguisher when he needed a fire engine. He asserted that authorities in Belgium were aware that Tutsi at the ETO were dependent on protection by Belgian UNAMIR troops and that they could have permitted their rescue had they provided for a longer stay by the evacuation forces.86 Lemaire recounted that he had tried to find a solution to the crisis himself. But, he said, escorting all the displaced persons elsewhere at one time would have required more men than the ninety available to him. If he had tried to move them in several smaller groups, the first group might have passed without difficulty but later groups would probably have been attacked and he did not have enough ammunition to defend them.87 Although some survivors from the school are understandably bitter about the desertion, at least one described Lemaire as a conscientious soldier who had no choice but to do what hedid.88 Lemaire maintains that he learned of the massacre that followed his departure only two years later.89
The Rwandans who escaped immediate slaughter on the school grounds tried to flee to the nearest major UNAMIR outpost, the Amahoro stadium. En route they encountered Rwandan soldiers who at first reassured them and said they would escort them to the stadium when a number of the group had congregated. But when a large group had gathered, soldiers and militia herded them up a hill to a ridge called Nyanza-Rebero. As they were being forced to move along by soldiers and armed civilians, a group of Ghanaian UNAMIR soldiers passed by but did not respond to their enreaties to stop. On the ridge, soldiers and militia ordered the people to sit down and they began firing and throwing grenades at them and attacking them with machetes. Most of the two thousand people were killed that afternoon, within hours of the departure of the peacekeepers.90 When one of the survivors of the massacre took a Human Rights Watch researcher to Nyanza-Rebero in August 1994, the ridge was still littered with skulls, bones, clothing, and belongings of the people who had been slaughtered there. Most of the flesh had been eaten from the bones by dogs or other scavengers.Belgian Policy
Suspend the Activities of UNAMIR
On April 8, the day after learning that the ten peacekeepers had been killed, the Belgian cabinet decided that Belgian participation in UNAMIR would end unless the mandate were broadened and the force were strengthenedwith soldiers from a country other than Belgium. Hours earlier, the Belgian ambassador at the U.N. had informed Brussels that certain permanent members of the Security Council had decided against any such broadening of the mandate. So by the time members of the cabinet made this decision, they presumably knew that the U.S. and the U.K., and apparently France as well, would block any broadening of the mandate. They submitted the request to Boutros-Ghali anyway but made no serious effort to win support for the proposal. On April 9, Belgian authorities knew that Nigeria still favored a broader mandate and intended to work for such a change in the week to come, but on April 10 they decided that the mandate was not likely to bestrengthened and they made the decision to end Belgian participation in UNAMIR. They informed Boutros-Ghali on April 12 and delivered the message formally to the Security Council on April 13.91
When the decision was made on April 10, Belgians understood the nature and scale of the slaughter that was taking place. By the time of the official communication on April 13, the genocidal character of the killings was even more pronounced. Claes admits that Belgian authorities knew of the extent of the killing, a realization reflected in their communications with Washington and other governments.92 He maintains that he no longer remembers exactly when he realized the slaughter was a genocide, but he is certain that he had not yet reached that conclusion when Belgium decided to pull out its soldiers.93
In the letter to the Security Council, Belgium referred to the widespread massacres, but only as part of the chaos that jeopardized implementation of the Arusha Accords. Assuming that UNAMIR had and could have no role in halting the killings of civilians, the Belgians remarked that UNAMIR no longer had a reason for being, given that the peace process had collapsed. They cited the pointlessness of continued operations and the possibility of further loss among Belgian troops as reasons for the Belgian decision.94
Just as Belgian political leaders had in the past used public opinion as a reason for seeking broader involvement in Rwanda, so now they relied on it to try to justify their withdrawal. They referred to the great emotion caused in Belgium by the loss of the peacekeepers and to a public opinion traumatized by their deaths.95 It appears that they consciously or unconsciously misread public opinion, perhaps because they anticipated a reaction like that in the U.S. to the death of its peacemakers in Somalia. Belgian public opinion as measured by two polls showed no overwhelming demand for withdrawal. In one, 48 percent favored keeping Belgian troops in Rwanda and even sending more if needed and 40 percent believed that the stakes in Rwanda even justified further loss of Belgian lives. Inanother poll among Flemish-speakers, generally cautious about foreign involvement, 55 percent believed that peacekeepers should be assuring the security of Rwandans although 80 percent believed that the government should send no more Belgian soldiers for this task.96
Many Belgian soldiers wanted to stay in Rwanda to try to end the slaughter.97 Marchal, who had been unsure of the best course of action before April 7, had no doubts about what should have been done after that date. Concerning the debate that developed over the withdrawal of Belgian troops, he later wrote:
Under no circumstances could we leave the country. This was the point of view that I expressed to my superiors until the moment when the political decision was made to leave UNAMIR. Our political leaders should have known that in leaving UNAMIR, we would condemn thousands of men, women and children to certain death.98
Lemaire testified at the international tribunal, If Belgium had been courageous enough to leave our men there, we would have been able to save people.99
The Security of UNAMIR
From the start, Belgium sought the withdrawal of all UNAMIR troops, not just its own. This manoeuvre, meant to disguise and lessen Belgian responsibility for deserting Rwanda, coincided with the U.S. policy to end UNAMIR in Rwanda and was probably encouraged by U.S. authorities with whom the Belgians were in close contact.100
In the interview where Claes announced the Belgian withdrawal to the secretary-general, he sought to persuade him that the entire UNAMIR force mustbe recalled and he thought that he had succeeded.101 Boutros-Ghali in turn had an assistant call the force commander in Kigali to put considerable pressure on him to advocate withdrawal. Dallaire declares that the issue was for him a matter of moral concern. He refused to recommend an end to the operation, a principled position taken also by the deputy force commander, Ghanaian Brigadier-General Henry Kwami Anyidoho. They instead requested delivery of large quantities of emergency supplies.102 Belgian officers in Rwanda also notified Dallaire that additional Belgian troops on standby in Tanzania could cover the retreat of UNAMIR forces if he wished to lead them out.103 Rejecting the Belgian judgment that a continued UNAMIR presence was futile, Dallaire remarked on how strange it was that the Belgians thought the field staff was unaware of the gravity of the situation. He noted, they say we are too optimistic here.104
The Belgians launched a vigorous campaign to persuade Security Council members that its assessment was the correct one and that UNAMIR must be ended immediately. The effort devoted to this end far exceeded previous efforts to broaden the mandate. One Security Council member described an extraordinary barrage of attempted persuasion launched at passing members by a Belgian diplomat camped outside the door of the Security Council.105 On April 15, Claes called the ambassador of New Zealand, then president of the Security Council, to urge prompt action because of a serious concern about the future safety of UNAMIR if any personnel remained in Rwanda beyond Sunday [April 17].106
The Belgian foreign minister also insisted to his counterparts in Washington, London, and Paris that the U.N. must withdraw.107 One U.S. State Department official remarked, You cant overstate the impact on our policy process of theBelgians leaving.108 That evaluation appears misleading with regard to the U.S., which was ready for total withdrawal at midnight on April 7 when the Belgians were still talking of extending the mandate. But the assessment was more accurate for other member states, particularly those with no past experience in the region.109 Belgium had provided the best-trained and best-equipped troops for the force, which would be difficult to replace. And, as the former colonial power in the region, Belgium was assumed to beand, in fact, claimed to bethe government best informed and most qualified to speak on Rwanda.
The future safety of its own troops and more broadly of all peacekeepers offered Belgium a most useful excuse for withdrawal from Rwanda. Still smarting from the failure in Somalia, policymakers both at the U.N. and in national governments talked more about the fate of the professional soldiers than about that of the defenseless civilians. Colonel Marchal recalls the bitter response of Booh-Boohs political counselor, when he was obliged to tell him of the Belgian decision to withdraw its troops. Because Belgium has ten men dead, it does not give a damn about thousands of blacks who are going to be killed. Marchal obviously found the response appropriate. He remarks, Everyone knew, even in Belgium, what was going to happen because the organization of the genocide had been in place for a long time. In such circumstances, it is very difficult to be the representative of your country.110
After the loss of the ten Belgian soldiers, only two other peacekeepers were killed and several wounded, apparently none of them having been deliberately targeted. Once the Belgians had left, the interim government had no reason to drive away the others. The force would not interfere with the genocide and its presence lent the Rwandan authorities a semblance of international legitimacy. The RPF also had no objection to the presence of the peacekeepers and did not attack them.U.S. Policy: Another Somalia and Other Misconceptions
One Washington official remembers the period when the decision about UNAMIR was made as a time of total confusion. We didnt know who wasshooting at whom.111 Yet officials in Washington certainly knew that the slaughter was organized, not spontaneous, and that Tutsi were the main targets. Even the press, poor as its coverage was overall, was reporting that. On April 11, the New York Times published a UNAMIR cable from Kigali reporting that thousands of civilians had sought refuge in U.N. buildings and camps because they were terrified by the ruthless campaign of ethnic cleansing and terror. It said casualties were quite heavy and primarily ethnic in nature.112 Libération and Le Monde published solid testimony on April 11 and April 12 about squads cleansing neighborhoods systematically on the basis of lists. Groups like Human Rights Watch and Oxfam and clergy provided ample evidence to Washington officials to confirm that a genocide had begun. It was also apparent that the slaughter was extensive in area and in number of victims. The International Committee of the Red Cross had estimated some 20,000 dead by April 11, about half of them outside Kigali and remote from any battle zone.
The evidence of the first few days also accorded with all the warning signals of the previous weeks and months. Had the professional observers failed to grasp the meaning of the militia training, the distribution of guns, the message of RTLM, and the plans revealed in the January 11 telegram, surely they must have understood what was happening by late on April 7. In addition to all the precursors of violence, the pattern of the killings, like the excuses presented for them, were all familiar from the past.
If Washington officials described the killings as chaos, it was in part because they saw Rwanda through the prism of Somalia. In this light, Rwanda was another failed state, just one more of a series of political disasters on the continent. In such a case, they reasoned, any intervention would have to be large-scale and costly and would probably produce no measurable improvement anyway.113
Some high-level political and military officials, including at least one National Security Council staff member at the White House, believed that Rwanda was not just a failed state, but one that had failed because of tribalism.114 Basically ill-informed about Africa, these officials thought in terms of the categories left over from years before. For them the Tutsi tribe were arrogant (if also tall and willowy) warriors who had come from the northeast to impose their control over the indigenous Hutu (short and stocky), thus beginning centuries of conflict. In this perspective, the hatred and violence was age-old and by implication could have no end. In stressing the permanent nature of strife in Rwanda, officials found still another reason for keeping away from the complex and difficult situation.
Some specialists at the State Department who had followed Rwanda for months certainly understood that a genocide had begun, even if they did not use that term. They accordingly argued for firm action. But those higher up in the department, those at the White House, and those in the military did not or would not hear them. Those at the top had little incentive to go beyond their misconceptions to understand the situation. Rwanda was small, poor, remote, and Africanin their eyes, irrelevant to the national interest of the U.S. In addition, the officials heard no widespread outcry from the American people, a consideration of overwhelming importance for political leaders who at the time focused more on domestic than on international issues. At one meeting on Rwanda, President Clinton supposedly asked if the Congressional Black Caucus, the group of African-American members of Congress, had shown strong interest in the issue, and presumably heard that they had not. On another occasion, an ambitious, young staff person at the National Security Council asked what impact the Rwandan crisis would have on the elections in November 1994. In a third instance, when a Human Rights Watch representative asked National Security Adviser Anthony Lake how to be more effective in influencing U.S. policy, he replied, Make more noise.115
As the crisis developed, officials were just completing an evaluation of how to limit the U.S. role in peacekeeping operations. The policy that resulted, known as Presidential Decision Directive 25 (PDD25) was far from the ideas suggested by President Clinton during his campaign, when he favored international action for such purposes as protecting civilians in civil wars and providing humanitarian assistance to people at risk. Now his administration sought instead to reduce the number and cost of peacekeeping operations, which had grown significantly in recent years, and to avoid peacekeeping failures like that in Somalia. To qualify for U.S. support under the new policy, any peacekeeping operation had to contribute to U.S. interests and had to have firm sources of funding and troops as well as clearly defined goals and a fixed date of completion. PDD 25 as such was applied for the first time later in May when plans for a second UNAMIR force were underdiscussion, but the thinking behind it influenced the earlier decision on withdrawing the first UNAMIR force.116U.N. Obfuscation: A People Fallen into Calamitous Circumstances
After the first statement by the Security Council on April 7 in which it identified Rwandan military and paramilitary units as responsible for the horrific attacks, the council, like the secretariat staff, fell into vague and confused statements that failed to come to terms with the real nature of the genocide.
Among council members, the U.S. and France shared information with each other, with Belgium, and, much of the time, with the U.K. Rwandaby happenstance a council member in 1994worked closely with France and with Djibouti and Oman, other nonpermanent members. Other members of the council seem to have taken their positions largely on the basis of data furnished them by the secretariat staff.
In preparing presentations on Rwanda, staff of the secretariat heard two quite different voices from the field, that of Booh-Booh and that of Dallaire. Some observers attributed the difference in their reporting to one being a diplomat and the other a soldier. Other observers suggested it had more to do with political loyalties. Booh-Booh, as a member of the elite of his home country of Cameroon, was supposedly linked to the French, and thus was more sympathetic to the Habyarimana circle. Appointed by the secretary-general, who himself ordinarily benefited from strong French support, Booh-Booh enjoyed Boutros-Ghalis confidence more than did Dallaire.117
A cable addressed to New York headquarters on April 8 shows clearly the difference in how the two assessed the situation. Booh-Booh reports that the security situation is worsening, but attributes this to intensified fighting between the Presidential Guard and the RPF. He indicates that the rest of the country is calm, although tense. The next paragraph states that elements of the Presidential Guard abducted several political figures, including the prime minister, and murdered several persons suspected to be RPF sympathisers. At paragraph nine, Booh-Booh says I regret to confirm the death of ten (10) military personnel from the Belgian contingent who were seized and detained by elements of the Presidential Guard.
The second part of the cable is written all in upper case letters. As different in tone as in font from the first part, it emphatically transmits Dallaires angry voice:
THE APPEARANCE OF A VERY WELL PLANNED, ORGANIZED, DELIBERATE AND CONDUCTED CAMPAIGN OF TERROR INITIATED PRINCIPALLY BY THE PRESIDENTIAL GUARD SINCE THE MORNING AFTER THE DEATH OF THE HEAD OF STATE HAS COMPLETELY REORIENTED THE SITUATION IN KIGALI. AGGRESSIVE ACTIONS HAVE BEEN TAKEN NOT ONLY AGAINST THE OPPOSITION LEADERSHIP BUT AGAINST THE RPF (BY FIRING AT THE CND), AGAINST PARTICULAR ETHNIC GROUPS (MASSACRE OF TUTSI IN REMERA), AGAINST THE GENERAL CIVILIAN POPULATION (BANDITRY) AND AGAINST UNAMIR (DIRECT AND INDIRECT FIRE ON U.N. INSTALLATIONS, VEHICLES, PERSONNEL AND AFFILIATED AGENCIES (I.E., UNDP) WHICH HAS RESULTED IN FATAL AND NON-FATAL CASUALTIES. THE PARTICULARLY BARBAROUS MURDER OF THE 10 CAPTURED BELGIAN SOLDIERS EMPHASIZES THIS SITUATION....118
By speaking of several persons or residences attacked, Booh-Booh gives no sense whatsoever of a large-scale planned campaign of terror described by Dallaire. When Booh-Booh refers to the RPF engaging the Rwandan army in a fierce exchange of fire, he neglects to mention the aggressive actions taken by the Rwandan army in firing at the CND where the RPF were quartered. Booh-Booh talks of calm outside Kigali, without remarking on what Dallaire called the strong negative reactions to Habyarimanas death in northwestern Rwanda.119
After the start of the violence, U.N. staff briefed council members frequently on the situation, sometimes as often as twice daily. According to notes from these sessions as well as information from those present at the briefings, presentations after April 7 favored the Booh-Booh interpretation and gave no sense of the role of the Rwandan government in organizing the violence.120 The slaughter was mentioned rarely and then depicted as chaos with thousands of people killed, asAssistant Secretary-General Riza described it.121 Four years later Riza acknowledged that early reports to New York from the field had been wrong and that possibly we did not give all the details of ethnic killings to council members. He declared, I really cant tell you what happened then to prevent us from giving those details.122
The secretary-general, absent in Europe, did not participate in early discussions about the fate of UNAMIR and submitted his first formal report on the situation only on April 20. In it, he too avoided any clear description of the genocide that had been under way for two weeks. In comments much like those of Riza, he depicted the initial killings as the work of unruly members of the presidential guard that spread quickly throughout the city. He related that Authority collapsed, the provisional government disintegrated and some of its members were killed in the violence, a most misleading description of the purposeful slaughter of the prime minister and others in the government. He spoke of violence in the streets and mass killings and a people who have fallen into calamitous circumstances.123
In ignoring or misinterpreting the real nature of the slaughter, the secretary-general or members of his staff may have been just presenting material according to familiar formulae borrowed from other situations where violence against civilians had accompanied war. The vocabulary used by the secretary-general, however, seems to reflect the point of the view of the interim government, as reinforced no doubt by France.124 According to Claes, it was the secretary-general who also decided to permit Rwanda to remain at the council table, a decision of great political significance that was supposedly dictated by legal considerations.125
Protecting The Innocent Civilians of Rwanda
For the two weeks from April 7 to April 21, the Security Council was mired in discussion about UNAMIR that seemed to lead nowhere and that rarely mentioned the fate of Rwandans. On April 13, the debate over broadening the mandate was revived briefly by Nigeria, which circulated a draft resolution on behalf of the Non-Aligned Members that expressed shock over the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians and called for increasing the troops and revising the mandate for the force. But this effort drew so little support that it was never even formally presented.126 Otherwise the talk centered on how much of the force would be withdrawn and how fast the withdrawal would happen.
Throughout the debate, council members and staff focused on the war and how the presence of UNAMIR could assist in obtaining a cease-fire. There was no suggestion that UNAMIR was morally and legally [obligated] to use all available means to halt crimes aginst humanity, as paragraph 17 had provided, and there was even some reluctance for UNAMIR to play the far more passive role of simply protecting those who sought refuge from such crimes. The staff mentioned several times that UNAMIR was offering such protection as well as carrying out some humanitarian functions ...[and] undertaking specific missions to take people to safety... But in one discussion that touched on this role, Riza raised the question of protecting civilian nationals [i.e., Rwandans] in the long term, and referred to the critical situation at the stadium and hospital. The protection of civilians would require more resources, and the council should consider whether PKOs [peacekeeping operations] should be assigned such tasks.127 The Nigerian representative reacted to Rizas implication that protecting civilians was inappropriate for peacekeeping operations. He stressed that the concern of the council should not be limited to the fate of U.N. personnel and foreigners but should also include the innocent civilians of Rwanda.128
Disregarding the evidence that UNAMIR was already protecting civilians, although in relatively limited numbers, the United Kingdom declared there was no evidence, either now or in the foreseeable future, that UNAMIR would be in a position to protect civilians; the council should not lend itself to a tragic fictionwhereby it merely declared that something would be done. The representative of New Zealand also declared some reservations about the feasibility of protecting civilians. The next day, the representative of the United Kingdom again insisted that civilian protection be excluded from the mandate for a continued UNAMIR. However painful it is to say, he remarked, the council had no right to leave the thought lying around that two battalions of troops, or even less, could protect the civilian population of Rwanda.129
Immediately after the Belgians announced their withdrawal, the U.S. stated in the Security Council that UNAMIR had nothing more to do in Rwanda because there was no cease-fire to monitor. The next day it suggested withdrawing all but a small force, the day after that it talked about the need for an orderly evacuation, and on the next day, April 15, the U.S. announced it favored complete withdrawal. Several days before, the U.S. chargé and the Belgian ambassador had talked about what could be done with the persons who had sought protection under the U.N. flag if there were a complete withdrawal. They had concluded that the displaced should be put into a safe environment, but without further indication of what that might be. On April 16, a U.S. diplomat told the Belgian ambassador that it was unacceptable that concern for a humanitarian drama be used to justify keeping the peacekeeping force in Rwanda. If such arguments were to be used, it might make other peacekeeping operations unworkable.130
Because Nigeria and other council members, as well as secretariat staff, were opposed to the total withdrawal advocated by the U.S., the council meeting of April 15 closed without a decision. Even without formal action, it was clear by the end of the first week of the genocide that the U.N. would not intervene to halt the slaughter. At best it would protect the thousands who had come under its care; and it might leave, relinquishing even them to the killers.
By the morning of April 16, authorities of the interim government would have known about the firm position in favor of complete withdrawal taken by the U.S. During the course of that day, civilian and military leaders made the decision to extend the genocide, both in area and in intensity, a decision they began toimplement the day after. By the middle of the next week, humanitarian agencies were estimating 100,000 people killed throughout Rwanda.
In Kigali, the regrouping of UNAMIR forces had been completed. Soon after the Belgians left, the Bangladeshi troops departed. Ghanaian troops that had been in the northern demilitarized zone had moved into the capital. UNAMIR soldiers had been moved to a smaller number of more centralized locations. As they closed some of their posts, the peacekeepers had on occasion thrust out the gates to their deaths some of the displaced persons who had taken refuge with them. UNAMIR continued to protect more than 15,000 persons, both Hutu and Tutsi, who had sought refuge at the Amahoro stadium. It also provided guards at other sites that were not U.N. posts, including the King Faisal Hospital where there were another 5,000-6,000 people. Dallaire established this protection in response to the overwhelming needs on the spot, not as a result of orders from New York.131 The existence of these groups of protected persons shaped the final stages of the debate over UNAMIR, giving advocates of continued involvement an argument that in the end the diplomats could not ignore.
As the days of slaughter passed without a decision by the Security Council, international human rights and humanitarian groups called more and more loudly for action. On April 19, Human Rights Watch reported recent information from the field to the president of the Security Council and informed him that this slaughter constitutes genocide. It urged the council to condemn by name the individuals in command of the forces executing the genocide and provided the council with the names and ranks of those in charge. It demanded also that UNAMIR forces be maintained at full strength in Rwanda.The International Federation of Human Rights Leagues addressed a similar letter to the secretary-general on April 21. With rumors circulating that the U.S. was insisting on the complete withdrawal of UNAMIR, representatives of Human Rights Watch and the Rwandan human rights organization ADL sought support for a continued U.N. presence from U.S. Ambassador Madeleine Albright. She favored keeping at least a small force in Rwanda and directed the delegation to the National Security Council, where the decision would be made. That day, apparently recognizing the growing pressure to protect at least those thousands already under the U.N. flag, the National Security Council staff reversed its earlier decision and backed keeping a small number of peacekeepers in Rwanda.
That was the decision taken by the U.N. Security Council, too, that same day, after it had rejected the more extreme measures proposed by the secretary-general,complete withdrawalwith the prospect of very severe loss of lifeor a change to a Chapter VII mandate and increase in the troops needed to implement it.132
The resolution reveals the continuing reluctance to speak plainly about the genocide that had characterized the message of the secretary-general the day before. It speaks of large-scale violence, which has resulted in the death of thousands of innocent civilians, ensuing violence which has claimed the lives of the Prime Minister and others, ongoing violence...which endangers the lives and safety of the civilian population, and mindless violence. But nowhere does it state that this violence was organized or by whom it was organized. Even the murders of the ten UNAMIR soldiers are acts of violence perpetrated simply by unnamed assailants. [A]ll concerned are condemned for the slaughter and asked to stop doing it.133 Unable to muster even the necessary wordslike genocide and crimes against humanitythe council was hardly ready to act to halt the slaughter.
The council reduced the soldiers to a token force of 270 and set as its first priority securing a cease-fire, hardly the task for an army, whether small or large. Dallaire criticized this excessive emphasis on a goal that was unlikely to be met to the exclusion of doing something to stop the killings. Unwilling to halt the genocide, the council tried instead to alleviate the suffering by directing UNAMIR to assist in humanitarian relief operations to the extent feasible. The council was not prepared to guarantee the safety even of those who sought refuge with UNAMIR and it ordered the force only to monitor and report on developments...including the safety and security of those who sought protection from them.134
Fortunately Dallaire and his subordinates stretched their limited orders in the weeks to come. They somehow never found the right time for a plane to land to evacuate the troops in excess of the allotted 270 and so they continued to function with about 540 soldiers.135 They guarded or at least regularly visited sites where people had sought shelter and they facilitated the exchange of civilians from one side of the front to the other. In mid-April, Dallaire broadened the possibilities for intervention to protect Tutsi, although he continued to insist on the avoidance of risk. When RTLM warned that new attacks would be launched at the end of April,Dallaire posted peacekeepers at such places as the Sainte Famille Church and the Notre Dame school.136 The peacekeepers sometimes failed to safeguard persons under their protection, such as those attacked in an evacuation convoy on May 3, and they failed to respond to some cries for help, such as one from priests who pleaded for protection for people who had sought shelter in their church in Nyamirambo.137 Partial, sporadic help for a pitifully small number was all that UNAMIR could offer while international leaders, far from the horrors, awaited reports on safety and security in Rwanda.
An Exceptional Case: The Hotel Mille Collines
In the first month of the genocide, international authorities once spoke clearly to avert slaughter. They were heeded immediately.
Beginning on April 7, hundreds of peoplemost of them Tutsi or Hutu threatened by Hutu Power supporterstook shelter at the Mille Collines, a luxury hotel in central Kigali owned by Sabena airlines. Although set apart from city streets by its spacious, well-groomed grounds, this expensive hotel offered no defense against attack beyond its international connections. On April 15, Paul Rusesabagina, temporarily manager of the hotel, called for its protection in an interview with a Belgian newspaper, as did an official of Sabena, who spoke on Belgian television. Rwandan authorities responded by posting some National Police at the hotel. In later contacts with the press and others, by telephone calls and fax messages, occupants of the hotel made the Mille Collines a symbol of the fear and anguish suffered by the Tutsi and others during these weeks.138
On April 23, a young lieutenant of the Department of Military Intelligence, reportedly a nephew of Bagosora named Iyakamuremye, arrived at the hotel at around 6 a.m. and ordered Rusesabagina to turn out everyone who had sought shelter there. Told that he had half an hour to comply with the order, Rusesabagina went up to the roof and saw that the building was surrounded by military and militia. He and several of the occupants began telephoning influential persons abroad, appealing urgently for help. Their calls were presumably relayed byrepresentatives of Sabena, who would have been eager both to save lives and to protect their costly investment. According to Rusesabagina, one of the foreign authorities called from the hotel was the Director General of the French Foreign Ministry. Before the half hour had elapsed, a colonel from the National Police arrived to end the siege and to oblige the lieutenant to leave.139
In a similar incident on May 13, a captain came to the hotel in the morning to warn that there would be an attack at 4 in the afternoon. On that day, the French Foreign Ministry received a fax from the hotel saying that Rwandan government forces plan to massacre all the occupants of the hotel in the next few hours.140 It directed its representative at the U.N. to inform the secretariat of the threat and presumably also brought pressure to bear directly on authorities in Kigali, as others may have done also. The attack never took place.
None of the people who took shelter at the hotel was killed during the genocide and none was killed at a small number of other sites under foreign protection, like the hospital in Kigali run by Doctors Without Borders and the International Committee of the Red Cross.141 Perhaps these sanctuaries could not have been replicated so successfully elsewhere. But certainly it would have been right to try.