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The International Community
Guilt over inaction during the 1994 genocide continued to influence the behavior of the international community towards Rwanda. During visits in late 1997 and early 1998, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, U.S. President Bill Clinton and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan all acknowledged that the rest of the world had failed Rwanda. The Belgian Senate published a massive report at the end of 1997 detailing Belgian failings during the genocide. The French National Assembly began inquiring into French responsibilities in early 1998. The U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights attempted to examine the role of the U.S. government during the genocide, but representatives of the State and Defense Departments declined to testify at the May hearing.

Aware of the grave allegations by a U.N. commission and human rights organizations that Rwandan soldiers were implicated in massacres of unarmed civilians in the DRC, international actors failed to follow through on initial demands for a complete investigation of the crimes and punishment of the guilty. Most of them privately acknowledged the enormous loss of life in northwestern Rwanda, but they made no public mention of it. Unprepared themselves to act against insurgents, some of whom continue a genocide of the Tutsi, international actors hesitate to criticize openly the RPA which is combating them. They say they have pressed Rwandan authorities discreetly for an end to abuses and punishment for those responsible. They made no effective protest when the U.N. field operation was obliged to leave Rwanda.

During 1998, international donors treated Rwanda as a special case that needed “exceptional financing” and agreed to provide$250 million over three years for economic reform. The Paris Club of creditor nations agreed to write off 67 percent of Rwandan debt and to permit the conversion of 20 percent more into investment and aid.

The most important donors, the nations of the European Union, failed to find a common ground among themselves for demanding improvements in the human rights situation. During 1998 both Germany and the Netherlands moved toward sharper criticism of Rwandan abuses. The United Kingdom remained a stalwart supporter through mid-year, but reportedly began to question Rwandan policies after the second DRC invasion.

The U.S., the most influential actor in Rwanda, provided relatively little financial aid, $7.6 million in development assistance and $500,000 for military training in 1998. But it gave steady political support that was highly valued by Rwandan authorities. U.S. soldiers were training Rwandan troops just before the RPA crossed into the DRC in 1996 and again in 1998. When the RPA moved into the DRC in August 1998, a high-ranking U.S. military assessment team was in northwestern Rwanda examining greater U.S. aid, including lethal aid, against the insurgency. Apparently only coincidental, these instances symbolized U.S. support of Rwanda for many critics. The U.S. withdrew the trainers and assessment team because of the DRC invasion, but muddled the message by carrying forward an October training mission in Rwanda on military administration even after other African governments canceled their participation. It criticized the Rwandan violation of the DRC territorial integrity, but failed to link military aid to accountability for abuses. The administration paid little heed to criticism of its Rwandan policy in Congress and in the press. Embassy staff were unsupportive of—and at times hostile to—the work of international human rights organizations in Rwanda. The failure of the U.S. to take a firm, public stand on abuses wasted the opportunity to strengthen moderates and to move Rwandan authorities towards improving human rights.




The Democratic Republic of Congo







Sierra Leone

South Africa





Stop the Use of Child Soldiers

Abduction and Enslavement of Ugandan Children

Human Rights Causes of the Famine in Sudan


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