How could Rwandan Genocide be Justified?

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The Rwandan genocide occured in 1994 in Kigali, Rwanda. After the germans lost possession of Rwanda, the people of Rwanda were placed under the Belgian administration. The fight between the two ethnic groups, Hutu and Tutsi, had been brewing for years but with the death of their king and president the Hutus saw a chance to move higher up in the social status. For years, the Hutus and Tutsis were treated as two different races instead of the same. This brought on many conflicts between the two groups.

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One of the conflicts started because the Tutsis were considered more powerful than the Hutus. After independence from the Belgian administration, the people of Rwanda were left without a stable government which resulted in the hunger for power. In the end, Tutsis had the power and began organizing attacks on the Hutu government. These actions ultimately led many Hutus to create rebel groups or join rebel groups in order to feel they had some sort of power. The killing of President Burundi ignited the genocide. The Hutus were convinced that the Tutsis planned this attack and decided that they were going to attack back. On April 7, 1994 the massacre began. The one hundred day genocide had begun despite the United Nations knowledge of the situation. The Rwandan genocide is believed to be responsible for eight hundred thousand to one million deaths, those mostly being Tutsis.

In the study I want to focus on the intervention of the United Nations. I provide clear evidence to show that the UN had knowledge of the genocides planning but continued to not intervene. I provide valid information on the history before the genocide and how that history led to the killings of thousands. I also talk about the rescue of their troops but not the people they were trying to protect. I want to prove that the United Nation could have prevented this genocide. If not prevent it they could have did something to avoid the killing of thousands of innocent people.

Twenty four years ago the genocide of the Tutsis occured. During this one hundred day slaughter, it is estimated that eight hundred thousand to one million people were killed. Today, the people of Rwanda and their president, Paul Kagame, are currently still working on rebuilding Rwanda and its government. The Rwandan genocide is as important today as it was back in 1994. It was a learning experience for the world, specifically the United Nations. In 1994 as the genocide began, the United Nations did not relieve the Tutis from the genocide. The United Nations and the world watched. When the genocide was displayed on the televisions of the world watched the horrors and did nothing. During the 100 day massacre, France and Belgium sent troops to Rwanda to “keep the peace.” Those troops were told not to use force toward the Hutus. These troops were strictly here for propaganda; to show the world that the United Nations was doing something to help when in reality they were making empty threats. Since then the United Nation has admitted to the removal of 2,500 troops after ten soldiers were killed. These troops were removed strictly out of fear. At this point, the United Nation was only thinking of themselves. They were not concerned with the well being of the people of Rwanda. They were more concerned with the ten people they lose rather then the thousands of Rwandans that were wrongfully killed. U.S troops were also sent to Rwanda but were quickly removed leaving the people of Rwanda to defend themselves. Despite the many warning signs, the United Nations decided not to interfere with the grueling activities occuring in Rwanda. The United Nations mandate for monitoring and prevention, early warning signs and, previous history in Rwanda gave the United Nation every reason to interfere before the genocide began. Even after the genocide began preventative actions could have taken place to avoid the killing of more innocent Tutsis.

I originally wanted to discuss the causes of the rwandan genocide but realized I did not have enough evidence. Instead, I decided to discuss the UN’s intervention, or lack of, in the Rwandan genocide. The UN had multiple opportunities to intervene in this situation but chose not to. Hence my research question unfolds: How could the United Nations intervention in the Rwandan genocide in 1994 be justified? The United Nations intervention can not be justified. There were multiple warning signs leading up to the genocide. The killing of thousands could have been prevented “The quick involvement of 400 excellent paratroopers may have saved the situation.”(Boutros Boutros-Ghali, quoted in “Prime Time News,” CBC Transcript, 29 November 1994)

To completely understand the actions of the United Nations, one must understand the developed conflict between the Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda. European colonizations began in the 1890s as well as the division between Hutus and Tutsis. In 1933, the Belgium held a census count making the divide between the two groups official. In the 1950s, the Tutsis became the dominant “race”. They owned the majority of the public offices at the local and national level. After World War II the Hutus saw an opportunity to create a better name for themselves. The UN had already made plans to send peacekeeping troops to Rwanda during the early 1990s. The United Nations plan was to deploy 2,500 troops to Rwanda but that number was reduced to 270 as the civil war crisis deepened. These troops included nine hundred from Bangladesh and four hundred twenty from Belgium. The UN realized that they were not able to kill the Hutu extremist and they would soon realize that the Hutu extremists had a way to deal with them. The Hutus had killed ten Belgian soldiers days after the killing began. After those killings the Belgian troops were taking out of Rwanda. The Rwandese Patriotic Front, RPF, formed after the death of King Mwami. Not too long after the formation of the RPF and the end of a three year civil war, the UN launched a peacekeeping mission to keep an eye on the RPF. The killing began after the killing of a Hutu leader. Hutu extremists automatically believed that the Tutsis killed their leader and decided to take their revenge for years of being the lower class. The purpose of the peacekeeping treaty, according to the Accords, was to “assist in the tracking of arms caches and neutralization of armed gangs throughout the country.” (Section B of Article 54) The international community had a legal obligation to intervene.

Although the United Nations had given Rwanda their freedom, they were left without a solid government. The UN was still responsible for Rwanda because of the mandate, which did not expire until 1998. This mandate was used to monitor the ceasefire agreement, to assist in the humanitarian assistant activities, to investigate reports and many more. This mandate made the UN obligated to help the people of Rwanda. For the first couple of weeks, the world failed to recognize what was truly happening in Rwanda. It is said that the UN never used the words genocide, it was nothing but a war between the RPF and the Hutu army. The United Nations had many warning signs regarding the genocide, one of those being the illegal movement of weapons. The United Nation had a potent mandate that monitored illegal arms in Rwanda, but the peacekeeping force lacked investigative behavior. By January 1994 Rwanda had become dependent on the trading of weapons. A western diplomat in Kigali said “The country is flooded with weapons. Two beers will get you one grenade.” Even after seeing the killing firsthand the UN still decided not to use force. After the fighting outbreak in 1990, the UN proclaimed to be neutral with regards to the Rwandan conflict. According to the Human Rights Watch Arms Project, France provided machine guns, artillery, armored vehicles, and helicopters to the Rwandan army. In the months before April 6, it shows that UNAMIR, United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda, had knowledge of the vast amount of weapons flowing into and through the country of Rwanda. It is said that they were in fact concerned about the dangers the weapons presented but were denied permission to take evasive action to remove the weapons. The signs of a catastrophe were present and a Belgian UNAMIR lieutenant noticed. He said “We also realized something big was being prepared, but we didn’t know exactly what. But we learned quickly through informants that arms were hidden in the area and distributed in anticipation of the massacres.”  As the transfer of weapons continued, the UN decided that all weapons, other than personal arms, could be transferred if they were monitored. This decision however did not slow down the trading of weapons in Rwanda. Rwandans, specifically Hutus, continued to “stock up” on weapons.  The United Nations excuse to not interfering sooner was that UNAMIR was considered a defense mission. Another excuse for why the UN decided not to interfere was “constant pressure by the Security Council on UNAMIR to save money” (Independent Inquiry 1999: 41). And the UN security council said that UNAMIR was only allowed to monitor the situation in Rwanda. They were not allowed to use force. They were only told to use force if it came down to self defense. The last possible excuse was the lack of resources , especially after the Belgian troops withdrew from Kigali. “UNAMIR does not have heavy weapons systems, ammunition, let alone secure transport. […] Troops […] were very tired and sickly because of the lack of proper food and medicine” (Dallaire 2003: 319). Therefore they lacked the resources, trained personnel specifically, to take on “seize” missions. After April 6 the killing began. The weapons came out and the troops left leaving the people of Rwanda to defend themselves in a time of need. “The result was that UNAMIR had to “watch helplessly as people were being slaughtered right before their eyes” (Prunier 1997: 275).

Years before the genocide began, propaganda against Tutsis were displayed through newspaper and radio. Three years before the genocide Tutsis were portrayed as enemies of the nation and should be feared. “The only remedy is total extermination, to kill them all, totally wipe them out,” Hutu extremists. There was a private radio station that discussed the killing of Tutsis nine months before the killing began, but no one intervened. It is said that the UN and the United States had knowledge of this situation but told few about it. The United Nations mandate include the hearing of radio stations in Kigali, Rwanda. The UN was well aware of the threats being thrown towards their troops and the Tutsis.”Lack of accurate information of what was happening on the ground also fuelled the killings” said Alison De Forges. (BBC News) Not only did the private Hutu radio threaten the Tutsis, making them feared, they threatened death for the Belgian peacekeepers. The Hutus believe that the Belgian soldiers were a part of the assassination of the president, therefore UNAMIR was well aware of the situation occurring in Rwanda. The genocide continued to develop and so did the threats in the Hutu radio station. The threats were becoming more violent and disturbing. Where are those Tutsi who used to phone me? Ah, they must have all been exterminated. Let us sing: The Tutsi have been killed. God is always just! The criminals will be exterminated!” (Hutu extremists) There were mandates created to monitor what was happening in Kigali. The United Nations had every resource available to hear these grueling threats being made on the radio by the Hutu extremists. With this speculation of mass killing, the United Nation was able to intervene and prevent the Hutu extremists but decided not to. The country that was responsible for Rwanda turned a blind eye. Some believe that the United Nation feared the Hutu extremists, especially after their soldier were killed. These killings were planned in advance but were ignored by the UN and the United States. Not only was the UN already aware of the situation, a government official also informed them. Dalliare requested multiple times to UNAMIR for weapons and some type of interference in Rwanda but was denied permission each time. In January 1994 Dalliare was informed that there were groups planning the mass extermination of Tutsis and led UNAMIR to a secret arms cache.

Human resources had an informant that described the plans for the genocide. “Late in the day of January 10 I had a visit from someone who asked to be called “Jean-Pierre.’ He was a leader of the MRND militia, the famous Interahamwe . . . He explained he was struggling with his conscience. He was in the process of systematically arming all cells of the capital. He’d received orders several days earlier to identify every Tutsi in each cell, and when word came, to assassinate all of them point blank. From what he told me, they were capable of killing about 1,000 Tutsi every twenty minutes, so this was an extensive organization, and that was our undoing.” (Colonel Luc Marchal, Commander of Kigali sector for UNAMIR) Not only did the colonel speak with Jean-Pierre, human resources were told the sinister plot to sabotage the peace and carry out the genocide. Jean-Pierre spoke several times with highly ranked UN officials. He told those officials that Interahamwe goals had changed. The Interahamwe had order Jean-Pierre to gather the names of Tutsis in Kigali. He also gave the officials the locations of the weapons in and around Kigali that were going to be used to slaughter the Tutsis. According to Marchal (a high-ranked human resource official), “a UN officer accompanied him to MRND headquarters. In the building there was indeed a stockpile of arms and ammunition.” This information provided more evidence of the potential catastrophe waiting to happen. Along with this evidence, an urgent fax was sent based on the speculation that there was a plan to brutally disturb the peacekeeping mission. This speculation was enough to remove the Belgian peacekeeping troops from Kigali. With the information that they received, the Force Commander decided to remove the informant, Jean-Pierre, out of Kigali. They decided to remove the person who helped them keep their troops safe, not the people who the troops were protecting.

Most of the world stayed on the backburner with the fear of losing troops like the US did during their debacle with Somalia. President Francois Mitterrand said, “In such countries, genocide is not too important.”(reported in the newspaper Le Figaro) Africa was feared by most countries but some felt obligated to help. Not only did the UN have support from the US, they had support from France. Both France and the US agreed that something had to be done in Rwanda. After a month the French actually offered to create a safe house in south-west Rwanda. The French were the ones to realize that innocent civilians were being killed, not the UN or UNAMIR.”The French knew that a genocide was in preparation, since they advised our army. They supposedly just did not believe it…” said from a Rwandan citizen that survived the genocide. This mission, however, was not welcomed. While the French did want to, and did, “help” Rwanda they allowed the Hutu soldiers and Interahamwe to keep their weapons. By allowing this the situation was not made better or worst. Once the French left, the killing continued. No difference was made. “While I was talking about the ongoing genocide, [the French] staff were raising points about the loyalty France owed to old friends,” Dallaire reported. “They refused to accept the reality of the genocide and the fact that the extremist leaders, the perpetrators, and some their old colleagues were the same people”. (Rwandan Stories) The UN feared that France wanted to cover the fact that they had given the Rwandan army supplies during the civil war they said they were not a part of. Since the United Nations were concerned about France’s motives they decided to not use Frances idea. The US also suggested that the UN should do more to help the innocent people being killed. The head of UN peacekeeping, Kofi Annan, says, “we are watching people being deprived of the most fundamental of rights, the right to life, and yet we seem a bit helpless …”

The signs of a genocide were clear and senior political leaders have said that the genocide could have been prevented or at least nullified by the UN. The resources and information were all available before the genocide occured. The warning signs, propaganda, and previous history of Rwanda gave the UN multiple opportunities to interfere and avoid the mass killing of eight hundred thousand people. The UN has acknowledge the fact that they failed the people of Rwanda. Canadian Foreign Minister, Lloyd Axworthy stated “none present could look back without feeling guilt and devastation at the lack to help the Rwandan civilians at their time in need” (BBC News). “The French knew that a genocide was in preparation, since they advised our army. They supposedly just did not believe it…” said from a Rwandan citizen that survived the genocide. All in all, the United Nations actions cannot be justified given the fact they had multiple signs and opportunities to interfere and prevent the killing of thousands.

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How Could Rwandan Genocide Be Justified?. (2019, Apr 05). Retrieved from