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To: <H-GENOCIDE@H-NET.MSU.EDU> Subject: Kofi Annan and the circumstances of the genocide in Rwanda ------------------ Dear Editor, Kofi Annan and the genocide in Rwanda 1994. I am writing in response to the message posted by Eric Reeves today in which he apportions blame for the genocide in Rwanda in 1994 and singles out Kofi Annan as being particularly deserving of blame. As some list members will know I have spent ten years investigating and writing about the circumstances of the genocide in Rwanda. In my two books on the genocide I look closely at the role of the decision-making within the UN, and most particularly at "UN policy" towards Rwanda 1993-1994 formulated during secret and informal meetings of the Security Council. Reeves claims that as Annan headed the UN peacekeeping operations during the Rwandan genocide, he must bear "much responsibility for international failure" over Rwanda. This has become a common misconception, helped in part by the sensationalist publicity given to what is now called the "genocide fax", a faxed warning written by the Force Commander of the UN peacekeeping mission in Rwanda and sent to Kofi Annan in the New York Secretariat. The information had come from an informer at the heart of the conspiracy. The fax was highlighted particularly by the feature writer Philip Gourevitch in an article in the New Yorker in which Annan is condemned for having ignored what was believed to be a one and only warning. In fact the so-called "genocide fax" was one of dozens of warnings pre-genocide. (In the capital Kigali the plot was even outlined in a local newspaper.) Consider this. A total of 21 intelligence reports were prepared by Belgian intelligence agents in the weeks before the genocide began for they were running a network of SIX informers who revealed arms distribution, militia training, death lists of Tutsi, -- and plans for mass killing. At the UN in New York the Belgian ambassador passed these warnings to the US and the UK ambassadors. The UK and the US -- permanent members of the Security Council -- were told by the same Belgian ambassador that the peace agreement in Rwanda was unravelling. The UN mission was in danger and in dire need of reinforcement. But the US and the UK refused any help for Rwanda -- on the grounds of economy. And so both states undermined the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide -- where the post-holocaust promise of Never Again is enshrined. Rwanda -- a country with a history of genocide and a deadly racist divide -- was left to its fate. The US, having encouraged the idea of the creation of a power-sharing democracy in Rwanda, quite simply planned only to evacuate its own nationals even before the presidential plane crash that is credited with having triggered the genocide. It is worth recalling that key members of the UK government of John Major actually claimed to me that they did not know what was happening in Rwanda -- an extraordinary admission from a permanent member of the Security Council. There is also a widespread belief that in 1994 Annan, then head of the UN's Department of Peacekeeping, had a major role deciding UN peacekeeping policy. He did not. UN policy is and always has been decided within the Council by member states. To blame international civil servants at the UN for the failure over Rwanda is rather ridiculous. Who now would be blaming Annan had he not become Secretary General. Some people have even claimed that Annan "advised" the then Secretary General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali on Rwanda. To anyone who has studied this period, this was not at all how the "cabinet" of Boutros-Ghali worked. In fact, as the President of the Security Council in April 1994, Colin Keating (New Zealand) has revealed, Boutros-Ghali even expressly forbid Annan from briefing the Council about Rwanda. A crucial role was played by Boutros Boutros-Ghali. His lack of leadership at the time is described in the UN's own internal report. It has also recently been claimed that Annan "order(ed) his general to stand down", in telling the UNAMIR'S Force Commander Lt.-Gen Romeo Dallaire to evacuate his forces when the genocide began. In fact as my book details it was the then Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali who telephoned the U.N.'s force commander in Rwanda, Lt-General Romeo Dallaire, to prepare for evacuation. Dallaire told him a total evacuation was unthinkable. The publicity given the "genocide fax" has achieved the following; it has enabled politicians and diplomats to avoid blame. This is dangerous. Had there been more accountability over Rwanda -- naming and shaming of those really responsible -- then perhaps the tragedy over Darfur today may have been treated differently. Politicians who fear that they may be held to account might be less keen to abandon the innocent to their fate. In both London, Washington and in Paris there are politicians and civil servants who took decisions that cost the lives of an incalculable number of people. They should bear full responsibility for those decisions, though it is unlikely they ever will. The failure over Rwanda is one of the greatest scandals of the last century. Surely the facts are too important to ignore. What Rwanda needed to prevent the genocide from happening was a peacekeeping mission that was equipped and mandated for its task. Just how half-hearted the Council about its mission for Rwanda was plain to see when a struggling, weak and ineffective UNAMIR arrived in Rwanda in October 1993. In peacekeeping, the transition from dictatorship to democracy is the most dangerous time. It is the time used by extremists to make the most of a vacuum. Any delay or any hint of a lack of commitment serves only to encourage the hardliners. And so it was in Rwanda where in 1994 genocide was planned and perpetrated by a group determined to cling to power. They used genocide as a political weapon, and did so safe in the knowledge that the Security Council of the UN would fail to react. One survivor of the 1994 genocide once asked: "What are you doing here? You had the capacity to save us but you abandoned us." This question today -- Holocaust Memorial Day -- could well be asked of any of us. Yours sincerely, Linda Melvern Honorary Fellow, University of Wales, Aberystwyth. Author; "Conspiracy to Murder. The Rwandan Genocide (Verso, 2004) A People Betrayed. The Role of the West in Rwanda's Genocide. (Zed Books. 2000) Below is a recent review of Conspiracy to Murder published in US magazine Choice -- a publication of the American Library Association, current reviews for academic libraries... Melvern, Linda. Conspiracy to murder: the Rwanda genocide. Verso , 2004. 358p bibl index afp ISBN 1-85984-588-6, $25.00 . Outstanding Title! Reviewed in 2004nov CHOICE. This book is not only most notable of the second wave of studies on the 1994 Rwandan genocide, but is quite possibly the definitive account of the origins of the tragedy. Melvern relies heavily on material that had not been available to earlier researchers, such as captured Rwandan government documents, testimony at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and subsequent reports by the United Nations, international human rights groups, and Western governments. The author's principal emphasis is on the origins and preparations for the genocide beginning in 1990. She does cover, in less detail, the major events of the 100-day genocide and the subsequent criminal prosecutions. Especially chilling is a Rwandan government report detailing the demographics of the victims and the means of their deaths. Scholars will appreciate the meticulous research and extensive endnotes. Melvern's writing is clear and direct. Summing Up: Essential. Accessible to all readers. -- S. C. Matheson, Knox College ------ End of Forwarded Message