|For information only - not an official document.|
|Press Release No: UNIS/SC/1213|
|Release Date: 17 April 2000|
| Chairman of Independent Inquiry into United Nations Actions During
1994 Rwanda Genocide Presents Report to Security Council
NEW YORK, 14 April (UN Headquarters) -- The Chairman of the Independent Inquiry into United Nations actions during the 1994 Rwanda genocide, Ingvar Carlsson, presented his report to the Security Council this morning, saying the Council had the power to have prevented at least some of the Rwandan tragedy, and could act to ensure such a tragedy did not happen again. He described the lack of political will to act in the face of crises as the most dangerous obstacle to United Nations’ work for the maintenance of peace.
The Council's decision to reduce the strength of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) after the genocide started, and despite its knowledge of the atrocities, was the cause of much bitterness in Rwanda, he continued. In future the Secretariat must tell the Council exactly what was needed, and the Council must ensure that short-term financial constraints did not prevent effective action. The Council must give missions the mandate they needed, mobilize the necessary troops and resources, and accept its responsibility irrespective of where problems occurred.
The Foreign Minister of Canada, Lloyd Axworthy, told the Council that the best way to honour the victims of the Rwandan tragedy was through a firm commitment never to turn away from civilians victimized by armed conflict again. Such civilians must be protected in both word and deed. The Rwandan tragedy had almost extinguished belief in the United Nations' capacity to fulfil the purposes for which it was founded. No one in the Council Chamber could look back at the genocide and not feel remorse and sadness at the international community's abject failure to help the people of Rwanda.
The Council must be more active in ensuring that the capacity, resources, robust mandates and clear rules of engagement existed to carry out the operations it authorized, he added. There were signs that the lessons were being taken to heart, but improvement was needed, as the Council's response to crises in the Democratic Republic of the Congo showed.
It was true that peacekeeping was costly, but peace did not come cheap, stated the Namibian representative. Often, when peacekeeping missions were being considered, troop size and the costs involved were foremost in the minds of Member States. He noted with regret that, despite the experience of Rwanda, some of the problems the report said contributed to inaction in Rwanda in 1994 were still applied today, as the United Nations considered taking action on certain conflict situations.
The report made clear that in Rwanda – as in Bosnia and Somalia – “we failed”, stated the representative of the United States. It pulled no punches, spared no responsibilities, and left no stone unturned. It was both a historical record and a blueprint for the future. Preventing another round of genocidal violence in central Africa was one of the United Nations’ greatest challenges. The legacy of genocide and ethnic cleansing in Rwanda, Burundi and the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo was a tragic reality that must be addressed.
The representative of the United Kingdom said it was easy to underline the need for greater responsiveness and flexibility. “But we, as a Council, have to be clear that no peacekeeping mandate is set in stone, that operational changes are part of the Council’s business and that the underlying principle and responsibilities of the United Nations must not be ignored or set aside.” For a peacekeeping mission to work, there must be a peace to keep. Any peacekeeping mission must be based on the commitment of all parties to a peace accord, and needed to have both political analysis and human rights monitoring capacity.
Malaysia's representative told the Council that the Rwanda report had closely followed an equally critical report on United Nations responsibility for Srebrenica. The Council had put a token force in Srebrenica -- too small to actually help -- so it could claim it cared. The two reports represented a new candor that was important, as honesty and an understanding of the past were essential, if the Council was now to develop clear criteria for implementing and coordinating United Nations activities for peace and security.
The representative of Rwanda said the report clearly showed that the world had failed Rwanda. The victims of the genocide in Rwanda were still suffering cruelly from physical, psychological and post-trauma hardships, and the Rwandan Government's best efforts were not enough to address them. A mini-Marshall plan was needed for Rwanda. It was possible for the United Nations to shock the world again, by doing something dramatically positive, he concluded.
Statements were also made this morning by the representatives of the Netherlands, Ukraine, Mali, Argentina, Russian Federation, Tunisia, China, France, Bangladesh and Jamaica.
Council Work Programme
The Security Council met this morning to hear a briefing on the Independent Inquiry into the actions of the United Nations during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, from the Chairman of the Independent Inquiry established to conduct it, Ingvar Carlsson, former Prime Minister of Sweden. The Secretary-General transmitted the report to the Council and made it public in December of last year (document S/1999/1257). Today’s meeting was the first time the Council had met specifically to consider the report.
The report examines the circumstances surrounding the failure of the international community to prevent the systematic slaughter of some 800,000 people in Rwanda in 1994. That failure, it states, has left deep wounds within Rwandan society and in the relationship between Rwanda and the United Nations. The Inquiry was conducted with a view to healing those wounds.
In the letter transmitting the report to the Council, Secretary-General Annan advises that he established the Inquiry, composed of Mr. Carlsson, Han Sung-Joo, former Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea, and Lieutenant General Rufus M. Kupolati of Nigeria, following the Council's expression of support for his proposal in March 1999.
At the time of its release, Secretary-General Annan said he fully accepted the Inquiry's conclusions. He said its recommendations merited very serious attention and he urged Member States to engage in reflection and analysis, aimed at improving the capacity of the United Nations to respond to various forms of conflict.
In its introduction, the report states that the responsibility for failing to prevent or stop the genocide was a failure of the United Nations system as a whole. The fundamental failure was the lack of resources and political commitment devoted to developments in Rwanda and the United Nations presence there. There was a persistent lack of political will by Member States to act, or to act assertively enough, which affected the Secretariat's response, the Security Council's decision-making and the difficulties in getting troops for the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR). In addition, although resources were chronically short, serious mistakes were made in using the resources that were available.
The report contains a description of the key events from the signing of the Arusha peace agreement in August 1993 through 18 July 1994, when the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) gained control of the country. It offers its conclusions gathered under 19 headings, and makes 14 recommendations for improvements to the United Nations' capacity to respond to genocide and humanitarian crises.
Among its conclusions, the Inquiry states that responsibility for the United Nations' failure to prevent and stop the genocide lies, in particular, with the Secretary-General, the Secretariat, the Security Council, UNAMIR and the broader membership of the United Nations. This international responsibility warranted a clear apology by the Organization and by Member States concerned to the Rwandan people.
The report states that UNAMIR was not planned, deployed or instructed in a way that allowed it to deal with a peace process in serious trouble. It was smaller than the original field recommendations, was set up slowly, and was beset by debilitating administrative difficulties. It lacked well-trained troops and functioning materiel. The mandate was based on an erroneous analysis of the peace process and that was not corrected, despite significant warnings that it had become inadequate. By the time the genocide started, testimony points to a lack of political leadership, a lack of military capacity, severe problems of command and control and a lack of coordination and discipline. The report states that a force of 2,500 should have been able to stop or at least limit massacres like those in Rwanda after the deaths of the Presidents of Rwanda and Burundi. It also acknowledges acts of courage from United Nations staff.
Decisions about the initial mandate of UNAMIR were an underlying factor in its failure to prevent or stop the genocide, the Inquiry notes. Predicated on the success of the peace process, the mandate had no contingency plan. The United Nations was fighting the clock from the first days of UNAMIR's preparation, and planning suffered from insufficient political analysis, as acknowledged by the Force Commander following his reconnaissance mission. Responsibility for that oversight lies with the relevant parts of the Secretariat. The reconnaissance mission estimated a force of 4,500 troops was required, but the Secretariat believed, probably correctly, that it would not get Council support for that number and so the recommendation was for 2,548 military personnel.
The report also notes serious difficulties in the implementation of the mandate. Headquarters consistently decided to interpret the mandate so as to preserve UNAMIR's neutral role. Serious mistakes were made in dealing with the cable dated 11 January from the Force Commander on prospects for violence, by the Force Commander and the leadership of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. The Secretary-General and the Security Council should have been informed, not just the three embassies in Kigali. More should have been done to follow up on the information and the Rwandan President should have been constantly pressured to act.
Differing interpretations of the Mission's mandate regarding authority to raid arms caches were also important. The Inquiry saw no reason to criticize the Secretariat's interpretation of the mandate, but the issue should have been raised with the Council. The strategy of using the threat of withdrawing UNAMIR as leverage with the President, given threats against the Belgian contingent and knowledge that extremists sought the withdrawal of the Mission, could have motivated extremist obstructions, rather than prevented them.
The Inquiry notes a disturbing lack of clarity in communications between UNAMIR and Headquarters regarding the Mission's rules of engagement. In the early days of the genocide, the UNAMIR operation was prevented from performing its political mandate related to the Arusha agreement, incapable of protecting the civilian population or civilian United Nations staff and at risk itself. It was also sidelined in the national evacuation operations. The responsibility for that situation, the Inquiry concludes, must be shared between the UNAMIR leadership, the Secretariat and troop-contributing countries.
Unilateral decisions to withdraw troops or indications to that effect meant a significant risk that the peacekeeping force would disintegrate in the wake of the killing of the Belgian troops, the report states. It is essential to preserve the unity of United Nations command and control, and troop-contributing countries should refrain from unilateral withdrawal. Even given Belgium's legitimate concerns, the Inquiry finds its campaign for complete withdrawal of UNAMIR difficult to understand. The Security Council during the first weeks of the genocide was divided, it notes. Although the Secretary-General has said he made his preference for strengthening UNAMIR clear, the report states, he could have done more.
It also finds the Council's decision to reduce UNAMIR in the face of the killings, rather than trying to muster political will to try and stop the killing, has led to bitterness in Rwanda. It is a decision the Inquiry finds difficult to justify. The reluctance to identify events as "genocide", motivated by a deplorable lack of will, was another Council failure. Behaving as if the ceasefire had just broken down, rather than acknowledging genocide, was a costly error of judgement committed by the Secretariat, UNAMIR and Council members. Clearly there were weaknesses in the Organization's capacity for political analysis.
The UNAMIR's lack of capacity had a key effect on the way the Mission dealt with the unfolding crisis after 6 April, the report notes, with the lack of resources and logistics a serious problem for it from the start. Responsibility for its logistical problems lies with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and with troop contributors. Constant pressure by the Council to save money and cut resources also created problems, particularly as the Mission was too weak from the start.
The UNAMIR was tasked with the protection of a number of politicians who were of key importance to the implementation of the Arusha agreement, and there is a pattern of failure by UNAMIR troops to guarantee that protection, the report notes. In addition, sufficiently decisive action was not taken when it was known that Belgium peacekeepers had been taken captive. There were no conscious and consistent orders on the protection of civilians, and some civilians' trust in UNAMIR may have actually put them at greater risk.
The report notes problems in the flow of information from the field to Headquarters, from the Secretariat to the Security Council -- and back. Further, there were problems between the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and the Force Commander, known in New York, but not acted on. The UNAMIR seems to have suffered from a lack of political leadership on the part of the Special Representative, but also from problems in military leadership, because of the multitude of tasks the Force Commander had to cover during those first chaotic days.
In its final observations, the Inquiry states that, faced with genocide or the risk of it, the United Nations had an obligation to act transcending traditional peacekeeping principles. “There can be no neutrality in the face of genocide, and no impartiality in the face of a campaign to exterminate part of a population.”
In its recommendations, the Inquiry calls for an action plan to prevent genocide, involving the whole United Nations system, to be put to the World Conference against Racism to be held in 2001. It states that renewed efforts should be made to improve the United Nations' capacity for peacekeeping and rapid deployment, including the availability of resources, and suggests political momentum for that should be mobilized at the Millennium Summit and Assembly. Each peacekeeping operation should have clear rules of engagement.
The Inquiry recommends the United Nations' early-warning capacity be improved, notably through better cooperation outside and within the Secretariat. It also calls for efforts to improve the protection of civilians in conflict situations, and similar efforts for the security of United Nations personnel, including local staff. Consideration should be given to changing the rules so that national staff can be evacuated from crisis areas.
Efforts to rebuild Rwanda should be supported by the international community, according to the report, and the United Nations should acknowledge its failure to do enough to prevent or stop the genocide in Rwanda. The Secretary-General should seek ways to repair the relationship between the United Nations and Rwanda.
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