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Published: Fri, 02 Feb 2018
United Nations Peacekeeping Role in Rwanda
“Rwanda is the most shameful example of recent failure by the international community” (House of Commons, 1998/99: v). Under the peacekeeping leadership of UN more than 800,000 people were killed in less than 100 days in 1994 (Shawcross 2000). This systematic killing remains a bitter memory for all who witnessed and survived it. Rwandans killed Rwandans, decimating the Tutsi population of the country and also targeting moderate Hutus. Lamentably the peacekeepers did not prevent the genocide, nor did they stop it once it started. This failure has left deep wounds within Rwandan society, and seriously questioned their relationship with the international community, in particular the United Nations (UN 2000). These wounds need healing, for the sake of peace and tranquility. Establishing the truth is a necessity under the circumstance, especially for the United Nations and also for all those, wherever they may live, who might be vulnerable to future genocide.
In seeking to establish the truth about the role of UN during the genocide this article sets out to analyse and evaluate the role of the various UN systems, in particular the Secretary-General, the Secretariat, the Security Council and the Member States of the organisation, during the peacekeeping process. The article will be divided into three parts. The first part will outline a brief background of the UN Peacekeeping operations while the second analyzes an overview of the UN Peacekeeping operations in Rwanda. This will provide the basis for an evaluation of the UN peacekeeping role. The analysis will focus in particular on inputs and outputs (to measure progress against plan and targets) of the UN, while evaluation will be on outcome (measuring objectives attainment and UN performance) and impact (assessing the effects of the peacekeeping process on the Rwandan people). In the conclusion, the essay will endeavour to draw out key issues for UN failure in the Rwandan genocide and make recommendations for future interventions.
1.0 General Background of the United Nations Peacekeeping Operations 231
“Collective security is the crowning UN Principle. The Charter’s very first article charges its members in the interests of maintaining international peace and security”(Whittaker, 1995). The term “Peacekeeping” not found anywhere in the UN Charter came into existence in May 1948 when the Security Council decided to establish a field operation to supervise a fragile truce in the first Arab-Israeli war (Wiseman 1985). Today, hundreds of thousands of individuals, the vast majority of them soldiers, have served in 53 UN peacekeeping operations (UN 2000).
Traditionally, the peacekeeping operation involved the deployment of primary military personnel from a number of countries, under UN command, to help control and resolve armed conflict between hostile parties. Peacekeeping, initially developed as a means of dealing with inter-state conflict, has increasingly applied to intra-state conflicts and civil wars. Today’s conflicts frequently take place between multiple armed factions with different political objectives and fractured lines of command. The most difficult challenges come when conflicting parties fail to live up to their commitments and fighting resumes. Peacekeepers have, consequently, sometimes found themselves in situations where truce agreements are ignored, where consent to the UN’s presence is called into question, and where government and State institutions have either ceased to function or collapsed. In 1994 in Rwanda, UN peacekeepers found no peace to keep and were faced with the dilemmas of peacekeeping and the use of force (UN 2000).
An Overview of the UN Peacekeeping Operations in Rwanda 790
2.1 Arusha Peace Agreement
Following years of negotiations, the Government of Rwanda and the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) signed the Arusha Peace Agreement on 4th August 1993, providing a broad-base role for the UN through the Neutral International Force (NIF). The NIF was to supervise the implementation of the Accords within a transitional period of 22 months. In addition, the force was also assigned wide security tasks: including guaranteeing the overall security of the country; ensuring delivery of humanitarian assistance; verifying the maintenance of law and order; assisting in tracking arms caches and neutralizing armed gangs throughout the country, undertaking mine clearance operations, assisting in the recovery of weapons distributed or illegally acquired by civilians, monitoring the observance of the cessation of hostilities and violation of truce (UN 2000). Furthermore, the NIF was expected to assume responsibility for the establishment and preparation of assembly and cantonment points, and to determine security parameters for Kigali, with the objective of making it a neutral zone. NIF was to supervise the demobilization of those servicemen and gendarmes not forming part of the new armed forces.
The timetable of the Agreement proceeded from the assumption that the NIF could be deployed within one month following the signing of the accord. In order to follow-up on the Agreement, the Secretary-General (SG) dispatched a reconnaissance mission to Rwanda to assess possible functions of the NIF and determine resource requirements for the operation (UN 2000). Romeo Dallier, the Canadian Brigadier-General who led the mission, was later appointed First Commander (Shawcross, 2000).
2.2 The Establishment of UNAMIR and Mandate
Based on the mission assessment report, the SG submitted a report to the Security Council requesting the establishment of UNAMIR two weeks after the original transitional period. The report set out a deployment plan for a peacekeeping force of 2,548 military personnel divided into four phases (UN 2000) and proposed the immediate deployment of an advance party of military and civilian personnel. The first phase was to last 3 months, until the establishment of the Broad-Based Transitional Government (BBTG), during which time the operation would prepare the establishment of a secure area in Kigali and monitor the cease-fire. By the end of phase 1, the SG reported that the operation was to number only 1,428 military personnel (UN 2000).
The Council decided on a more limited version of the SG’s recommended mandate, such as monitoring the security situation leading up to the elections; monitoring the repatriation of refugees and the resettlement of displaced persons; and investigating and reporting on incidents regarding the activities of the gendarmerie and police (UN 2000). Notably absent was the suggestion that UNAMIR assist in the recovery of arms. However it was decided that UNAMIR should contribute to the security of Kigali, within a weapons-secure area.
The Secretary-General appointed Mr. Jacques-Roger Booh Booh, as his Special Representative to Rwanda (UN 2000).
2.3 Analysis of Situation and the Role of UNAMIR in the Conflict
Developments in Rwanda during November and December 1993 gave the new peacekeeping operation cause for concern. The political process faced a stalemate. It was also becoming increasingly clear that the political difficulties were taking place against a backdrop of ever more evident violence. According to the UN, about 60 people were killed in violent incidents (UN 2000). UNAMIR’s reports from this period provide graphic descriptions of the ruthlessness with which these killings were carried out. The optimistic atmosphere, which had surrounded the signing at Arusha, was sobered by considerable concern about armed activity – including the existence of armed militia.
Dallier sent the Secretary-General a telegram, which has come to figure prominently in today’s discussions about what knowledge the United Nations had about the risk of genocide. The cable contained a number of key pieces of information. The first related to a strategy to provoke the killing of Belgian soldiers and influence their withdrawal. The second was about the 1,700 trained men (Interahamwe) in the RGF camps, scattered in groups of 40 throughout Kigali each capable of killing 1000 Tutsis in two minutes. The third was about ordered registration of all Tutsis in Kigali, which the informant suspected was for their extermination. And finally, the location of major weapons cache, which informant was ready to reveal, provided his family would be given protection (Shawcross, 2000).
In response, UN Headquarters wrote that there was cause for concern but there were certain inconsistencies, and thus no further action should be taken until clear guidance is received from Headquarters (UN 2000).
Despite a strong reply from Booh Booh, the Security Council still refused to grant UNAMIR permission to carry out the search for the arms cache but requested that President Habyarimana be informed of UN knowledge about the plan. Booh Booh and Dallaire met with the heads of mission of Belgium, France and the United States and later with President Habyarimana. The President denied knowledge of the activities of the militia and promised to investigate.
The response to feed back on their meeting to UN Headquarters reiterated that no action should be taken which might lead to the use of force and unanticipated repercussions (UN 2000: 8). Dallaire continued to press for permission to take a more active role in deterrent operations against arms caches in the Kigali but to no avail.
2.4 The crash of the Presidential plane; genocide begins
On 6 April 1994, President Habyarimana and the President of Burundi flew back from a sub-regional summit under the auspices of the facilitator of the Arusha process. According to Tanzanian officials, the talks in Dar es Salaam had been successful and President Habyarimana had committed himself to the implementation of the Arusha Agreement. The plane was shot down as it was coming in to land in Kigali and everyone on board was killed. Less than an hour later a pre-planned campaign of violence to eliminate the Tutsis and other opposition to MRND was unleashed and the genocide began which ultimately left more than 800,000 people dead (Mullen 1994, Shawcross 2000).
3.0 Analyses and Evaluation of UNAMIR Role (Successes and Failures) 1,058
The failure by UNAMIR to prevent, and subsequently, to stop the genocide in Rwanda was a failure by the UN system as a whole. The fundamental failure could be analysed and evaluated based on the following:
3.1 Resource Constraint (Input/Output Effect)
Some of the troop contingents that arrived were not fully equipped to guarantee effective operation should the need arise. “A full battalion from Ghana was deployed for two weeks without equipment” (Shawcross, 2000: 108). The mission had no stocks of water, food, ammunition, fuel, lubricant or spare parts. Similarly, the Bangladeshi troop required twenty Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs) but had only five in working order with no spare parts, manual, or mechanics to service the vehicles (UN 2000). These reduced the overall effectiveness of the mission.
Kofi Annan stated that, ‘Logistics’ “are the glue which binds fighting forces and makes them effective or not” (Shawcross, 2000: 109). Troop-contributing countries must therefore ensure that their contingents are properly equipped to perform assigned tasks and are deployed to the mission area as expeditiously as possible, a fundamental support, which UNAMIR lacked.
3.2 Lack of Political-Will
While criticisms can be leveled at the mistakes and limitations of the capacity of UNAMIR’s troops, one should not forget the responsibility of UN Member States who did not show preparedness to send either troops or material to Rwanda. When the genocide was at its peak, a group of African countries offered to send an intervention force and Washington was requested to provide 50 APCs. The Clinton administration agreed, but demanded $15 million from the UN (Shawcross, 2000). Similarly when Belgian troops threatened to pull out, the Secretary-General requested them to leave behind their heavy weapons for the use of UNAMIR, but they refused (Shawcross, 2000). In addition, the delay in identifying the events as genocide was a failure by the Security Council. The reluctance by some States to use the term genocide was motivated by a lack of will to act. All of these one would attribute to the fact that Rwanda was not of strategic interest to the international community, especially the USA, and thus exercised ‘caution’ when faced with the risk of catastrophe there compared to action taken elsewhere (Shawcross 2000).
3.3 UNAMIR Created in the Shadow of Somalia
UNAMIR was created in the shadow of events in Somalia – a possible factor for failure. The death of the US peacekeepers in Somalia negatively influenced American involvement in UN role in Rwanda. For the US Government the events in Mogadishu were a watershed in its policy towards UN peacekeeping. By May 1994, when the genocide in Rwanda began, President Clinton had enacted a directive, which placed strict conditions on US support for UN peacekeeping (UN 2000). The killings of the peacekeepers in Somalia also had a restrictive effect on the UN Secretariat, in particular with regard to the risks that could be assumed during peacekeeping operations and in respect to the interpretation of mandates. This legacy of Somalia was of particular importance to the conduct of UNAMIR.
3.4 Lack of analytical capacity
A critical analysis of the nature of the conflict will contribute to conceptualizing a comprehensive peacekeeping action. Effective handling of the peace process depends on accurate political analysis of the conflict and, thus, the context within which the process is delivered. Within UNAMIR and UN Headquarters however, there was a complete lack of analysis of the Rwandan political situation (UN 2000). This resulted to UNAMIR failure to protect political leaders, civilians and even the UN national staff, the end consequences of which was an alarming loss of life. UNAMIR was supposed to protect politicians who were of key importance to the implementation of the Arusha Agreement, but moderate and opposition politicians quickly became targets once the violence started (UN 2000). There was a pattern to these events showing a failure by UNAMIR troops to guarantee the protection they were mandated to provide. The failure in these instances seems to be attributable to a lack of direction from UNAMIR Headquarters, but also to the peacekeepers themselves who, by not resisting the threat to the persons they were protecting showed a lack of resolve to fulfill their mission.
3.5 Lack of Unity of Command
Unity of command and purpose is a critical element if a peacekeeping operation is to succeed. Individual contingents must respond consistently to the direction of the Force Commander and not to national imperatives and agendas (Mackinley, 1994). Unfortunately in Rwanda when the situation became uncontrollable following Habyarimana’s death, the individual troop contributing countries took the command of their contingents. The rules of engagement were not sufficiently detailed to eliminate doubt as to individual and unit behaviour under various contingencies, and did not include guidance concerning mutual support by personnel and units of the force as a whole. Unilateral withdrawal of national contingents after they were deployed in operation should have been discouraged. Any withdrawal must have been carried out in consultation with the Secretary-General and must have been implemented in the field under the authority of the FC. Belgium withdrew its contingent with all the heavy weapons (Shawcross 2000), jeopardising the safety of the remaining force.
3.6 Dual Chain of Command
As in all UN Peacekeeping operations, there was a dual chain of command between the military and civilians. This division created problems at the time of operational conception. Military personnel have commented “mandates are often written in an operational vacuum by civilians who may not fully appreciate the military implications of undertakings made with immediate diplomatic and political considerations in mind”(Touval, 1993:53). Dalliare, based on his evaluation of the field requirement for operations requested for 5000 troops (Shawcross 2000), which could have successfully countered any ceasefire violations, but the civilian UN team at HQ failed to see the rationale in it and recommended half that number (UN 2000).
This military/civilian dichotomy no doubt affected the UN Secretariat’s peacemaking efforts, which accompanied peacekeeping operations in the conflict. Once a mediating proposal/framework was agreed on, modification required renegotiations among UN members, which required lengthy process and delayed mediation.
Another cleavage that impaired the unity of command between UN HQ and UNAMIR came from the distrust of UN headquarters of the message sent by the FC. The cable regarding contacts with an informant brought into focus key aspects of how UNAMIR implemented its mandate. The evaluation believes that serious mistakes were made in dealing with the cable. Firstly, the information contained in the cable, and in particular the information indicating the existence of a plan to exterminate Tutsi, was so important that it should have been given the highest priority and attention and shared at the highest level. Mistakes were made both in UNAMIR and in the Secretariat in this regard.
3.7 UNAMIR Successes in Rwanda Conflict
Despite the failures outlined, United Nations personnel within UNAMIR, in the programmes and agencies also performed acts of courage in the face of the chaos that developed in Rwanda, and did save the lives of many civilians, political leaders and United Nations staff, sometimes at their own risk. In particular the peacekeepers who remained throughout the genocide, including the Field Commander and the contingents of Ghana and Tunisia, deserve recognition for their efforts to counteract some of the worst brutality humanity has seen, under extremely difficult circumstances. 3,904 displaced people were moved by UNAMIR to safer zones during the fighting in Kigali between 27 May and 20 June 1994 (UN, 2000).
From the given analysis, it can be concluded that the responsibility for the limitations of the original mandate given to UNAMIR lies primarily with the UN Secretariat, the Secretary-General and responsible officials within the DPKO for the mistaken analysis which underpinned the recommendations to the Council, and for recommending that the mission be composed of fewer troops than the field mission had considered necessary. The Member States, which exercised pressure upon the Secretariat to limit the proposed number of troops, also bear part of the responsibility. Not least, the Security Council itself bears the responsibility for hesitating to support new peacekeeping operations in the aftermath of Somalia, and specifically in this instance for deciding to limit the mandate of the mission in respect to the weapons secure area.
As Whitman (1999) stated, in Rwanda, the Security Council gave UNAMIR the responsibility but not the means to facilitate and provide security for the people and even humanitarian relief operations. From start to finish, there was no cohesion among the five permanent members in terms of commitment to stopping the genocide. This shows the division within the UN System, especially when it comes to dealing with third world peacekeeping issues.
In my opinion, effective coordination of all components of a peacekeeping operation is essential to the overall success of the mission. There must be clearly defined common goals and objectives, which provide all the components of a peacekeeping operation. Coordination between the Security Council, troop-contributing countries and the Secretariat in the definition and implementation of peacekeeping mandates should continue to be strengthened. There should be a clear chain of command between a peacekeeping mission and Headquarters. A well-managed intelligence and information analysis programme can greatly assist a peacekeeping operation (Boutrous-Ghali, 1995). This should be taken into account in future operations, despite the United Nation’s traditional reluctance in this area.
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