RWANDA: THE PREVENTABLE GENOCIDE
(Statement by IPEP members to the media on the release of their report)
July 7, 2000
We welcome this opportunity to present the report of our International Panel investigating the 1994 Rwanda genocide. We were honoured to have been chosen for this Panel by the Organization of African Unity, and we have been fully conscious of the great responsibility that we had accepted. The genocide stands as one of the singularly notorious events of the last century, and it was appropriate that the leaders of Africa decided to commission their own independent investigation into this historic tragedy.
The report is detailed and comprehensive, beginning with the pre-colonial roots of modern Rwandan history and ending with the conflict that now engulfs the Great Lakes Region of Africa. In order to facilitate an understanding of our many findings and observations, we include in the media kit the following: the mandate of the Panel, biographies of the seven members, an executive summary, and our recommendations.
At this time, we would like to highlight the following major findings of the Panel:
1. We begin by drawing immediate attention to the title of our report, Rwanda: The Preventable Genocide. This tragedy never had to happen. It is of course true that there would have been no genocide had a small group among the Rwandan governing elite not deliberately incited the country's Hutu majority against the Tutsi minority, But this terrible conspiracy only succeeded because certain actors external to Rwanda allowed it to go ahead. Of these, the most important was the United Nations Security Council. Its members could have prevented the genocide from taking place. They failed to do so.
2. As a direct result, as many as 800,000 Tutsi and many thousands of anti-government Hutu were murdered. Hundreds of thousands more, including women and children, suffered unimaginable suffering and suffer still.
3. As one of its main recommendations, the Panel calls for a significant level of reparations to be paid by those who failed to prevent or mitigate the genocide. The case of Germany after World War Two is a precedent here. The Panel calls on the Secretary-General of the United Nations to establish a commission to determine a formula for such reparations and to identify which countries have an obligation to pay them.
4. The United States had the influence within the UN Security Council to ensure the authorization of a military mission that could have prevented the genocide before it was launched. Even once the genocide began, a serious military mission could dramatically have reduced the magnitude of the slaughter. But the US made sure that no such force would ever reach Rwanda, even after it was known beyond question that one of the 20th century's greatest tragedies was unfolding.
5. Even today, the nature of the international betrayal of Rwanda is hard to believe. Weeks into the genocide, the Security Council, led by the US, actually voted to reduce the inadequate military mission that had earlier been authorized for Rwanda. Later, once a new mission was finally authorized, American stalling tactics ensured that not one single additional soldier or piece of equipment reached Rwanda before the genocide had ended.
6. The French government had unrivalled influence at the very highest levels of the Rwandan government and Rwandan military. They were in a position to insist that attacks on the Tutsi must cease, and they chose never to exert that influence.
7. During the genocide, French troops in "Operation Turquoise", a military mission driven by the French government, played a critical role. They allowed much of the unrepentant political and military leadership of the genocidalist government, as well as a large part of the Rwandan army and other armed militia members, to escape across the border into Zaire. The presence of these forces in Zaire significantly contributed to the conflict that now consumes central Africa.
8. Others named by the Panel who failed Rwanda in its time of greatest need include: the government of Belgium, the Secretariat of the United Nations, and the Roman Catholic church. Of those named, the President of the United States, the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Prime Minister of Belgium have all apologized for their responsibility. Neither the French government nor the Catholic church has ever apologized or accepted responsibility.
9. During the civil war that began after its 1990 invasion of Rwanda, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) was guilty of committing many human rights violations. Since becoming the core of the post-genocide government, the RPF and its army have again been guilty of significant human rights abuses.
10. The Panel urges the present government of Rwanda to acknowledge that it is unrealistic to pretend that ethnicity is no longer a political factor in the country. The challenge for Rwandans is to embrace their diversity and to build a stronger, united nation based on the strengths and traditions of all groups,
11. Rwanda is a poor African country. The genocide was not caused by poverty, although the economic problems then faced by Rwanda, such as youth unemployment and land scarcity, helped create a climate in which ethnic hatred could prevail. But Rwanda today is not simply another poor African country. Many of its present problems have either been created or seriously exacerbated by the genocide, the subsequent ongoing war in central Africa, and the continuing attempts of former genocidaires to destabilize the present government. In each case, the international community profoundly failed Rwanda, which continues to pay the penalty.
Rwanda is a country that has endured an almost incomprehensible trauma. Too many people, in our view, deal with the genocide as if it were already an ancient story that should be relegated to the history books. It is time, they say, for the nation to move on. We strongly repudiate this view. Just as there is no statute of limitation for those guilty of genocide, so is there no statute of limitation on genocide's memories and consequences. The impact of an event of such enormity endures, individually and collectively, for time beyond counting. If we at least succeed in conveying this message, our work will not have been in vain.
Members of the Panel
THE PREVENTABLE GENOCIDE
Sir Ketumile Masire, Chair (Botswana)
Amadou Toumani Toure, Vice Chair (Mali)
P.N. Bhagwati (India)
Hocine Djoudi (Algeria)
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (Liberia)
Stephen Lewis (Canada)
Lisbet Palme (Sweden)