In 1994, Rwanda experienced what it had never seen in its entire history. Approximately 800, 000 Rwandese civilians perished from the genocide that took place in 1994. The country had been fighting from within because of hostility between its two main tribes, the Hutu and the Tutsi. Since the colonization period, the Tutsi had been favored by the colonial powers based on the theory that they were genetically superior to the Hutu. This created a rift between the two tribes. Even though it was the responsibility of the United Nations to help in preventing such an atrocious event from happening, it failed the Rwandese people. Lack of action and delayed decisions and support contributed largely to what happened in Rwanda. It was not until the genocide had happened that the United Nations realized its mistake, but it was too late even for regrets. Lives had been lost and nothing could bring them back.
The civil war in Rwanda had begun as a result of decades of ethnic strife and political competition between two different groups, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) and the Rwanda government in 1990. Unfortunately, this was what would later lead to a genocide considered to be among the most catastrophic events to be ever seen. Approximately 800,000 people died from the 1994 genocide and most of these were from the Tutsi tribe. The United Nations failed the Rwandese people because it was part of their duty to help in preventing the genocide. The United Nations had the necessary tools it could use to help in the Rwandan situation but it failed. The genocide was a perfect example of the numerous shortcomings of peacekeeping in the prevention of violence. Lack of sound decision making played a key role in the occurrence of the mass killings in Rwanda.
The ethnic divide which was the root of the Rwandan genocide can be traced back to the period of colonialism. Germany was the first country that colonized Rwanda followed by Belgium. These two colonizers had from the start favored the Tutsi community based on the theory that they were genetically superior to the Hutu. The United Nations formed an assistance mission directed towards helping Rwanda overcome its tribal conflicts. The main aim of this mission was to ensure that the Arusha Records were implemented for the purpose of trying to end the Civil War in Rwanda and it was to be signed in August 4, 1993. This was an attempt to try and end conflicts between the Rwandese government that was dominated by the Hutu community and the rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front that was dominated by the Tutsi community. The Habyarimana plane that carried the two presidents of Rwanda and Burundi was shot down and this was the turning point of Rwandan history, as it fueled the Rwandan genocide.
The United Nations had experience from other countries that had suffered from civil wars like Somalia and Korea (Brad et al., 2011). Therefore, they should have seen what was about to happen to Rwanda without the implementation of necessary precautions. The UN perfectly understood the provisions of Article 1 which provides the important clarification that genocide can be committed in time of peace or in time of war. That is why extra troops were requested to help in the peacekeeping mission in Rwanda just as cited in the chapter six recommendations. What the UN did not realize was that the situation in Rwanda during that time had moved far beyond the chapter six recommendations. In addition to that, Dallaire had some other major problems especially because he commanded troops, military observers, and civilian personnel from 26 other countries. Even though multinationality is one of the key virtues that governs the UN missions, this kind of diversity highly contributed to grave discrepancies in resources. When concerns about this inadequate resources were expressed, a senior UN official ordered him to lower his expectations.
The ongoing events in Rwanda were a clear indication that something big and terrible was going to happen. Events such as coup detat in Burundi where a large number of refugees were running to, and a warning letter that there was an impending genocide were the green light that soon there would be a war. Despite the fact the Dallaire saw this coming and appealed to the United Nations for extra troops to deal with the situation, his appeal was turned down just because he had not included that in the list he sent to the UN. In fact the UN had asked for a peacekeeping mission to Rwanda that would not be expensive. The United Nations made a lot of demands which hindered the success of the peacekeeping mission. His efforts were severely hindered by lack of resources, and cooperation from the political head of mission.
The signs of militarization and war in Rwanda were so obvious and widespread such that even without information gathered by intelligent agents, the intentions of the extremist groups for Rwanda were clear. In January 1994, Dallaire received very critical information from an anonymous Hutu informant about the arming and the training of local militias. This informant is said to have been among the people who were in the inner circle of the Rwandan government. This important information was relayed to New York about the plans to exterminate all the people from the Tutsi community. The informant had confirmed all the plans to kill the Tutsi and first of all they were going to kill a number of Belgian peacekeepers and then proceed with killing the Tutsi. When Dallaire relayed the message that he was about to raid the Hutu arms caches, Kofi Annans deputy forbade him. The United States revealed that it was in not in any way going to support a peacekeeping mission that was considered aggressive.
Even after the International Red Cross Organization had revealed that tens of thousands of Tutsis had been slaughtered, the UN did not take immediate actions to intervene in the critical situation in Rwanda. In fact, UN soldiers that were protecting about 2000 Tutsis at a certain school were given the order to withdraw. As if that was not enough, three days later Belgium withdrew its troops from Rwanda. After a week, the number of UN soldiers left in Rwanda was about 10% leaving the poor Tutsi people defenseless under the mercy of the ruthless Hutu militiamen. Before a month was over, half a million Rwandese people including children, had been slaughtered like animals.
The United Nations overlooked many factors that would have made them realize the seriousness of the situation in Rwanda. Several factors suggested that the Rwanda government would not comply with the agreements reached during the Arusha accords. The UN should have been more conscientious about certain events that had occurred during the peace negotiations in Tanzania. It did not take into account many things when it came to the conclusion that the signing of the agreements by the parties was one strategy for the creation of peace. Firstly, the Peace Accords failed to include the main extremist groups that had been involved in a significant part of the atrocities during the war. Secondly, the political party, MRND, had only agreed to the peace process because they felt extremely pressured pressure from the international communities. Thirdly, the agreements reached only favored the RPF. If it had recognized these early warnings, they would have been in a better position to critically evaluate the decision making process and this would have prevented the tragic events that occurred in Rwanda.
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