Encounters with conflict and peace

The role of the west

In 1993 a peace-keeping mission in Somalia went horribly wrong. Many people were killed or injured. Wounded US soldiers were surrounded by jeering armed mobs.

This happened two days before the UN security council was due to decide whether or not to send peace-keepers to Rwanda. With the support of Russia and the UK, America insisted on only a small, cheap peace-keeping effort. It would be limited to Rwanda’s capital city, Kigali, and there would be no seizing of weapons - only observing.

For Rwandans, the timing could not have been worse…

Don't tell me
April 6th 1994
Rwandan President Habyarimana and the Burundian President are killed when Habyarimana's plane is shot down near Kigali Airport. Hutu extremists, suspecting that the Rwandan president is finally about to implement the Arusha Peace Accords, are believed to be behind the attack. The killings begin that night.

The Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR) and Hutu militia (the interahamwe) set up roadblocks and go from house to house killing Tutsis and moderate Hutu politicians. Ten Belgian soldiers with UNAMIR, assigned to guard the moderate Hutu Prime Minister, are tricked into giving up their weapons. They are tortured and murdered.
Ntarama massacre
A wave of violence spread across the country. Alisa’s family, with thousands of other terrified Tutsi, took refuge in the Catholic church at Ntarama. Alisa said, "we all thought that if we came into the house of God maybe no-one would touch us, so everywhere around this place was crowded with people."
April 8th 1994
The next day, the Canadian General Romeo Dallaire, head of the UN peace-keeping, put in an urgent request for a doubling of his force to 5,000. He was told not to intervene in the conflict.

Estimated death toll 8,000

April 9th 1994
France and Belgium send troops to rescue their citizens. American civilians are also airlifted out. No Rwandans are rescued, not even Rwandans employed by Western governments in their embassies, consulates, etc.
UN tank Rwanda
Innocent Rwililiza: “The French knew that a genocide was in preparation, since they advised our army. They supposedly just did not believe it...

One day, in Nyamata, armoured cars finally came to collect the white Fathers. In the main street, the interahamwe believed that they had come to punish them and they fled, yelling at one another that the Whites were here to kill them. The tanks did not even stop for a Primus break to have a laugh about the misunderstanding. Also, a few weeks later, the Whites sent professional photographers to show the world how we had been massacred.

So you may understand that into the survivors' hearts there slipped a feeling of abandonment that shall never go away, but I do not want to anger you with this.”

From The Survivors Speak, by Jean Hatzfeld

On Monday 11th April, the militia and the army attacked the crowds in the church compound. Alisa said, "there was a very big noise, and then everyone got down on the ground and they came in and started doing their thing...

There were many bullets - and grenades - I could hear people screaming. I could hear it in the back of my head... really, it was very bad."

About 5,000 people were killed here that day, including many of Alisa’s family. She escaped into a nearby banana plantation.

Estimated death toll 32,000

April 15th 1994
Belgium withdraws its troops from the U.N. force after the ten Belgian soldiers are tortured and murdered.

Estimated death toll 64,000

April 19th 1994
The U.S. and U.N. Security Council vote to withdraw 90% of the peacekeepers in Rwanda. Human Rights Watch calls on them to use the word ‘genocide’ - a term which would have legally obliged the UN to act.
Alisa has taken her 9 month old baby girl and joined thousands of others hiding from the killers in the malaria infested marshes of the Nyabarongo River. She said, "every day in the swamp, many teams of killers would come looking for people to kill, because they knew we were hiding there. Every day we jumped over corpses to escape from them."

Estimated death toll 112,000

April 21 1994
UNAMIR reduced to 270 soldiers (Resolution 912 passed by UN Security Council). New Zealand, Nigeria and the Czech Republic were the only nations who had supported forceful intervention to stop the violence.

General Anyidoho, a Ghanaian, refuses to leave Rwanda, disobeying Ghanaian law and UN central command, but supporting UNAMIR and Dallaire and ordinary Rwandans.
UN APC Rwanda
April 28th 1994
Gen. Dallaire is left with 450 ill-equipped troops from developing countries. The press ask the American State Department spokeswoman Christine Shelley whether genocide is happening.

Her response carefully tries to avoid the word: "the use of the term 'genocide' has a very precise legal meaning, although it's not strictly a legal determination. There are other factors in there as well…we have to undertake a very careful study before we can make a final kind of determination…"

Later, the U.N. Security Council passes a resolution condemning the killing, but omits the word "genocide."

Estimated death toll: 168,000

April 29th 1994
Friday. The militia find Alisa hiding in the marshes. She said, “I had nowhere to run. They took my baby off my back, they took off my clothes and they cut me. They cut my baby in two parts. They cut my head and my hand and hit me on the shoulder with a spiked club. They thought I was dead, so they left."
marshes rwanda
May 1st 1994
A U.S. Defence Dept discussion paper warns, “Be careful… a genocide finding could commit us to actually ‘do something.’"

The head of UN peacekeeping, Kofi Annan, says, “we are watching people being deprived of the most fundamental of rights, the right to life, and yet we seem a bit helpless ..."

Estimated death toll: 200,000

My 5th 1994
General Dallaire asks the UN to jam the extremists hate radio transmissions. The UN asks the US. The Pentagon rejects the proposal as too expensive, and says that any act to silence RTLM might violate Rwanda’s sovereign right to control radio broadcasts within its border.

Estimated death toll: 232,000

UN meeting Rwanda
May 17th 1994
The UN finally asks the US to provide 50 armoured personnel carriers. They argue for weeks over who will pay for them. They don’t arrive until July.

Estimated death toll: 328,000

May 25th 1994
President Clinton, in a speech about American policy on humanitarian action, says: “Whether we get involved… in the end must depend on the cumulative weight of the American interests at stake.”

Mike McCurry, State Department spokesman, is asked at a press briefing, "has the administration yet come to any decision on whether it can be described as genocide?"
He answers, "I'll have to confess, I don't know the answer to that. I know that the issue was under very active consideration. I think there was a strong disposition within the department here to view what has happened there; certainly, constituting acts of genocide that have occurred ..."
Clinton Albright Rwanda

Estimated death toll: 392,000

June 10th 1994
At a State Department briefing, spokesperson Christine Shelley is asked, “"How many acts of genocide does it take to make genocide?"
"That's just not a question that I'm in a position to answer."
"Well, is it true that you have specific guidance not to use the word 'genocide' in isolation, but always to preface it with these words 'acts of'?"
"I have guidance which I try to use as best as I can. There are formulations that we are using that we are trying to be consistent in our use of. I don't have an absolute categorical prescription against something, but I have the definitions. I have phraseology which has been carefully examined and arrived at as best as we can apply to exactly the situation and the actions which have taken place ... "
ALISA: "Some people took me out of the swamp but I wasn’t aware of what was happening around me. After four days the wound on my hand began to rot; maggots were coming out of it.
marshes Rwanda
As the killings continued, the French government continued to supply weapons through eastern Zaire (DR Congo). President Francois Mitterrand said, "In such countries, genocide is not too important."

(reported in the newspaper Le Figaro)

June 22nd 1994
UN Security Council approve a 60 day French mission. 3,000 soldiers came in, with RPF agreement, and set up the ‘Turquoise Zone’ in North East Rwanda. This became a safe haven for the almost beaten old regime. The transmitter for RTLM continued broadcasting from the Turquoise Zone. The French allowed all of the Hutu soldiers and interahamwe to keep their weapons.

“While I was talking about the ongoing genocide, [the French] staff were raising points about the loyalty France owed to old friends,” Dallaire (shown right) reported. “They refused to accept the reality of the genocide and the fact that the extremist leaders, the perpetrators, and some their old colleagues were the same people”.
Romeo Dallaire

Estimated death toll: 616,000

July 17th 1994
RPF forces capture Kigali. The Hutu government flees west to Zaire, with a tide of refugees.
The genocide is over.

Estimated death toll: 800,000

UN water tanker Rwanda
The media arrives, and the world is galvanised into action by the images on their televisions.

Dallaire watches with a mixture of awe and frustration as planeload after planeload of soldiers, armoured vehicles, water tankers and humanitarian aid arrive at the refugee camps on Rwanda’s borders.

But the world still doesn't understand what they are seeing. Among the innocent are tens of thousands of genocide perpetrators - soldiers and militia - still armed. They rule the camps with fear and brutality. Aid workers find themselves being used as caterers to probably the largest collection of mass murderers ever assembled.
November 1994
The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda is set up in Arusha, Tanzania, after a vote by the UN Security Council.

“This tribunal was created essentially to appease the conscience of the international community.” said Charles Murigande, chairman of the Presidential Commission on Accountability for the Genocide.

“The international tribunal was painfully slow to begin work, had great trouble locating and capturing suspects and spent more than $1 billion to try the less than seventy it managed to arrest. Defendants enjoyed private cells, television, and three meals a day.

They also had free access to the world’s finest medical care, meaning that rapists among them who had infected Rwandan women with HIV during the genocide were given expensive antiretroviral drugs, while their victims, mired in Rwanda’s poverty, wasted away and died with little or no care.”

(Stephen Kinzer. A Thousand Hills)

Alisa was released from hospital after two months. She said, "For eight years my life was miserable. I was desperate, poor, traumatised and just disappointed with life.”
building peace, Rwanda
This timeline draws on a variety of sources, including our own interviews
PBS Frontline Ghosts of Rwanda. www.pbs.org
Linda Melvern. A people betrayed: the role of the west in Rwanda's genocide.
Jean Hatzfeld. Into the quick of life: The Rwandan genocide. The survivors speak
Stephen Kinzer. A thousand hills. Rwanda's rebirth and the man who dreamed it.

UN and Dallaire photos are screengrabs from the film Shake Hands with the Devil, the documentary about Romeo Dallaire.
The photo of the water tankers with UN Markings, Convoy, 501st, Transportation Squadron, 3/325, Airborne Combat Team, South European Task Army Force, Task Force 51.

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