Western powers blamed for Rwandan genocide

Blue-ribbon panel calls for reparations


Friday, July 7, 2000

The most significant report yet on the 1994 Rwanda genocide excoriates France, the United States, the United Nations and the Roman Catholic Church for turning their backs on the slaughter of as many as 800,000 people, and urges the West to underwrite a massive peace and development program for war-torn Central Africa to avoid more ethnic slaughters.

The report, to be released today by the Organization of African Unity, calls for historic reparations to be paid to tiny Rwanda -- including a complete write-off of its foreign debts -- as part of a major new development program for the region modelled on the $13-billion (U.S.) Marshall Plan set up for Western Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War.

It also absolves retired Canadian Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire, who was head of a small UN force in Rwanda at the time, of any role in the humanitarian disaster.

Gen. Dallaire, who was found severely drunk in a park in Hull, Que., last week, is suffering from posttraumatic stress related to his term in Rwanda, when he had to lead a UN retreat as the genocide erupted.
"Apologies are not adequate," says the 300-page report from a seven-person, African-led panel of eminent persons, including Canada's Stephen Lewis. "In the name of both justice and accountability, reparations are owed to Rwanda by actors in the international community for their roles, before, during and since the genocide."

Members of the panel refused to discuss the report, which is to be released publicly today at the opening of the OAU's annual meeting in Lomé, Togo, but sections of the document, titled The Preventable Genocide, were made available to The Globe and Mail by sources at the UN, where it was circulated privately yesterday.

The report suggests that foreign-aid donors should contribute generously to a genocide survivors fund, which already receives 5 per cent of the Rwandan government budget, and that they direct other reparation funds to grassroots development projects, especially ones led by women.

Calling on UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to draw up a formula for reparations, the panel warns that another failure to act could contribute to countless more civilian deaths as Tutsi, Hutu and other ethnically-based militias continue to amass forces in Africa's Great Lakes region.

"The ethnic tensions could again explode," the report says.

The panel, which spent $1.5-million (U.S.) and two years interviewing government officials, diplomats, military officers and survivors of the genocide, places heavy blame on the West for one of the century's worst slaughters.

"The United States had the influence within the Security Council to ensure the authorization of a military mission that could have prevented the genocide . . . but the U.S. 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," the document says.

It is more critical of the French government, which it says "had unrivalled influence at the very highest levels of the Rwandan government and Rwandan military." The French "chose never to exert that influence," it says.

The panel was chaired by former Botswanan president Sir Ketumile Masire and represented the first time African leaders had agreed to an investigation into such a controversial matter. Besides Mr. Lewis, other members were a former president of Mali, a former justice from the Supreme Court of India and three other experts on Africa, from Algeria, Liberia and Sweden.

The report calls for major reforms in the UN and the OAU to make them more responsive to similar ethnic conflicts, and more active in preventing them. It also suggests that the continuing International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, which is trying 40 suspects, be moved to Rwanda from its current home in Arusha, Tanzania.

The document, which was partly funded by the Canadian government and written by Gerald Caplan, a long-time New Democratic policy adviser, is the most significant statement yet on the genocide, and represents growing anger in Africa over perceived moves in the West to forget the tragedy. It blames the Hutu-led Interahamwe militia for carrying out much of the genocide, but also criticizes the current Tutsi-led Rwandan government, which eventually drove more than a million Hutus out of the country, for contributing to the current war in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Rwandan government has said it needed to invade its neighbour to chase down the remaining Interahamwe but has since captured nearly half the country, with the help of a Ugandan force.

There were immediate doubts about how much influence the OAU document will have, following several other reports on the genocide (including ones by the UN, Denmark and Belgium) that have brought little change.

"I personally don't think it will go far," said Adekeye Adebajo, a senior associate at the International Peace Academy in New York. "The whole reparations debate has been around for some time. I don't think many people want to hear about reparations."

Although no previous report has called for reparations, Mr. Adebajo noted that Rwanda has received a major increase in aid in recent years, especially from the United States, "as a result of the guilt." He said any recommendations for more will "not go very far, to be honest. I'm not sure the UN takes the OAU seriously, for one. I see no reason why people would take it more seriously now."

In December, Mr. Annan expressed "deep remorse" for the UN's failure to respond to the killings, but stopped short of issuing a full apology. He was head of UN peacekeeping operations at the time.

The head of a Canadian aid organization active in Central Africa predicted that the OAU report will also suffer from the fact that the pan-African organization includes several member states involved in the Congo war and massive human-rights abuses in other parts of the continent.

"The OAU does nothing," said the aid official, who asked not to be named. "The tendency is they will always blame others, the Europeans especially. They will not see the role of Africans."

The OAU panel pins no blame for the origins of the 1994 genocide: the downing of moderate Hutu president Juvénal Habyarimana's airplane, possibly by Hutu extremists who opposed a power-sharing agreement he was considering with the largely Tutsi rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front.

"The panel may disappoint those who expect great illumination on the plane crash," said a source familiar with the report. "That would take a major investigation, with largely technical expertise that the panel did not have."

The assassination led to one of the worst slaughters ever recorded, as machete-wielding militias took control of the capital, Kigali, murdering moderate cabinet ministers and priests, then fanned out across the country to slaughter tens of thousands of civilians every day through April and May of 1994.

Even as the West received news of the genocide, including Gen. Dallaire's pleas for more military support, the Security Council voted to reduce the UN force, fearing for their safety.

The report criticizes both the former colonial power, Belgium, and the Roman Catholic Church for fuelling ethnic divisions in Rwanda from the 1950s through independence in 1962 and right up to the genocide. The church was earlier supportive of the Tutsis, who made up the bulk of the priesthood, but in the 1950s switched allegiance to the Hutus in the name of social action.

Although Pope John Paul appealed to Rwandans in April, 1994, to stop the killing, several members of the country's Roman Catholic clergy were accused of participating in the genocide. The church has a troubled legacy in Rwanda, having supported the early Hutu political movement that gave birth to some of the genocidal forces.

"It was really amazing how the church supported a party created along ethnic lines. It was awful," said Robert Hazel, research director at the Montreal-based Canadian Centre for International Studies and Co-operation.

The report further criticizes the current Tutsi-led Rwandan government for its policy whereby people are not allowed to officially identify their tribes -- a policy others have criticized as a tool of the minority Tutsis to maintain their historic dominance. The panel concludes that the Rwandan people and government need to address openly the ethnic division that has dominated the country's modern politics and conflict.

The report is also said to call for Belgium, France and several African countries -- including Kenya, Cameroon and Togo, where the OAU is meeting -- to extradite individuals charged with crimes against humanity in Rwanda.


Sir Ketumile Masire: President of Botswana from 1980 to 1997; currently involved in peace negotiations for the Democratic Republic of Congo.

General Ahmadou Touré: Served as president of Mali from March, 1991, to June, 1992, after overthrowing the country's military dictatorship; organized Mali's first democratic election.

P. N. Bhagwati: Former chief justice of Supreme Court of India; now an independent expert on the United Nations Human Rights Committee.

Stephen Lewis: Former leader of Ontario's New Democratic Party; Canada's former ambassador to the United Nations; now deputy executive-director of the UN Children's Fund (Unicef).

Lisbet Palme: Head of Sweden's Unicef committee; widow of assassinated Swedish prime minister Olof Palme.

Hocine Djoudi: Algerian senator.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf: Former Liberian cabinet minister and former head of UN's African development program.

Original article