Dear Boutros Boutros-Ghali: Anyone who thought you, an African, would bring hope to your own continent must be disappointed, says an observer. As the UN fiddles in Bosnia, Rwanda burns

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Indy Lifestyle Online
You may not remember this, but I came with a television crew to interview you at the Foreign Ministry in Cairo in November 1991, shortly before you were elected Secretary-General of the UN.

I was excited at the prospect of you, an African, becoming the world's 'number one diplomat'. I thought your many years at the Foreign Ministry would fully equip you to do something about Africa's numerous problems.

You can imagine my utter disbelief, therefore, when I learnt that the UN Assistance Mission to Rwanda (Unamir), dispatched last September, is to be withdrawn. Only a 'token' force of 270 will remain, even though the horrendous killings that have cost the lives of thousands of Rwandans and turned at least two million others into instant refugees, are still going on.

Of course, the decision to pull Unamir out was made by the Security Council and so you cannot be blamed for it. But you did present the Council with two options, didn't you? You asked it either to increase Unamir from 1,700 to several thousand, or reduce it to about 270 people.

Did you really expect a Security Council, bickering over what to do in Bosnia, to choose to increase the UN presence anywhere else - least of all in Rwanda?

You should have gone to the Security Council and said: 'Listen, we went to Rwanda originally to oversee the implementation of a peace accord. So, we only sent adequate troops for that purpose.

'But while we were there, the situation changed dramatically. Thousands of innocent civilians were being killed, while our UN troops stood by and watched helplessly, unable to intervene and save lives because they were not in sufficient numbers

'When the Belgians and the French realised that UN troops could not protect the lives of their citizens, they sent reinforcements and were able to take their citizens home. But Rwandans continued to be killed in large numbers.

'We failed to ask the Belgians (who were part of Unamir, anyway) and the French, to allow their troops to remain and help with humanitarian protection of the endangered Rwandans, until we could beef up Unamir ourselves. All we have done is to express a pious hope for a ceasefire. This created the impression right across Africa that the Western nations that possess military and financial clout, and who thereby control the UN, do not care when African lives are in danger.

'If we don't send in more troops to erase this impression, I shall be seen by Africans as a hypocrite, who is now collaborating with the very racism that I have myself condemned previously. I shall therefore have no choice but to resign and expose the Security Council's racism - as evidenced by the effort it is putting into Bosnia, where the threat to innocent lives is far less great.'

Not very diplomatic, eh, Mr Secretary-General? Well, there is nothing diplomatic at all about 100,000 or so deaths from guns and machetes, is there? The UN was established to preserve peace in the world - and the world does not end at the Balkans.

(Photograph omitted)