UN pilloried for failure over Rwanda genocide

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THE UNITED Nations was reeling yesterday after the release of a critical report into its failure to prevent the 1994 genocide in Rwanda that left 800,000 people dead - almost one tenth of the country's population.

The document, compiled by an independent Commission of Inquiry headed by Ingvar Carlsson, the former Swedish Prime Minister, amounts to an astonishing indictment of the UN's response to the crisis. It identifies individuals most closely associated with the serial mistakes and misjudgements, including the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan.

The slaughter, which took place over about 100 days and did not even spare those who sought sanctuary in churches and missions, "will forever be remembered as one of the most abhorrent events of the 20thcentury", the document begins. "The international community did not prevent the genocide, nor did it stop the killing once it had begun."

There is equally harsh criticism of the UN Security Council for failing to deploy a sufficient peace-keeping force to the region at the end of 1993 when attempts were made to implement a peace agreement. Among those countries which consistently resisted the formation of a major force was the United States, which had support from Britain. "Those who did not even care, who said that Rwanda was a distant African country and that it is not about us, they must also bear some of the responsibility," Mr Carlsson said. His colleague on the Commission, General Rufus Kupolati of Nigeria, noted that "most of the positions of the United States" during the crisis "were supported by the United Kingdom". Britain eventually contributed logistical support to the peace-keepers, but four months after the slaughter occurred.

Mr Annan, who was in charge of the UN peace-keeping missions at the time, under the then Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros Ghali, was forced to issue a personal apology for the genocide. "All of us must bitterly regret that we did not do more to prevent it," he said in a statement. Mr Annan also said he accepted the report's conclusions, "including those which reflect on officials of the UN Secretariat, of whom I myself was one".

The report describes the failure of the Secretariat, and Mr Annan, to respond to a cable sent on 11 January by the Canadian commander of the peace-keeping mission, General Romeo Dallaire. In it, he said he had intelligence from an informant about plans by Hutu forces for mass extermination of their enemies. He said the plan foresaw Tutsis being killed at the rate of 1,000 every 20 minutes. General Allaire requested permission to take immediate action to intervene and seek out a cache of weapons. The general's proposals were dismissed by Mr Boutros Ghali's chief adviser, Iqbal Riza, but signed by Mr Annan. "It is incomprehensible to the inquiry that not more was done to follow up on the information provided by the informant," the report concludes. The document notes that the spectre of genocide was spelt out in a paper compiled by a rapporteur of the UN Human Rights Commission, Waly Bacre Ndiye, one year earlier, in April 1993, and that it was ignored. It suggests that the peace-keeping department, headed by Mr Annan, was partly at fault.