LETTER: French efforts in Rwanda

Click to follow
ROBIN COOK'S article "The danger of another Rwanda" (9 April) states that the UK has aided attempts to bring the perpetrators of genocide to justice in Rwanda while France and others have not. By omitting to mention the French intervention in June 1994 he distorts history. The UN Security Council Resolution 918 authorised the increase of the depleted UNAMIR force to 5,500 and expanded its mandate to include protection of civilians and the establishment and policing of safe areas. States, most explicity the US, refused to provide the personnel for this force, so that by the beginning of June, despite the killing of hundreds of thousands of Tutsi, the Secretary-General was still searching for troops. On 3 June the Organisation of African Unity offered 4,000 men, conditional on the Security Council permanent members providing equipment, but this was defeated by protracted logistical negotiations. On 22 June, France launched Operation Turquoise with Senegal and successfully established a safety zone in southern Rwanda.

The immediate priority after the killings began should have been to prevent further mass deaths. The world community's response in what is supposed to be the civilised era indicates that it is still politics first, common humanity second. Regardless of the history of French involvement in Rwanda (the French Foreign Minister asked, in vain, for other UN member states to contribute to their operation to allay fears of a colonialist intervention), France was the only nation that acted effectively to prevent further killings. While punishment of genocide is important as a deterrent and to reassure survivors, it is after the fact. Mr Cook was thoroughly unjustified in attempting to claim the moral high ground for the UK. One can only hope that the situation is not repeated in Burundi.

Jonathan Cina