UN chief 'knew Rwanda genocide was on the way'

David Usborne
Sunday 03 May 1998 23:02 BST

KOFI ANNAN, the Secretary General of the United Nations, knew weeks in advance about plans for the genocide of the minority Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994 but told UN military personnel in the country not to take any action, according to a press report to be published here today.

The article, in the New Yorker, alleges that the head of the UN forces in Rwanda, General Romeo Dallaire, sent a message to the office of Mr Annan, then in charge of UN peacekeeping operations, on 11 January 1994 warning of the impending massacre. The General cited a Rwandan security official saying he had been ordered to prepare for the "extermination" of the Tutsis.

The genocide campaign, which left at least 500,000 Tutsis dead in Rwanda, began on 6 April 1994 and lasted for three months , uninterrupted by outside intervention.

There was no reaction to the claim yesterday from Mr Annan who was in Kenya on a 10-day tour of Africa. Mr Annan, from Ghana, became head of the UN at the beginning of 1997.

The timing of the accusation could hardly be more awkward as he is due in Rwanda itself later this week.

According to the report, by journalist Philip Gourevitch, Gen Dallaire was ordered not to intervene and to turn over what he had been told by the informant to the Hutu government of the late President Juvenal Habyarimana.

Iqbal Riza, who was in Mr Annan's office then and now serves as his chief advisor, told the New Yorker that any notion of UN intervention at that time would have been unrealistic. One reason was that only four months before, 18 American soldiers had been killed on a UN mission in Somalia.

Mr Riza said that he had himself sent the reply back to Gen Dallaire. "I was responsible," he said. Mr Riza went on, however, to add: "This is not to say Mr Annan was oblivious of what was going on. No. Part of my responsibility was to keep him informed."

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