The Rwanda Genocide

The 1994 genocide in Rwanda is a milestone event of twentieth century. The book reveals the extent of the planning of the genocide and its progress country-wide. The book contains the first comprehensive reconstruction of the genocide together with exclusive information about French foreign policy towards Rwanda – the role of its intelligence services and its mercenaries. Conspiracy to Murder also contains the details of intelligence reports from three countries – the US, Belgium and France -- about the missile attack which on April 6, 1994, killed two African Presidents in the skies over Kigali.

The author had unique access to files and records that were abandoned by the genocidaires, many of these documents from the previous regime’s department of military intelligence. These documents give a unique insight into the minds of the conspirators and how they determined that genocide and the racist policy that underpinned it should become a part of government policy.

A shocking indictment of those who knew what was happening and chose not to intervene.

The crime of genocide is the most serious crime against humanity, and its prevention the single most important commitment of the countries who join together as the United Nations. The Security Council of the UN is central to the application of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Genocide is a deliberate policy to reconstruct the world. In order to commit genocide a group of people must make an agreement requiring a concerted plan of action.

In Rwanda in 1994 up to one million people were murdered as a result of a deliberate government policy, designed in advance and carried out according to an explicit strategy. What happened in Rwanda is a milestone event of the twentieth century and it deserves precise documentation. Conspiracy to Murder explains how this genocide was planned and perpetrated and who was responsible.

The idea behind a second book on the genocide was to examine more extensive material and a wide-range of new information obtained after A People Betrayed was published in 2000. This new material, upon which a great deal of this book relies, gives a unique insight into the minds of the genocide conspirators. In the Rwandan capital, Kigali, I gained privileged access to files and records that were found when the Rwandan government army abandoned the city. These neatly typed letters, memoranda, reports and other documents, all written in French, filed neatly in ring-binders, show evidence of the planning of genocide. These include documents from the records of the interim government whose cabinet members perpetrated the genocide.

The information in the book also includes material obtained from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). The evidence produced in court by a series of prosecution witnesses, together with a documentary trail, indicates an import link between a group of colonels in the army hostile to the peace agreement, and certain Rwandan politicians who were determined to resist the path of democracy.

A picture of how the genocide was perpetrated comes from the confession of the prime minister in the interim government, Jean Kambanda. It is Kambanda who enters the history books as the first person in an international court to plead guilty to the crime of genocide. His 1,800-page interrogation has not yet been made publicly available by the ICTR. It is a remarkable document in which Kambanda describes how Rwanda’s full state apparatus was used to carry out the killing.

In Kigali there are soldiers from the former Rwandan government army who provided me with information and I obtained valuable accounts from interviews conducted with category one genocide convicts who have been sentenced to death by Rwanda’s national courts. The 2006 paperback edition includes a new chapter to include the first written account of the seventeen day testimony of Colonel Theoneste Bagosora, who is accused of having taken control in a coup as the genocide began.

At the UN Secretariat in New York I was allowed to study the records of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), the decision to grant access to these records provided by the Secretary General, Kofi Annan. The documents include the twice daily reports sent to UN headquarters while the genocide progressed. This archive must be one of the world’s most extraordinary collections.

Reviews for Conspiracy to Murder

  • Student Review 3
  • Janice Booth
  • Student Review 2
  • Geoffrey Robertson QC
  • James Urquhart
  • Student Review 1
  • Nicolas Van de Walle
  • Magnus Linklater
  • Thomas Odom LTC US Army (ret)
  • Beatriz Pavon
  • Robert Kirby
  • Leonhard Praeg

I'd like to thank you for your book Conspiracy to Murder, which I've just read. I think you succeed admirably in giving an economical linear narrative of the key events surrounding the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, which is not an easy thing to do. Your book helped me considerably in that respect. I had read the Prunier book, and other accounts by involved witnesses, but I found that they got over-involved in the detail of the Hutu political in-fighting, or quite understandably in the emotional issue of the Tutsi-Hutu divide, or were just too journalistic. So thank you for your account.

Conspiracy to Murder, published in April 2004. The author expands and extends her analysis, drawing from material that has only recently become available. This includes files, letters, memoranda and records left behind by the génocidaires when they fled Rwanda, and the transcript of the interrogation of Jean Kambanda, prime minister of the government that planned and orchestrated the genocide.

So densely factual a book could make for heavy reading, but this one does not. Within the cool, unsensationalised narrative are the voices of Rwandans, the comments and testimonies of victims and perpetrators alike. The facts are presented alongside the experiences of recognisable individuals. We hear their words. From the 1970s (and earlier) through to the nightmare of 1994, the background, causes, reactions and associated events are clearly laid out. As the horror unfolds, the numerous strands are held firmly together to give a comprehensive picture. The underlying theme remains the West’s failure to act.

All the appropriate adjectives have been over-used in connection with Rwanda’s genocide – but still it’s hard to get away from “appalling”, “incomprehensible”, “chilling” and “horrifying”. The power of Conspiracy to Murder is doubled by the fact that Linda Melvern tells her story without using such words. It took my breath away.

Thank you so much for taking the trouble to write something so detailed about the situation in Rwanda. I wrote a dissertation for my Journalism MA about British newspaper coverage of the 1994 genocide, and it was enormously helpful for, quite literally, filling in the gaps. After reading several books and reports about it, I found your book one of the most informative and well researched out of all the ones I read.

Linda is one of our finest investigative journalists. She was first to obtain and publish the secret minutes of Security Council meetings, revealing how the UK – perhaps at US instigation but probably not – took the lead in pretending that this was not genocide and in blocking any Security Council response other than to withdraw blue berets and to betray the people they were protecting. I can think of no more irresponsible act of a British government in modern times and it is a shameful thing that there has been no kind of enquiry into how or why the UK thus became complicit in genocide.

Daily Telegraph.

Linda Malvern’s second book on this genocide, updated to include recent information from the International Criminal Tribunal, shocks twice. First, she reveals the careful preparations the Rwandan army made in advance. Second, she explores the shameful roles of Western powers in stalling the United Nations Security Council’s already cumbersome responses. Lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire, the heroic head of the UN’s pitifully impoverished peacekeeping force in Rwanda, accused Britain, the US and France of leading the UN “to aid and abet a genocide.

I'd like to thank you for your book Conspiracy to Murder, which I've just read. I think you succeed admirably in giving an economical linear narrative of the key events surrounding the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, which is not an easy thing to do. Your book helped me considerably in that respect. I had read the Prunier book, and other accounts by involved witnesses, but I found that they got over-involved in the detail of the Hutu political in-fighting, or quite understandably in the emotional issue of the Tutsi-Hutu divide, or were just too journalistic. So thank you for your account.

Foreign Affairs.

Breaking new ground, she documents the extensive preparation for the genocide by extremists within the government of President Juvénal Habyarimana going back at least to 1991. When the genocide began, they had bought and distributed the equivalent of one machete for every three Hutu males and, with breathtaking cynicism, manipulated the media and state institutions to stoke anti-Tutsi passions to a fever pitch.

The Times.

It is a devastating account of the West’s failure to act, in the face of clear evidence that a planned genocide was taking place. The British role is a deeply troubling one. Silence, as Melvern points out, was the worldwide response to mass murder. The media contributed to it by ignoring the story when it mattered most. That silence continues to be deafening”.

The silence of those who knew about the massacres speaks eloquently of the world’s indifference.

I AM SORRY there were no Oscars for Hotel Rwanda. A movie that had the courage to take on a subject as unpopular and shaming as genocide in Africa just might have pricked the conscience of the jurors; it tells a moving story about courage and humanity in the face of unimaginable horror. In the end, however, the grizzled familiarity of Clint Eastwood was preferred.

Powerful as it is, Hotel Rwanda remains only fiction — a dramatic portrayal of events rather than history itself. The harsh reality of what actually happened in Rwanda and how the world failed to intervene still seems hard for us to take. Ten years ago, Linda Melvern, an investigative journalist, set out to uncover the truth about the massacres, and why the United Nations, whose troops were on the ground, was so ineffective in preventing them happening. She began to turn up some uncomfortable facts about those who had turned a blind eye to murder, but her first book, A People Betrayed, struggled to find a publisher. The big names all turned it down, leaving it to a small London imprint, Zed Books, to bring it out.

Worse was to follow. Impressed by the extent of her findings, the new Government in Kigali, the Rwandan capital, offered Melvern open access to its files on the genocide, including a full confession by the Prime Minister who had presided over the slaughter. Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, gave her permission, against all the rules, to examine the archive of the Security Council, which revealed the awful story of cowardice and apathy which allowed the genocide to run its course. General Romeo Dallaire, the hero-commander of the UN forces in Rwanda, who stayed behind in a vain attempt to protect the Tutsi victims, gave her his co-operation. In the introduction to his own book, he called her work “the best overall account of the background to the genocide, and the failure to prevent it . . .”

Yet her second book, Conspiracy to Murder, met with indifference. Encompassing all the new material, it is a devastating account of the West’s failure to act, in the face of clear evidence that a planned genocide was taking place. It too found a small publisher, Verso, and came out last year, on the tenth anniversary of the killings. But it was given not one review. No mention in the press, no references in heavy-weight journals, no acknowledgement in the many articles written about Rwanda, many of which drew extensively on her research.

There is only one possible explanation: it is that the story she tells is still too terrible for us to accept — not just the killing, but the world’s abject failure to learn from a previous holocaust. Little more than a decade ago, a million people were slaughtered, not in a tribal war but in a systematic and well-planned conspiracy. In the book, we discover how the UN Security Council heard the truth through a series of explicit warnings from Dallaire and others, and how it found ways of avoiding action. The French are particularly culpable. They had helped to train the Hutu army which carried out the bulk of the massacre, but when the killings began, the French soldiers pulled out taking with them not the victims, but their own citizens, including relatives of the Hutu extremists.

The French were not the only ones to abandon their Rwandan allies. The Belgians also left, watching as those to whom they had pledged protection were killed in front of their eyes. The United States, so traumatised by the way its troops had been humiliated in Somalia, was interested only in evacuating its own citizens. No one could have been ignorant of what was happening on the ground. Dallaire sent a steady stream of messages back to the Security Council, warning its members that the killing had begun. Although he estimated that he needed only 5,000 troops to prevent the killing, no member state was willing to provide them. Instead, there were delays, excuses, requests for more time, indecision and inaction. Boutros-Boutros Ghali, the UN Secretary-General at the time, failed to provide the leadership required to galvanise world opinion. The membership of the Security Council was equally culpable. Dallaire called it “inexcusable apathy . . . completely beyond comprehension and moral acceptability”. The British role is a deeply troubling one. At the United Nations, it consisted of downplaying and discouraging all talk of genocide, since that would have required the UN to take action. Back at home, it meant routinely telling Parliament that the conflict was “a civil war”, a bloody tribal affair in which it would be inadvisable to intervene. When, finally, the UN did ask for troops, Britain hung back, arguing that this was a French theatre, not a British one. It is interesting to note that Rwanda scarcely figures in any of the memoirs of ministers who served in the Major Government.

Silence, as Melvern points out, was the worldwide response to mass murder. The media contributed to it by ignoring the story when it mattered most. That silence continues to be deafening.

Magnus Linklater The Times

Copyright 2005 Times Newspapers Ltd.

SWJ Review.

It is called The General's Book on Rwanda, and, right, the General is Rwandan Major General Augustin Ndindiliyimana, who was the head of the Nationale Gendarmerie during the period of time in which what has come to be referred to as the "Rwandan Genocide" of 100 days (7 April to 4 July 1994) took place. And everybody knows the boilerplate of "800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus slaughtered by extremist Hutus." But, so far at least, my writing hasn't really been about any kind of personal story of the General's life. It's about what really happened in Rwanda between 1 October 1990 and sometime after the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) took over (or "liberated," as they would have it) the country on 4 July 1994 -- because the mainstream version couldn't be further from the truth.

Reviewed by: Thomas (Tom) P. Odom LTC US Army (ret) Author, Journey Into Darkness: Genocide In Rwanda

Pick a tragedy and you will almost always find an alternate conspiracy theory to go with the accurate accounts. Rwanda is no different. The above extract comes from an interview with Mick Collins who holds that all that happened in Rwanda was due to US greed. Mr. Collins is not alone in making that assertion. Robin Philpot's book Rwanda 1994: Colonialism dies hard, as listed on the Taylor Report is another. Keith Harmon Snow is another conspiracy theorist who pushes the US conspiracy theory as does Wayne Madsen. The truly sad thing about these alternate theories--aside from their use of fantasy as fact--is they lend weight to the Hutu Power's mantra that they were victims of the second genocide, that the first genocide of 800,000 to one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus was an unfortunate result of war between them and a foreign aggressor, namely Tutsi "aliens" bent on Hutu destruction..

Linda Melvern's Conspiracy to Murder: The Rwandan Genocide handily demolishes those myths because she documents the intimate planning and meticulous record keeping that went into execution of the Rwandan genocide. Note that in 1991 Rwandan Major General Augustin Ndindiliyimana originally proposed creating the self-defense militias that became monstrous killing machines over the next three years. That same general as commander of the National Gendarmerie was a member of the "Zero Network" used by the conspirators of the genocide. His case is hardly unusual; there was nothing spontaneous about the Rwandan genocide.

Even as the interim government of Rwanda crossed to safety in Zaire in July 1994, Melvern quotes Prime Minister Kambanda proclaiming, "We have lost the military battle but the war is by no means over because we have the people behind us." [2] That statement and hundreds of pages of government records, testimony at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and countless first person accounts from the genocidal killers document what the genocide was all about: continued Hutu political domination of Rwanda.

Trite commentators then and today refer to the genocide as tribal conflict, as if it is a lesser form of warfare for lesser beings. Such statements minimally miss the point that the Hutus and the Tutsis are not tribes. Maximally they ignore the reality that ethnic struggle--especially ethnic struggle on the scale advocated, planned, and executed by the Hutu Power bloc in Rwanda--is absolutely political and terribly final in deciding who has power and who does not. The loser dies. Kambanda and his cohorts sought to use genocide as a final solution to any challenge to their absolute political power in Rwanda. Just as the Nazis kept the trains running to the extermination camps in the failing moments of the Third Reich, Kambanda's government concentrated on killing Tutsis as they lost their fight with the Rwandan Patriotic Front. Melvern's book documents that fanatical focus on extermination.

Melvern does make a couple of errors that are likely to irritate informed readers. Most blatant is her referral to the US parachute operation in Mogadishu, Somalia in October 1993.[3] Referring to Mogadishu as greatest humiliation to the US military since Vietnam is needless and inaccurate hyperbole. Another is over emphasizing the effect of Paul Kagame's brief and aborted sojourn at the US Army Command and General Staff College. As a former instructor there, I doubt that many even noticed that Kagame was leaving until he was gone. His abilities as a tactician and strategist owe little to his short stay on the banks of the Missouri River.

But those are minor faults, mentioned only in the hopes they might be corrected in a future edition. I recommend Ms. Melvern's book to all. It is a balanced account of a Rwanda unbalanced by war and genocide. Don't waste your time, money, or brain cells on the conspiracy theorists. Read Linda Melvern's work on how the true conspiracy to commit genocide unfolded.


[1] Mick Collins, Interviewed by John Steppling, Rwanda: The General's Story A Conversation at the Swans Café..., http://www.swans.com/library/art11/mickc01.html June 20, 2005. Collins continues his claim with, " First, the short version of how and why the media disinformed and continues to disinform: Unlike what Clinton and Albright pissed and moaned about -- how they were sorry they didn't pay more attention to Central Africa until it was too late -- the U.S. was 100 percent behind the destruction of Rwanda (see Robin Philpot's interview with Boutros Boutros-Ghali). It was part of a larger plan to bring down Mobutu and open the region to total dependence on Western financial, commercial, and military institutions. The bookends to this monstrous nation-o-cide were the invasion of Rwanda from Uganda by forces of the RPF on 1 October 1990, and the shooting down of the Falcon 50 business jet that was carrying the Hutu presidents of Rwanda (Juvenal Habyarimana) and Burundi (Cyprien Ntaryamira) on their way home from peace talks in Dar-es-Salam on the evening of 6 April 1994; again, by the RPF, on the order of their commander and the current president (military dictator's more like it) Paul Kagame."

[2] Linda Melvern, Conspiracy to Murder: The Rwandan Genocide, New York: Verso, 2006 edition, p. 248.

[3] Melvern, 79.

http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/2008/08/book-review-conspiracy-to-murd/

UN Chronicle.

Linda Melvern, a journalist and former consultant to the Military One prosecution team at the International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda, portrays in her latest book entitled Conspiracy to Murder: The Rwandan Genocide one of the most appalling acts in modern history. Published in April 2004 to coincide with the commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the 1994 genocide, which caused the death of some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus, the book attempts to recapitulate the events that took place right before and during the hundred days that followed the plane crash which killed both Presidents Juvenal Habyarimana of Rwanda and Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi.

The author writes of preparations for a "final plan" to eliminate the entire Tutsi race. She describes the long path, beginning in 1959, that preceded the Rwandan genocide, leading to the escalation that culminated in the explosion of violence in 1994, during which the international community failed to act. The book details the participation of political leaders in the training of militia and the stockpiling of machetes and other weapons, and shows how government authorities orchestrated prior to the genocide a racist propaganda campaign that incited the population with misinformation. It also outlines the political decisions reached in the United Nations Security Council, which reduced an already weak contingent of the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda led by General Romeo Dallaire of Canada. Melvern explains the reasons behind the policy of non-intervention by the United States and other Western powers in the country.

Conspiracy to Murder is not only an impressive narrative of the genocide based on a wealth of data and testimonies but also a sharp critique of the international community's failure to stop the killings. It is an extension of Melvern's previous work. A People Betrayed: The Role of the West in Rwanda's Genocide, and expands on her research into the ways in which the human rights catastrophe could have been averted. It is a frank condemnation of the world's broken promise to "never again" allow genocide to happen. Uncovering the inadequate efforts of the nations that had committed themselves after the Second World War to prevent genocide, Conspiracy to Murder shows how this inaction contributed to the loss of human lives and the destruction of an entire generation in Rwanda.

Reviewed by Beatriz Pavon

COPYRIGHT 2004 United Nations Publications

COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group

Mail and Guardian.

Melvern’s book is outstanding. She writes clearly and with no attempt at cheap dramatisation of horror. Her research has been exhaustive and the clarity of her chronology is the most damning of all indictments against those who looked the other way in the years leading up to 1994. ...objectivity subsidises credibility. In this way her work ranks with the 2003 book, Gulag.

Journal of Contemporary African Studies.

For a chronicle of the events that unfolded between April and June 1994, the book is unsurpassed. It is hard to image that there could be any significant facts...that would contribute to your knowledge of what happened.. the book is really a starting point for considering crucial questions about the meaning of the genocide.. Melvern’s text will no doubt in future become indispensable to those who do ask questions about the genocide’s appalling excesses and the unspeakable extremities of the violence perpetrated... It is thorough, uncompromising in its attention to detail.