Sponsored by the Committee on Conscience
JERRY FOWLER: We’ll go ahead and get started. Thank you very much for coming today. We’re very honored to have a presentation by Linda Melvern, who is the author of A People Betrayed: The Role of the West in Rwanda’s Genocide. Today I think Linda is mostly going to be talking about recent research she’s been doing in the Rwanda military archives, and my understanding is she’s the first outside researcher who’s had access to these archives. She’s told me many times she’s got several suitcases full of documents that she hasn’t been able to work all the way through. But we’re very fortunate to have her here today to at least give us a glimpse of the types of things that she’s finding.
So without further ado, Linda Melvern.
LINDA MELVERN: Thank you. I’d like to thank Jerry Fowler, staff director of the Committee on Conscience of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, for asking me to share with you my work on the circumstances of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
I’m an investigative journalist, and my work on this story began while the genocide was happening. I was in New York with a Channel 4 TV crew filming a book I’d written on the secret history of the United Nations. I interviewed Ambassador Karel Kovanda, who was the United Nations representative for the Czech Republic. The Czech Republic was one of the ten non-permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.
Kovanda talked to me about how terrible it was to sit day after day in the informal and secret Security Council meetings held to discuss Rwanda, during which no action had ever been seriously contemplated to help the Rwandan people. “Thousands and thousands of people were being killed,” said Kovanda, “and yet 80 percent of the Security Council’s time was spent discussing the possibility of a cease fire in the renewed civil war and the rest of the time deciding what to do about the peacekeepers in the U.N. assistance mission in Rwanda, UNAMIR.”
In one startling remark, Kovanda told me that he had learned more about what was really happening in Rwanda from human rights groups in New York than from sitting in the secret Security Council meetings, where U.N. officials in the Secretariat, whose duty it was to report to the Council, had failed to describe what was happening as a renewed civil war and a systematic slaughter.
I later confirmed what Kovanda had told me, for some months afterwards someone leaked to me an account of the secret meetings of the Council held to discuss Rwanda. This was an unprecedented leak of information, and I learned from this document that in the first three weeks of genocide, when the speed of the slaughter was at its height, the death of civilians in Rwanda was hardly discussed at all. The entire purpose of the discussions had concerned the renewed civil war. This was in spite of the fact that reports were coming daily from the U.N. Assistance Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR) that detailed the scale and the intensity of the killing. Nor in these weeks was there any serious discussion at all about the possibility of sending reinforcements to Rwanda, although this had been the immediate recommendation of UNAMIR Force Commander.
I never forgot what Kovanda said to me, and my interview with him was the start of a long endeavor that would involve nearly eight years of research and would result in a book and also in an archive that I have created, the Rwanda Genocide Archive, that has been placed in the Hugh Owen Library at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth. I continue to investigate the circumstances of this genocide today, and the archive for future generations is growing.
Genocide is the result of a conspiracy. In order to commit genocide, a group of people must make an agreement. Genocide is the intent to destroy a people in whole or in part. We are indebted to Raphael Lemkin, the Polish lawyer who coined the word “genocide” and who was the father of the Genocide Convention. The 1948 Convention was the first truly comprehensive and codified protection of human rights, and it stood for a very important principle, that whatever evil may befall any group, nation, or people, it was of concern not just for that group, but for the whole of humanity. I have dedicated my book on the genocide in Rwanda to Lemkin.
“Genocide is a part of history,” he wrote. “It follows humanity like a dark shadow from early antiquity to the present time.”
In October 1997, I was given an office in military intelligence, G2, in the Army headquarters complex in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. It was a small room with a corrugated tin roof. A soldier with a Kalashnikof stood outside the door. For several days I sat alone in this office pouring over hundreds of documents - the military intelligence files of pre-genocide Rwanda, a police state based on racism, an apartheid regime that discriminated against the minority Tutsi in all walks of life.
Many of the reports I read led to torture and death, and I felt sullied. Anyone who had spoken out against the regime -- Hutu or Tutsi -- had been at risk. But there was something more in this archive. Here, in these secret reports, in neatly typed official correspondence, I discovered the genesis of the 1994 genocide and the extreme racism that underpinned it.
These files showed how the logic and the dynamic of genocide had been apparent to its perpetrators. This paper trail showed how genocide slowly but surely evolved. Most notable was a series of reports under the heading “Internal State Security” and addressed to the Minister of Defense and to the President and written in business French. These were carbon copies neatly typed and filed away. The reports warned the president of the danger posed by the Tutsi, although the word “cockroaches” is used to describe them. The Tutsi were accused of secretly planning to take over the country, and the people who were agitating for democracy were called Tutsi “accomplices”, an inherently dangerous and disloyal fifth column.
One report described the reaction of army officers to the burgeoning democracy. These are the officers who were, quote, “sickened by the creation of political parties and proliferation of the private press, the enemies hiding behind freedom of expression as a means to gain power.” The lists of the victims of the genocide had been compiled in the offices of G2.
Hutu Power was the extremist ideology that underpinned the genocide. Hutu Power held that the struggle in Rwanda was not about an attempt to create a power-sharing democracy but a struggle between the Hutu and the minority Tutsi. Hutu Power adherents believed that the Tutsi were foreign invaders who had never had a country of their own. The Tutsi in Rwanda had been excluded from society, from universities, from the civil service, from the army for years. Thousands of them had been expelled from Rwanda.
We may never know the exact moment when the conspirators first conceived the genocide, the moment when a group of ruthless and evil people plotted to wipe out entirely those who stood in their way of power and privilege. They were intellectuals, politicians, media personalities, and army extremists, and they promoted Hutu extremism by manipulating the past warning the people that the Tutsi were coming back to dominate them. They flooded the country with propaganda through the creation of a Hate radio, pamphlets, and newspapers. One headline in a magazine in February ’94 just weeks before the genocide began read, “By the way, the Tutsi race could be extinguished.”
The Rwandan dictatorship was highly bureaucratized. In neatly typed reports, carbon copies of letters, and accounts of meetings, it is possible to see how the extremists in the military, together with their willing bureaucrats, ensured that the militia had enough grenades and Kalashnikofs. By the time the genocide started, the militia in Rwanda was 30,000 strong and organized nationwide with representatives in every neighborhood -- one militia member for every ten families. Some of the militia was given Kalashnikofs but only after filling in the required requisition forms. The distribution of grenades did not require paperwork.
It was through this highly organized bureaucracy that RTLM, the Hate Radio, was created. This was a propaganda weapon to prepare the people of Rwanda for genocide. This broadcast the names of those who should die. I found the radio’s articles of incorporation and a list of shareholders -- journalists, businessmen, civil servants.
In order to finance the genocide money was siphoned from international funding, the funding provided by the World Bank and the IMF under a Structural Adjustment Program. It is estimated that Rwanda, one of the poorest and most troubled nations on earth, spent $134 million on genocide preparation. Some $4.6 million were spent on machetes, hoes, axes, razors, and hammers. Companies not usually concerned with such trade imported huge numbers of these tools into Rwanda. It remains a mystery to this day why five missions sent by the World Bank to monitor Rwanda’s structure adjustment program apparently failed to notice all this activity.
Only in a well-organized country like Rwanda could such a plan have had any chance of success. Only a tight, secretive, and extremist military leadership could have possibly carried it off. Once the killing started, local administrators were to organize and dispose of the bodies in garbage trucks.
The story of Rwanda is perhaps the most shocking international scandal of the post-war era. In the course of three terrible months in 1994, one million people were killed. There were no sealed trains or secret camps in Rwanda. The killing took place in broad daylight and was highly organized and visibly so.
Contrary to Western press coverage and intense Rwandan propaganda, the genocide did not start as an explosion of spontaneous anger. It was meticulously prepared and premeditated. During my last visit to Rwanda I recently interviewed a colonel in the Rwandan army, who had served for more than 20 years with colleagues who were instrumental in ensuring that the genocide ran to plan.
The colonel told me that in the first weeks of April 1994, he had gone to work as usual in the Ministry of Defense. There were papers to sign and documents to read. I asked him what he had seen in the Ministry of Defense, for in these weeks an estimated 10,000 people a day were being Slaughtered. He told me that he didn’t see anything special and that there was a civil war to fight and much to do. I asked him what he knew of the man credited with having taken control once the genocide began, Colonel Theoneste Bagosora. The colonel would say only, “Oh, I saw him come and go.”
This colonel was a middle-ranking bureaucrat, and during the genocide he had gone to work each day and driven home to his wife each night. In these weeks in Kigali, a pattern of killing had emerged for Rwandan soldiers would seal the exits of the sanctuaries where Tutsi had gone to shelter in schools, clinics, and churches and then the soldiers had let the militia loose to do the killing. Massacres like this became commonplace all over Rwanda while the bureaucratic machine continued almost unhindered.
Each month in Rwanda, it was customary for each of the 11 prefects the mayors -- in each of the prefectures to write an administrative report to the president, giving news of the locality.
During the genocide, these reports were written as usual, and in late June the prefect duly wrote his report. I have a copy.
JERRY FOWLER: Do you want to show them where Gisenyi is?
LINDA MELVERN: It’s in the north where Hutu Power was created. You can see the date, the June 27 1994. The genocide began on April 7 1994. This person is writing to the Minister of the Interior, and he’s writing about the activity between April and June of 1994. All the documents are in business French.
Can we have the next -- here’s one very crucial line, although there are quite a few in these documents but one for now. He holds a meeting in April, and he tells the local authority -- here’s the line, “They must be all eyes and ears to hunt down the cockroaches and their collaborators.” And in the very next line he says they must encourage the people to be as one: “We decided to keep our eyes and ears open,”
This document shows how 26 such meetings were held, one in each of the communes, to encourage the hunting down of the Tutsi.
The failure to act in accordance with the genocide convention, before the genocide and then for three months while one million people were killed is a scandal that has been all but ignored by the press. I think it appropriate during my visit today to talk briefly about the media’s own responsibility in what happened.
My own profession bears a great responsibility for the failure over Rwanda. It is the job of journalists to heighten awareness, to galvanize public opinion, and to try to hold to account those politicians who failed to act in defense of human fairness. We failed miserably over Rwanda. There is no doubt that the events in Rwanda in April 1994 took the British and the American media by surprise, but much of the initial coverage was quite simply wrong.
Before the genocide the coverage of Rwanda’s troubles was negligible with predictions that “tribal warfare” would resume. After the genocide began the initial coverage described the killing to be the result of ancient tribal hatreds. One British newspaper reported without question the claim from a Western diplomat of “various clans were murdering others”. There was barely any coverage of the fragile peace agreement, the attempt to create democracy and the attempts to destroy the peace plan. There was no coverage of Rwanda’s extreme racism.
One notable attempt to change the perception that the crisis was “tribal” came in a desperate letter to the New York Times on April 2O, 1994 Jeri Laber, Executive Director, Human Rights Watch-Helsinki had written of the urgency of getting the UN to find a means to protect the innocent. Leber wrote that to describe “ancient tribal hatreds” in Rwanda was “deplorable, faulty and dangerous”.
The possibility of reinforcements for the UN peacekeepers, an idea put forward by the Force Commander in Rwanda, Lt. Gen Romeo Dallaire, was hardly discussed. There was a reference to the need for a quick reaction force in an editorial in the New York Times on 23 April, necessary to deal with such “calamities”. The editorial had begun with the words: “What looks very much like genocide has been taking place in Rwanda……The world has few ways of responding effectively when violence with a nation leads to massacres and the breakdown of civil order”. The Security Council had “thrown in the bloodied towel” and without a rapid reaction force the world had little choice “but to stand aside and hope for the best.” The editorial reinforced the view that nothing could be done and it reflected exactly the position of the U.S. government as expressed in the secret Security Council meetings held to discuss the crisis.
The initial inadequate reporting of the genocide raises some serious questions, and most of them have yet to be adequately addressed.
The Western media’s failure to adequately report that genocide was taking place, and thereby generate public pressure for something to be done to stop it, contributed to international indifference and inaction and possibly to the crime itself. With no outcry about genocide in the press and a secretive Security Council that was making crucial decisions behind closed doors, no choices were given and no risks were taken. At the very least, the genocide should have been condemned in the strongest possible terms by the press and those who were carrying it out should have been publicly denounced. Their names were known.
In April 1994 the “interim government” in Rwanda, created at the outset by the extremists, should have been publicly condemned and countries should have severed diplomatic ties with Rwanda and expelled Rwandan ambassadors. Instead there was silence. For three months in 1994 the British and the US administrations played down the crisis in the Security Council and tried to impede effective intervention. There was even reluctance to take the slightest action, such as jamming the hate radio, which could have saved lives.
Only by exposing how and why the genocide was allowed to happen -- and this would include enquiries into the decision-making in both London and Washington -- can there ever be any hope that the new century will break with the dismal record of the last.
[Copyright: Linda Melvern]
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:
JERRY FOWLER: Do you want to take questions?
LINDA MELVERN: Yes, I will take questions.
JERRY FOWLER: Well, thank you, Linda, and I’ll just actually take the first question really quick. You finished with the point that the inaction of the international community may have contributed to the commission of the genocide, and I was wondering what you found in the documents, if anything, about the response that was -- the view of people inside the government of what was happening in the rest of the world.
LINDA MELVERN: I recently found a document concerning the reaction of Colonel Theoneste Bagosora, [the alleged mastermind of the genocide], to the telephone call that was made to him on April 29, 1994 by the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Prudence Bushnell. [US Department of State Cable 113672 released to the National Security Archive in 2001.]
In this telephone call Bushnell told Bagosora that Washington was aware of his actions and urged him to end the killing. Bagosora had immediately told his co-conspirators to mount an international public relations campaign. He was desperate to portray what was happening in Rwanda as a civil war and in this document he questions why the RPF is not being blamed at all.
QUESTION: You mentioned briefly that machetes and hoes and other not normal military equipment was being imported into Rwanda in huge numbers. I’m curious.
You know, the company that imported huge numbers of machetes is still functioning in Rwanda, as is the individual running the company living in Rwanda. I’m curious if anybody has focused on the culpability of business people in Rwanda who did not report huge numbers of machetes for they made money on these transactions. Some of them are westerners.
LINDA MELVERN: There has been very little scrutiny of the role of some prominent business people, let alone condemnation of their actions. I obtained a report, described in my book, and lodged in my archive in Wales, that shows how companies not usually concerned with agricultural imports were used as part of the planning of genocide in order to acquire the weapons. The planning of genocide and the use of international funding to finance the planning of genocide is a very important story.
QUESTION: One of the most disturbing things in your book is the apparent role of Boutros Boutros-Ghali in the sale of arms to Rwanda before he became the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
I’m interested in how you see that as possibly affecting his really very slow response, and indifference almost, though it was really too late, during the genocide. I mean, he was very close -- he had a lot of business deals with the Rwandan government before that, evidently.
LINDA MELVERN: Dr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, before his selection as sixth Secretary General of the UN, had been a Foreign Minister of Egypt, a professional diplomat, a lawyer.
When the RPF invaded Rwanda in October 1990 there had been desperate efforts by the Rwandan government to buy weaponry and within days of the invasion an approach was made in Cairo to Boutros-Ghali. Egypt has mass-produced and cheap weapons for sale but there had been a long-standing Egyptian policy not to sell to Rwanda. My book describes how within days of the initial approach to Boutros-Ghali the policy was reversed and a secret arms deal was concluded worth $5.889 million. In the next three years this secret arms trade grew to $23 million. Rwanda, one of the poorest countries in the world, would eventually become Africa’s third largest importer of weapons.
I interviewed Boutros-Ghali in December 1999 and I asked him about these arms deals. He said that of course he had been a catalyst in this arms trading; it was his job as a deputy Foreign Minister of Egypt, to sell his country’s weapons production.
I questioned the wisdom of negotiating this arms deal at a time when a civil war had broken out and while desperate international efforts were under way to stop it. Boutros-Ghali had responded: “Oh, a few thousand guns would not have changed the situation.”
We may never know the full story. I think that one reason for the change in Egyptian policy towards Rwanda was due to the fact that Rwanda had just entered an agreement for a Structural Adjustment Program and Rwanda now had the capacity to pay for weapons.
In April 1994 when the genocide began Boutros Boutros-Ghali, by now Secretary-General of the United Nation, was touring European capitals, a schedule that included five capitals in ten days. To the consternation of senior officials, and in spite of the fact that the Rwandan crisis was worsening by the day, Boutros-Ghali refused to cancel his tour and return to New York. The Presidents of Rwanda and Burundi had been assassinated on April 6 - two African Presidents assassinated -- and the civil war in Rwanda had resumed. Ten Belgium UN peacekeepers had been murdered. The Secretary-General was an expert on Africa. He had first visited Rwanda in 1983. He was familiar with its problems and troubles.
There was certainly a lack of leadership at the UN. The Ambassador for the Czech Republic, Karel Kovanda, described the situation in April, May and June 1994 as “rudderless”.
When I began this investigation in 1994 I could not understand why in the early weeks there had been such a paucity of information about Rwanda made available to the Security Council. The realities in Rwanda were adequately described in cables sent daily by the Force Commander of the UN Assistance Mission in Rwanda, UNAMIR, Lt-Gen Romeo Dallaire. I obtained copies of some of these cables and there is no doubting the clarity and detail in Dallaire’s reports. Yet in the briefings to the Security Council and in the discussion in the Council the focus is on the renewed civil war.
I was later to learn that when he was appointed Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali had considered that the flow of information to the Security Council should pass through his office. This made the management of peacekeeping missions difficult for officials. When it came to the Rwanda crisis, with the Secretary-General on a tour of Europe, the UN mission was especially hard to manage.
It is worth noting that Boutros-Ghali was a Francophone Secretary-General. I don’t know whether many of you are familiar -- in this room -- with the role of France in Rwanda. France had considered Rwanda in its sphere of influence in Africa, part of Francophonie. France had been the most ardent supporter of the extremist regime in Rwanda. France had supplied arms to the regime, had helped to train the Presidential Guard.
I continue my research into this event because so many questions remain. A great deal of work needs to be done. I don’t think that any of the national and international inquiries into this have really got to the heart of it.
QUESTION: Can you say a little more about the role of the Rwandan representative on the Security Council as an information source for the regime?
LINDA MELVERN: I just mentioned the public relations campaign mounted by the conspirators. An important part of this was waged at the United Nations by Rwanda’s ambassador in the Security Council.
By a terrible, terrible accident of history, or by some Machiavellian plot -- who knows how - in April 1994 Rwanda had a seat in the Security Council, one of ten non-permanent members. The Rwandan ambassador to the UN, Jean-Damascene Bizimana, used this position to good effect as a privileged insider. Bizimana, a skilled ambassador, mounted a campaign to persuade Council members that what was happening was a civil war and that people were being killed on both sides, denying a genocide. I think this is partly why Kovanda said to me -- the Czech Republic’s ambassador -- that he learn more about what was happening in Rwanda from human rights groups than he did from sitting in the Security Council meetings.
While I was researching my book I was leaked a document from within the Security Council, an account of the secret and informal meetings of the Council held in April and May to discuss what to do about the Rwandan crisis. This document is absolutely crucial to our understanding of how the Council works and what happened in the case of Rwanda. The Security Council conducts its business in secret and informal session. This is not always the way the Council operated. Twenty years ago most of the Security Council debates were held in public session. Now I’m not too naive to assume that there will not be secret deals made in the corridors, but at least twenty years ago we on the outside would have known what the issues were in Rwanda, and what the risks were.
I am still profoundly shocked that in the first three weeks of genocide, when the speed of the killing was at its height, the slaughter of civilians was not mentioned at any length at all in these meetings, nor was the possibility of reinforcements seriously debated. Dallaire, [Lt. Gen Romeo Dallaire] the UN Force Commander estimated that reinforcements could make a difference.
The campaign to convince the world that this was a civil war and nothing could be done was also waged in Brussels. The Belgian government had decided to pull out its own contingent and this destroyed forever UNAMIR’s chances of making great deal of difference. The fact of civil war was used as a reason not to intervene in the Security Council by the British ambassador, David Hannay. Hannay cited the example of Somalia and the problems inherent in intervening in such a situation. And yet the situation in Rwanda was not akin to that which had existed in Somalia in 1993. It was entirely different. The situation in Rwanda was rather more analogous with Northern Ireland than Somalia.
QUESTION: I have two questions. The first question is [indecipherable] were you able to determine when, you know, within months, for example, the planning of the genocide started, when the lists of the families were drafted? That’s my first question. I have a feeling it’s 1992, but it’s only a guess. Is there -- you have facts concerning and did you find documents on the meetings of the Zero Network?
My second question is this confusion between the civil war and the genocide, which was very convenient for people like Boutrous-Ghali and the Rwandan Ambassador. How much do you think this was genuinely a confusion within the top four members of the Security Council?
My third question has to do with the role [indecipherable]. There’s been a report I think by two Canadian journalists on what the World Bank and IMF knew and how they dealt with the government of Rwanda right before the genocide. Do you know anything about what happened to that report?
LINDA MELVERN: You have asked me when the planning of the genocide started. I don’t believe that there was one crucial meeting during which the genocide plot was outlined. I think that the genocide evolved. Some of the plans were laid in 1992. One key moment was the creation of the hate radio, the purchase of the broadcasting equipment -- and I describe this in my book. But what one can see from some of the planning documents is that the more likely the creation of democracy in Rwanda then the faster the genocidal plans were laid. The genocide in Rwanda was a political weapon, an attempt to avoid democracy and retain power at any cost.
Once the Arusha Accords had been signed in August 1993 then the plans were probably well advanced. You ask about documents from the Zero Network - the Zero Network was a death squad created by the government and used to eliminate unwanted Hutu moderates and “Tutsi accomplices” or anyone being a nuisance to those in power. I have no documents about or by members of Zero Network. The G2 archive that I have studied concerns military intelligence. It is important to remember that when the RPF took Kigali in July 1994 the genocidaires had ransacked the Presidential Palace, the government offices and the army barracks, and then they carried important documents with them into exile.
In response to your question about the failure to distinguish between the genocide and the fighting in the renewed civil war, it is important to remember that the non-permanent members of the Security Council - for example the Czech Republic, Argentina, Spain, New Zealand -- do not have the intelligence gathering capabilities of the permanent five. In 1994 the French and the US possessed crucial information about Rwanda, certainly at the US and French Embassies in Kigali. The Belgian government was well informed. Yet none of this crucial intelligence information was shared with the Force Commander of the UN peacekeepers. “We were blind and deaf in the field”, Dallaire told me later. “The five permanent members…. Possess high-tech information capabilities. yet the UN is expected to operate in an information void”. The subsequent deaths of his peacekeepers, says Dallaire, were a direct result of the failure to provide his mission with intelligence data.
In December 1999 I interviewed David Hannay who had been the British ambassador to the UN. In the first weeks of genocide he had argued in the Security Council for the bulk of the peacekeepers to be withdrawn. During the interview Hannay told me that the British were “extremely unsighted” over Rwanda. There was no British embassy there. Hannay said that the information coming from the Secretariat was insufficient. He said that he had seen none of the cables that the Force Commander had sent from Rwanda because the Council was not meant to be involved in the day-to-day running of peacekeeping missions. This interview with Hannay is outlined in Chapter 19 of my book.
I still find this hard to understand. Britain is a permanent member of the Security Council. Perhaps the ten non-permanent members can genuinely claim they did not know what was happening in Rwanda, but it is hard to believe that two permanent members of the Council - the US and the UK -- did not know the harsh realities.
I am aware of the work here in America and I congratulate Samantha Power on the recent publication of her book, A Problem from Hell, which discusses the failure of the US towards Rwanda. Your last question -- I’m sorry, could you --
QUESTION: The World Bank.
LINDA MELVERN: The World Bank -- no, I do not know of this report, and I wish I did. I wish I did know about this, but I don’t, and this is an area that so far I haven’t fully concentrated on. I have some internal IMF reports that I obtained after the book was over, so I have yet to properly study those. But I don’t know about the World Bank and the IMF report that you mention.
There were representatives there, and as I mentioned there were five missions to Rwanda. I think this raises very serious questions about the monitoring of Structural Adjustment Programs -- how the money is given and how it is monitored and why economists involved in the Rwandan project did not appear to know what was happening.
QUESTION: [indecipherable] come back to the issue of who knew exactly what [indecipherable]. There’s a newly released documentary film, “General Dallaire: The Last Just Men.” General Dallaire makes it very clear that we got this intervention. He wanted not even a mandate; he wanted confirmation of his interpretation of the mandate, and he says clearly that he did not ask for permission. He informed his superiors in New York, waiting for confirmation, and what he got instead was, “You don’t even have the mandate. Wait a minute. What are you trying to do?”
So in that sense, my question has to do with why members of the Security Council would trust either the French ambassador or the ambassador of Rwanda, who were [indecipherable] until that time, and not General Dallaire who was, after all, a general, head of a mission. I mean, what is within that smaller group that made them not trust General Dallaire [indecipherable] and, you know, instead rely on the propaganda of France and the government of Rwanda at that time?
LINDA MELVERN: You have raised an important point. I still do not have an adequate explanation for this. In April 1994 the President of the Security Council was New Zealand [it changes monthly]. Repeatedly throughout April, the New Zealand ambassador, Colin Keating, asked Secretariat officials for information from the field. He asked what Dallaire was reporting back, and he wasn’t given any of the reports that Dallaire was sending.
QUESTION: Whom did he ask?
LINDA MELVERN: The secretariat officials who were briefing the Council.
QUESTION: Had he no power to do something more immediate and reactive than that?
LINDA MELVERN: Not as far as I know. Keating asked for a report from the officials. He asked for a report from Boutros Boutros-Ghali. There’s detail in the document from within the Council -(interruption) -- that there were complaints from Keating that the report he requested was late arriving. Another mystery is why are there no options for action given to the Council members? Why was so little information given to the Council members? It wasn’t until April 21 that Boutros-Ghali finally reported to the Council, and this report is derelict in its duty for it does not describe the organized nature of the killing of civilians.
QUESTION: Who was this person from --
LINDA MELVERN: Collin Keating.
QUESTION: He’s the one who gave the report?
LINDA MELVERN: No, Boutros Boutros-Ghali’s name is on the April 21 report. The President of the Security Council, Collin Keating, was asking for it. Colin Keating said to me -- and it’s an amazing quote, and it’s in the book: “We were kept in the dark”.
Now, you asked about Dallaire on the ground. Dallaire’s has always said to me that the problem wasn’t just a question of mandate. He wrote his own rules of engagement, and in his rules of engagement there was permission to act in the face of human rights abuses. But he lacked the means. He had no barbed wire, no sand bags and no petrol. His troops were scattered over 14 locations in Kigali. It took him two weeks once the genocide began to find out where all his troops were. The UN mission provided for Rwanda was a small, pathetic little peacekeeping mission, and it sent a signal to the extremists that the commitment of the international community toward Rwanda was just not there. They watched. The extremists watched as this peacekeeping mission arrived.
QUESTION: I’ll just relate that when actions of the [indecipherable] issues that you’re raising?
LINDA MELVERN: The Council -- yes, the Council should be told all the details. It’s extraordinary that secretariat officials manage peacekeeping in this way without letting the Council know the details of it.
QUESTION: It seems that the focus -- I’ve read a lot of details of the report. It’s really the fact that [indecipherable] the U.N. was able to act. That was my understanding of the gist of [indecipherable] of the report. The issues you’re raising are much more manipulation than recommendation and much more deliberate than kind of [indecipherable].
LINDA MELVERN: Well, you see, the problem really was that the option of reinforcements was not put to the Council. Dallaire almost immediately recommended that there be reinforcements, but that option was not put to the Council at all. There is a belief that once America and Britain had decided that there would be no action, then that possibility was not even put to the Council because there was no point. But when I talked to Dallaire about what happened in the Council and I told him how passionate the Czech Republic and the New Zealand ambassadors and his only response was the remark, “Their countries have armies, don’t they?”
LINDA MELVERN: “They have armies....” Where were the troops to send to Rwanda? There were offers from several African countries but no airlift was available and there was no equipment to send with them.
I think it’s very important to remember, when the majority of peacekeepers was withdrawn, there were 470 volunteers who stayed behind with Dallaire. “We believed in him and in his mission”, one of these volunteers told me. It is shocking the lack of acknowledgement shown this extraordinary group of people. During the genocide the Security Council, the Secretariat and member states failed even to re-supply these valiant peacekeepers.
QUESTION: I’d like to go to the source of the military deployment records. Most of the time the military [indecipherable] burn their records. Did the [indecipherable], what kind of actions [indecipherable] that gave you a sense of what you were being given? What’s the manipulation behind allowing [indecipherable]?
LINDA MELVERN: I found a document very recently from a military archive in Rwanda and dated September 1993 in which a colonel suggests they’d better start destroying documents. This archive is incomplete, obviously for the genocidaires destroyed or took as much as they could.
But you can’t really destroy all documents and it is a rare case where nothing at all remains. Very often pieces remain behind. They took a great deal with them and some of these documents were later abandoned in the refugee camps and were seized by the present government in Rwanda.
Let me tell you how I obtained access. I published a first version of my work on the genocide in The Scotsman in January 1995 and in a film, the final part of UN Blues, a TV series broadcast by Channel Four television. The story of the genocide, the Council meetings and the abandonment of Lt. General Dallaire appeared in my history of the UN, The Ultimate Crime, published in October, 1995. I decided almost immediately to write a book about the genocide and in 1997 I first had an interview with Paul Kagame, who was then the Vice-president. I mentioned how many documents I had accumulated about the genocide, certainly from within the UN and I told him that these documents should one day form an archive for Rwanda for this was his country’s history. I asked him if I could consult those documents left behind by the genocidaires when they fled and Kagame agreed. He considered me a professional in my field. I was writing an historical account of the genocide. No archive alone contains sufficient evidence though and has to be part of a larger project to show the bigger picture.
JERRY FOWLER: Following up on that, what is the condition of the documents that are there? Have they been archived and organized by the present government? Are they just sitting in boxes? What -- I mean, when you go in, what do you find in terms of -- part of her question was finding aids. I mean --
LINDA MELVERN: Some of them from G2 are still in their ring binders and still dated and filed neatly.
JERRY FOWLER: As they had been filed by --
LINDA MELVERN: The documents are as filed by the G2 military intelligence staff. Others are not. Others have been looked at, I think, by people in 1994 as they were found and then tossed aside. The documents that have been seized from the refugee camps are in a pitiful state and really need some substantial work.
There is also -- and I have not studied them -- but I think for the future they are absolutely crucial, and these are the files of the one party -- the MRND -- that go back to 1972, and they are intact. They are quite extraordinary, but they are beyond the scope of my immediate research. The focus of my research is the planning of the genocide and the response to the genocide.
QUESTION: I have a question that is very much related to a big controversy that is currently going on about, you know, what could we have done.
As you may know, there’s been a book published recently called, The Limits of Humanitarian Intervention: Genocide in Rwanda, (Brookings 2001) written by Alan Kuperman in which he claims that, first of all, the U.S. government didn’t identify the genocide until about three weeks after it started.
By the end of that time, about three-quarters of the killing was done and that in order to stop any further killing it would have taken an additional three weeks to airlift in the troops that could have possibly intervened. He assumed, of course, that all those troops had to be airlifted directly from the United States. What is your response?
LINDA MELVERN: From the moment the peacekeepers arrived, the extremists tested them, to see what their limitations were and to see how much violence the international community would tolerate. Genocide was already present in Rwanda; this was confirmed by two important human rights reports. The extremists watched and waited to see what the international community would do in the face of increasing racial tension and violence. It was obvious that the Tutsi were threatened, were demonized and subject to increasing racial attack.
After the President’s plane was shot down there was a great deal of activity and we still have much to learn about the events of April 7-10. The genocide did not begin immediately the plane crashed. There were moderates who tried to wrest power from the extremists but there was no help offered to them and no encouragement at all.
The decision to pull out all the ex-pats was taken with shocking speed. Indeed, as my book describes, an American official arrived in Kigali even before the plane crash with a plan of evacuation for all American nationals.
QUESTION: You mean before the plane crash?
LINDA MELVERN: Before the plane crashed. It’s in my book.
QUESTION: There was some question, wasn’t there, about whether that was --
LINDA MELVERN: The background to this is important. On April 5 -- the day before the plane crashed -- the mandate for UNAMIR was due for renewal and the Security Council held a meeting to discuss the mission. The Americans had argued that the mission be closed. The UN, it was argued, should help only those who help themselves. So delayed the peace process in Rwanda, the Americans argued, that it was becoming clear that the Rwandans were not serious about peace.
Some of the non-permanent members of the Council argued that Rwanda should be given more time to implement the peace agreement and achieve democracy and should receive the resources and attention given by the UN elsewhere, particularly in the former Yugoslavia where more UN peacekeepers were stationed than in anywhere else in the world. Rwanda could not be expected to achieve democracy in so short a time. There was compromise. On April 5 the Council gave the UN mission in Rwanda six weeks. Unless in six weeks the provisional broad-based government was created and the peace agreement was back on track, then the peacekeepers would pull out.
What signal did this send the extremists? It may be that if the international community had shown more resolve then perhaps the genocide would not have occurred at all. Was it a green light to those who were organizing, those who were planning? Why was the decision to evacuate the Americans and Europeans taken so quickly?
One of the UN officials involved with Rwanda, someone who would not go on the record, said to me: “Had we gone to the Council at that point and asked for reinforcements, we would have been laughed out of the chamber.”
At the time peacekeeping was very, very unpopular with the Congress of the US and with the Clinton administration. It was unpopular here in Washington because of the 18 US soldiers killed in Somalia in October 1993. And it was unpopular because of the money it was costing and America was liable for one-third of the total cost.
I know Alan J. Kuperman’s work. I do not believe that the genocide happened spontaneously everywhere. It first happened in three or four places, and it didn’t spread south to Butare until the end of the second week. The genocidaires watched carefully. They knew what was happening in the Security Council.
It was not until after April 15 when the Americans in the Council had rejected the very idea of reinforcements that the genocide spread south. This particular meeting of the Council is important to the timing of events for it comes just nine days after the genocide started. It was at this meeting that the Nigerian Ambassador, Ibrahim Gambari, had made a plea that reinforcements urgently be sent to Rwanda to save lives. American diplomats had dismissed the idea and pointed out that if a vote were forced on this issue then the US would push hard for the withdrawal of the entire UN mission. America’s firm stand that day was relayed by the Rwandan ambassador to the genocidaires in Kigali. The very next day, on Saturday April 16 there was a cabinet meeting of the “interim government” at which the decision was taken to spread the “pacification” -- genocide - to the south of the country. Within days militia had been bussed to Butare, Rwanda’s second city, and a university town. The militia members were installed in local hotels. Then the Presidential Guard arrived. It is estimated that in Butare some 100,000 people were killed.
Dallaire was once asked about Butare. He had looked at the questioner with some disdain. “If I had the mandate, the men and the equipment, hundreds of thousands of people would be alive today”.
QUESTION: What do you say about the fact that the Americans and -- I mean --I should say the French and the Belgians in particular were able to somehow get 1,000 troops into Kigali by April the 10th?
LINDA MELVERN: Greg, Dr. Stanton, I’m sorry, thank you for reminding me of this. I have conducted many interviews on this very issue and in particular with the commander of the Belgium peacekeepers, Colonel Luc Marchal. Marchal believes -- and Dallaire agrees -- that had the European troops that came to evacuate the ex-pats stayed on in Rwanda, then the genocide could have been stopped there and then; if the evacuation troops had joined forces with the UN peacekeepers a strong signal would have been send to the extremists that the world would not tolerate their actions.
There is one interesting and telling anecdote in the book when an aid worker based in Kigali in April 1994 describes how he was evacuated to the airport riding with his suitcases in a Rwandan army truck driven by Rwandan soldiers -- with an escort of French troops. The French military officers, obviously working closely with the Rwandan army, could surely have brought pressure to bear on the extremists -- military and militia -- organizing the killing.
The first massacre, one of the first large-scale massacres, as far as I can tell, took place on April 9. There was killing before that of course with barricades and roadblocks and the Interahamwe terrorizing and killing. But a pattern developed involving the Presidential Guard, and sometimes contingents from the Rwandan army who were used to seal the exits of churches, clinics and hospitals where the Tutsi and moderates had gone to find sanctuary. The militia was then used to carry out the killing with their machetes -- a method used to save grenades and bullets.
QUESTION: I have a couple of questions. Should I ask them all first?
LINDA MELVERN: Yes, please.
QUESTION: Okay. First, when the British ambassador to the U.N. said that he would [indecipherable] -- you were asking him how was that possible. Wasn’t there news [indecipherable] the media -- wasn’t the media -- well, was this news not even coming out by CNN at least or other sources before the West was acknowledging it? And why were they evacuated even before the plane crash?
LINDA MELVERN: Yes, I did ask the British ambassador how could it be that he didn’t know, and he told me that Rwanda had been in the French sphere. Rwanda was a Francophone country. I query this response for Britain has a permanent seat on the Security Council and having voted for a peacekeeping mission for Rwanda, then surely a duty exists to monitor how that peacekeeping mission is faring.
On the role of the media, the first use of the word “genocide,” as far as I can tell, was on April 11 -- Monday, April 11, in Liberation, the French newspaper. A journalist from Liberation, called Jean Philippe Ceppi had been taken to Gikondo where one of the first large-scale massacres of the genocide had taken place. Ceppi had gone to Gikondo with the Chief Delegate of the International Committee for the Red Cross, Philippe Gaillard. Gaillard had recognized that this was genocide. There was a pile of charred identity cards found in Gikondo as though in an attempt to wipe out any proof that the victims ever existed. Ceppi wrote a story about Gikondo in which he said, “This is genocide of the Tutsi, and given its speed, it will soon be over.” And then the word disappears and does not resurface until the end of April.
QUESTION: Wasn’t the film -- I mean, didn’t CNN --
LINDA MELVERN: There is footage of the killing, but the word “genocide” is not used, and the killing, could it not be part of a civil war? Could it not be “ancient tribal blood letting”? The few journalists in Rwanda were evacuated out on April 14. There are descriptions of their terrifying drive to the airport. And isn’t it always now a question of finance? Most major news organizations were covering Nelson Mandela’s inauguration in South Africa and their foreign crews and correspondents were busy.
It wasn’t until the Mandela inaugural was over that the foreign news editors started to look at Rwanda. By then, people were pouring from Rwanda into Tanzania in the fastest exodus the world had seen. The refugees became the crisis and not the genocide. It’s the use of the word -- it is the use of the word genocide that is so crucial here, because after April 11 and its use in Liberation, it disappeared. And by then, given the speed of the killing, it was almost over.
JERRY FOWLER: The New York Times used it, as you said, on April 23rd.
LINDA MELVERN: “What looks very much like a genocide may be occurring,” yes. “What looks like a genocide.” It’s like “acts of genocide.” I mean, it is either genocide or it is not genocide.
JERRY FOWLER: Jan’s an expert on the distinction between acts of genocide and genocide.
QUESTION: I have two questions, one general, one specific. First, that last one was about the evacuation. Why did they evacuate [indecipherable] would you say that?
LINDA MELVERN: The Security Council decision on April 5 giving the mission a six-week deadline was crucial. The transition between dictatorship and democracy is always the most dangerous time. To show a lack of resolve was a tragic error. It was tantamount to a suggestion to pull the British army out of Northern Ireland at the height of the troubles leaving extremists to their own devices.
I have with me copies of a piece that I just wrote for Contemporary Security Policy covering the use of the word genocide in regard to Rwanda in 1994.
QUESTION: Back to the [indecipherable] government. One, we may have evacuated from [indecipherable] talking to various people involved. They chose -- the U.S. ambassador in Rwanda chose not to ask for a military escort. In fact he declined an offer of a military escort and [indecipherable] themselves by driving into Burundi, and now they [indecipherable] risk to the American citizen, and therefore they saved no one from even the people loyal to the embassy, who have been working in the embassy for years. They saved no one, and from what I understand made no effort to save anyone. And in your research, have you found information about why that decision was made, and why there was no decision to at least try to save even the people closest to them.
Second, in more general terms, what cooperation, both officially and unofficially, have you received from the U.S. State Department in your research? Have you had access to their documents both officially and unofficially? Or have they declined to assist you?
LINDA MELVERN: Just one thing firstly. I understood that the convoy of U.S. nationals had a U.N. peacekeeping escort.
QUESTION: Yes, but you can have Marine -- you can have Marine air cover --
LINDA MELVERN: Oh, I see, yes. Right.
QUESTION: -- help you [indecipherable]. But from my understanding of a Marine pilot who was flying at the time, he was told, “They don’t need a Marine escort. They don’t need air power --
LINDA MELVERN: Oh, right, right. Right. That’s very interesting. I didn’t know that. Thank you. Thank you.
QUESTION: That’s what I’m trying to find out -- like, why were these decisions made.
LINDA MELVERN: And why were they made so quickly.
QUESTION: Why wouldn’t escorts -- if they wanted to save people, why didn’t they.
LINDA MELVERN: It’s worse than that. There was a contingent of army rangers in Burundi -- 250 army rangers.
QUESTION: Do we know when they --
LINDA MELVERN: They’d been sent in to help with the evacuation if they were needed.
QUESTION: When did they arrive? When did they arrive?
LINDA MELVERN: I don’t know the exact date, but it was certainly before April 10th when the U.S. left.
QUESTION: But it was after April 7th.
LINDA MELVERN: Because you see, I have an American operative from the
Cameroon who arrived in Kigali on the afternoon of Wednesday April 6 some hours before the plane came down -- with a plan to evacuate the Americans. Everybody knew Rwanda was on the brink. The purchase and the stockpiling of weapons was known, the racism and violence in the streets, the training of the militia - all this was known. None of this was a secret. Otherwise, why was the decision taken so quickly to evacuate the Americans and the Europeans? I think that it was assumed that the International Committee of the Red Cross would leave too.
And were it not for the personality of the chief delegate, Philippe Gaillard, I doubt that the ICRC would have stayed. Gaillard was given a choice whether or not to stay by the then President of the ICRC, Cornelio Sommaruga. When the crisis began all the agencies, the embassies and the charities shut their offices and abandoned their Rwandan staff. Everyone knew, from the terrified Tutsi in Gikondo to the European aid worker that Rwanda had fallen into the abyss.
In answer to your question, I have had no cooperation from the State Department nor have I sought any cooperation. I am very interested in the US decision-making process and I am aware of the research undertaken in the US. I’m based in London. I have had no co-operation either from the Foreign Office in London. The story of the UK reaction to what happened is particularly interesting given the fact that on May 9, 1994 Parliament was told that 200,000 people “may have perished in the recent fighting in Rwanda”. This was misleading.
By now the fact of genocide had already been debated in the Security Council. Nor was there Parliamentary scrutiny of British policy towards the crisis. A debate about Rwanda did not take place in the House of Commons until May 24. It was a late night debate and with only half a dozen people in the House, Tony Worthington MP (Labour, Clydebank and Milngavie) expressed shock that so little attention had been paid to Rwanda. “It is inconceivable that an atrocity in which half a million white people had died would not have been extensively debated in the House”, he said. Worthington pointed out that Britain was a signatory to the Genocide Convention. “Has there ever been a clearer example of gencoide?” he had asked.
JERRY FOWLER: On this issue of the United States State Department, I should add that we’re going to have Samantha Power here on March 26th to talk generally about her new book, America and the Age of Genocide. The book has, as I’m sure this audience knows, an important chapter that has to do with Rwanda. She has talked to a lot of U.S. government officials and seen a lot of documents, so she may be able to address that aspect of it more fully.
More questions? Jim?
QUESTION: Two questions about this question about 1993. First is -- I
believe his name is Peter Uvin and the book is called: “Aiding Violence: The Development Enterprise in Rwanda.” New Yiork: Kumarian Press, 1998.
LINDA MELVERN: Uvin, Peter. Peter Uvin.
QUESTION: Peter -- yes. He makes the contention that the international involvement in Spring of ’93 from the human rights groups and from the U.S. special [indecipherable] did have some impact on causing things to improve for a period of months. In fact, earlier in ’91 similar pressure resulted in the release of people who were being held.
I wanted to know how you evaluated that interpretation, and also you think that the previous U.S. ambassador support [indecipherable], who was there until like [indecipherable] ’93 hadn’t been so involved in the Arusha Accords. Do you think, since he’d been there since I think 1990 or earlier, would he have [indecipherable] better, or was it here in Washington that [indecipherable]? I can’t remember his name [indecipherable] somewhat more serious.
LINDA MELVERN: Firstly, let’s concentrate on 1993. It is notable how many warnings there were that the extremists were planning to derail the Arusha Agreement. The press has tended to focus on the January 11 cable from the UN Force Commander, Lt. General Romeo Dallaire, with news of an approach by an informant, said to come from the heart of Hutu Power and who outlined a plot that genocide was being planned. There were many, many warnings.
There was a crucial report written by Bacre Waly Ndiaye who was a Special Rapporteur with the UN Commission on Human Rights. The victims of violence in Rwanda, he reported in August 1993, were in the overwhelming majority of cases Tutsi and so the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the crime of Genocide of 1948 was applicable. Ndiaye said later that for all the attention his report received he might as well have thrown it into the sea. He said that if the Council has asked him he would have said that the mission created for Rwanda was too weak to make any difference. Habyarimana had no intention of sharing power. Ndiaye said that he would have recommended effective measures to protect civilians against organized massacres, which, he said, had been described by the authorities in Kigali as “spontaneous acts of anger”.
The President of the Security Council, Colin Keating, told me that with better information the Council might have acted quite differently. In some ways the UN Human Rights Commission report is as crucial as the Dallaire cable outlining a genocide plot.
I have no way of judging which U.S. ambassador would have been better placed, how different it would have been with a different ambassador. I do think that the Arusha Accords were somewhat unrealistic and impossible to implement without the means and the resolve to do so successfully.
There was provision in the Arusha Accords for the merger of the two armies, the 30,000 fighting forces of the Rwandan Government and the smaller army of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, (RPF). I note with interest that Bruce D. Jones has written about this issue in his important book, Peacemaking in Rwanda. The Dynamic of Failure, (Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2001). The merger of the two armies was a sensitive subject and it had nearly destroyed the peace process but agreement had been reached on troop numbers and high command membership.
What profoundly shocked Dallaire was the lack of resources provided to undertake this massive demobilization. Neither was he provided with the means to oversee the merger of the armies.
QUESTION: If there were to be a U.S. inquiry, one thing I think we need to look at is the lack of continuity in U.S. personnel. I mean, that may have been more than just the ambassador, which was changed in the Fall of ’93. And so you have a peace accord negotiated with a lot of American involvement, and then the implication of those accords being done by at least a new team leader and perhaps then [indecipherable] had other changes as well. I mean, that’s the question that I would want to know more about and how it [indecipherable].
LINDA MELVERN: Jim, you mention an inquiry. It is worth remembering that one of the recommendations of the Belgium senate inquiry -- one of the best inquiries in that it revealed so much -- and one of its recommendations was that each member state on the Council in April 1994 conduct an inquiry into its own decision making process. I believe that there should be an inquiry in the US and in UK and sooner rather than later, sooner rather than waiting some twenty years.
JERRY FOWLER: Jan.
QUESTION: I’m curious -- inside Rwanda now. This whole scenario is being taken in kind of a post-conquest justice peace because there -- the whole dichotomy between the civil war, genocide and batting that around -- I mean, you look at the defense of [indecipherable] and he’s saying, “Well, you know, it’s a civil war.” Well, it’s still being played out. And this whole kind of looking at the international community thing, that kind of looking back game is also happening inside Rwanda. It’s happening at all the levels of justice peace.
Do you have any sense of how Rwandans themselves seek a role in the international community? When I say “Rwanda [indecipherable],” it’s not monolithic but how does this book or is this book [indecipherable] play a role in kind of Rwanda’s internalizing what happened? It’s a very vague question.
LINDA MELVERN: Both Jerry and I were in Rwanda in December just after the news that Kofi Annan and the U.N. had been awarded the Nobel Peace Price, news which didn’t go down too well.
I gave a talk in London a year ago at which there was someone in the audience who threatened me, who said, “Now, you -- you’ve got it completely wrong. This was a civil war and there was death on both sides.” And of course, as you know, that’s being played out in Arusha daily with the defense of those who stand accused of genocide.
There are people who claim that this genocide did not take place. How this is in Rwanda nowadays, I’m sorry to disappoint you but I do not know. My expertise is solely on the planning, the organization, and the response to the genocide. I think that it’s very important that the documents that I have collected should eventually be made as widely available as possible because they show the evolution of extreme racism leading to genocide. You know, I’ve come to believe that genocide evolves; it doesn’t just -- you know there’s not one meeting. And that’s what I’m concentrating on all the time.
QUESTION: You mentioned that [indecipherable] alleged [indecipherable] not knowing about it, that that is a Francophone company and [indecipherable]. I’m just curious to know what France’s official position was to the same question and what [indecipherable].
LINDA MELVERN: There are details in my book about France’s role and how France armed and supported Rwanda. I think perhaps, though, the most important thing to remember is that the extremists in Rwanda were given the impression by those in charge of French policy that whatever they did, France would be supportive. France supported a regime, as human rights groups have shown us, that in the three years leading to the genocide had killed 2,000 of its own citizens in organized massacres, and yet France continued to support this racist regime and actively support the extremists within it.
As an investigative journalist it is a great disappointment to me to see in one French TV documentary a room full of shredded documents - a huge pile -- in a room in the abandoned French embassy in Kigali just after the hurried evacuation. A room full of shredded documents! I think everything was destroyed in the French embassy, and it’s going to take generations for us to know the real role that France played.
QUESTION: What was their official response?
LINDA MELVERN: The official response has been to deny the arming and the training. They deny it. You must look very carefully at the French inquiry into the genocide -- I call it quite openly in my book a whitewash. It’s a whitewash. In France Africa policy was handled by the Elysee, by the President and the Africa cell based in the Presidential palace in Paris, and this cell had more of a role than the foreign ministry or the ministry of cooperation. The policy towards Rwanda was a secret policy arrived at secretly within the presidential palace.
Francois Mitterrand’s son was very close to the sons of the President of Rwanda, Juvenal Habyarimana. They had holidays together. And yet Mitterrand’s son was able to go to the Inquiry and deny any knowledge of any relationship at all with the Habyarimana family, and I think, too, it’s a great shame that the French press seems to have dropped it. You know, there’s an enormous amount of work to be done.
LINDA MELVERN: Yes.
LINDA MELVERN: Habyarimana, the president for twenty years in Rwanda.
QUESTION: There’s a lot of denial that genocide was going on, a very active denial, precisely for the reason you say -- they did not want to get American troops involved. And if this was a civil war, then the argument used was that you’re getting into a quagmire.
Genocide may be a different thing. But the problem with that whole line of reasoning is the fact that genocide occurs during wartime, that civil war in factis the setting for genocide, a cover for genocide.
LINDA MELVERN: I can only answer that really on behalf of my own profession. I think that by April 1994 we had somehow lost the meaning of the word genocide. It had been bandied about so often in relation to former Yugoslavia that the sense of it was lost. The meaning of it was lost. And journalists did not quite understand what it meant, you know, the weight of it.
In Rwanda in 1994, before April, genocide was already present -- you know, as we knew from human rights groups. So not to have used it in this context I find unforgivable.
JERRY FOWLER: Well, with that I think we’ll bring this session to a close. I’d like to thank all of you for coming and thank Linda very much for taking the time.
By the way, the book is for sale in the Museum shop upstairs, along with other books about Rwanda and other issues. So, thank you very much for coming. As I said, March 26, also at 12:30, Samantha Power will be here. So I hope to see you again.