Friday 26 May 2006
In the waiting room of the Rwandan genocide tribunal
Why I agreed to be an expert witness for the defence – and why the judge wouldn’t let me.
Back in early 2005, I received an email from Ben Gumpert, the lead defence lawyer for one of the accused at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. An expert witness for the prosecution had submitted a report that dealt extensively with a pamphlet I wrote about Rwanda. Having read the pamphlet himself, Gumpert felt that I had been misrepresented and that it would be useful if I were to clear matters up in court. He had also read other publications of mine on Rwanda, and believed I was well-placed to counter the view of the prosecution that the tragic events in Rwanda during 1994 were largely an internal matter.
My first reaction was sceptical. So far as I was concerned, the Tribunal had already shown itself less than able to conduct fair trials and was a highly politicised body toeing the line of the US, its primary sponsor. And since I had already published material making that argument about the court, I thought the court would reject me. I would end up wasting a lot of time preparing for what would turn out to be a non-appearance.
However, following much further discussion, I decided to give it a go. Of course, I knew that appearing for the defence in a genocide trial would tar me as an apologist for the savages who really did murder hundreds of thousands of civilians simply because they were of the same ethnic origin as the majority of the rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front. But that has long been an easy shot against anyone who refuses to follow the official version of events in Rwanda.
I thought it was worth a try because my material had already been (badly) presented by the prosecution and was now a part of its official documentation. And apart from feeling the urge to put the record straight on my own work, I also felt that the official claims about what happened in Rwanda – that the extermination of a huge number of Tutsis was caused by a reaction on the part of Hutu extremists to what was, until April 1994, a successful transition process towards peace and democracy – was beginning to unravel.
According to this version, Western powers had turned a new leaf with the passing of the Cold War in Africa and had played a positive role in encouraging Rwanda’s progress toward ethnic harmony and democracy. All would have been fine had Hutu extremists not planned and executed genocide in order to reverse these gains and retain their power. But by 2005, the evidence for such planning and execution was beginning to wear thin, while evidence of the role of the rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front, and the support given to it by Uganda and the US, was showing that the roots of the tragedy were in the international sphere and could not be fully explained by a conspiracy of disaffected Hutus.
The cracks were beginning to show; the truth would eventually come out. Were that to happen, I would feel a sense of vindication to be on record as one of the early dissenters from the original version of events. (For a full account of my arguments on the war in Rwanda, see my report to the court, ‘The international dynamics behind the Rwandan tragedy’, published below.)
My appearance was supposed to have been on 4 December 2005, but the prosecution wanted more time to study my report to the court. The next available slot was 20 March 2006. But upon my arrival in Arusha, Tanzania, two days earlier, Ben Gumpert told me that the prosecution had suddenly raised an objection to my appearance. Apparently, they hadn’t had enough time to go over my curriculum vitae.
I was driven to the court from my hotel on the appointed day, and escorted to a small waiting room at 9am. An hour later, nothing had happened. Finally, at 11.30am, Jonathon Kirk from the defence team told me that I would not be appearing that day. The judge had agreed that the prosecution needed more time to obtain more documents to support my cv. The next day I had to sign documents that elaborated upon my cv. I was then told to be in court that afternoon – for a public hearing of my suitability as an expert witness. This meant another session in the waiting room, from 2.30pm until 4.45pm when an ashen-faced Gumpert told me that the judges had allowed the prosecution yet more time, and that I would need to appear the following Monday, not to testify, but to face questions about my suitability as an expert. Yet the judges knew that their functionaries had already booked me on my return flight the Saturday before….
Gumpert also asked me a question that the prosecutor had put to him: had I been convicted in South Africa for possession of pornography? No, I replied – and for what it’s worth, I have no criminal record either in South Africa, where I grew up and lived until I was 27, or in Britain, where I have lived since. This was no more than a shot in the dark intended to rattle me. I said it was reminiscent of the sort of questions I’d had to deal with at the hands of the apartheid-era security police. Not becoming of an international criminal tribunal, perhaps.
On 22 April 2006, I took another flight to Arusha at the expense of the United Nations. The following day I actually made it from the waiting room into the court. Three judges in front of me. Three teams of defence lawyers to my left (three trials were running concurrently), and one team of prosecutors to my right. First the friendly questions from Gumpert. I confirmed that I had run a Masters course on the international politics of Africa at the School of African and Oriental Studies at the University of London. I had been interviewed for this position on the strength of a paper on Rwanda I presented at a British International Studies Association conference. I was to stand in for a year for someone who was on sabbatical. At the end of that year, the politics department asked me to stay on: they needed a tutor for another Masters course in International and Diplomatic Studies.
After confirming all of what was in front of me in my cv, it was then the prosecution’s turn. ‘After being the sole lecturer for a Masters course, you became merely a tutor. Isn’t it correct to say that, in the academic world, a tutor is the lowest of the low?’ And so it went on. I was in the process of completing my PhD; I wasn’t yet a doctor of philosophy; my publications were not in the top international relations journals. I was no longer a professional academic; my job was different from my academic work.
All true, but also well known to the prosecution last December. ‘So your interest in Rwanda is merely a hobby, something you do in your spare time…?’ This went on all day. I kept my cool, and when given the opportunity I said that the only issue that needed to be considered was the substance of my publications, and report to the court, and their relevance to the case. I also said that I had felt a certain obligation to appear since an expert witness presented by the prosecution had devoted a considerable portion of his report to the court to my material.
The judges told me to return the next morning for the ruling on my suitability. The following morning I spent another four hours in the waiting room. As it turned out, I was not called to the court. One of their minions appeared and told me that the judges had ruled against my appearance and he had instructions to drive me back to my hotel.
An extremely deflated and angry Ben Gumpert joined me for lunch at the hotel. As it turned out, the court had not been in session until 12pm. Proceedings were held up in order that a letter explaining the ruling could be drafted. The gist of the letter is that while I am ‘taking steps toward attaining a certain level of expertise’, I have ‘not yet attained that status’.
Of course I felt cheated and outraged. But I had to remind myself of my initial thoughts when I was first approached to appear. At the outset, the judge had agreed to my appearance, but that was before my report was received. The prosecution were then given free rein to play their games.
What is really outrageous is not so much the court’s treatment of me; after all, I was not the accused (although it sometimes felt that way). It was the fact that an international tribunal could conduct itself in such a manner. Justin Mugenzi is charged with the worst of all crimes: genocide. He has been on trial since 1999. At the very least, the planning and execution of genocide would need to be fully established before a full examination of an individual’s role within it could be determined.
But it’s clear why these cases take so long – dealing with my non-appearance as an expert witness used up the best part of three-and-a-half days of the trial, spread over four months. Because of all the time and preparation for my appearance, the defence is left unable to find a replacement expert. This means the defence lawyers have no choice but to accept the official explanation for the Rwandan genocide as given by the tribunal’s guru, Alison Des Forges of Human Rights Watch. This explanation rests on the behaviour of good (‘moderate’) and bad (‘extremist’) Hutus. Ironically, Mugenzi was a ‘moderate’ because he was leader of the Liberal Party which stood against ethnic domination and had the highest percentage of Tutsis of any opposition party of significance. But then, according to the prosecution, he turned into an ‘extremist’ when his party split.
What they really mean is that he turned against the Western-sponsored Arusha Accords that had elevated the unelectable Rwandan Patriotic Front into a dominant position. The fact that the Accords had thereby posed a grave threat to Rwanda’s move towards democracy does not figure where the definition of moderates and extremists are concerned. After all, this is a story about the good, the bad, and the genocidaire.
The international dynamics behind the Rwandan tragedy
Report for the International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda, by Barrie Collins, January 2006.
Of the many countries in the developing world that experienced the destabilising effects of Western intervention in the post-Cold War era, Rwanda stands out as one of the most tragic and least understood. The tragedy of Rwanda is evidenced most strikingly by the horror of countless lives lost and livelihoods destroyed, and also by the torn fabric of a society that was, despite its poverty and reliance upon external inputs, in the process of generating its own developmental dynamic. What is misunderstood is the mediation between the various forms of intervention by the international community in general, and by a few Western powers in particular, and the dynamics that unleashed the mass slaughter that erupted in April 1994.
Because the international community failed to intervene and put an end to the killings of civilians at this time, Rwanda is known around the world for one thing above all others: a shameful episode of international non-intervention. The prevailing perspective has it that the preceding interventions by Western powers were by and large positive ones that had facilitated democratisation, economic reform and conflict resolution. Indeed, the cumulative outcome of these processes, the Arusha Accords, was regarded at the time as exemplary and a vindication of a cosmopolitan humanitarianism that had become viable with the passing away of Cold War vested interests.
As a result, the political crisis that developed upon the signing of the Arusha Accords, and the slide into the abyss that culminated in mass slaughter in 1994, are not thought to be attributable to any extent to the effects of actions taken by Western powers. With the partial exception of France, no Western actor is thought to be accountable for taking actions that contributed to the Rwandan tragedy. Responsibility for the explosion of violence is held to be with domestic elements. The failure to implement the Arusha Accords, the escalating civil disorder during the interlude between the signing of the Accords in August 1993 and the outbreak of renewed war and massacres in April 1994, are all attributed to a conspiracy devised by Hutu extremists.
As a result, the United Nations and the key Western actors that were involved are not thought to be in any way responsible for intervening in ways that contributed to the polarisation of Rwandan society and accelerating the downward spiral toward mass killings. Rather, they are condemned for not intervening enough. Responsibility for the killings is located solely with Hutu extremism.
Of course, the individuals who actually performed and facilitated killings are fully responsible for their actions. But the wider social forces that created the conditions for mass killing are not solely attributable to conspiracies of Hutu extremists. The view of this author is that this position ignores evidence that suggests more salient contributing factors.
The argument developed here challenges what can be termed the mainstream position which holds that between 1990 and April 1994, the international community played a positive role in Rwanda, and that the progress attributable to this role was sabotaged and destroyed by a conspiracy of Hutu extremists who planned a genocide in order to derail the democratic process and permanently secure ‘Hutu power’. The fact that Tutsi civilians were killed because they were Tutsis is not in question. What is in question is how the conditions that led to the killings were created, and by whom.
The war between the RPF and the forces of the Rwandan government provides the central and overriding context of the killings that were unleashed in April 1994. Once the killings commenced, they became a component of the resumed war between these same two parties. While the military victory of the RPF is attributed to the ending of the killings of Tutsi civilians, this author concurs with the view of René Lemarchand that the RPF ‘bears much of the onus of responsibility for the carnage, for without the RPF invasion there would have been no genocide’(1). Even African Rights, a human rights organisation viewed by many as the most partisan toward the RPF (2), states that ‘…it is beyond dispute that the RPF invasion of 1 October 1990 was the single most important factor in escalating the political polarisation of Rwanda, and plunging it into a war that displaced hundreds of thousands of people.’ (3)
This author endorses the view of Alan Kuperman that:
‘There are four potential explanations for the RPF pursuing a violent challenge that provoked such tragic consequences. One possibility is that the Tutsi rebels did so irrationally, without thinking of expected consequences. A second is that they did contemplate consequences, but their expectations did not include retaliation against civilians. A third is that the RPF expected violence against Tutsi civilians regardless of whether it challenged the Hutu regime, and so perceived little extra risk from doing so. The final possibility is that the rebels expected their challenge to provoke genocidal retaliation but viewed this as an acceptable cost of achieving their goal of attaining power in Rwanda. The evidence detailed in this study supports only the last explanation.’ (4)
Kuperman reached this conclusion having interviewed several former senior members of the RPF, including Patrick Mazimpaka - director of external affairs and top peace negotiator during the war, Theogene Rudasingwa - deputy peace negotiator and later chief of cabinet, Karenzi Karake – director of war operations in 1994, Dennis Karera – top delegate to the 1991 peace talks, Aloysie Inyumba – head of finance, Charles Murigande – representative in Washington during the war, Emmanuel Ndahiro –personal physician to the leader Paul Kagame, and Wilson Rutaysire – member of the executive committee and later minister of information (5).
His research findings compliment that which this author has acquired in his own interviews with other RPF dissidents in Belgium. Relations between the RPF and the population of the northern regions were hostile from the outset. Instead of attempting to win local people over, the RPF launched offensives that drove hundreds of thousands of people off their land and into internal displacement camps. Each offensive prompted retaliatory attacks against Tutsi civilians. By the end of the RPF’s largest offensive of February 1993 a million Rwandans were displaced. The impact was felt throughout this small country, and Rwandan society consequently polarised. The fact that the RPF membership was overwhelmingly Tutsi inevitably led to a targeting of non-combatant Tutsi families, and intensified anti-Tutsi racism. Having witnessed the effects of these offensives at first hand, the RPF could not have been in any doubt about the likely consequences that any further military attacks on their part would have.
The RPF’s ability to wage war and continue planning ever more forceful offensives while negotiating peace owes to its astute military and political acumen that recognised and exploited the possibilities that were open to them, thanks to the conducive international environment in which they operated. Vital and continuous support was given to the RPF by the Ugandan government of Yoweri Museveni. Museveni was in turn able to provide this support (and maintain his denial that he was so doing) because of the close relations he enjoyed with the United States government. The RPF’s own direct contacts with the United States provided them with insights as to how to utilise human rights-based arguments to legitimise its war. Through successfully demonising the Habyarimana regime on the grounds of its human rights abuses, the RPF was able to obscure its own human rights record, and, more importantly, win sympathy within the international community for its war. This support was given despite the absence of justification for the RPF’s war, despite the obvious human suffering generated by the war, and despite the fear and hostility of local people toward the RPF in the war zone and its periphery.
By early 1992, the war had turned in the RPF’s favour. By the end of its February 1993 offensive, it was demonstrably the stronger military power. With the signing of the Arusha Accords, the RPF was also set to become the strongest political force in the proposed transitional government. The RPF’s greatest weakness was the extent of its unpopularity within Rwandan society as a whole, which would undoubtedly have become evident had the scheduled elections taken place.
By the end of 1993, there was a stark asymmetry between the strength of support between the RPF and influential sections of the international community on the one hand, and the lack of support given to the RPF by the overwhelming majority of the Rwandan population on the other. The RPF needed to avoid elections and opt for a military seizure of power. With the long-anticipated departure of the French military from Rwanda, the way was cleared for a military take-over. What was needed was an excuse to resume the war. Allegations concerning the RPF’s assassination of President Habyarimana, by way of shooting down his plane, would, if proven to be true, have shown that the RPF deliberately provoked the killings in order to have an an excuse to resume its war. Since previous political killings had resulted in reprisals against civilians, the assassination of arguably the most prominent figure in Rwandan politics was certain to trigger off mass killings. Mass killings in which Tutsi civilians were singled out would be a plausible justification in the eyes of the international community for the RPF to resume the war. The RPF’s experience to date of influencing the political dispositions of the international human rights community would have helped them to regard this calculation as one that was viable.
What follows is an elaboration of the points made above.
Uganda’s role in the RPF’s war
The leadership of the RPF were the offspring of the exiled Tutsi elite who fled Rwanda in the wake of the overthrow of the colonial order at the time of Rwanda’s independence. During the periods of German and Belgian rule, colonial power had been exercised indirectly through a Tutsi-dominated order. Many of the Tutsis who settled in Uganda played a significant part in the guerrilla war that brought Museveni to power 1986. As a result, some of these exiles rose to senior positions in the Ugandan regime. The RPF invasion of Rwanda from Uganda began on 1st October 1990, while Museveni and Habyarimana were attending a United Nations conference in New York. Uganda denied all knowledge or complicity in the invasion. In a briefing to the defence attaches of foreign embassies on 3rd October, Ugandan army commander Major General Mugisha Muntu, said that the scale of the desertions had caught the army by surprise and the military intelligence staff were ‘highly embarrassed’ (6).
On the same day the Vice Chairman of the National Resistance Movement, Kigongo, issued a statement that the army was sealing the border with Rwanda and that deserters forced to return here would be disarmed, arrested and charged with desertion (7). Yet, according to the Human Rights Watch ‘Arms Watch Project’ there is no evidence that any were arrested.
On the contrary, RPF Commander Paul Kagame travelled often and openly to Kampala where he met with journalists, foreign supporters and diplomats throughout the war, but was never arrested. The project also concluded that there was ‘institutional complicity’ based on findings that ‘...Uganda provided weapons, munitions and other military supplies to the RPF. These included munitions, automatic rifles, mortars, artillery and Soviet-designed Katyusha multiple rocket systems… and that Uganda allowed the rebel movement to use its territory as a sanctuary for the planning of attacks, stockpiling of weapons, raising of funds and movement of troops’ (8).
In a speech the following year, Museveni made this guarded admission, ‘The truth of the matter is that these people conspired, took us by surprise, and went to Rwanda, which was not particularly difficult…. . We had some information that the Banyarwanda in Uganda were up to something, but we shared it with the Rwandan government. They actually had, or should have had, more information because, after all, it was their business, not ours, to follow up who was plotting what.’ (9) Eight years after the event, Museveni admitted his support. He told other heads of state that, while the Banyarwanda in the Ugandan army, the National Resistance Army (NRA), had informed him in advance ‘of their intention to organise to regain their rights in Rwanda’, they had launched the invasion ‘without prior consultation’. Significantly, he continued, even though ‘faced with [a] fait accompli situation by our Rwandan brothers’, Uganda decided ‘to help the Rwandan Patriotic Front materially, so that they are not defeated because that would have been detrimental to the Tutsi people of Rwanda and would not have been good for Uganda’s stability’ (10).
With the signing of the N’Sele ceasefire agreement in July 1992, a commitment was made that all foreign troops would leave Rwanda after the effective establishment of a neutral monitoring group (NMOG), under the auspices of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). President Museveni’s position as chairman of the Organisation of African Unity in 1991 and 1992 helped him render NMOG less than effective in monitoring troop movements across the mountainous border between Uganda and Rwanda. RPF dissidents speak of their military centre of Nakivale, just inside Uganda (11). According to James Gasana, Rwandan Minister of Defence at the time, when the RPF launched their offensive of 8 February 1993 its forces were boosted by three elite battalions of the NRA (12). Gasana alleges that ‘close to 40,000 people of Hutu ethnicity were massacred by the rebels in the prefectures of Ruhengeri and Byumba’ (13).
The role of the United States
The war waged by Uganda and the RPF was facilitated by the United States in various ways. President Museveni was favoured by the United States as the foremost of the representatives of what they viewed as Africa’s ‘new leaders’ (along with Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia and Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea). In addition to supporting the style of governance pursued by these leaders, the United States also supported them as proxies in its efforts to deal with the ‘terrorist’ state of Sudan (14). Support for Museveni’s government was reflected in the levels of aid it received and in favoured treatment as far as negotiations on debt payments were concerned. Between 1989 and 1992, the U.S. alone provided almost $183 million in economic aid enabling Uganda to finance the invasion. This sum is as much as all U.S. aid to Uganda over the previous 27 years.’ (15)
Bruce Jones gives the following account of American knowledge of Uganda’s role in the invasion:
‘The fact that the FAR was caught off-guard was in part a function of U.S. intelligence. In December 1989 Habyarimana had asked the U.S. Department of State to verify Rwandan intelligence reports of RPF mobilization along the Ugandan border. Herman Cohen, then assistant secretary of state for African affairs, recalls that he consulted with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which reported it had no intelligence on troop activity in southern Uganda, having ‘turned off’ the CIA’s monitoring presence there. Unwilling to reveal that U.S. intelligence was not watching events in the region, Cohen reported back to Habyarimana that the United States had no intelligence on troop activity, without clarifying why. Evidently, Habyarimana took Cohen at his somewhat disingenuous word. In point of fact, U.S. intelligence sources (’turned on’ after Habyarimana’s visit) later confirmed what many observers suspected: that the NRA was providing direct support to the RPF inside Uganda, including transporting arms from depots in Kigali [author’s note: this is clearly a mistake, Jones must have meant Kampala] to the border for RPF use, making Ugandan military hospitals accessible to RPF casualties, and keeping civilians clear from strategic crossings into Rwanda, which had previously been unguarded.’ (16) Cohen was later to write that ‘hindsight reveals that RPF preparations in Uganda were hard to miss’ (17).
The invasion took place while presidents Habyarimana and Museveni were in New York attending a United Nations General Assembly debate. Cohen was also there, along with President Bush (senior) and Secretary of State James Baker. In his book, Intervening in Africa: superpower peacekeeping in a troubled continent, Cohen gives an account of how the news of the invasion was received. The annual General Assembly debate began on October 2nd 1990, with the Summit on the Child. It drew an unusually large number of heads of state, including 25 from Africa, all of whom wanted to meet Bush. A coffee morning with Bush was arranged for the African heads of state the following morning at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
‘Afterward, an incredulous Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana told me that in a discussion lasting one hour, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni kept insisting that he knew nothing about the invasion and was not in a position to do anything about it.’…’Later that day, the Belgian ambassador, Herman Dehennin, called to inform me that Museveni had called him with a message for the Belgian government: ‘Please do not send troops to Rwanda to help the Rwandan government cope with the invasion.’ Dehennin also told me that the French ambassador had received a similar call. In other words, Museveni was not such a disinterested bystander after all.’ (18)
The United States was also not a disinterested bystander. While Museveni continued denying his support for the invasion, claiming that the RPF members in the NRA had deserted, the United States made no attempt to put the record straight. It seems that, despite Cohen’s revelations of what he knew, the story of the ‘desertion’ was allowed to become the accepted version, at least for the time being. According to Robert Flaten, American ambassador to Rwanda between December 1990 and December 1993, the US said nothing about the invasion because its embassy in Uganda ‘bought Museveni’s lies about non-involvement.’ (19)
The refusal on the part of the United States to condemn the invasion is revealing when one considers the extent to which it was engaged with promoting democratic reform within Rwanda and in facilitating the return of the Tutsi refugees from Uganda. The RPF justified its invasion by claiming that President Habyarimana was intransigent on these two issues. Many Western observers and journalists echoed this position. However, the United States knew that this claim was disingenuous because of its own involvement. Let us consider first the issue of refugee return.
In February 1988, President Habyarimana visited Uganda to start negotiations on the return of refugees. In a speech in Semuto on 5th February 1988, he stated that the claims of the refugees to return to their country were legitimate and that their continued refugee status was unacceptable (20). A Joint Ministerial Commission was established between Uganda and Rwanda to explore ways of solving the refugee issue. This was followed by a decision by both governments to seek assistance from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to carry out a survey in refugee settlements to determine whether refugees wished to go back to Rwanda or continue staying in Uganda (21). In July 1990, a breakthrough was achieved on the issue between the UNHCR and the governments of Uganda and Rwanda (22).
On 28 September, Habyarimana told the United Nations General Assembly that his government would offer citizenship and travel documents to all Rwandan refugees wherever they were and that it would repatriate all those who wanted to return to Rwanda (23). Rwanda’s minister of agriculture sent teams of agronomists to assess making land available for refugee settlement. Land that was being held for research purposes for the ministry of agriculture was to be acquired for refugee settlement (24). A visit by a delegation of Tutsi refugees was planned for the 25th September, but on that day the visit was cancelled. The reason for the cancellation became evident a few days later, with the RPF’s invasion (25).
Joyce Leader, then assistant secretary to Robert Flaten, the United States ambassador to Rwanda from January 1991 to December 1993, and who was given the job because of her expertise on refugee issues, stated that ‘the right of refugees, mostly Tutsi, to return to Rwanda was one of the principle causes of the RPF invasion….nevertheless, even before the RPF invasion in October 1990, Habyarimana’s government was taking steps with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to plan for the refugee return. Indeed, when the RPF launched its military attack in 1990, plans were in progress for representatives of the refugees in Uganda to return to Rwanda to see for themselves the conditions in Rwanda and to report to their people. This visit, however, never took place as the invasion intervened.’ (26)
Yet, in a statement to a joint hearing of the Senate Subcommittee on African Affairs and the House Subcommittee on African Affairs, Herman Cohen seemed to forget this when he stated that ‘(T)he members of the two Sub-Committees will recall that the crisis in Rwanda did not begin in April, 1994, but in October, 1990 when 3,000 Rwandan Tutsi troops from the Ugandan army invaded their ancestral homeland under the RPF banner. They undertook this operation out of a romantic idea that they could open the doors of Rwanda to the return of several hundred thousand Tutsi refugees who had fled to Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi and Zaire 25 years earlier. (By decree of the Habyarimana government, the Tutsi refugees were forever prohibited from returning)’ (27).
Let us now consider the issue of Rwanda’s democratic reform process.
In January 1989, Habyarimana declared before the new legislature that there was a need for the reform of the political system. The Secretariat of the MRND was requested to undertake a new study to reform the party in order to make it better equipped to meet the new challenges (28). In addition to these domestic initiatives, French pressure was applied at the Francophone Africa Summit of June 1990, at La Baule, Brittany. At the summit French President Mitterand announced that following the end of the Cold War, the West was urging its partner countries to introduce democratic reforms. He declared France’s willingness to provide military safeguards for the transition process (29).
After La Baule, on July 5th 1990, Habyarimana stated that his ruling party, the Mouvement Révolutionnaire National pour le Développement (MRND) would undergo a revision of its political principles, a kind of aggiornamento, and that the country was going to know a process of democratization by reactivating the multiparty system that had been suspended in 1965 (30). The following day he announced the necessity for the separation of the party and state (31). In August, a manifesto calling for democratic reforms was signed by thirty-three opposition intellectuals. On September 21st, the National Commission set up by the President to prepare for the introduction of multi-party democracy was in place and advised on its reform (32).
When the new constitution was signed into law in June 1991, Western diplomats in Kigali - particularly representatives of the US who had funded conferences on constitutional reform and even paid for the printing of much of the government’s constitutional literature - were ‘deeply satisfied by the move to pluralism’ (33). America responded with more aid. In July 1991 Cohen announced an increase in aid from 11.6 million dollars in 1990 to 20 million dollars in 1991, stating that on ‘both the plane of politics and economics, Rwandans are doing very well’ (34).
Although the reform process had barely begun at the time of the RPF invasion, the U.S. had been in close communication with France and shared the French view at the time that Habyarimana appeared to have a sincere commitment to the process. ‘Rwanda was already leaning toward democratic reforms by October 1990’, writes Cohen (35). This commitment did not subsequently diminish as a result of the security problems caused by the war. Ambassador Flaten was personally impressed by Habyarimana’s commitment toward instituting democratic reform (36).
The US was therefore aware that the RPF’s invasion was in no way the last resort of people who were demanding the rights of refugee return and democratic government. Yet the U.S. did more than look the other way and refuse to condemn the invasion. After the invasion was repulsed there was an opportunity to ensure that Museveni be true to his word and cease all support for the rebels, and encourage them to accept Habyarimana’s offer of amnesty and invitation to join the multi-party system. If the U.S. was sincere about assisting Rwanda’s democratic reforms it would have demanded that the RPF eschew violence. But instead, the U.S. lent its weight upon Habyarimana to recognise the rapidly resurgent rebel army as a legitimate force with whom he should negotiate. In May 1991, Habyarimana’s suspicions of American support for the RPF were confirmed when Herman Cohen demanded that President Habyarimana accept the RPF as a problem that Rwanda, not Uganda, had to address (37). There was no longer any discussion about the RPF as illegal ‘deserters’ from the Ugandan army.
This was an extraordinary move on America’s part, since an observation at the time was that ‘most Rwandans and the diplomatic and aid community believe that the RPF had no alternative but to denounce the reforms and fight on because, as an almost exclusively Tutsi group, it would have no chance at the polls, were it to enter politics. Others went further, claiming that the RPF’s refusal to accept the government’s amnesty and invitation to join the multi-party system as proof that the RPF wanted to fight its way to power and install a minority regime (38).
In fact, American ties with the RPF leadership preceded the invasion of October 1990. Under its International Military Education and Training (IMET) programme, the United States was training Rwandan Tutsis who were in the NRA at the time of the invasion. The most prominent was Paul Kagame. With the death of Rwigyema, the first RPF leader who led the invasion, Kagame broke off his training at the Command and General Staff College (he was in his third of a nine month course) at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He flew back to Uganda and took over the leadership of the RPF. On the eve of his departure, Kagame was given a ‘warm send-off.’ (39) As a battle-hardened senior military man, Kagame would not have missed the remaining military training. The main gain of his time there was through the official contacts he made, and the knowledge about using communication and information warfare. Lieutenant-Colonel Tony Marley, who was to play a key role in negotiating ceasefires between the RPF and the FAR, and himself a graduate of Fort Leavenworth, cautions against overplaying the training Kagame received, and adds that ‘probably the best thing he acquired there was a better understanding of Americans, which he probably put to good political effect over the following months/years.’ (40)
Kagame is quoted saying that ‘the US experience added something. Central to my studies in Leavenworth were organisation, tactics, strategy, building human resources, Psy-Ops [psychological operations], information, psychology and information among the troops.’ (41) Many of Kagame’s subordinates received similar training, including instruction in the use of surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) at the Barry Goldwater Air Force Range at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona (42).
A former East Africa desk official of the United States Agency for International Development, Harald Marwitz, wrote that, ‘as early as 1989, U.S. Embassy reporting telegrams to the State Department cited reports from reliable sources in Rwanda - such as foreign military observers - documenting Ugandan involvement in incipient border skirmishes and the subsequent invasion of Rwanda. There were at least 56 of these situation reports, or ‘sitreps’, in State Department files in 1991. In the same year, a U.S. Agency for International Development (AID) officer prepared and circulated throughout the State Department and AID bureaucracy a memorandum asking why the United States was providing military and economic assistance to Uganda while it was assisting former Rwandan-Tutsis in overthrowing the legally constituted and elected government of a friendly country’ (43).
To return to the events immediately following the invasion. The training Kagame and his men had received in information warfare had clearly paid off, since the international media presented a largely sympathetic case for the invasion that was aiming to end dictatorship and enable refugees to return. According to Filip Reyntjens, the RPF propaganda was so well received internationally that several non-governmental organizations and regional specialists in Belgium were prompted to jointly publish an article on 16 October, ‘Une colère de tempt de guerre au Rwanda’ (’wartime Anger in Rwanda’), which refuted the RPF’s depiction of its invasion and condemned the attack (44).
As the RPF continued its violent bid to secure power in Rwanda, Cohen intervened in order to translate RPF military gains into political gains. He travelled to Rwanda in May and impressed upon Habyarimana and the leaders of the largest opposition party, the Mouvement Démocratique Républicain (MDR) the position of the United States that they should commence serious negotiations with the RPF. He then went to Uganda and threatened Museveni that unless he used his ‘influence to push the RPF into negotiations’, American aid to Uganda might be reduced in order to aid Rwandans displaced by the RPF’s war (45).
As a result of this intervention, Rwanda’s process of democratic reform was fundamentally changed. Instead of a peaceful transition period in which opposition parties competed for popular support in preparation for elections, Rwanda became gripped by the rising tensions of an externally supported war. As the military capacity of the RPF increased, so did the necessity of engaging them in negotiations over power-sharing. Yet power-sharing with a force that was operating outside the democratic process violated the purpose and spirit of democratisation. The N’Sele ceasefire agreement of March 1991, which planned negotiations toward the integration of the two armies in conflict and the inclusion of the RPF as a political partner of the former ruling party and the opposition parties, signified a departure from the process of democratic reform to a process of ‘conflict resolution’ in which a negotiated settlement of the war took precedence.
As a result, a three-cornered contest ensued with the former ruling party, the internal opposition and the RPF jockeying for position in a ‘broad-based transitional government’. Wider engagement with Rwandan society, the potential electorate, became subsumed within this externally-driven intra-elite affair. In any event, Western enthusiasm for democratisation in sub-Saharan Africa appeared to have waned by 1993. Malian President Amadou Touré observed that ‘at the conference in La Baule in June 1990 we were told that from then on a kind of ‘democratic certificate of good conduct’ would be required of African states. In 1993 there was a change of tune. From then on the message was, ‘democracy is all well and good, but it’s efficiency that counts now’’ (46).
In addition to its bilateral relations with Uganda and Rwanda, the U.S. used its position as superpower to shape interventions into those countries by international financial institutions (IFI’s), notably, the World Bank (WB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF). The structural adjustment programmes implemented in these two warring countries by the IFI’s also had political ‘conditionalities’ attached. In Rwanda’s case the key structural adjustment measures taken was a devaluation of the Rwandan franc by 40 per cent in November 1990, and a further 15% in June 1991. The first devaluation greatly exacerbated the effects of the halving of the world price of coffee. Coffee accounted for 80 per cent of Rwanda’s export earnings, and around 800,000 Rwandan families were engaged in coffee production. The government responded to the coffee price crash by increasing subsidies to producers, but the currency devaluations made this unsustainable(47). Instead of stabilising Rwanda’s economy, structural adjustment accelerated its downward spiral. The effects were felt throughout society, civil servants and employees in parastatal enterprises found their purchasing power greatly reduced (48). Among the rural population, falling income contributed to a famine in the south and south-west of the country, the first such famine since 1943 (49).
Among the political ‘conditionalities’ attached to the loans that were part of the structural adjustment package, was ‘progress toward democracy’. They were also used to pressurise President Habyarimana to sign the Arusha Accords. According to Alison Des Forges of Human Rights Watch, ‘…when it was getting very difficult to get the Arusha Accords signed, there was a deadline of August 9 that said no more foreign aid unless this accord is signed. The accord was signed (50). After the accord was signed, the loans were also made conditional on their implementation. As further negotiations entered a period of stalemate, the WB announced that it would halt the disbursements under its loan agreement.
At the beginning of 1994 several donors reduced or suspended financial aid (51/52). By then the donor community made little attempt to hide its bias toward the RPF. At the end of 1993 the crucially important donors’ roundtable on Rwanda took place not in Kigali but in Mulindi - the base of RPF operations against the government. Early in 1994 the World Bank announced that all credits to Rwanda were suspended on the grounds that the government was ‘illegal’ (53). In March 1994, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Prudence Bushnell visited Habyarimana. She accused the Rwandan government of delaying the implementation of a transitional government and told him that ‘Rwanda was losing funding’ from the U.S. ‘with each day of delay’ (54).
While the structural adjustment programme imposed by IFI’s upon Uganda during this period was geared toward similar economic objectives as in the case of Rwanda, the political approach could not have been more different. Funding was conditional upon reduction of the size of military forces. In Uganda’s case, the ‘desertion’ of the RPF from the Ugandan army meant that, on paper at least, the Ugandan army had been reduced. This reduction was viewed favourably by donors. On the other hand, the Rwandan army had to increase almost threefold in order to resist the RPF, and this led to the withholding of funds (55). In addition, pressure to implement multi-party democracy was waived in Uganda’s case. When the opposition Democratic Party threatened to hold an illegal rally in May 1992, Museveni is reported to have said: ‘If they want to see dead bodies, let them go ahead with the rally’ (56).
Some time later in 1992, a document of Museveni’s intelligence agency, the Internal Security Organisation (ISO), was leaked. It contained minutes of a meeting held between Museveni and regional rebels: Colonel John Garang of Sudanese Liberation Peoples’ Army (SPLA), unidentified commanders of the RPF, and representatives of a fighting force of the Kenya Democratic Party of former Kenyan vice-president Mwai Kibaki, at ISO headquarters of Basima House in Kampala. At this meeting, Museveni is recorded having calmed the rebels’ fears that Uganda was going to return to party politics by saying that he was under no pressure to adopt pluralism, as his version of democracy has the ‘full backing of the US and British governments’ (57). By 1994, Uganda had undoubtedly become a most favoured aid-receiving nation (58). One American official is quoted saying, ‘if you’re serious about democracy in Africa, if you’re serious about development in Africa [your programme] should work in Uganda. If it can’t work in Uganda it can’t work’ (59). The championing of Museveni by the donor community enabled him to secure his hold on power by taking repressive action against his political opponents, and also to back the RPF’s war.
To return to direct US relations with Rwanda, the US could not have failed to have noticed the RPF’s renewed military preparations being taken after the signing of the Arusha Accords, and in particular between January and April 1994, since these had been monitored by helicopters of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR), as evidenced by a communication between the US embassy in Nairobi to the Secretary of State in Washington in May 1994, ‘Asked by ambassador Shinn [David H. Shinn, Director of the Office of East African Affairs in Washington] whether UNAMIR was able to track shipments from Uganda, Dallaire said that UNAMIR helicopters would notice significant shipments, as they had prior to the war [that commenced April 1994]’ (60).
The refusal of the United States to formally investigate the circumstances of the rocket attack upon the plane that killed, among others, President Habyarima, could be regarded as motivated by a concern to protect the RPF from the allegations of its involvement. This will be examined in the later section that covers the role of the United Nations.
The decision of the United States not to send an intervention force once the scale of massacres had become known during the resumption of the war between April 6 and mid July 1994 could be at least partly due to the fact that Kagame sent two messengers, Claude Dusaidi and Charles Muligande, to lobby the U.S government not to intervene (61). After its recent debacle in Somalia with ‘Operation Restore Hope’ that culminated with television footage of bodies of US marines being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu being shown to a home audience, the Clinton administration was reticent about sending its own military into new foreign conflict zones. While not wishing to risk its own forces, the US may also have not wanted to impede the RPF’s military takeover.
Upon seizing power in Kigali, the RPF formed its own government and received immediate recognition from the US. Strong military ties between the two countries commenced shortly after. These ties enabled the new state of Rwanda to invade Zaire. President Kagame of Rwanda had joined the club of the favoured ‘new generation of African leaders’ (62).
The role of the US was clearly extensive and extremely influential. Cohen enters a note of regret about it:
‘Looking back to the first day of the crisis, 1 October 1990, why did we automatically exclude the policy option of informing Ugandan President Museveni that the invasion of Rwanda by uniformed members of the Ugandan Army was totally unacceptable, and that the continuation of good relations between the United States and Uganda would depend on his getting the RPF back across the border? That the RPF were children of the Tutsi refugees of 1959-63 who were forbidden to return gave the event a certain romantic poignancy. Had we analysed the potential for disaster, however, we probably would not have silently acquiesced in the invasion.’ (63)
The role of France
As already mentioned, French announcements of its policy of promoting democratic reform in Africa at La Baule, in July 1990, accelerated the pace of Rwanda’s reform process.
French President Mitterand declared his country’s willingness to provide military safeguards for the transition process (64). In response to Habyarimana’s request for French assistance in the wake of the RPF invasion, France dispatched 150 paratroopers from the Central African Republic in ‘Operation Noroît’ (65). France was the sole Western power to have condemned the invasion as an act of foreign aggression. The deployment of French troops helped bolster the resolve of the FAR to organise its counter-attack, and assisted in operations such as targeting artillery (66).
After the retreat of the RPF behind the Ugandan border that marked the end of the ‘War of October’, a French delegation led by the Minister of Cooperation, Mr. Pellier, and the Elysée African Advisor, Jean-Christophe Mitterand, met with various European and African leaders, including leaders from Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda, to discuss the situation in Rwanda. It is possible that notice was given to Rwanda then that there would be a complete withdrawal of French forces from that country at some point in the near future (67). France was reluctant to be the sole military supporter of the Rwandan government, Belgian forces having withdrawn soon after the invasion. According to an informant from Ministry of Cooperation, France’s decision to disengage was already evident in 1990, ‘we did not want to remain alone…there were great powers behind the RPF. Uganda could send 30,000 to 40,000 soldiers’ (68).
The Quay d’ Orsay was represented at the N’Sele talks and encouraged the GOR to sign ceasefire of 29 March 91. Article (ii) of the agreement called for withdrawal of all foreign troops. The Elysée African Bureau led negotiations starting in late 1991 to bring GOR and RPF together. Between April and June 1992, the Quay held a series of informal talks between the two parties. The agenda included the fusion of the two armies, establishment of a broad-based transitional government (BBTG) and ‘political guarantees’. All of these brought the government of Rwanda to negotiating table in Arusha in June 1992. A representative from the Quay was present throughout the negotiations as an observer. After the major RPF offensive of February, of 1993, when the French military presence was thought to have deterred the RPF from taking Kigali, Cooperation Minister Marcel Debarge went to Kigali to reaffirm French support for Habyarimana, but also to convince him to implement Arusha agreement (69).
Following on from the N’Sele cease-fire agreement, President Mitterand made promises not to withdraw French troops without the Rwandan government’s agreement, and not before the army was strengthened. According to the N’Sele agreement, French troops would remain until a neutral military force could be deployed. This point was reiterated in Article 72 of the Arusha Accords. France lobbied the United Nations for a UN military presence to monitor the Rwanda-Uganda border and to be an interpositional force between RPF and the Rwandan army. This was rejected until March 1993, when the United Kingdom and the US wanted the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) to take the lead (70).
According to Callamard, it was not just pressure from the US and IFI’s that was applied to get Habyarimana to sign the Arusha Accords, ‘it is doubtful if Habyarimana would have signed the peace accords, which gave heavy concessions to the RPF, without pressure and guarantees from the Elysée through François Mitterand’s personal emissaries, and possibly from representatives of the Military Mission of Cooperation, specifically Général Huchon, Colonel Cussac - the French military attaché and head of French military Assistance Mission in Rwanda, and his assistant, Lieutenant Colonel Maurin’ (71).
The French military departed Rwanda in mid-December. From then on the possibility of winning power by military means existed for the RPF.
The role of Belgium
Belgium acted swiftly in response to the invasion. Within three days, five hundred Belgian paratroopers had landed in Kigali. Their mission was officially limited to the protection of Belgian nationals (72). The paratroopers had wished to have sole control of Kigali’s airport, at Kanombe, but found that French forces had already occupied it and thereby controlled Rwandan airspace. The Belgians were left in control of the route between Kanombe and Kigali. It was rumoured that the French were doubtful of Belgian loyalty to Habyarimana, believing that there was some degree of complicity between the Belgian secret services and the RPF (73).
There is ambivalence about Belgium’s role as an intervening power in this war. Habyarimana had enjoyed close support from the Prime Minister, the Christian Democrat Wilfried Martens, for several years. But this support came under criticism from the Socialists and Liberals, with whom Martens entered into coalition from 1988. The Liberal Party in particular became sympathetic toward the RPF (74).
Along with its paratroopers, Prime Minister Martens, socialist Minister of Defence Guy Coëme and socialist Foreign Minister Willy Claes visited Rwanda. They did not condemn the invasion, but rather sought to mediate between the two sides. They were instrumental in facilitating a summit meeting on October 17th in Mwanza, Tanzania between Habyarimana, Museveni and President Mwinyi of Tanzania (75). Three days later, Martens was in Kampala urging Museveni to engage in negotiations. Martens also attempted to obtain agreement at the European Union for an interpositional force. The EU, however, impressed with reports of human rights abuses in Rwanda, declined in favour of supporting a regional initiative under the auspices of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) (76). The fact that Museveni was at that time also Chairman of the OAU and was therefore in a position to promote a partisan approach toward the RPF through the OAU, did not appear to concern the officials of the European Union. The OAU involvement took the form of the Communité Exonomique de Pays des Grands Lacs (CEPGL), which arranged meetings involving Rwanda, Burundi, Zaire, Uganda, Tanzania, the UN and the OAU itself (77). On their return to Belgium, Martens, Coëme and Claes faced strong opposition from the Liberals (78).
While Belgium did not condemn the invasion, it did condemn the Rwandan government for its human rights violations in response to the invasion. Ambassador Johann Swinnen went to the stadium in Kigali where detainees were held, and issued his government’s condemnation from there (79).
On October 26th, the government of Rwanda and the RPF meet in Gbadolite, Zaire, and agreed a ceasefire (80). On the following day, Belgium withdrew its forces from Rwanda (81). From this point on, Belgium lent increasing diplomatic weight behind the RPF, while at the same time continued providing some military assistance to the FAR. Under pressure from the Liberal Party, Belgium ceased delivering arms from October 1990, and did not meet earlier military commitments. What was maintained was the Kigali military hospital, and commando training at Ruhengeri that was maintained until April 1994 (82). But as far as popular perceptions were concerned, the Belgian escort of the RPF battalion to Kigali, in compliance with the Arusha Accords, signified Belgian support for the RPF.
The role of the United Kingdom
Reports from the British High Commission in Kampala show willingness on the part of the United Kingdom to support President Museveni’s denials of any knowledge of, or support for, the invasion of October 1990. In fact the invasion is not termed an invasion, but an ‘incursion’. On October 2nd, British High Commissioner to Uganda, Charles Cullimore, reported a senior Ugandan officer talking of a ‘mutiny’ by Rwandan elements in the NRA (83). Later that day, he reported National Resistance Council Vice Chairman Kigongo, state that ‘soldiers recruited into the NRA and civilians had escaped from their camps and places of work and taken up arms…’ He also quoted Mrs Bigombe, Minister of State in the prime minister’s office, ‘any who return to Uganda will be arrested. Road blocks have been set up both to apprehend any Rwandan exiles who attempt to return to Uganda and to prevent any more Rwandese in the Ugandan army from joining the group already in Rwanda’ (84).
By the October 17th, the Ugandan denials must have been wearing thin in other Western quarters. A censored report from Cullimore stated that ‘not surprisingly allegations have been surfacing here over the weekend of connivance at senior levels in the preparations for the incursion into Rwanda by Rwigyema and the Rwanda Patriotic Front….I believe we should be very cautious about jumping to conclusions in what is still a very confused situation. There are many pieces in the jigsaw which are still missing. Meanwhile [deleted] tells me that [deleted] in Kigali have agreed to recommend to capitals that there should be a community demarche in Kampala ‘seeking to bring the Ugandans to their senses’. [Deleted] agreed that such a demarche would be both premature and counter-productive. It would achieve nothing and could only damage our interests here’ (85).
Cullimore and his counterpart succeeded in ‘correcting’ these allegations. On October 18th, he reported that:
‘My [deleted] colleagues have told me that their countries’ respective ambassadors in Kigali, together with [deleted] were called to a meeting by the Rwandan foreign minister on 9 October at which he claimed that the GOU [government of Uganda] was now actually colluding with the rebels. In particular he claimed that whole units with equipment had been ‘recruited’ to strengthen the rebel forces now estimated by the Rwandans at about 10,000. He went on to allege that the rebel’s strategic command was located on Ugandan soil. The Rwandans intended to bring the matter to the Security Council as well as the OAU within the next few days. At the suggestion of [deleted] EC heads of mission…..met on 11 October to share our information and analysis of recent developments. There was a broad consensus along the following lines:
A) A) The GOU as such and Museveni himself were taken by surprise by the incursion into Rwanda although many individuals in senior positions must have had an inkling of what was afoot. As a consequence the GOU was now in an extremely embarrassing position.
B) B) There was much sympathy with the rebels’ cause among the NRM leadership including Museveni but we had no evidence of any covert policy of collusion and support for the rebels.
C) C) The GOU was serious in its official condemnation of the incursion and in calling for a political rather than a military solution.
D) D) There was no evidence whatever of official ‘recruitment’ of Rwandans whether within the NRA or from the civilian population to go and join the rebels in Rwanda.
E) E) Nevertheless there is anecdotal evidence to indicate individuals in senior positions, especially in the NRA and in the south and west were conniving in attempts to help the rebel cause….’ (86)
What is curious is that the ‘embarrassed’ Museveni, apparently having been informed of the most serious breach of military discipline in his army since it seized power in 1986, one which involved his head of intelligence and former minister of defence, did not rush back home, as his Rwandan counterpart had done. More curious still, is that High Commissioner Cullimore felt it incumbent upon himself to advise Museveni that it was time that he came home: ‘I believe it is important that he should now return from the United States without delay even if this means postponing his proposed visits to Denmark, Strasbourg and Italy’ (87).
But, as Cullimore found out, Museveni was booked on a Concorde to London (88). He finally made it to Uganda on October 10th and gave a press interview at the airport (89).
Not surprisingly, President Habyarimana was more certain of British support for the RPF than he was of American support. He said later that the RPF had access to British intelligence from the demilitarized zone that was set up after the February 1993 offensive (90).
The role of human rights non-governmental organisations
Human rights reports were highly influential in shaping Western policy and international opinion toward Rwanda. Perhaps the most influential of all was the International Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights Abuse in Rwanda (ICI), led by Human Rights Watch, but involving also The International Federation of Human Rights Leagues (Paris), the International Center for Human Rights and Democratic Development (Montreal) and the Interafrican Union of Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ougadougou). The commissioners visited Rwanda in January 1993 and investigated massacres and other abuses from October 1990 and January 1993. Their main conclusion was that ‘President Habyarimana and his immediate entourage bear heavy responsibility for these massacres and other abuses against Tutsi and members of the political opposition.’ (91)
Part of the report dealt with a speech made by Léon Mugesera, a member of the MRND, at Kabaya in the sub-prefecture of Gisenyi, in November 1992. According to the report, ‘in a part of his speech Mugesera recounts a conversation in which he warned a member of the PL, ‘I am telling you that your home is in Ethiopia, that we are going to send you back there quickly, by the Nyaborongo [River]’. For the audience, ‘member of the PL[Parti Libéral]’ could not have meant anything other than Tutsi, and the mention of transportation by the Nyaborongo had to be understood as killing the people in question and dumping the bodies in the river, a usual practice in past massacres of Tutsi.’ (92) According to Human Rights Watch, ‘Mugesera’s speech was tape-recorded. Excerpts were broadcast on the national radio and copies were circulated among people in Kigali and other towns’.
The following month, an arrest warrant was issued to Mugesera by the minister of justice, himself a member of the Liberal Party whose membership was mostly Tutsi. Mugesera fled the country for Spain. He later moved with his family to Canada, having obtained permanent residence there. In 1995 a report was submitted to the Canadian Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. The report indicated that ‘in November, 1992, Mugesera had, at a political meeting, made a speech inciting party militants to kill Tutsis. On the following day, several killings took place in the neighbourhood of Gisenyi, Kayove, Kibilira and other places. The US Department of State published a list of persons considered to have taken part in the massacre of Tutsis in Rwanda. Leon Mugesera’s name was on the list in his capacity as a member of the MRND – ‘member of a death squad’ (93).
In July 1996, an adjudicator concluded that allegations against him were valid and ordered his deportation. Mugesera appealed against his deportation, and, in September 2003, his appeal was finally upheld. Called to testify at the Federal Court of Appeal as an expert witness, ICI co-chairperson Alison Des Forges ‘admitted that the Commission’s report was produced ‘very quickly, under very great pressure’’. She also acknowledged that, as a human rights activist, she could not claim objectivity although attempting to maintain neutrality as between political factions. She even admitted that some of her accusations ‘will inevitably [be] shown to be false.’ She finally conceded that the speech might be regarded by some as ‘legitimate self-defence’. She also admitted that no witness interviewed by the ICI had been present when the speech was made. Another admission was that, from the evidence she had been able to obtain, the only impact of Mugesera’s speech had been vandalism and theft. She declined to identify the person who had provided the ICI with the transcript from which the translation used by ICI was prepared. When cross-examined as to whether she took out of context passages in the speech which suited her, Ms. Des Forges admitted having done so. She admitted having selected that evidence which supported the conclusions reached by the Commission’ (94).
The court had before it a transcript of a recording of the speech. There is a mention of the Nyaborongo River, but no call to kill Tutsis or throw bodies into the river. Later on, there is an emphatic call for people to vote in the scheduled elections.
The judge’s conclusion was that ‘…the anecdote in Mugesera’s address referring to that River had a happy ending - the return of the Falashas to Israel - and it would be strange if Mugesera had recounted such a hopeful story if his intention had been to invite the audience to give the story a tragic ending’. And that, ‘[w]hile the audience was urged to ‘defend yourselves’, the methods recommended were vigilance, petitions, enforcing the laws and elections’. As far as the ICI report was concerned: ‘It was on a deliberately truncated text of Mugesera’s speech that the ICI concluded him to be a member of the death squads. It could only be concluded that Ms. Des Forges testified as an activist with a clear bias against Mugesera and an implacable determination to have his head’ (95).
With Rwanda’s descent into mass slaughter in April 1994, eighteen months after Mugesera’s speech, the thousands of corpses floating down the Kagera River into Lake Victoria were described by commentators to have been the fruit of this speech. As a result of the ICI’s misrepresentation of his speech, Mugesera was denounced by many authors as a key ideologue of the genocide in Rwanda (96).
At this point the author would like to make clear that it is not his intention to endorse any of the actual content of Mugesera’s speech, rather it to show that the speech was misrepresented by human rights agencies in an attempt to substantiate their claim that the subsequent mass killing of Tutsis was the outcome of a plan being devised around this time.
Critics of the ICI report assert that its main motivation was to demonise the Rwandan government in order to cast the RPF’s war in a favourable light. They point to the fact that the time span of the report, 1st October 1990 to January 1993, coincides exactly with the RPF invasion and subsequent war. The investigators spent two weeks in the country. While they immediately set about investigating allegations of atrocities committed by the forces of the Rwandan government, they spent no more than two hours investigating allegations of RPF abuses, and during these two hours they were under RPF escort, interviewing individuals in the presence of RPF soldiers.
They also allege that there was close collusion between the investigators and the RPF. One of the investigators, Alphonse-Marie Nkubito, became minister of justice in the first RPF-dominated government. They claim that the members of the commission co-ordinated their activities in concert with the RPF. The RPF launched its offensive on the pretext of responding to revelations of the commission and using words of a communiqué which came before the publication of the report (97). Two weeks before the commissioners’ arrival, senior RPF official Théoniste Rudasingwa wrote to the pro-RPF Rwandan newspaper Isibo. In this letter, Rudasingwa announced that the RPF would await the publication of the report before launching its offensive and violating the cease-fire of July 1992 (98).
According to Lieutenant-Colonel Anthony Marley, military adviser to the Africa Bureau of the United States Department of State, who brokered the cease-fire after the February 1993 offensive, ‘The report, however, put the Government on the defensive as far as its international image [was concerned], and permitted the RPF to play the role of the noble defender of the victims. The RPF, of course, was quick to master this role’ (99).
This is precisely what the RPF did with the report. After the February 1993 offensive, the RPF delegation to the Arusha negotiations was able to deflect criticism of breaking the ceasefire and resuming a war that generated a population of displaced that now approached a million, by demanding that ‘the government must give firm guarantees to stop the ‘genocide’ in Kigali’.
The British observer present reported sympathetically that ‘the attitude of the RPF delegation was of horror at the situation in Rwanda mixed with a determination not to throw away what had so far been achieved in Arusha. They seemed genuinely to wish to find some common ground’ (100).
Philpot comments that ‘the Commission could have published its report with a formal disclaimer about its numerous and serious shortcomings. On the contrary, it chose to launch the report with a massive media and public relations campaign vaunting the scope, credibility and prestige of the Commission and its authors. A lobbying campaign followed. All the foreign embassies and ministries were called on, as were the major European and North American funding organizations. The international reaction was swift and devastating. Belgium recalled its ambassador from Kigali. Within months, citing the report, Canada suspended twenty million dollars of aid to Rwanda’s national university in Butare. The report became the pretext for an arms embargo on Rwanda, whereas the invading RPF army had no problem obtaining all the weapons it needed. From March 1993 on, the Commission’s report was backdrop to all international meetings about or directly involving the Habyarimana government’ (101).
The partisan approach toward human rights abuses adopted by the ICI, and its intensive international lobbying with this report had a significant influence on Rwanda’s relations with the international community. A connection between the ICI and United States policy may be inferred from the fact that its leading figure, Alison Des Forges, was also working as a consultant for the United States Department of State at the time (102).
The isolation of the Habyarimana government and legitimisation of the war waged by the Rwandan Patriotic Front are vital elements in any serious investigation of the dynamics of Rwanda’s descent into mass slaughter. Both processes were externally driven and attest mainly, though not exclusively, to American influence. Such influence was brought to bear upon human rights investigations by non-governmental organisations and upon the United Nations, whose partiality toward the RPF is another important influence upon Rwanda’s tragic course of events. Analysts of Rwanda cannot afford to ignore the politicised nature of the human rights discourse.
RPF killings of civilians within their occupied areas were the main reason for the depopulation of their territory. According to Joyce Leader, Deputy Chief of Mission at the American Embassy in Kigali from 1991-1994, the RPF ‘attacks centred on civilian targets: market places, social services such as schools and hospitals, and refugee camps. The rebels apparently considered anywhere civilians congregated a legitimate target…(t)here were also reports that the RPF kidnapped civilians and took them back to Uganda’ (103). James Gasana, Rwandan minister of defence and government negotiator at Arusha at the time, provides a death toll of the victims of RPF massacres in each of the communes of Ruhengeri and Byumba prefectures which total 42,200 (104). The massacres and expulsion of a vast swathe of the civilian population from northern Rwanda, and the squalid conditions in the displacement camps contributed in no small measure to the hardening of social attitudes. Displaced youth attempted to overcome their conditions by joining the national army or the militias. This experience of the war re-created the Hutu-Tutsi division in a new form. Deprivation and squalor, mixed with a deep fear and hatred of the RPF meant that this newly formulated division turned into a social force, one that became all consuming.
The February offensive was stopped short of Kigali, with French forces playing a significant part in the defence of the capital. With a sizeable amount of territory under its control, and having made the dependence of the FAR upon French forces obvious to all, the RPF had achieved its aim: greatly enhanced bargaining power at the negotiating table at Arusha.
At this point France served notice that it was going to withdraw its military forces from Rwanda. This left the MRND with little room for manoeuvre at the negotiations.
The Arusha Accords:
The coalition government formed in April 1992, was one in which the former ruling party shared ministries with the opposition parties. While it retained the ministries of defence and internal affairs, it was diplomatically weakened by the fact that the foreign ministry was in the hands of the opposition MDR. This meant that the positions of the MRND toward the RPF were mediated by, and articulated through, a foreign minister that was not one of its own. This undermined the coherence of the government position in the negotiations. Adding to this were the tensions within the three larger opposition parties. These parties were now facing up to the fact that their position had not been enhanced by the RPF’s war. It was becoming evident that the effect of the war was to enlarge the RPF’s stake in a future government at the expense of all other parties. The extent of the rise of the RPF’s position became clear with the signing of the Arusha Accords. The RPF won five cabinet seats in the agreed Broad Based Transitional Government. More important than this was that the agreed new integrated national army would have half the soldiers and half the military leadership from the RPF. This made the RPF the strongest party.
The Arusha Accords were hailed by the Tanzanian facilitator, the United Nations and Western mediators as a triumph of diplomacy that would usher in a new chapter of peace and democracy for Rwanda. Representatives of the international community felt good about themselves and their achievement. According to Joyce Leader who was also an observer at Arusha, ‘…when the President signed the Arusha Accords on August 4, 1993, he was signing a comprehensive document that constituted a blueprint for a new Rwandan political, military and social order. In one document it brought together Rwanda’s three transitions - from dictatorship to democracy, from single-party to multiparty government, and from war to peace’ (105).
Yet, if the international community had been in touch with the actual situation inside Rwanda, they may have realised that they had precipitated the most dangerous political crisis in Rwanda’s history. As an exercise in fostering democratic and accountable government, Arusha was a disaster. The most powerful political force emerging from it - the RPF - was feared and hated by an ever increasing majority of Rwandans. The opposition parties had failed to utilise the democratic space made available to it to articulate a plausible alternative to either the MRND or the RPF. Conversely, Habyarimana, who had been reviled by large sections of the newly formed opposition, saw his popularity rise. His effort to highlight the plight of the internally displaced was one important reason for this. Arusha had therefore created an untenable situation. If the agreement held, the positions in the new government would be taken up and elections held within a year. But the mass flight of people from RPF-occupied territory and the obvious popular opposition to the RPF indicated that the elections would relegate the RPF to the status of a small opposition party. If any further proof was needed of this, the result of the elections for local government in the demilitarized zone in September 1993 provided it. All the RPF candidates were defeated (106).
Having demonstrated a capacity to take the country militarily, and having won the strongest political position of any party in the Arusha agreement, it is inconceivable that the RPF would countenance losing all of this by doing badly in the scheduled elections. The indications are that this was precisely why the RPF immediately made preparations for another, final, offensive. Lieutenant General Roméo Dallaire, the head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR), provides detail of these preparations. On February 28, 1994, Dallaire observed the RPF’s military build-up by helicopter: ‘I saw large concentrations of troops being trained, as well as evidence of defensive positions being dug on the northwest border of the demilitarized zone, near the presidential stronghold of Ruhengeri. In the middle of the zone, where it narrowed to less than a kilometre near Byumba, I spotted soldiers swarming around the rich sienna of freshly turned mounds of earth; they were like giant anthills bracketing the city on both flanks. It looked like Kagame was realigning his forces, pushing for a good secure start line from which he could launch an offensive.’ (107)
Dallaire also provides an account of how the RPF used the base it was given in Kigali, the Conseil National du Développement (CND), in terms of the Arusha Accords, as a military staging post: ‘Once secure, they had dismissed the UNAMIR troops and assumed total control of the interior of the complex. Once the RFP began digging, they never stopped for the next four months. From shellscrapes or foxholes, they dug full fire-trenches, then roofed the trenches for protection from artillery or mortar fire. They then dug full communications-trenches between the individual trenches and built bunkers that developed into caverns. By the time the war resumed in April, they had built an underground complex under the CND. It was clear that while the peace process was progressing, they were also prepared for the alternative.’ (108)
But by this time the opposition parties had split down the middle and begun to disintegrate. The MDR, Parti Social Démocrate (PSD) and PL all divided into a faction that coalesced against the RPF and another that allied itself closer to it.
Paradoxically, the MRND - the party that had been severely weakened by the Arusha Accords - was shaping up increasingly well for the scheduled elections. Senior party officials urged people to be prepared to vote. At the same time, the party was acquiring intelligence of widespread recruitment for the RPF, primarily from Tutsi families. While the FAR faced the prospect of thousands of redundancies with the schedule for the new integrated army, it was also viewing the deteriorating social and political situation with alarm. Dissent within the party and military was running high. As the opposition parties failed to agree on which of their members should fill the positions allotted to them in the transitional government, the schedule for the new government fell further and further behind. Matters took a dramatic turn for the worse in the aftermath of the assassination of Burundi’s first elected Hutu leader, Melchior Ndadaye.
The assassination of Burundi’s President Ndadaye on October 21, 1993 plunged Rwanda’s southern neighbour Burundi into chaos. There are many similarities between these two countries in terms of ethnic composition: both with a large Hutu majority and Tutsi minority, and a similar, but by no means identical, history of politicisation of ethnic identity during the colonial and post-colonial periods. Massacres in the wake of the assassination resulted in a massive influx of Hutu refugees from Burundi into southern Rwanda, estimated variously at 300,000 and 375,000. The refugees brought with them accounts of massacres at the hands of the predominantly Tutsi Burundian army. This resulted in the south of the country becoming as charged with ethnic division as the north already was, and there was a fear spreading across the country that the RPF was abandoning the Arusha accords and preparing for a take-over an a manner analogous to the actions taken by the predominantly Tutsi army in Burundi.
These tensions produced a realignment of Rwandan politics. The contest was reduced from three sides to two, as a result of the splits in the opposition parties. By October 1993, the youth militia had settled differences that had led to frequent violent clashes between them (most notably between the MRND-Interahamwe and the MDR-Inkuba) over the previous two years. The social polarisation of Rwanda had acquired its corresponding political expression. Rwandans were either allied with the RPF or enemies of it. The focus of murderous hatred upon Tutsi civilians was a tragic displacement of fear and loathing engendered by the RPF’s war, combined with a material incentive to dispossess a vulnerable section of society during a period of acute deprivation.
From October to April 1994, the situation steadily deteriorated. Political assassinations became frequent, with prominent victims on all sides. Among the victims were thirty-seven senior MRND members; Martin Bucyana, the leader of the CDR; and Felicien Gatabazi, the leader of the PSD.
The arrival of the Arusha-mandated RPF battalion in Kigali, and the departure of the French forces in December 1993, made government figures and ordinary residents of Kigali feel particularly vulnerable, and was the main reason why the notorious Interahamwe militia received military training (109).
President Habyarimana’s assassination: a catalyst to the point of no return
As the Falcon Mystoré jet belonging to President Habyarimana descended to land at Kanombe airport outside Kigali, it was brought down by two missiles. There were no survivors. Among the dead were President Habyarimana, Burundi’s new President Cyprien Ntaryamira, Rwandan military chief of staff General Deogratias Nsabimana, Major Thaddée Bagaragaza, the chief of the Presidential Guard, and Colonel Elie Sagatwa, Habyarimana’s private secretary and brother-in-law (110).
While no one appeared to have the facts about the circumstances and perpetrators of the missile attack at that time, most NGOs and analysts speculated that Hutu extremists were responsible. No less a figure than Herman Cohen lent his weight to this explanation. He told the investigation led by Senator Quilès into the French role in Rwanda that only the militant Hutus could have been responsible (111). This fits the Akazu-conspiracy thesis that the eruption of violence triggered by the plane crash was a planned signal for the commencement of a programme of genocide against Tutsis (112). According to this thesis, the Akazu, an extremist clique centred upon Habyarimana’s wife Agathe, is said to have masterminded the operation as a desperate ‘all or nothing’ strategy (113). Another shared view is that ‘(t)he fanatical Hutu elements that murdered the president then unleashed their gruesome genocide against the Tutsis.’ (114)
Mahmood Mamdani also makes a categorical claim about the identity of Habyarimana’s assailants. Under a sub-heading ‘Inside the genocide: a central design’, he states that ‘The first step was to remove those with suspect loyalties from positions of power. The presidential plane was shot down on 6 April. Public appeals were made to a meeting of prefects on 11 April and on the radio the next day, to the effect that partisan interests must be set aside to fight the common enemy, the Tutsi’ (115). Many analysts, for example those commissioned by the Danish government to investigate the genocide, consider the different arguments for the identity and motives of the assailants, and then indicate a preference for the one that is consistent with the Akazu-conspiracy theory. Here is the view of Central African historian René Lemarchand that is supported by the Danish-commissioned analysts:
‘Who actually fired the missile that brought down Habyarimana’s plane may never be known, any more than who ordered the missile to be fired. But if the circumstantial evidence is any index, there is every reason to view the shooting of the plane as an eminently rational act from the stand-point of the immediate goals of Hutu extremists.’ (116)
Human Rights Watch is clear about the momentous impact of the plane shooting: ‘the genocide of the Tutsi, the murders of Hutu opposed to Habyarimana, and the renewed war between the Rwandan government and the RPF were all touched off by the killing of President Habyarimana’ (117). Leave None to Tell the Story goes on to consider the different viewpoints on the identity of the assailants: the RPF, Hutu moderates, members of Habyarimana’s own circle, the Belgians, and the French. It then makes the point that ‘responsibility for killing Habyarimana is a serious issue, but it is a different issue from responsibility for the genocide. We know little about who assassinated Habyarimana. We know more about who used the assassination as the pretext to begin a slaughter that had been planned for months. Hutu Power leaders expected that killing Tutsi would draw the RPF back into combat and give them a new chance for victory or at least for negotiations that might allow them to win back some of the concessions made at Arusha’ (118).
In the pages that follow is an account of prompt action taken by the Presidential Guard in initiating slaughter. The implication here is that while the plane attack is important in its own right, it is not vital to the story of the genocide, which is the overriding issue. The question of authorship of the plane shooting is circumvented with the claim that it’s timing, in any event, coincided exactly with the finishing touches of the plan to eliminate Rwandan Tutsis.
Yet this account makes no sense. The RPF’s offensive of February 1983 had been a resounding success. It had demonstrated its military superiority to the FAR, and that, were it not for French resistance, it could have seized power. With the departure of the French forces in December 1993, a military take over by the RPF was entirely feasible. Furthermore, the RPF had been making press releases and public statements that accused government forces of committing acts of genocide ever since 1990. They had made repeated threats that any further acts of this nature would be met with another offensive. The idea that Hutu extremists would countenance drawing the RPF back into combat by means of killing Tutsis, in order to make military or political gains, is therefore absurd. Paradoxically, opponents of the RPF of all political persuasions knew that, while a military confrontation with the RPF would bring certain defeat upon themselves, free elections were the only feasible means of undermining the RPF’s position.
In fact, the opposite case to that of Human Rights Watch is more logical. While the RPF’s Hutu opponents were fearful of anything that would trigger another RPF offensive, the RPF badly needed a justification to bypass the terms of the Arusha Accords and seize power militarily. The February offensive had strengthened its bargaining power to the extent that it had emerged from Arusha as the strongest party, but it had also made evident the strength of popular feeling against it across the country, and destroyed the tactical alliance it had enjoyed with the internal opposition parties. Abiding by the terms of the accords would have meant abiding by the result of the scheduled elections. If the RPF had any illusions about its electoral prospects, the local elections held in the demilitarised zone in September 1993 would have dispelled them. Not a single RPF candidate won. These elections also demonstrated the rising popularity of Habyarimana, since he appeared to be the only political leader to show concern for the conditions of people in the camps for the internally displaced. Human Rights Watch does not consider a more plausible strategy behind the attack upon Habyarimana’s plane. The news of the death of the president would be certain to have prompted killings of Tutsis. These killings would then provide the RPF the justification it sought for renewing the war. Marie Béatrice Umutesi, a Rwandan organiser of women’s non-governmental organisations who has written a moving and eloquent account of her flight from Rwanda and subsequently from the refugee camps of Zaire, articulates this argument:
‘The principal reason that the Tutsi refugees had taken up arms was to gain power. Now, the Arusha Accords only gave them part of what they wanted. With the elections, Tutsi representation in the political institutions of the country would be marginal, and it would be difficult for the rebels to return to square one after having made so many sacrifices. Like most Rwandans, the rebels expected widespread ethnic riots if President Habyarimana was killed. This was predictable, because the assassination of less important Hutu leaders during the preceding month had led to bloody riots in which Tutsi had been killed and might have served as an excuse for the RPF to renew hostilities. They were prepared. During the entire ceasefire, they had never stopped recruiting.’ (119)
While the RPF may not have anticipated the scale of the killings that did take place, the immediate appearance of the killings as genocide provided the perfect justification not only for resuming hostilities, but also for taking over the country completely. Military conquest of state power had been the RPF’s objective since its invasion in October 1990. The fact of mass slaughter directed against Tutsis enabled the RPF to legitimise its seizure of the state as a necessary means of ending genocide. Although such a strategy would not absolve the individual murderers of Tutsi civilians in any way, it would reveal a cynical opportunism on the part of the RPF.
While this strategy may appear the more logical, it remains speculative until the facts of the plane attack are firmly established. Yet it appears that these facts may have already been established but suppressed by powerful vested interests, including those of the United Nations and the United States.
In a public statement in April 2000, former RPF officer Jean-Pierre Mugabe alleged that after signing the Arusha Accords, RPF general Paul Kagame ‘started visiting our unit commands and the areas controlled by the RPF. He told army soldiers not to believe at all in the Accords: ‘Be ready with your military equipment, we are going to fight for the final war against the Kigali government’’ (120).
Mugabe gives a detailed account of the military training and preparation for this ‘final war’, naming individual officers in charge of secret operations to infiltrate men and arms into the capital. His statement is supported by the accounts of two further RPF defectors who, along with Mugabe, in February 1997 submitted to James Lyons, the local head of UN investigations for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Lyons, a former FBI agent seconded to the ICTR by the US State Department, led a 20-member team investigating, among other issues, who was responsible for shooting down Habyarimana’s plane on 6 April 1994. According to Lyons, the RPF defectors gave credible and highly detailed testimony regarding the planning and execution of the rocket attack.
They claimed that Kagame formed a commando-type group known as the ‘network’, and that he and his senior advisers put into effect a plan to shoot down the presidential aircraft as it approached Kigali airport. Michael Hourigan, Lyons’s team leader, briefed the ICTR chief prosecutor, Louise Arbour, on the matter (121). Former French Minister of Cooperation Bernard Debri gives additional circumstantial evidence of the RPF’s responsibility for the assassination, claiming that records of RPF communications prove its soldiers were ordered to begin advancing toward Kigali on the morning of 6 April (122).
In a recent report, a regional analyst of the BBC, Martin Plaut, provided a statement by a former RPF captain Josue Abdul Ruzibiza. According to this statement, Ruzibiza said that he had entered Kigali in December 1993 as part of the battalion sent to the capital to guard the RPF’s MPs and ministers. He had been ordered to secure an area close to Kigali airport, in order to provide security as missiles were fired at the plane carrying the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi. Two missiles were brought from Parliament House, where the battalion was being housed. As the plane came in to land, the first of two missiles was fired. ‘The missile didn’t hit the engine and so didn’t cause the plane to roll over. It was the second missile that that hit the engine. The first one hit the wing, and the plane could still land. But the second one finished the plane off’, said Captain Ruzibiza.
His account comes after the result of a French inquiry under Judge Jean-Loius Brugiere was leaked in March 2004, blaming the downing of the plane on President Paul Kagame, then the leader of the RPF (123). The report fits with Ruzibiza’s testimony that states that the two men who fired the missiles are now senior officers in the Rwandan presidential guard and military (124).
Finally, the most recent allegation regarding the plane shooting has been made by former RPA officer in the High Command Unit and in the Republican Guard (President Protection Unit), 2nd Lt. Aloys Ruyenzi. In his press statement Ruyenzi states categorically that:
‘Major general Paul Kagame personally ordered the shooting down of President Juvénal Habyarimana’s plane’….’Let me make it crystal clear, I attended the last meeting where the plan was hatched. I was there physically and I even know the names of those who carried out the shooting. I was working with them in the High Command unit. It is Lt Frank Nziza and cpl Eric Hakizimana’…’It is not hearsays; I was present when the meeting took place. That was on 31st March 1994 from 2.30pm to 3.30pm. The Chairman of the meeting was Major general Paul Kagame, and the following officers were present: Col Kayumba Nyamwasa, Col Théoneste Lizinde, Lt Col James Kabarebe, Major Jacob Tumwine, Captain Charles Karamba. I heard P. Kagame asking Col. Lizinde to report about his investigations and I have seen Col Lizinde giving to Paul Kagame a map of the selected place for the plane shooting etc.’ (125)
While this evidence of the RPF’s responsibility for shooting down the plane appears to be compelling, what is extraordinary is the fact that the United Nations has suppressed its own findings that pointed in the RPF’s direction. When Michael Hourigan, the lead member of James Lyon’s team investigating for the ICTR mentioned above, flew to The Hague in order to discuss his findings with ICTR prosecutor, Louise Arbour, he was ordered by Arbour to shut the investigation down. The reason he was given was that the attack on the president’s plane was ‘outside the tribunal’s jurisdiction’ (126). The fact that a rocket attack on a plane resulting in the deaths of two heads of state remains closed to investigation by the United Nations raises questions about the organisation’s commitment toward establishing the true facts surrounding the key events in question.
Dynamics of an international character weave their way throughout this tragic narrative. The tendency in many quarters to attribute the cause of Rwanda’s descent into mass slaughter simply and solely to Hutu extremism is disingenuous.
(1) Lemarchand, R. ‘Disconnecting the threads: Rwanda and the Holocaust reconsidered.’ Ideas: A Journal of Social Issues. Vol. 7. No. 1. 29th March 2002.
(2) See for example, Reyntjens who regards African Rights as ‘flagrantly pro-RPF, which is incompatible with the mission and ethics of all serious human rights organisations’ (Reyntjens, F. (1995) Rwanda: Trois jours qui ont fait basculer l’histoire (Paris: Editions L’Harmattan) , p. 62., translated by Alan Kuperman.
(3) Omaar, R. (1994) Rwanda: Death, Despair and Defiance (London: African Rights) p. 628.
(4) ‘Provoking genocide: a revised history of the Rwandan Patriotic Front’ in Journal of Genocide Research. 6(1), March, 61-84.
(5) Kuperman, Alan J. (2004) p. 62.
(6) Correspondence from British High Commissioner Charles Cullimore in Kampala, to the London Kuperman, Alan J. (2004) Foreign and Commonwealth Office, reference OF 041309Z, 22 October 1990.
(7) Correspondence from British High Commissioner Charles Cullimore in Kampala, to the London Foreign and Commonwealth Office, reference OF 041333Z, 22 October 1990.
(8) Human Rights Arms Project (January 1994) ‘Arming Rwanda: The Arms Trade and Human Rights Abuses in the Rwandan War. (Washington, D.C.: Human Rights Watch) p. 20.
(9) Museveni, Y. (2000) What is Africa’s problem? (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press) p. 106., cited in Philpot, R. (2003) Ça ne s’est pas passé comme ça à Kigali (Montréal, Quebec : Les Intouchables) pp. 30,31.
(10) Mamdani, Mahmood. (2001) When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism, and the Genocide in Rwanda (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press) p. 336.
(11) Information from a former senior RPF member who had received training at Nakivale. Confidential author interview Brussels, 9 April 2005.
(12) Gasana, J.K. (2002) Rwanda: du Parti-Etat a l’Etat-Garnison (Paris: Editions L’Harmattan) p. 182. author’s translation.
(13) Gasana, J.K. (2002) Rwanda: du Parti-Etat a l’Etat-Garnison (Paris: Editions L’Harmattan) p. 185. author’s translation.
(14) Ottaway, M. (1999) Africa’s New Leaders: Democracy or State Reconstruction? (Washington D.C.: United States Institute of Peace) pp. 1,2.
(15) Harald Marwitz. ‘Another side of Rwanda’s blood bath: onus may be displaced in tribal war.’ The Washington Times August 11, 1994
(16) Jones, B. interview with Assistant Secretary of State, Herman Cohen, and another confidential interview with the United Sates Department of State, in Washington, D.C. in June 1995, cited in Jones, B.D. (2001) Peacemaking in Rwanda: The Dynamics of Failure (Boulder, Co.: Lynne Rienner) p. 29.
(17) Cohen, H.J. (2000) Intervening in Africa: Superpower Peacemaking in a Troubled Continent. (New York, N.Y.:St. Martin’s Press) p. 225.
(18) Cohen, H.J. (2000) Intervening in Africa: Superpower Peacemaking in a Troubled Continent. (New York, N.Y.:St. Martin’s Press) p. 164.
(19) Author interview with Robert Flaten, Northfields, Minnesota. 7 June 2003.
(20) Gasana, J.K. (2002) Rwanda: du Parti-Etat a l’Etat-Garnison (Paris: Editions L’Harmattan) p.65. author’s translation
(21) Kumakama, D. (1997) Rwanda Conflict: Its Roots and Regional Implications (Kampala, Uganda: Fountain Publishers) p. 44., citing Catherine Watson,
(22) Millwood, D. (ed.) (1995) The International Response to Conflict and Genocide: Lessons from the Rwanda Experience Steering Committee of the Joint Evaluation of Emergency Assistance to Rwanda (Copenhagen: Steering Committee of the Joint Evaluation of Emergency Assistance to Rwanda) Study 1, p. 75.
(23) Philpot, R. (2003) Ça ne s’est pas passé comme ça à Kigali (Montréal, Québec : Les Intouchables) p. 29.
(24) Gasana, J.K. interview with author, Lausanne, Switzerland. 16 April 2004. . Leader, J.E. (2001) Rwanda’s Struggle for Democracy and Peace 1991-1994 (Washington, DC: The Fund for Peace) p. 8.
(25) Leader, J.E. (2001) Rwanda’s Struggle for Democracy and Peace 1991-1994 (Washington, DC: The Fund for Peace) p. 8.
26) Leader, J.E. (2001) Rwanda’s Struggle for Democracy and Peace 1991-1994 (Washington, DC: The Fund for Peace) p. 8.
(27) Cohen, H.J., Senior Advisor Global Coalition for Africa, To a joint hearing of the Senate Subcommittee on African Affairs and the House Subcommittee on African Affairs.
(28) Bahunga, J. Secretary to the Rwandan ambassador to Uganda [dates], unpublished paper, ‘Transition to democracy in Africa. The case of Rwanda.’
(29) Strizek, H. (2003) ‘Human Rights in Rwanda: Life after Genocide.’ pamphlet. (Aachen, Germany: Missio ) ISSN 1618-6222.
(30) Statement made by Faustin Twagiramungu (Prime Minister of Rwanda July 1994-August 1995) to the French Parliament on 19 May 1998.
(31) Millwood, D. (ed.) (1995) The International Response to Conflict and Genocide: Lessons from the Rwanda Experience Steering Committee of the Joint Evaluation of Emergency Assistance to Rwanda (Copenhagen: Steering Committee of the Joint Evaluation of Emergency Assistance to Rwanda). Synthesis Report, p. 75.
(32) Bahunga, J. former secretary to the Rwandan ambassador to Uganda, unpublished paper, ‘Transition to democracy in Africa. The case of Rwanda.’
(33) Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Report on Zaire, Rwanda, Burundi. No. 3. 1991 (London: EIU) No. 3. 1991. p. 23.
(34) Ibid. p. 29.
(35) Cohen, H.J. (2000) Intervening in Africa: Superpower Peacemaking in a Troubled Continent. (New York, N.Y.:St. Martin’s Press) p. 168.
(36) Author interview with Robert Flaten, Northfields, Minnesota. 7 June 2003.
(37) Cohen, H.J. (2000) Intervening in Africa: Superpower Peacemaking in a Troubled Continent. (New York, N.Y.:St. Martin’s Press) p. 169.
(38) Economist Intelligence Unit. No. 3. 1991. p. 24.
(39) Author interview with Robert Flaten, Northfields, Minnesota. 7 June 2003.
(40) Lt-Col. Tony Marley, author interview by email, 17 September 2004.
(41) Gowing, N. ‘New Challenges and Problems for Information Management in c/omplex Emergencies: Ominous lessons from the Great Lakes and Eastern Zaire in late 1996 and early 1997’. Paper presented at a conference entitled ‘Dipatches from Disaster Zones’ funded by the European Community’s Humanitarian Office, in London, May 1998. Reported by John Githongo in East African Alternatives, (Nairobi: Series on Alternative Research in East Africa.) September/October 1998. Gowing was formerly a news editor of Channel Four News of the British Independent Television News.
(42) Madsen, W. ‘What a difference an election makes, or does it?’ Prepared statement at ‘Blood Money out of Africa’. Forum prepared by US Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney in Washington, D.C., on April 6th 2002. Published online at From the Wilderness, accessed June 2003.
(43) Harald Marwitz. Another side of Rwanda’s blood bath: onus may be displaced in tribal war, The Washington Times August 11, 1994. 13 June 2005.
(44) Reyntjens, F. (1994) L’Afrique des Grands Lacs en crise: Rwanda, Burundi: 1988-1994 (Paris: Éditions Karthala) p. 102
(45) Cohen, H.J. (2000) Intervening in Africa: Superpower Peacemaking in a Troubled Continent. (New York, N.Y.:St. Martin’s Press) pp. 170-172.
(46) Jeune Afrique (Supplement to Volume 1753/54 in August 1994).
(47) Figures provided by Uvin, P. (1998) Aiding Violence: the development enterprise in Rwanda (West Hartford,Connecticut: Kumarian Press). p. 54.
(48) Uvin, P. (1998) p. 188.
(49) Newbury, C. (1994) ‘Background to genocide in Rwanda’ Issue (African Studies Association of USA) Vol. 23, No. 2., p. 14.
(50) Hearing before the United States Congress, House of Representatives: Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Africa, 103rd Congress, 2nd Session, 4 May (Washington DC:US Government Printing Office).
(51) Andersen, Regine (2000) How Multilateral Development Assistance Triggered the Conflict in Rwanda Third World Quarterly Vol 21. No. 3. pp. 448-9.
(52) Note: Melvern states that the World Bank stopped negotiating with the Rwandan government at the end of 1992. Funds were blocked for some months between 1992 and 1993 and resumed after the signing of the Arusha Accords. Melvern, Linda. (2000) A People Betrayed: The Role of the West in Rwanda’s Genocide. (London: Zed Press.) p. 68.
(53) Economist Intelligence Unit. (1994) Country Report: Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, No. 2, (London: EIU).
(54) DAS Bushnell meets Habyarimana and RPF, Communication from U.S embassy in Kigali to the Secretary of State, Washington D.C. Document No. 1994KIGALI01316, 25 March 1994
(55) Melvern, Linda. (2000) A People Betrayed: The Role of the West in Rwanda’s Genocide. (London: Zed Press.) p. 68.
(56) Ugandan newspaper, Daily Nation, Nairobi, 8 May 1993.
(57) ‘Leaked file brands Uganda’, Africa Analysis No. 162, December 1992.
(58) Brett, E.A. ‘Uganda: 1987-94’, chapter in Engberg-Pedersen, P., Gibbin, P., Raikes, P. and Udsholt, L. (eds.) (1996) Limits of Adjustment in Afirca (Copenhagen: Centre for Development Research) p. 317.
(59) Hauser, E. (1999) ‘Uganda’s relations with Western donors in the 1990s: What impact on democratisation?’ Journal of Modern African Studies Vol. 37 No. 4. p. 633.
(60) Report by Brian Atwood, USAID, from US embassy Nairobi to the Secretary of State in Washington. Confidential section of Nairobi 09554, 31 May 1994. Released to William Ferroggiaro of the National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act.
(61) Mugabe, J-P. ‘Declaration on the shooting down of the aircraft carrying President Juvénal Habyalimana and Burundi President Cyprien Ntaryamira on April 6 1994.’ Issued from the International Strategic Studies Association, Alexandria, Virginia, U.S.
(62) On March 12, 1998, the US Senate Subcommittee on African Affairs, held a hearing today to examine a ‘New Generation of African Leaders’. The hearing focused on the leaders of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Eritrea.
(63) Cohen, H.J. (2000) Intervening in Africa: Superpower Peacemaking in a Troubled Continent. (New York, N.Y.:St. Martin’s Press) p. 177.
(64) Strizek, H. (2003) ‘Human Rights in Rwanda: Life after Genocide.’ pamphlet. (Aachen, Germany: Missio ) ISSN 1618-6222.
(65) Adelman, H. paper. p. 7.
(66) Kuperman, Alan J. ‘Provoking genocide: a revised history of the Rwandan Patriotic Front’ in Journal of Genocide Research. 6(1), March 2004, 71.
(67) Callamard, A. (1999) French Policy in Rwanda, in Adelman, H. and Suhrke, A. (eds.) The Path of a Genocide: The Rwanda Crisis from Uganda to Zaire (Uppsala, Sweden: Nordafrikainstitutet). p. 161, and footnote 22.
(68) Callamard, A. ‘French Policy in Rwanda’, chapter in Adelman, H. and Suhrke, A. (1999) The Path of a Genocide: The Rwanda Crisis from Uganda to Zaire (Uppsala, Sweden: Nordiska Afrikainstitutet) Note 21, p 178.
(69) Callamard, A. ‘French Policy in Rwanda’, chapter in Adelman, H. and Suhrke, A. (1999) The Path of a Genocide: The Rwanda Crisis from Uganda to Zaire (Uppsala, Sweden: Nordiska Afrikainstitutet) Note 21, p 161.
(70) Callamard:, A. (1999) p. 163, and note 40, p. 180.
(71) Callamard, A. (1999) p. 167.
(72) Cohen, H.J. (2000) Intervening in Africa: Superpower Peacemaking in a Troubled Continent. (New York, N.Y.:St. Martin’s Press) p. 165.
(73) Gasana, J.K. (2002) Rwanda: du Parti-Etat a l’Etat-Garnison (Paris: Editions L’Harmattan) p. 67.
(74) Gasana, J.K. interview with author, Lausanne, Switzerland. 16 April 2004.
(75) Reyntjens, F. ‘Rwanda: Recent history.’ in Africa South of the Sahara, 23rd Edition 1994 (London: Europa Pulications Ltd. 1993).
(76) Adelman, H. paper, p. 14.
(77) Adelman, H. paper. p. 4
(78) Prunier, G. (1995) The Rwanda Crisis, 1959-1994: History of a Genocide (London: Hurst and Co.) p. 108.
(79) Philpot, R. (2003) Ça ne s’est pas passé comme ça à Kigali (Montréal, Québec : Les Intouchables). p. 37.
(80) United Nations (1996) The United Nations and Rwanda: 1993 – 1996 (New York: Department of Public Information, United Nations) p. 115.
(81) Adelman, H. paper. p. 5.
(82) Gasana, J.K. interview with author, Lausanne, Switzerland. 16 April 2004.
(83) British High Commissioner to Uganda: Charles Cullimore, FM Kampala to London Foreign Office, 2 October 1990. OF 020928Z.
(84) Cullimore, FM Kampala to London FO, 2 October 1990. OF 021305Z.
(85) Cullimore, FM Kampala to London FO, 10 October 1990. OF 110827Z.
(86) Cullimore, FM Kampala to London FO, 18 October 1990. OF 121135Z.
(87) Cullimore, FM Kampala to London FO, 2 October 1990. OF 020928Z.
(88) Cullimore, FM Kampala to London FO, 2 October 1990. OF 021305Z.
(89) Cullimore, FM Kampala to London FO, 10 October 1990. OF 110827Z.
(90) Gasana, J.K. interview with author, Lausanne, Switzerland. 16 April 2004.
(91) Africa Watch, International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, Interafrican Union for Human and Peoples’ Rights, and the International Center for Human Rights and Democratic Development. ‘Report of the International Commission of Investigation on Human Rights Violations in Rwanda since October 1, 1990’.
(92) The text of the report is referred to in ‘Leave None to Tell the Story’ p. 85.
(93) See Mugesera v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), Federal Court of Appeal, Québec, April 28 and 29; Ottawa, September 8, 2003
(94) ‘Mugesera v. Canada’.
(95) ‘Mugesera v. Canada’.
(96) See, for example, Reyntjens, F. (1994) L’Afrique des Grands Lacs en crise: Rwanda, Burundi, 1988-1994. (Paris: Karthala); Prunier, Gérard. (1995) The Rwanda Crisis, 1959-1994: History of a Genocide (London: Hurst and Co.) pp. 171, 172., and Mahmood Mamdani (2001) When Victims Become Killers : Colonialism, Nativism, and the Genocide in Rwanda (Princeton, New Jersey : Princeton University Press) pp. 195, 196. ; Adelman, H. and Suhrke, (1999) The Path of a Genocide: The Rwanda Crisis from Uganda to Zaire (Uppsala, Sweden: Nordafrikainstitutet) p. 77.
(97) Philpot, R. (2003) Ça ne s’est pas passé comme ça à Kigali (Montréal, Québec : Les Intouchables) pp. 73-75.
(98) Gasana, J.K. (2002) Rwanda : Du Parti-Etat a L’Etat-Garnison (Paris : L’Harmattan) Table 2, p.183, quoting edition of Isibo of 16 February 1993, p. 3.
(99) Author email correspondence with Marley, 17 September 2004.
(100) Westbrook. FM Dar es Salaam to London FO, 22 Feb 1993. OF 091034Z.
(101) Philpot, R. (2005) Rwanda 1994: Colonialism Dies Hard. English version of (2003) French publication made available on the website of The Taylor-Report.com., chapter 4.
(102) Des Forges’ curriculum vitae submitted to the Canadian High Court of Appeal states under ‘other professional activities : Consultant, U.S. Department of State, Agency for International Development, July 191, July 1992’. In Mugesera v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), Federal Court of Appeal,Québec, April 28 and 29; Ottawa, September 8, 2003.
(103) Joyce Leader (2001) Rwanda’s Struggle for Democracy and Peace 1991-1994 (Washington, DC: The Fund for Peace) p. 9.
(104) Gasana, J.K. (2002) Rwanda : Du Parti-Etat a L’Etat-Garnison (Paris : L’Harmattan) Table 2, p. 185.
(105) Joyce Leader, speech, ‘The Rwanda Crisis: the Genesis of a Genocide’. delivered at Penn State University, Harrisburg, on 5th April 2001.
(106) Author email correspondence with Lt. Col. Anthony Marley 17 September 2004. Marley was military adviser to the Africa Bureau of the US department of State, and an important participant in the peace talks between August 1992 and August 1995, and the person who brokered the cease-fire after the February 1993 offensive. According to Marley ‘The Hutus in the DMZ area wanted peace, but they feared the RPF (viewing them as the cause of the war and their problems) and had no desire to see a Tutsi role in government’.
(107) Dallaire, R. (2003) Shake Hands With the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda. (Toronto: Random House) p. 200.
(108) Dallaire, R. (2003) pp. 130-131.
(109) Author interview with James Gasana.
(110) Madsen, William. (1999) Genocide and Covert Operations in Africa 1993-1999 (Lewiston, New York: The Edwin Mellen Press.) p. 108.
(111) Madsen, (1999) p. 124.
(112) See, for examples, African Rights (Revised edition 1995) Rwanda: Death, Despair and Defiance (London: African Rights) p. 22 ; Prunier, Gérard. (1995) The Rwanda Crisis, 1959-1994: History of a Genocide (London: Hurst and Co.) pp. 213-226.
(113) Prunier, Gérard. (1995) The Rwanda Crisis, 1959-1994: History of a Genocide (London: Hurst and Co.) pp. 213-226.
(114) Chazan, C., Lewis, P., Mortimer, R., Rothchild, D. and Stedman, S. (1999) Politics and Society in Contemporary Africa (Boulder, Co.: Lynne Rienner Publishers) p. 410.
(115) Mahmood Mamdani (2001) When Victims Become Killers : Colonialism, Nativism, and the Genocide in Rwanda (Princeton, New Jersey : Princeton University Press) p. 218.
(116) Lemarchand, R. (1995) ‘Rwanda: The Rationality of Genocide.’ Issue (African Studies Association of USA) Vol. 23, No. 2, cited in Millwood, D. (ed.) (1995) The International Response to Conflict and Genocide: Lessons from the Rwanda Experience Steering Committee of the Joint Evaluation of Emergency Assistance to Rwanda (Copenhagen: Steering Committee of the Joint Evaluation of Emergency Assistance to Rwanda) Vol. 1. p. 50.
(117) Human Rights Watch/ International Federation of Human Rights (1999) Leave None to Tell the Story : Genocide in Rwanda (New York : Human Rights Watch) p. 181.
(118) Human Rights Watch/ International Federation of Human Rights (1999) Leave None to Tell the Story : Genocide in Rwanda (New York : Human Rights Watch) p. 185.
(119) Umutesi, Marie Béatrice (2000) Surviving the Slaughter : The Ordeal of a Rwandan Refugee in Zaire (Madison, Wisconsin : University of Wisconsin Press) p. 47.
(120) ‘An eyewitness testimony to the shooting down of the Rwandan presidential plane’, International Strategic Studies Association, 21 April 2000.
(121) ‘Covert Action in Africa: a Smoking Gun in Washington DC’, James Lyons, Public statement at a conference organised by US Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, 2001.
(122) Leave None to Tell the Story’: Genocide in Rwanda, Human Rights Watch, 1999, p182.
(123) Le Monde ‘L’enquête sur l’attentat qui fit basculer le Rwanda dans le génocide.’ 10 March 2004.
(124) Eyewitness ‘confirms’ Rwanda attack, Martin Plaut, BBC News, 11 March 2004.
(125) Press release, ‘Major General Paul Kagame behind the shooting down of late Habyarimana’s plane: an eye witness testimony’ 2nd Lt Aloys Ruyenzi. Norway, 05/07/2004. sourced from the internet: http://www.inshuti.org/ruyenzi2.htm. The italics are Ruyenzi’s, not the author’s. The author has been in telephone contact with Ruyenzi.
(126) ‘Covert Action in Africa: a Smoking Gun in Washington DC’, James Lyons, Public statement at a conference organised by US Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, 2001.
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