By: Laurabeth Goldsmith
The Rwandan genocide is a horrific atrocity and blemish on the human rights record of the United Nations and the international community. The United Nations was created in 1945 in the wake of World War II’s total devastation. World War II was the deadliest war in human history with an estimated sixty to eighty-five million deaths from battlefield fatalities, indiscriminate bombings, war related diseases, and genocide. The UN was created to maintain international peace and security and to prevent future atrocities. Specifically, the United Nations charter includes in the preamble: “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small…” The United Nations undoubtedly failed to act with appropriate speed and force to prevent and end the genocide in Rwanda. This failure of action was a failure to achieve the fundamental purpose of the United Nations.
In October 1993, the Security Council adopted Resolution 872, which established the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR).UNAMIR was established, to help implement the Arusha Accords, monitor its implementation and support a transitional Government. UNAMIR was doomed from the start, as the mission was not given adequate troops, an adequate mandate, or adequate resources. Canadian Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire, the head of UNAMIR sent a cable on Jan. 11, 1994 to Kofi Anan warning of the risk of genocide in Rwanda. Kofi Anan and the United Nations reasserted that the mission should not use force. On April 6 1994, when President Habyarimana’s plane was shot down the political and ethnic killings began. UNAMIR attempted to arrange a ceasefire, but they were unsuccessful and repeatedly were attacked. On April 21, 1994, The Security Council passed Resolution 912, which further crippled UNAMIR and reduced UNAMIR’s total numbers from 2,548 to 270.The Security Council eventually adopted Resolution 918 on May 17, 1994 that created an arms embargo against Rwanda and increased UNAMIR’s strength to 5,500 troops. On June 22, 1994 The UN Security Council granted a chapter VII mandate to a multi-national humanitarian operation led by French forces.This action came way too late as 800,000 Rwandan citizens died during the genocide while the United Nations largely failed to act, despite their knowledge of the genocide. This lack of meaningful intervention was largely due to a lack of political will, low interest in Rwanda, and in part a lack of resources from the international community.
The genocide had enormous consequences for Rwandan society as a whole and women were subjected to undue propaganda, hatred, rape, mutilation, and disease including the spread of HIV. In addition to humiliation and disease, these mass rapes also resulted in sterilization of abused women. The effects of the genocide in Rwanda are still prevalent in Rwandan society today, as there are many children born from the genocide and the society is still attempting to heel from the brutal ethnic cleansing and genocide.
In order to prevent the international community from standing idly by, the Security Council should always push for humanitarian and military intervention to prevent massive deaths regardless of individual state interests. Unfortunately, P-5 veto powers and a lack of political will, still prevent necessary intervention today.
The international community said “never again” after the Holocaust and after the Rwandan Genocide, yet massive killings continue around the world today, especially in civil war ridden Syria. The current death toll in Syria is estimated at over 140,000. Today The United Nations still faces the same criticism that it is not putting its member states money and troops where the UN Mission encourages them to be sent in order to maintain international peace and security.
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