Did the United Nations Fail to Prevent the Rwandan Civilian War and Genocide in 1994?

An Essay on African History

Essay, 2019

12 Pages, Grade: 5.0


Essay on the Rwanda Genocide

Did the United Nations (and the world’s great powers) fail to prevent the Rwandan civilian war and genocide in 1994?

There have been cases of murder ever since the starting of human civilization. The quest of political and religious leaders in an endeavor of territorial and ideological extension has escalated disagreements between sovereign states. The global community has failed to prevent some of the actions taken by some leaders of sovereign states against other groups within their countries borders. Rwanda was involved in a civil war between its major ethnic groups, Tutsi and Hutu in the year 1994. The international community watched the killing of more than 800,000 people in a span of 100 days in 1994 Rwanda genocide (Hintjens, 1999, p. 241-286). The genocide in Rwanda is perhaps one of the most intensive killing campaigns to take place in human history after the Second World War. The Rwanda genocide came as a result of ethnic division which was not a feature of Rwandan society before the establishment of colonial rule. Initially, Rwanda was colonized by Germans, but it was taken over by Belgium which came up with the divide and rule policy to control Rwanda. Tutsi were the minority and were given preferential treatment while Hutu were not considered as an original ethnic group in Rwanda (Uvin, 2001, p.75-99)

It is factual that UN failed to prevent Rwanda genocide as the then Secretary General Kofi Annan issued their apologies for failing to stop and prevent genocide and the civil war. The United Nations and some of the world great powers failed to prevent the Rwanda civil war and genocide of 1994 that left almost one tenth of the Rwanda population dead. The UN has got various organs which are entitled different roles in the peacekeeping mission. United Nations main role is to maintain international security and peace through the help of the Security Council (Goulding, 1999, p.155-166). The UNAMIR was created in 1993 through the support of Security Council with the aim of ending the Rwanda civil war. The mission lasted for the three years from 1993-1996, but it was unable to aid peace relations in Rwanda. The signing of Arusha accord in 1993 was meant to end hostilities and promote security in Rwanda, but this failed. The United Nations forces had the mandate to monitor entry of illegal arms which triggered the genocide. The UN peacekeeping troops had a significant deficiency in their investigation capability as the key weapons which led to genocide were brought in their presence. The UN troops had been in Rwanda since 1993 to maintain peace between rebels (Tutsi) and the government (Hutu). The UN forces were to assist in disarmament and pave the way for transitional government, but nothing went as it was planned and war broke out in the process of peacekeeping( Grünfeld and Huijboom, 2007, p.66-77)

The genocide and the civil war were intense, but neither United Nations nor international community intervened to stop the offense. Some of the great world power such as the United States and United Nations could have at least stopped the broadcast of the incidence if at all they were unable to use the military forces to stop the genocide. It is not that United Nations did not want to save the people of Rwanda from the genocide, but United Nations is not built to tackle genocide crisis efficiently. The United Nations was not able to successfully intervene in the Rwanda genocide since it lacked proper view or the objective of the crisis, supplies, funds and skills necessary to intercede. The United Nations is also blamed because of ignoring some precious warning before the war and relied very much on precedents (Stanton, 2004, p.211-228)

The UN Security Council admitted that they failed in their role to avert the genocide and civil wars that happened in Rwanda. The Security Council acknowledged that failure to have governments in Rwanda made it impossible to stop the genocide and the civil wars. The United Nations removed 2500 peacekeepers from Rwanda following the murder of ten soldiers from Belgium which an indication that it was not determined to help the people of Rwanda overcome the genocide. The UN response to the crisis was no efficient, and most of the UN officials had some misjudgment and serial mistakes including Kofi Annan who was the UN secretary general by then. There were harsh criticisms that UN Security Council failed to deploy sufficient peacekeeping forces in Rwanda at the end of 1993 when efforts were made to execute a peace agreement. On the other hand, some of the countries such as America with the support of Britain resisted the formation of a dominant force to assist in the genocide (Power, 2001, p.84-108)

The UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) existed since 1993 before the genocide and had the mandate of overseeing the implementation of Arusha accords. UNAMIR failure to stop the Rwanda genocide signified the failure of UN system. There was resources constraint which interfered with the input and output impact of the mission. Some troop contingents who were deployed to the scene were inadequately equipped to warrant efficient operation in the time of need. Failure was also visible when Ghanaian battalion was deployed to the scene for fortnights with no equipment. The operations failed to have stock of ammunitions, food, water, lubricant and fuel. The mission needed around (20 Armored Personnel Carriers) whereas they had only (5 APCs), and this reduced the general success of the operations. On the other hand, there was the lack of political will and criticisms were leveled on limitations and mistakes of the UNAMIR troops (Bannon, 2005, p.1157).

Most of the United Nations member’s states failed to show their responsibility and preparedness to send material or troop to the genocide. After the genocide had reached its peak, some African countries sent intervention forces to Rwanda whereas Washington was told to provide some APCS but demanded $15 million from United Nations and the UN could not have afforded. In another incident when Belgium troops wanted to pull out there were requested by the secretary-general to leave the heavy weapon behind that UNAMIR can use them though they refused. On the other hand, the slowness in recognizing the incident as genocide was the problem of Security Council. Some nations were reluctant to utilize the phrase genocide as they were induced by lack of the will to act. It can be attributed that Rwanda did not have some strategic significance to the global community particularly America (Evans, 2009, p.15-29)

There was deficient of analytical capability in the prevention of the genocide and civil wars by the UNAMIR. The nature of conflict is supposed to dictate the comprehensiveness of the peacekeeping undertaking. UN and UNAMIR failed to have the complete political scrutiny of the condition in Rwanda. The UNAMIR failed to defend civilians, UN bureaucrats and political leaders, and the end impact was a shocking loss of lives. However, UNAMIR had the mandate to guard politicians who were of great significance in the execution of Arusha accord, although opponent politicians turned out to be major targets after the commencement of the violence. The UNAMIR forces failed to warrant the security they were commanded to provide (Des Forges and Longman, 2004, p.55-56).

In any peacekeeping mission, the unity of command signifies a vital component for eventual success to be realized. Individual contingents are supposed to act consistently in response to the commands from the force commander rather than the state agenda and imperatives. At some instances, the situation in Rwanda became uncontrollable after the Habyarimana murder, and this led to individual troops taking commands of their correspondence contingents. There was no discouragement of unilateral withdrawal of forces upon been deployed, and this was the failure of UN and UNAMIR. Any withdrawal was supposed to be conducted under the consolation of secretary general, but this was not the case in Rwanda, and it signified the failure of United Nations. Some of the nations such as Belgium withdrew their contingents together with their heavy machinery jeopardizing the protection of the left behind troops (Hintjens, 1999, p.241-286).

The UN Peacekeeping mission had a double chain of authority between the civilian and the military. The division led to some predicaments at the phase of operational commencement. At one occasion General Dallaire made some evaluation of what was needed for the operations and appealed to be provided with 500 troops which would be essential in countering any violations but the civilians United Nation team did not see the rationale and recommended half the number proposed by Dallaire. Such division and disagreements made it impossible to prevent the genocide and the civil war in Rwanda (Leitenberg, 1994, p.6).

The UN was very slow in its response to Rwanda genocide as they had been warned before the event by General Dallaire to be cautious as Hutu extremist had some plans to exterminate the Tutsis. UN forces known as UNAMIR made some efforts to patrol the streets of Rwanda, but they were unable to stop killing and breach the road blocks. The UN forces failed to use force to get beyond roadblocks, and they failed to attack the killers as they were not allowed by their mandate. They had the mandate to keep the peace, but there was no longer any peace to keep. UN forces scrambled for planes to leave Rwanda as the killings became more intensified (Goulding, 1999, p.155-166).

On the other hand world, super powers by then failed to take any action to prevent the genocide and the civil war in Rwanda. Major Powers such as the United States knew more about the genocide and the civil war but passed up countless chances to intervene. Before the Rwanda genocide, American had withdrawn its forces from Somalia and vowed never again to involve itself in any conflict between tribes and clans it did not understand. America and some Western countries did not respond to the Rwanda genocide and the civil war. The United States to some extent refused to give material assistance to Rwanda. America was humiliated by the defeat they underwent in the process of trying to intervene in Somalia thus they just watched the Rwanda genocide taking place (Burkhalter, 1994, p.44-54).


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Did the United Nations Fail to Prevent the Rwandan Civilian War and Genocide in 1994?
An Essay on African History
Mount Kenya University
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united, nations, fail, prevent, rwandan, civilian, genocide, essay, african, history
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Stephen Irungu Mbuthia (Author), 2019, Did the United Nations Fail to Prevent the Rwandan Civilian War and Genocide in 1994?, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/468918


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