In my answer to one of the latest comments to my post Obsession Rwanda, I wrote things about the personal responsibility of then-UN Secretary General Boutros Broutros-Ghali. Since I didn’t have time to elaborate, I decided to write this post so that everybody can check the information and its source.
When talking about information warfare, the media are the first place most people think of. But in times of crisis, decision making and information flow inside the UN are one key place to look at. That’s what Linda Melvern did for the Rwandan genocide. Here are excerpts of a testimony she gave early this week, on June 2.
The Security Council of the UN is central to the application of the Genocide Convention and in the circumstances of Rwanda this raises a fundamental question – why in 1994 was the Council seemingly incapable of implementing the convention.
It was attempting to answer this question that I was to discover the importance of the role played by France, a permanent member of the Council and the then Secretary General of the UN, the Egyptian diplomat and scholar Dr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali.
French policy towards Rwanda , and expressed in the Council, was run by a circle of Franco-African experts and businessmen. This policy, which centered on the Africa Unit in the Elysée Place, was unaccountable to parliament or the French public and it was in the control of the then French President, Francois Mitterrand. This is why an exact account of the decision making is hard to expose. But in both my books, A People Betrayed and Conspiracy to Murder I have tried to show the influence over UN policy towards Rwanda by French diplomats.
It is of note that the then Secretary-General of the UN, Dr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali was a personal friend of President Francois Mitterrand. Mitterrand had supported the candidacy of Boutros Boutros-Ghali for Secretary-General, the only permanent member of the Council to do so. It is also of note that Boutros Boutros-Ghali was more knowledgeable about Rwanda than any other senior member of the UN staff. He had first visited Rwanda in1983 and most of the high-level Egyptian-Rwandan diplomatic dialogue went through him.
He had facilitated the first secret arms deal between Rwanda and Egypt in October 1990 when he was deputy Foreign Minister of Egypt. The initial deal of US $ 5.889 million was for grenades, some two million rounds of ammunition, 18,000 mortar bombs, assault rifles and rocket launchers. As a gesture of “goodwill” Egypt had given Rwanda two field ambulances for free. Eventually, over the next three years, Egypt would provide some US $ 23 million arms to Rwanda .
The information in my books is based on access to UN records, to the files of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO). I have read all the cables sent from the field by the Force Commander of the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) Lt. Gen Roméo Dallaire and all the replies to those cables from UN headquarters in New York . Further, an anonymous source at the UN gave me a document containing the details of what was said in the secret and informal meetings of the Council to discuss Rwanda – both before the genocide and while it was taking place. The decision making in the Council had a decisive effect on what happened. Had this decision making been different then the genocide of the Tutsi, 1994, may never have taken place.
The decision in October 1993 to send a small peacekeeping mission to Rwanda and fail to reinforce as violence worsened was a terrible error. France – a permanent member of the Council knew more about Rwanda than any other member of the Council. Yet what the document on the secret Council meetings shows us is that France largely sat silent in Council meetings. Lt. Gen Dallaire believes that the failure by France to share intelligence information cost the lives of his peacekeepers — and had a determining effect on the decision making. The French ambassador on the Council Bernard Merimee, would later blame the US and the UK for the failure over Rwanda – and although both states did play a decisive role, the failure of France is special and particular.
I will start with the decision making of the Secretary-General.
It was Dr. Boutros-Ghali who personally appointed as UN Special Representative for Rwanda a friend, Jacques Roger Booh-Booh, a former Foreign Minister of the Cameroon . Booh-Booh was not considered to be impartial – he was close to ministers in the regime of President Juvenal Habyarimana. And as special representative he would gather around him officials from Franco-African countries.
From the outset of the mission the Force Commander of UNAMIR, Lt-General Dallaire, sent to New York detailed and lengthy cables about the situation in Rwanda. Some of these cables directly contradicted the information sent to New York by Booh-Booh. Some weeks into the mission and Dallaire began to lose credibility at UN headquarters – and he blamed Booh-Booh for this situation. The French government wanted Dallaire’s removal as Force Commander. Dallaire’s concerns about the CDR party – the extremist Hutu Power grouping, were not put to the Council. Nor was Dallaire’s long list of military requirements for his force lacked the barest essentials – he even had to borrow money from another part of the UN, the agency UNICEF to pay his local staff. He lacked sufficient petrol, water and food for his troops.
Why was the Council not informed of these realities? I would later discover how Boutros-Ghali had insisted on controlling the flow of information from Secretariat officials-in receipt of Dallaire’s cables – to the Council chamber. Only Boutros-Ghali could decide what the Council was told and Dallaire’s detailed cables about the risks and dangers in Rwanda never reached Council members. Boutros-Ghali said that he did not want the ambassadors in the Council to micro-manage peacekeeping missions. There was constant tension between the Secretary-General and the Council. He even forbid Kofi Annan, then the head of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) from appearing before the Council. The warnings that genocide was in preparation and particularly the January 11 cables with detail from an Interahamwe informer about the lists prepared of Tutsi with a view to their extermination, were not given to Council members.
Read more here…
It’s so sad, one could cry… or laugh, just like Ali G in this video:
How do you say “shit” in french? M.E.R.D.E.
Boutros Boutros-Ghali et la France à l’ONU: Désinformation à tous les étages
Dans une réponse à un des derniers commentaires au post Obsession Rwanda, j’ai fait référence au rôle de Boutros Broutros-Ghali et ses liens avec la France, mais sans donner plus de détail. J’ai retrouvé le témoignage de la journaliste britannique Linda Melvern dont les livres – A People Betrayed et Conspiracy to Murder – font autorité sur la question du processus de décision et la circulation de l’information (désinformation) au sein des Nations Unies.
Je vous invite à suivre les liens indiqués plus haut pour lire le témoignage original en anglais, mais voici des faits peu connus du monde francophone:
– BBG était un ami personnel de Mitterand, qui l’a soutenu pour son élection à la tête de l’ONU.
– BBG connaissait d’autant mieux le Rwanda qu’il s’y était rendu à plusieurs reprises dans les années 80 en tant que ministre des affaires étrangères du gouvernement égyptien.
– BBG a facilité la vente d’armes égyptiennes au gouvernement rwandais: grenades, munitions, bombes, fusils d’assaut, missiles… Le tout pour un montant de presque 30 millions de dollars de l’époque.
– BBG a nommé le Camerounais Jacques Roger Booh-Booh au poste de représentant spécial pour le Rwanda en sachant que ce dernier était très proche du pouvoir Hutu.
– BBG a systématiquement contrôlé l’information en provenance du terrain pour notamment empêcher que les rapports alarmistes du général canadien Roméo Dallaire ne soits portés à la connaissance du Conseil de Sécurité.
– Oui, vous avez bien lu: c’est cette personne qui était à la tête de l’ONU avant, pendant et après le génocide rwandais.
Je m’arrête-là. A vous poursuivre l’investigation et de tirer vos propres conclusions.