“The United Nations inadequate mandate in Rwanda directly influenced the magnitude of the Rwandan Genocide, and if the UN took a more involved approach, the impact of the genocide could have been mitigated.”
We formed this thesis from several points.
Firstly, the mandate assigned to the UNAMIR was inadequate for the situation in Rwanda, primarily due to the insufficient political analysis on the situation conducted beforehand. The mission was apparently not even aware of the disturbing report published only a couple of weeks before by the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on Summary and Extrajudicial Executions about the situation in Rwanda. The Rapporteur had even specifically pointed to an extremely serious human rights situation, and discussed at some degree the possibility that a genocide was being committed in Rwanda. Dallaire informed the Inquiry that, if there been more depth in the political assessment and had he been aware of the report, he would have reconsidered the force level recommendations by the reconnaissance mission.
However, the mission’s mandate continued to be inadequate especially after the warning signs had appeared. Several examples of early signs of a genocide were already appearing, and Dallaire as well as the UNAMIR forces were aware. The shipment loaded with ammunition and weapons for the Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR) was a clear signal that something was amiss in the country. Yet when Dallaire requested to seize these, the UN denied him. In addition, the information contained in the cable (message by cablegram), and in particular the information indicating the existence of a plan to exterminate Tutsi, was so important that it should have been given the highest priority and attention. But instead, it was largely disregarded by the UNAMIR.
There was also a misunderstanding on how to engage when conflict arises, creating a barrier in the UN’s involvement. The Force Commander submitted a draft set of Rules of Engagement for UNAMIR to Headquarters months before the genocide, yet headquarters never gave a solid response. The same draft was submitted again after the genocide began. It was decided that the mission was under rules of engagement not to use force except in self-defense. Other problems, such as lack of resources and problems related to command and control, have been cited by the Force Commander and others to explain why UNAMIR did not stop the massacres.
The magnitude of the Rwandan Genocide was huge, but a force numbering 2,500 should have been able to stop or at least limit massacres of the kind which began in Rwanda after the genocide began. Yet instead, the mandate had stated that UN forces would keep a more neutral position instead of taking sides, when clearly Rwanda was preparing a genocide. The UNAMIR had a lack of well-trained troops and functioning materiel, but ultimately, it lacked the will to take on the commitment which would have been necessary to prevent or to stop the genocide. They were also not planned, dimensioned, deployed or instructed in a way which gave them the skills needed in case of a serious conflict, as they were sent to Rwanda as simply “peacekeepers” to oversee the transition into a new government.
UN also indicated that if events moved in a negative direction, it might be necessary to conclude that UNAMIR must withdraw, rather than actively investigating the possibility of strengthening the operation to deal with the new challenges on the ground.
Insufficient political assessment beforehand, lack of action when warning signs became present, military capacity, severe problems of command and control all led to UN’s lack of involvement, and failure to respond or mitigate the effects of the genocide.