Published in Information (Denmark)
Boutros-Ghali Misinforms on Rwanda
UN Secretary-General Boutros-Boutros Ghali has tried to cover up that his own secretariat deliberately stopped warnings coming from Rwanda about plans by Hutu extremists to kill Belgian soldiers in order to initiate a genocide of Rwanda's Tutsi population. As described in Information on Saturday, crucial information on what was to happen was not passed on to the Security Council.
As a response to the Danishled, multi-donor evaluation report, which criticised him and his staff for misreading the conflict and overlooking serious warnings because of a lack of human resources, bureaucratic inertia and mere incompetence, Boutros-Ghali now claims that the information was passed on. In the official book, The UN and Rwanda 1993-1996, Boutros-Ghali says in his foreword that he, the day after the cables were received on January 12th, informed the Security Council "through my special adviser."
But Czech Ambassador Karel Kovanda, President of the Council at that time seems to disagree. After having gone through his notes he explains: "There was a meeting of the Security Council on that day, but it was not on Rwanda; it was about general discussions on the role of regional organisations and of the UN. We were not told about the informer, the militias or the plans to assassinate the Belgians," "nothing whatsoever", Karel Kovanda tells Information.
Top chief surprised
This is confirmed by James Jonah, who at that time was Chief of the UN Department of Political Affairs (DPA), "Together with chief of DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations, ed.] I was in charge of preparing the material for the Security Council. If it had been brought to the Council I would have known." Jonah says that he was surprised when he last year read about the cable in the press.
The Secretary-General and his advisers as well as the top of the DPKO have been busy covering up their role in the decisive days of April 1994. In the same introduction Boutros-Ghali says, "The killings up to a million people are estimated to have been killed.... was clearly genocide".
But it took many weeks before the Secretary-General actually used the word genocide despite the fact that his personal military adviser and the chief of DPKO for months had known that the militias planned this. Instead he described the killings during the first weeks as mindless blood frenzy caused by "deep-rooted ethnic hatred". Only after the Czech Republic and other countries had pressurised the Secretary-General, by making the Security Council adopt a statement using language that referred to the Genocide Convention, was the word introduced by the Secretary-General. The use of this word in the UN system has the special effect that the Convention obliges the member states to intervene, but Boutros-Ghali even toned down its meaning by describing the violence as "Hutus killing Tutsis and Tutsis killing Hutus".
The Secretary-General started a cover-up action after a number of countries, chaired by Denmark, in March 1996 released a comprehensive report on the efforts of the international community in Rwanda.
The report concluded that essential information was overlooked in the Secretariat because of incompetence, understaffing and bureaucratic inertia. The report contains a further critique of the Secretary-General and his staff because of their lack of action.
The Secretary-General immediately launched a counterattack: In a press statement - released the day before the announcement of the report - Boutros-Ghali accused the report of being revisionist and "containing unfounded accusations about the Secretary-General and the Secretariat and their actions or lack thereof".
In its own comment the UN Department of Humanitarian Affairs, DHA, is positive towards this report. But a single line in the cover text of the DHA response condemns the report as consisting of factual inaccuracies. This is directly ordered by the Secretary-General. One of the main authors of the report, Professor Howard Adelman, tells Information that three officers in DHA on different occasions to him stressed that this was not something they had suggested. Boutros-Ghali had called and had forced the newly appointed DHA-chief Yasushi Akashi to submit the critique.
A corrective to the evaluation-report
The next countermove from the Secretary-General is to release his version of the criticised events. On two decisive points it is an attempt to cover his own - or his Secretariat's - lack of actions.
According to the Secretary-Generals "corrective" to the multi-donor evaluation report, the Secretary-General one week into the conflict, on April 13th, sent a letter to the Security Council in which he encouraged the Council to send reinforcements.
This is not correct. On the contrary, the letter from April 13th says that the Secretary-General has ordered his Commander-in-Chief of the UN forces, Major-General Romeo Dallaire, to prepare for the withdrawal of the forces.In the Secretary-General's chronology he hereafter writes that he on April 20th - the day before the crucial meeting at the Security Council - recommended to the Council "an immediate and massive reinforcement of UNAMIR troops.
"This is not correct either, Czech Ambassador Kovanda tells Information, "No, he did not. And I have spoken to other ambassadors who said that too". The Secretary-General nevertheless wished to reinforce his cover. "After the Danish report he wished to give his own perspective," a UN source tells Information. This happened with the earlier mentioned book, The United Nations and Rwanda, 1993-1996, in which he wrote the introduction himself, which summarises the whole chain of events.
Here it is said about his recommendation to the Security Council on April 20th: "I asked my spokesperson to announce publicly that I wished" the massive forceful response.According to the UN's own notes from press briefings, Noon Briefing Reports, the spokesperson did not state this point of view before on April 22nd, i.e. the day after the Security Council had decided to pull out.
The remaining question is whom is Boutros-Ghali trying to protect. As
documented in the Saturday edition of Information, it has been possible
to trace the crucial intelligence from the UN forces in Rwanda that was
not passed on to the Security Council all the way up to his second-in-command,
Kofi Annan. He, by the way, stands as one of the strongest candidates
in case Boutros-Ghali is not re-elected.
Gunnar Willum and Bjørn Willum