Academic journal article International Journal

[Rwanda: The Preventable Genocide. the Report of the International Panel of Eminent Personalities to Investigate the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda & the Surrounding Events]

Academic journal article International Journal

[Rwanda: The Preventable Genocide. the Report of the International Panel of Eminent Personalities to Investigate the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda & the Surrounding Events]

Article excerpt

Rwanda: The Preventable Genocide - The Report of the International Panel of Eminent Personalities to Investigate the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda and the Surrounding Events. [Addis Ababa: Organisation of African Unity], 7 July 2000, xxii, 318pp. Online at http://www.oauoua.org/Document/ipep/report/rwanda.

The flood of books, commentaries, TV documentaries, theses, and commission reports on the Rwanda genocide seems to know no end. Some early superficial or partisan accounts have given way to better informed, if no less tragic, recitals of those terrible events. Nevertheless, such is the controversy and confusion generated by the genocide that blighted Rwanda and shamed the world that great expectations awaited the two 'official' reports under review, anticipating that they would clarify the outstanding issues. The secretary-general of the United Nations, Kofi Annan - a central figure in the drama - commissioned the first and the Organization of African Unity (OAU) initiated the second.(f.1) Neither disappoints. While not free of controversy or in total agreement on every point, the two assessments taken together are about as definitive as one can expect at this stage. Their judgments are bound to carry great weight. No one with an interest in the causes, course, complexities, and consequences of the genocide can afford to ignore them. Both reports were partly funded by Canada.

The authors of the reports share two distinctions. First, they alone were 'accorded the opportunity to research the confidential records of the UN' (OAU 132; UN 4) and were able to interview a wide range of (largely the same) individuals who were actively involved. Secondly, they were given a genuinely free hand in reaching their own conclusions, and they took full advantage of that independence to write frankly, even brutally.

The UN Inquiry comprised a three-man team: a former Swedish prime minister as chair, a former Korean foreign minister with experience as United Nations special representative in Cyprus, and a Nigerian general who had served as field commander of ECOMOG, the West African peacekeeping force, in Liberia and as head of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization in Jerusalem. The OAU panel consisted of seven 'Eminent Personalities,' two of whom were former heads of state (of Botswana and Mali) and two were illustrious women, one Liberian and the other Swedish. The remaining three were an Algerian ambassador, a retired Indian chief justice, and Stephen Lewis, UNICEF deputy executive secretary and, earlier, one of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney's inspired appointments as Canadian ambassador to the United Nations. The senior writer on the project was another Canadian, the indomitable Gerry Caplan.(f.2)

The mandates of the two bodies differed in significant respects. The Inquiry was enjoined to establish the facts related to the United Nations role and response in Rwanda and to 'draw relevant conclusions and identify the lessons to be learnt.' The actions of African organizations and governments, as well as outside powers, are, in the main, left to the OAU panel and others to explore (UN 1, 4). Moreover, the period under review covers only nine months - from the launching of UNAMIR, the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda, in October 1993 to the winding down of organized killing following the military conquest of the country by the (Tutsi) Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) in July 1994.

The OAU report is considerably more comprehensive in terms of time frame, territorial scope, and range of actors. Its investigations extended to regional as well as Rwandan developments 'surrounding' the genocide over nearly four years, from the Arusha Peace Accords in August 1993 to the overthrow of the Mobutu Sese Seko regime in neighbouring Zaire in May 1997 (p 288). Five introductory chapters set the conflict in context by tracing the roots and evolution of the crisis from colonial times to Arusha, and seven concluding chapters carry the post-genocide story to the end of the decade. …

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