Two Families, One Genocide, and the United Nations:
Two Families Seek Reparations From The United Nations For U.N. Complicity In Murders During The 1994 Rwandan Genocide
By Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney
December 17, 1999
For the first time in history, United Nations Peacekeeping troops have been directly implicated in the crimes of genocide and in crimes against humanity. Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, has said that Heads of State and world leaders must be prosecuted for failing to prevent genocide. I say the United Nations Secretariat should not be exempt, either. At a hearing on December 8, 1999, members of two families who survived the killing fields of Rwanda gave chilling testimony concerning the atrocities they witnessed. Their loved ones were under the direct care of United Nations Peacekeeping Troops. But those troops abandoned the people they were sent to protect and left them to be brutally murdered. The witnesses demanded that the United Nations live up to its own standard for Heads of State and world leaders and be held accountable for its own participation in Rwanda's genocide.
At the meeting in Washington, DC the surviving members of two prominent Rwandan families, together with their legal counsel, appeared before the United Nations Independent Inquiry responsible for investigating the UN's role in the 1994 Rwanda genocide. The meeting had been arranged through my yearlong efforts demanding that Secretary-General Kofi Annan answer the charges that UN troops failed to save the lives of civilians in Rwanda.
The families gave eyewitness testimony and presented secret United Nations documents to the Inquiry Chairman Mr. Ingvar Carlsson, the former Prime Minister of Sweden, together with Dr. Han of Korea and General Kopulati of Nigeria, Inquiry Members.
During the four hour meeting, Rwandan eye witnesses informed the Inquiry of the circumstances surrounding the murders on April 7, 1994 in Rwanda of Mr. Joseph Kavaruganda, the former Rwandan Chief Justice; and Mr. Landoald Ndasingwa, the former Rwandan Minister of Labor and Social Affairs. Tragically, in the case of Mr. Ndasingwa, his mother Bibiane; Canadian wife Helen; and his two teenage children Patrick and Malaika perished with him. The witnesses revealed how United Nations troops, who had been entrusted with the protection of both families by the UN Force Commander, disobeyed their Rules of Engagement and willingly surrendered them to their killers. Despite the assignment of UN troops to protect these families, absolutely nothing was done to protect them at their greatest moment of need.
Mr. Ndasingwa's gardener, the only survivor from the Ndasingwa home, revealed how he saw armed United Nations troops cut tail and run through a hole in the fence when the Presidential Guard killers arrived at the front of the home. The gardener then heard Mr. Ndasingwa desperately plead on the telephone with the nearby UN military headquarters to send more troops to save him and his family from certain death. Despite assurances that UN troops were being sent, and not to worry, no additional troops ever arrived. The gardener was then forced to witness the Presidential Guard execute Mr. Ndasingwa and his entire family one at a time. Incredibly, the gardener then survived death when his executioner's pistol, which was placed against his head, twice malfunctioned.
Anonciata Kavaruganda explained how armed United Nations troops, stationed at her home for months protecting her family, roused them during the early hours on April 7, 1994. Incredibly, she told how the UN soldiers informed her husband that he and his family were being handed to the Presidential Guard. He objected and advised the UN troops that the Presidential Guard planned to murder him and his family. She recalled how a Presidential Guard officer told her husband, in the presence of United Nations troops, that he was not going to be permitted to swear in the new Transitional Government and that he had to go join Mr. Landoald Ndasingwa.
Despite his honor Judge Kavaruganda pleading with the UN troops that he was going to be murdered, the UN troops insisted that he had to go with the Presidential Guard. After his surrender by UN soldiers, Judge Kavaruganda disappeared with the Presidential Guard troops that morning and has never been seen again. Anonciata Kavaruganda also detailed how she was then kept at her home with her two young daughters and that throughout the remainder of the day they were all beaten and tortured by the remaining Presidential Guard troops as the UN soldiers looked on drinking beer and laughing.
What makes the circumstances surrounding the murders of these families much more egregious is that on February 17, 1994 the UN Force Commander General Dallaire had actually received a secret intelligence report from his intelligence staff accurately detailing a plan by Hutu extremists associated with the Rwandan government to murder both Mr. Landoald Ndasingwa and his Honor Judge Kavaruganda. Despite being received some 50 days in advance of the outbreak of the genocide, nothing was ever done with this information. Tragically, as was predicted, both families were attacked, both men murdered.
The UNAMIR reports that the families presented to the Carlsson Inquiry included:
January 11, 1994 cable warning of attacks on Belgian soldiers and the registration of the Tutsi population in order that they could be targeted for extermination. This document includes the dire warning that the interahamwe predicted it could kill 1,000 Tutsi in 20 minutes.
February 17, 1994 Military Intelligence Office (MIO) report detailing a secret plan by Hutu extremists to murder Mr. Landoald Ndasingwa and Judge Kavaruganda.
February 1994 MIO report detailing foreign mercenaries from an identified country training interahamwe killers in secret forest locations.
Undated, MIO report detailing secret weapons supplies from an identified country supplying weapons to forces in Rwanda in violation of the arms embargo.
April 8, 1994 cable from General Romeo Dallaire advising Annan that "UNAMIR camps have sheltered civilians terrified by the ruthless campaign of ethnic cleansing and terror."
April, 17, 1994 cable from Dallaire to General Maurice Baril (UN New York Department of Peacekeeping Operations) warning that ethnic cleansing is continuing and accelerating, that UNAMIR is losing control of information, that UNAMIR troops are even refusing to protect civilians and in fact are surrendering them for their murder. Dallaire says that a critical moment has arrived that is demoralizing the troops. He pleads for a change in the UNAMIR mandate.
April 21, 1994 cable from U.N. Special Rapporteur Roger Booh Booh to Kofi Annan advising him that a verifiable cease-fire must include the halting of crimes against humanity by both sides and the need for the forming of an international commission to investigate the killings and massacres which have occurred in Rwanda.
I noted that the UN is not above the law and should be subjected to the same standards as any other participant in an international crime. In 1994 it was Rwanda, in 1995 it was Srebrenica. Who will be next? The UN must perform better when the confidence of the world has been placed in its hands. And certainly, international bureaucrats accountable to no one should not have Rwanda Genocide matters of life and death in their hands and be able to walk away from their mistakes with impunity. This is certainly not an effort to damage the UN, but to make it accountable for its own criminal actions as any other corporation, individual, Head of State, or world leader would be. If a corporation, an individual, a Head of State, or a world leader can be held accountable, why not the United Nations when it has entire countries in its trust? The Secretariat of the United Nations has the blood on its hands of nearly one million Rwandans who were brutally murdered as the UN leadership stood by and watched. Afterwards, they tried to cover up the extent of what they knew and when they knew it. But we know the identities of the individuals at United Nations Headquarters who made those fateful decisions in 1994 that have left Rwanda in chaos; what we don't know is why they allowed the tiny state of Rwanda to become engulfed in catastrophe. The United Nations must be held accountable under international law.
Never again must really mean never again for all the peoples of the world.