Covert Action Quarterly
Genocide in Rwanda - 2 of 3
Ambasador Rawson and the Unleashing of the Apocalypse
U.S. Ambassador David Rawson had much in common with those who continued to view the complex political and cultural landscape through the distorting lens of the colonial legacy. Like them, he failed to rise above the limitations of his background. while giving a sophis ticated, balanced line in public, he consistently espoused the simplistic majoritarian politics of the government.
At another time, such bias might not have mattered as much. But when Rawson arrived in December 1993, Rwandese politics rested on a knife edge. Four months earlier, the Habyarimana government, the rebel Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF), and the civilian opposition parties had signed a comprehensive agreement in Arusha, Tanzania. It would have ensured a multi-party system, power-sharing with the main opposition groups, an independent judiciary with respect for human rights, integration of the RPF into the national army, and an abolition of the extremist paramilitary forces. This step toward peace and democracy was successfully negotiated with the apparent support of African and Western governments, and guaranteed by the troops of the U . N. Assistance Mission to Rwanda (UNAMIR). The U.S. government, under former Undersecretary of State for African Affairs Herman Cohen, had also put its weight behind the process that led to the Arusha agreement. But Habyarimana- under pressure from the extremists he had promoted to dominant positions in the army and government-repeatedly stalled in implementing the provisions of the accords. The extremists within the MRND and the CDR opposed the accords because they would have meant power-sharing and an end to their unfettered power and privilege.
According to moderate ministers in the government, Rawson, knowingly or not, encouraged the extremists in derailing the peace process by echoing their claims that it was the RPF that had created all the obstacles to peace. Senior RPF members report that when they presented evidence of the planned genocide, the ambassador dismissed them with the charge that they were just looking for a pretext to restart the war. Most important, Rawson endorsed the demand by the ultra-extremist Coalition for the Defense of the Republic for a seat in the new National Assembly. Since the CDR was explicitly committed to eradication of the Tutsis (even before the April genocide) and destroying the treaty, Rawson's support amounted to collaboration with a stratagem designed to derail the peace process.
Habyarimana's failure to implement the accords was abetted not only by Rawson, but by an international climate which was auspicious for any dictator wishing to wriggle out of commitments to the world community. Following the military debacle of the U.S.-UN operations in Somalia in October 1993, assertive peacekeeping was deeply unpopular in both Washington and New York. One of the first casual ties of Gen. Aidid's Mogadishu triumph was Rwanda.
Once burned, the U.S. acted to con strain the UN's peacekeeping role, thus undermining international efforts led by Belgium and Tanzania (with support from other forces) to prevent the crisis in Rwanda. First, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright pushed a proposal to downsize UNAMIR. Security Council Resolution 872 invited UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali to "consider ways of reducing the total maximum strength of UNAMIR" and asked him to "seek economies." Second, U.S. Presidential Decision Directive No.25 0f March 1994 greatly limited the peacekeeping operations that the U.S. would support-not just those to which it would contribute troops, but those to which it would give financial support and its vote in the Security Council.
In the prevailing climate, President Habyarimana and the extremists who surrounded him hoped that if they could prevaricate until UNAMIR's mandate expired on April 5, 1994, the Security Council would lose patience and with draw the force. They would then have a free hand to dispose of the opposition and indeed the entire Tutsi population. On April 4, the day before the dead line, the Security Council was scheduled to review the progress made by, UNAMIR and the Rwandese parties' commitments to the Arusha Accords. Rwanda and its close ally and patron, France, were doing their best to undermine chances for a renewal of the mandate. The U.S. was at best lukewarm. But in tense lobbying by Belgium-which had contributed the largest number of troops to UNAMIR and had undertaken to underwrite the peace agreement with aid funds-ensured that the Rwandese extremists' expectations were confounded. On April 5, at a meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, African heads of state reaffirmed their commitment to the Arusha Accords and insisted that Habyarimana cease his delaying tactics and implement the power-sharing formula to which he agreed. On the way back to Kigali, Habyarimana's own handpicked extremists in the Presidential Guard shot down his plane and set in motion their final solution.