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A group of 40 Rwandan, US, European and international former officials and experts met at The Hague in June 2014 for a conference on the failures of the international response to the 1994 Rwandan genocide. [Photo courtesy of The Hague Institute for Global Justice.]

Rwanda Re-Examined

"Unprecedented" 2014 Conference Illuminates International Response (and Lack Thereof) to Genocide

Transcript, Documents, Rapporteur's Report Published Online, Marking 21st Anniversary

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 508

Posted April 6, 2015

For more information contact:
Michael Dobbs mdobbs@ushmm.org
Emily Willard ewillard@gwu.edu
Tom Blanton tblanton@gwu.edu
202/994-7000

IN THE NEWS

Exclusive: Rwanda Revisited
By Colum Lynch, Foreign Policy, April 5, 2015

Declassified U.N. Cables Reveal Turning Point in Rwanda Crisis of 1994
By Mark Landler, The New York Times, June 3, 2014

The Shroud Over Rwanda's Nightmare
By Michael Dobbs, The New York Times, January 9, 2014

Refusing to Call it Genocide: Documents Show Clinton Administration Ignored Mass Killings in Rwanda
Emily Willard, Democracy Now! [Video], April 7, 2014

Don't Assume that the Rwandan Genocide Couldn't Happen Today
Sarah J. Bloomfield and Michael Abramowitz, The New RepublicApril 7, 2014

Britain ignored genocide threat in Rwanda
By Oscar Williams, The Independent, March 9, 2014

Tracing the Rwanda "Genocide Fax," Letter to the Editor, The New York Times
By Karel Kovanda
January 14, 2014

"The Rwandan Genocide," Letter to the Editor, The New York Times
 By Linda Melvern, Gregory Stanton, et al.
January 15, 2014 (published January 21, 2014)

"The Rwandan Genocide," Letter to the Editor, The New York Times
By Rafael Medoff
January 10, 2014

 

RELATED POSTS

Key Diplomat's Personal Notebook Sheds Light on Inner Workings of US Government Response to Genocide Unfolding in Rwanda in 1994
Ambassador Prudence Bushnell provides unique window into the making of US Foreign Policy during the Rwandan Genocide
January 30, 2015

Inside the UN Security Council: April–July 1994
United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Czech Republic Declassified Documents Reveal New Perspectives on United Nations Security Council Debates on Rwanda in April 1994
June 2, 2014

Rwanda: The Failure of the Arusha Peace Accords
International Community's Lack of Support for Military Demobilization and Rwandans' Inability to Implement Accords Led to Genocide in 1994
May 21, 2014

Sitreps Detail Rwanda's Descent into Genocide 1994
April 7, 2014

The Rwandan Refugee Crisis: Before the Genocide
March 31, 2014

The Rwandan Crisis Seen Through the Eyes of France
Part One: The Leadup to the Genocide.
March 20, 2014

Warnings of Catastrophe
French, US, UN, and Belgian Documents Foreshadow the Genocide in Rwanda 1994.
March 6, 2014

The Rwanda Sitreps
Daily Pleas to New York Detail How International Failure Left Peacekeepers Ill-Equipped to Respond to Rising Violence in January 1994
February 3, 2014

The Rwanda "Genocide Fax": What We Know Now
New Documentation Paints Complex Picture of Informant and his Warnings
January 9, 2014

The U.S. and the Genocide in Rwanda 1994: The Assassination of the Presidents and the Beginning of the "Apocalypse"
April 7, 2004

The U.S. and the Genocide in Rwanda 1994: Information, Intelligence and the U.S. Response
March 24, 2004

The U.S. and the Genocide in Rwanda 1994: Evidence of Inaction
August 20, 2001

Lessons Learned from U.S. Humanitarian Interventions Abroad
May 9, 2000

 


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Washington, DC, April 6, 2015 – The National Security Archive and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum today published the proceedings, documents and rapporteur's report from the critical oral history conference that Foreign Policy magazine called "an unprecedented 2014 gathering of former Rwandan officials and international policymakers who managed the response to the world's worst mass murder since the Holocaust."  The new documentation draws attention to flaws in international decision-making that continue to hamper the effective prevention of and response to mass atrocity today.

Timed to coincide with the 21st anniversary of the start of the Rwanda genocide in April 1994, today's release includes a fully annotated 230-page transcript of a two-day conference attended by many of the principal international actors on Rwanda. The conference, which took place in The Hague from June 1 to June 3, 2014, was sponsored by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and The Hague Institute for Global Justice, with support from the National Security Archive at George Washington University.

Conference attendees included the architects of the 1993 Arusha peace accords, the leadership of the UN peacekeeping force known as UNAMIR, four former ambassadors to the UN Security Council, as well as senior US, French, Belgian, and Rwandan officials. Under conference ground rules, the discussions were held behind closed doors, pending the release of an authorized transcript with supporting documentation from a wide array of primary sources.

"By assembling so many of the key players in the same room, we were able to analyze the fault lines in the international system in a way that sheds light on our modern-day challenges," said Cameron Hudson, director of the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. "The goal was to identify moments when international action might have made a difference."

The Rwanda conference was the first stage in a broader effort to examine "International Decision-Making in the Age of Genocide." This summer, a group of high-level civilian and military decision-makers will gather in The Hague for a follow-up conference marking the 20th anniversary of the fall of the United Nations "safe area" of Srebrenica.

"If we are serious about preventing future Rwandas and Srebrenicas, we must examine the functioning of the international system as a whole," said Abiodun Williams, President of The Hague Institute for Global Justice. "This includes not just the UN Security Council, but the actions of a wide range of traditional and non-traditional actors, including the media."

Insights that emerged over the course of the 2 ½ day conference on Rwanda are highlighted in a 32-page Rapporteur report also released today:

  • The negotiation and implementation phases of the Arusha peace accords were out of sync with each other. There should be much greater coordination between peace-makers and peace-implementers.
  • Ordinary Rwandans were poorly informed about the diplomatic negotiations in Arusha, and became easy prey for extremists. Civil society should have been much more closely involved in the peace process.
  • Western governments failed to develop a common policy on Rwanda that could have prevented the genocide. There should have been greater reliance on regional bodies, such as the then Organization for African Unity.
  • The international community staked everything on the success of the Arusha peace agreement, and failed to develop a backup plan, or fully anticipate the role of spoilers. Decision-makers should prepare for the worst-case scenario as well as the best-case scenario.

Each phase of the "International Decision-Making in the Age of Genocide" project is accompanied by an extensive document declassification effort. The National Security Archive of George Washington University has collected more than 20,000 documents on the Rwanda genocide. Many of the documents have already been posted on the websites of the Archive and the Museum. The remainder will be made available for research later this year, along with finding aids.

"We want to provide historians, journalists, and scholars with access to the primary source documents that show how decisions were taken in real time," said Tom Blanton, director of the National Security Archive. "We take readers behind the scenes of the closed sessions of the UN Security Council, as ambassadors wrestled with unspeakable atrocities and gut-wrenching decisions."


Conference Publications

Rapporteur's Report

International Decision-Making in the Age of Genocide: Rwanda 1990-1994

Edited and Annotated Conference Transcript

Day 1: Failure to Prevent

Day 2: Failure to Protect

Annex I: Agenda and Participants

Annex II: Documents Referenced

Annex III: People Cited

Annex IV: Acronyms

Conference Briefing Book

Volume I

Volume II

Conference Interviews

Gen. Roméo Dallaire, UNAMIR Force Commander - Video

Maj. Gen. Henry Anyidoho, UNAMIR - Video

Monique Mujawamariya, Rwandan Human Rights Defender - Video

Ambassador Ibrahim Gambari, Nigerian Representative to the United Nations - Video


Conference Photos

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