Wednesday, September 21, 2005

No Lessons from Rwanda

ISN SECURITY WATCH (21/09/05) - Rwandan Foreign Minister Charles Murigande has accused the UN of failing to learn from its mistakes, as the world body announced a declaration calling for intervention to stop genocide or ethnic cleansing.

Speaking in front of the 191-nation UN General Assembly over the weekend, the foreign minister welcomed the UN declaration stating that the international community must intervene in cases of genocide or ethnic cleansing, but wondered whether the statement was simply a sign of apathy, saying action, not words, would be the measure of success or failure.

The UN adopted a blueprint for reform for the 21st century that included a new international responsibility to protect.

Murigande told the assembly: “There are probably no other member states in this august body, apart from Rwanda, where the UN has consistently neglected to learn from its mistakes, resulting in massive loss of life and untold misery. Action, not words, would be the measure of our success or failure.

“How will the United Nations respond the next time action to protect populations is required? Will there be lengthy academic or legal debates on what constitutes genocide or crimes against humanity while people die?”

The commitment was included in response to massacres in Rwanda, Bosnia, and Kosovo, where there was no meaningful international response. ...

“It was in 1959, while still under UN trusteeship, that the first acts of genocide against Tutsis took place in Rwanda,” Murigande said. “The UN watched unmoved, and no action was ever taken.”...

“We all recall the shocking decision of the UN Security Council to withdraw peacekeepers at a time when hundreds of thousands of defenseless people needed them most,” he said.

Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame echoed his minister’s comments and condemned the world’s leaders for their inability to take decisive actions against human suffering, citing the ongoing crisis in Darfur as another example of the UN’s impotence.

Kagame, who was addressing university students on the sidelines of the UN summit, said: “World leaders often seemed more fixated on what to call a conflict than on how to address it.”

“Call it what you want, but what is very obvious is that people on the ground are suffering,” Kagame told the World Leaders Forum at Columbia University in New York.

“‘Never again’ really should be the concern of all of us, of everyone,” he said.

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