In 1994, one of the mostunthinkable atrocities the world had ever seen took place within the borders ofthe African Nation, Rwanda. The nation was divided ethnically between the Hutusand the Tutsis, wherein nearly 800,000 casualties were tallied.
Although theUnited Nations (UN) was the body that is often accredited with the blame for inaction,the principal agent problem leads one to see that it was in fact the majorstates that deserve the responsibility. The United Nations was founded inthe aftermath of WWII, with states voluntarily relinquishing a degree ofsovereignty in order to ensure greater global cooperation and peace. The UN wasgranted mechanisms to ensure global peace by making all state’s militariesavailable at all times, take urgent military measures, and the establishment ofthe Military Staff Committee (Barnett 125).
The most relevant UN policy thateffected their actions pertaining to Rwanda was their peacekeeping objective, whichwas seen as “a tool not only to regulate but also to constitute a newinternational order” (Barnett 129). The UN’s expansion of their peacekeepingobjective was expansive in the years following the Gulf War and met somepullback after the entanglement in Somalia. The aforementioned incident waswhen the UN deployed a US led force that resorted to attempting to capture oneof the Somalian warlords, before their helicopter was shot down and soldier’sbodies were dragged through the streets (Hirsch). The result was that the UN andthe Security Council “reserved peacekeeping for when there was peace to keep” (Barnett135). and there would only be measurestaken “when there was stability on the ground, parties had consented, and therewas progress towards a political resolution” (Barnett 134). The lessons learnedfrom Somalia severely altered the way that peacekeeping forces were allowed tooperate and exercise necessary measures. There was extreme reluctance to interpretthe UN mandate that would authorize use of enforcement action because of whathappened in Somalia, as Security Council advisor Iqbal Riza said, “We could notrisk another Somalia, as it led to the collapse of the Somalia operation”(Barnett 142).
An additional policy thatwas instrumental in shaping the Rwanda response was the reluctance to use specificterminology, such as “genocide”. In the aftermath of WWII, the GenocideConvention of 1948 mandated that countries would investigate and punish thoseresponsible for the genocide (Jehl). The policies that the UN operated with in1994 severely altered how the organization responded to the events occurring inRwanda. The UN was propelled by several mainmember states that were involved, with a main focus on the United States and Belgium.The main interest of the United states at this time was that they did not wantto damage their international credibility and reputation any further than theyalready had, as well as only being willing to intervene if immediate stateinterests were being threatened. The United States under the ClintonAdministration had undergone a turbulent time with foreign affairs, with the reverberationson the Somalian failure fresh in the minds of the American people.
The failedUN operation in Somalia, spearheaded by the US, aided in weakening the relativelynew administration. The result was that the United States remained intentionally”hopelessly naïve”, according to US ambassador Laura Lane (Ghosts). The voting constituencywould have surely viewed the commitment of troops to a genocide in Africa sosoon after the incident in Mogadishu unfavorably. Monique Mujawamariya was aRwandan human rights activist who traveled to D.
C. to advocate for stronger USaction. She met with Anthony Lake, a National Security Advisor to Clinton, andwas told “The United States has interests. And in the United States, there isno interest in Rwanda. And we are not interested in sending young AmericanMarines to bring them back in coffins” (Ghosts). The lack of self interest inRwanda was a key component in the administration’s decision to not directly interveneand find themselves in the middle of a civil war. It was during Monique’s timein Washington that the Security council approved a 90% withdrawal ofpeacekeeping forces and a token force was left behind (Ghosts).
Rwanda was oncea Belgian colony during the colonization of Africa, and thus it was the Belgiantroops of the UN force that originally accompanied general Dallaire in Kigali. However,much alike the United States, the Belgians had to cater to their domesticinterests as well. After the kidnapping and slaughter of Belgian troops,Belgian Foreign Minister Willy Claes said, “The reaction of the public opinionin Belgium was– was very strong.
And I may say there was unanimity in all, inorder to ask to pull out the troops after the killing” (Ghosts). As one can seefrom the Belgians and the Americans, domestic interests trumped the lack ofself interest in Rwanda and led to inaction. When looking for body to adjudicate,one cannot help but notice the principal agent problem that was at hand. The principalagent problem is where a group of agents (states) deviate from the interests ofthe principal (UN), meaning the major states would be at fault in thisinstance. The UN had the interest of being peacekeepers and preserving security,”As it moved from Iraq, to Cambodia, to Somalia, to Bosnia to Mozambique to ElSalvador, the Council altered the definition of threats in a way that permittedthe UN’s intervention in domestic space” (Barnett 128). At the same time, thegroup of major states that comprised this intergovernmental body had adifferent agenda that prevented them from direct intervention. There was anevident lack of immediate state interest for each of the players involved,where they each found it to be self-beneficial to withdraw and stray away from directengagement.
Direct engagement would lead to domestic issues between thegovernment and its people, which lead to governments catering to their own immediateinterest of maintaining power. The United States, a major player in the UN,also had suffered recent losses by way of the UN’s liberal use of militaryenforcement for “peacekeeping” purposes. The prior failures are what further perpetuatedtheir hesitant stance towards involvement in Rwanda. To provide more validityto the argument for major state blame, there was an additional mandate at handthat countries, such as the United States, had signed to prevent genocide in 1948(Jehl). This led to the United States choosing careful verbiage when referringto Rwandan events, and choosing to view it as a civil war fueled by politicalreasons. The necessary doors were there for the United States to bypass the UN’sdelinquency, but rather they stood by. More validity to this claim can be seenby the inherent collective action problems present within organizations, asmany states carry a vast preference profile. However, the argument can be madethat the blame should rather lie upon the United Nations.
The UN too refused tocategorize it as a genocide, and pointed to the 1fact that the ethic killingsin Rwanda were “the result of political deadlock” (Barnett 149). The UN had availableintelligence form men on the ground, such as Dallaire, stating that “aggressiveactions had been taken … against the RPF, ethnic groups (Massacre of civiliansin Remera)” (Barnett 146). The UN had ample intelligence that would qualify thesituation as a genocide, yet their recent failure in Somalia led to hesitationto act in such a manner. Thus, it can be argued that the UN itself wasmisinterpreting the situation and deliberately refusing to label it a genocide,but rather a civil war (Barnett 148), which prevented peacekeeping efforts fromtaking place. This principal agent problem, although not perfect, issubstantial enough to delegate blame to major states. The fact remains that both the majorstates and the UN played a role in a lack of response to the atrocities inRwanda.
Recent failures as a result of the liberal use of the UN’s peacekeepingmandate eventually led to a hesitant approach in regard to the situation inRwanda. The self-interests from the major countries were seen to prevail overthe lives of thousands of Tutsis. The major states involved in the UN and itsresponse should the burden of responsibility for the failure in Rwanda.