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In 1994, one of the most
unthinkable atrocities the world had ever seen took place within the borders of
the African Nation, Rwanda. The nation was divided ethnically between the Hutus
and the Tutsis, wherein nearly 800,000 casualties were tallied. Although the
United 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 major
states that deserve the responsibility.

            The United Nations was founded in
the aftermath of WWII, with states voluntarily relinquishing a degree of
sovereignty in order to ensure greater global cooperation and peace. The UN was
granted mechanisms to ensure global peace by making all state’s militaries
available at all times, take urgent military measures, and the establishment of
the Military Staff Committee (Barnett 125). The most relevant UN policy that
effected their actions pertaining to Rwanda was their peacekeeping objective, which
was seen as “a tool not only to regulate but also to constitute a new
international order” (Barnett 129). The UN’s expansion of their peacekeeping
objective was expansive in the years following the Gulf War and met some
pullback after the entanglement in Somalia. The aforementioned incident was
when the UN deployed a US led force that resorted to attempting to capture one
of the Somalian warlords, before their helicopter was shot down and soldier’s
bodies were dragged through the streets (Hirsch). The result was that the UN and
the Security Council “reserved peacekeeping for when there was peace to keep” (Barnett
135).  and there would only be measures
taken “when there was stability on the ground, parties had consented, and there
was progress towards a political resolution” (Barnett 134). The lessons learned
from Somalia severely altered the way that peacekeeping forces were allowed to
operate and exercise necessary measures. There was extreme reluctance to interpret
the UN mandate that would authorize use of enforcement action because of what
happened in Somalia, as Security Council advisor Iqbal Riza said, “We could not
risk another Somalia, as it led to the collapse of the Somalia operation”
(Barnett 142).  An additional policy that
was instrumental in shaping the Rwanda response was the reluctance to use specific
terminology, such as “genocide”. In the aftermath of WWII, the Genocide
Convention of 1948 mandated that countries would investigate and punish those
responsible for the genocide (Jehl). The policies that the UN operated with in
1994 severely altered how the organization responded to the events occurring in

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            The UN was propelled by several main
member 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 want
to damage their international credibility and reputation any further than they
already had, as well as only being willing to intervene if immediate state
interests were being threatened. The United States under the Clinton
Administration had undergone a turbulent time with foreign affairs, with the reverberations
on the Somalian failure fresh in the minds of the American people. The failed
UN operation in Somalia, spearheaded by the US, aided in weakening the relatively
new administration. The result was that the United States remained intentionally
“hopelessly naïve”, according to US ambassador Laura Lane (Ghosts). The voting constituency
would have surely viewed the commitment of troops to a genocide in Africa so
soon after the incident in Mogadishu unfavorably. Monique Mujawamariya was a
Rwandan human rights activist who traveled to D.C. to advocate for stronger US
action. She met with Anthony Lake, a National Security Advisor to Clinton, and
was told “The United States has interests. And in the United States, there is
no interest in Rwanda. And we are not interested in sending young American
Marines to bring them back in coffins” (Ghosts). The lack of self interest in
Rwanda was a key component in the administration’s decision to not directly intervene
and find themselves in the middle of a civil war. It was during Monique’s time
in Washington that the Security council approved a 90% withdrawal of
peacekeeping forces and a token force was left behind (Ghosts). Rwanda was once
a Belgian colony during the colonization of Africa, and thus it was the Belgian
troops of the UN force that originally accompanied general Dallaire in Kigali. However,
much alike the United States, the Belgians had to cater to their domestic
interests as well. After the kidnapping and slaughter of Belgian troops,
Belgian Foreign Minister Willy Claes said, “The reaction of the public opinion
in Belgium was– was very strong. And I may say there was unanimity in all, in
order to ask to pull out the troops after the killing” (Ghosts). As one can see
from the Belgians and the Americans, domestic interests trumped the lack of
self 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 principal
agent problem is where a group of agents (states) deviate from the interests of
the principal (UN), meaning the major states would be at fault in this
instance. 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 El
Salvador, the Council altered the definition of threats in a way that permitted
the UN’s intervention in domestic space” (Barnett 128). At the same time, the
group of major states that comprised this intergovernmental body had a
different agenda that prevented them from direct intervention. There was an
evident 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 direct
engagement. Direct engagement would lead to domestic issues between the
government and its people, which lead to governments catering to their own immediate
interest 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 military
enforcement for “peacekeeping” purposes. The prior failures are what further perpetuated
their hesitant stance towards involvement in Rwanda. To provide more validity
to the argument for major state blame, there was an additional mandate at hand
that countries, such as the United States, had signed to prevent genocide in 1948
(Jehl). This led to the United States choosing careful verbiage when referring
to Rwandan events, and choosing to view it as a civil war fueled by political
reasons. The necessary doors were there for the United States to bypass the UN’s
delinquency, but rather they stood by. More validity to this claim can be seen
by the inherent collective action problems present within organizations, as
many states carry a vast preference profile. However, the argument can be made
that the blame should rather lie upon the United Nations. The UN too refused to
categorize it as a genocide, and pointed to the 1fact that the ethic killings
in Rwanda were “the result of political deadlock” (Barnett 149). The UN had available
intelligence form men on the ground, such as Dallaire, stating that “aggressive
actions had been taken … against the RPF, ethnic groups (Massacre of civilians
in Remera)” (Barnett 146). The UN had ample intelligence that would qualify the
situation as a genocide, yet their recent failure in Somalia led to hesitation
to act in such a manner. Thus, it can be argued that the UN itself was
misinterpreting the situation and deliberately refusing to label it a genocide,
but rather a civil war (Barnett 148), which prevented peacekeeping efforts from
taking place. This principal agent problem, although not perfect, is
substantial enough to delegate blame to major states.

            The fact remains that both the major
states and the UN played a role in a lack of response to the atrocities in
Rwanda. Recent failures as a result of the liberal use of the UN’s peacekeeping
mandate eventually led to a hesitant approach in regard to the situation in
Rwanda. The self-interests from the major countries were seen to prevail over
the lives of thousands of Tutsis. The major states involved in the UN and its
response should the burden of responsibility for the failure in Rwanda. 

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