Text from Romeo Dallaire's report of imminent slaughter of Tutsis in Rwanda


Sometimes it feels that the National Security Archive run by George Washington University is a repository of answers to every murky question one might have about world affairs.  I went to find primary source materials about the CIA involvement in the overthrow of Mossadegh in Iran in 1953, for example, and ended up in Rwanda.

The 100-day Rwandan genocide began twenty years ago this April and the National Security Archive (in collaboration with the US Holocaust Memorial and utilizing the Twitter handle #Rwanda20yrs) is revisiting the events with a day by day examination of contemporaneous reports leading up to the slaughter as well as a reexamination what has been learned since about its planning.  One example of this is the famous ‘genocide fax,’ which was written by Romeo Dallaire, commander of the UN forces in Rwanda, to UN headquarters in New York on 10 January 1994 — that is, three months before the genocide — foretelling the killing of Tutsis that would be orchestrated by the Interahamwe, the Hutu militia.  If there was a moment the international community could have acted this was it; as we know, nothing happened.  The fax is excerpted in the image above (‘RPF’ refers to the mostly Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front then fighting the Rwandan government and ‘UNAMIR’ is the UN force) and was based on the declarations of an informant, Jean-Pierre Turatsinze, whom the #Rwanda20yrs project asserts “emerges from this new evidence as a much more complicated figure” — ie, untrustworthy — “than was apparent from earlier versions offered in Dallaire’s memoirs.”

Jean-Pierre Turatsinze, informant for the Rwandan genocide fax

It is worth reading the whole report to see how they get to the conclusion that “The fact that several of Turatasinze’s predictions came true in April 1994 is not by itself proof of the reliability of his information in January 1994.”  It is hard to fathom that.  To be sure, intelligence gathered in conflict zones is rarely derived from vetted sources acting from pure motives; ambiguity and conflicts abound.  But to have predicted a slaughter three months out that most people, when it came, contended was unimaginable would seem to constitute a fairly undeniable sort of right, whatever Turatasinze’s other shortcomings.


As a side note, the aspect of the Rwandan genocide I hope #Rwanda20yrs addresses at some point is what, precisely, the French role was in aiding and abetting the Interahamwe.  We know they were in league with them, just not the precise details of what they did and when.



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