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100 Days of Slaughter: A Chronology of U.S./U.N. Actions

April 6, 1994 Rwandan President Habyarimana and the Burundian President are killed when Habyarimana's plane is shot down near Kigali Airport. Hutu extremists, suspecting that the Rwandan president is finally about to implement the Arusha Peace Accords, are believed to be behind the attack. The killings begin that night.

April 7, 1994 The Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR) and Hutu militia (the interahamwe) set up roadblocks and go from house to house killing Tutsis and moderate Hutu politicians. Thousands die on the first day. Some U.N. camps shelter civilians, but most of the U.N. peackeeping forces (UNAMIR--United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda) stand by while the slaughter goes on. They are forbidden to intervene, as this would breach their "monitoring" mandate.

On this day, ten Belgian soldiers with UNAMIR, assigned to guard the moderate Hutu Prime Minister, are tricked into giving up their weapons. They are tortured and murdered.

Also on this day, President Clinton issues a statement:

"... shocked and deeply saddened ... horrified that elements of the Rwandan security forces have sought out and murdered Rwandan officials ... extend my condolences ... condemn these actions and I call on all parties to cease any such actions immediately ..."

April 8, 1994 The Tutsi Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) launches a major offensive to end the killings and rescue 600 of its troops surrounded in Kigali. The troops had been based in the city as part of the Arusha Accords.

President Clinton speaks to the press about Rwanda--

"... I mention it only because there are a sizable number of Americans there and it is a very tense situation. And I just want to assure the families of those who are there that we are doing everything we possible can to be on top of the situation to take all the appropriate steps to try to assure the safety of our citizens there."

April 9-10, 1994 France and Belgium send troops to rescue their citizens. American civilians are also airlifted out. No Rwandans are rescued, not even Rwandans employed by Western governments in their embassies, consulates, etc.

April 11, 1994 The International Red Cross estimates that tens of thousands of Rwandans have been murdered.

At the Don Bosco school, protected by Belgian UNAMIR soldiers, the number of civilians seeking refuge reaches 2,000. That afternoon, the U.N. soldiers are ordered to withdraw to the airport. Most of the civilians they abandon are killed.

April 14, 1994 One week after the murder of the ten Belgian soldiers, Belgium withdraws from UNAMIR.

April 21, 1994 The U.N. Security Council votes unanimously to withdraw most of the UNAMIR troops, cutting the force from 2,500 to 270.

The International Red Cross estimates that tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of Rwandans are now dead.

April 28, 1994 State Department spokeswoman Christine Shelley is asked whether what is happening in Rwanda is a genocide. She responds,
"...the use of the term 'genocide' has a very precise legal meaning, although it's not strictly a legal determination. There are other factors in there as well."

However, a secret intelligence report by the State Department issued as early as the end of April calls the killings a genocide.

April 30, 1994 The U.N. Security Council passes a resolution condemning the killing, but omits the word "genocide." Had the term been used, the U.N. would have been legally obliged to act to "prevent and punish" the perpetrators.

Tens of thousands of refugees flee into Tanzania, Burundi and Zaire. In one day, 250,000 Rwandans, mainly Hutus fleeing the advance of the Tutsi RPF, cross the border into Tanzania.

May 1994 The White House starts holding daily confidential briefings on Rwanda with various U.S. government organizations via secure video link.

May 2, 1994 Kofi Annan, head of U.N. peacekeeping, testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:
"When the Belgians left it was clear that the U.N. could not implement the mandate it had, and either the mandate had to be changed, or reinforcements introduced ... I do not know what the Council will decide after they have reviewed and reconsidered the situation today. If the council is going to recommend reinforcement, the reinforcement that goes in has to be well equipped, very mobile, and also able to protect itself. If we do not send in that kind of reinforcement ... then I'm not quite sure they'll be able to bring about a sort of law and order ... that will lead to the end of the massacres ... here we are watching people being deprived of the most fundamental of rights, the right to life, and yet we seem a bit helpless ..."

May 3, 1994 Clinton signs a Presidential Decision Directive (PDD 25), created after a review of the nation's peacekeeping policies and programs. PDD 25 aims to limit U.S. military involvement in international peacekeeping operations.

May 5, 1994 Madeline Albright, U.S. Representative to the U.N., testifies at a congressional hearing on funding of U.N. programs:
"But let me just tell you that on the Rwanda thing, it is my sense that to a great extent the Security Council and the U.N. missed the boat. We are now dealing with a situation way beyond anything that anybody expected. And as I mentioned earlier, what happened was that we were on one process where a smaller United Nations force, we felt, could deal with some of the issues in the area, and then all of a sudden with the shootdown of this airplane with the two presidents, it created an avalanche. And so it is hard to judge whether that particular operations started out properly."

Anthony Lake, National Security Advisor, gives a press briefing on PDD 25:

"When I wake up every morning and look at the headlines and the stories and the images on television of these conflicts, I want to work to end every conflict. I want to work to save every child out there. And I know the president does, and I know the American people do. But neither we nor the international community have the resources nor the mandate to do so. So we have to make distinctions. We have to ask the hard questions about where and when we can intervene. And the reality is that we cannot often solve other people's problems; we can never build their nations for them ..."

May 11, 1994 At a State Department briefing, Mike McCurry is asked, "Has this government been able to determine whether any of the acts committed in Rwanda since April 6 constitute genocide?" He answers, "I don't know that they've made any legal determination on that."

May 13, 1994 The U.N. Security Council prepares to vote on restoring UNAMIR's strength in Rwanda. However, Madeline Albright delays the vote for four days.

May 17, 1994 As the slaughter of the Tutsis continues, the U.N. finally agrees to send 5,500 troops to Rwanda. The Security Council resolution says, "acts of genocide may have been committed." However, the deployment of the mainly African U.N. forces is delayed because of arguments over who will pay the bill and provide the equipment.

Albright testifies at a Capitol Hill hearing on tensions in U.S.-U.N. relations and discusses the Security Council's resolution:

"... The United States has been a driving force in the provision of humanitarian assistance, in condemning the violence and in trying to organize a U.N. mission designed not simply to promise, but to deliver what it promises. Sending a U.N. force into the maelstrom in Rwanda without a sound plan of operations would be folly ... The resolution adopted last night requires the Secretary-General to report back before the next phase of deployment begins ... these choices are not easy ones. Emotions can produce wonderful speeches and stirring op-ed pieces. But emotions alone cannot produce policies that will achieve what they promise. If we do not keep commitments in line with capabilities, we will only further undermine U.N. credibility and support. The actions authorized last night will help. They may save lives. But ultimately, the future of Rwanda is in Rwandan hands."

May 19, 1994 The U.N. requests the U.S. provide 50 armored personnel carriers (APCs). However, there are arguments between the U.S. and the U.N. over the costs.

Mid-May The International Red Cross estimates 500,000 Rwandans have been killed.

May 25, 1994 Mike McCurry, State Department spokesman, is asked at a press briefing, "... Has the administration yet come to any decision on whether it can be described as genocide?"

He answers, "I'll have to confess, I don't know the answer to that. I know that the issue was under very active consideration. I think there was a strong disposition within the department here to view what has happened there; certainly, constituting acts of genocide that have occurred ..."

June 10, 1994 At a State Department briefing, spokesperson Christine Shelley is asked, "How many acts of genocide does it take to make genocide?"

"That's just not a question that I'm in a position to answer."

"Well, is it true that you have specific guidance not to use the word 'genocide' in isolation, but always to preface it with these words 'acts of'?"

"I have guidance which I try to use as best as I can. There are formulations that we are using that we are trying to be consistent in our use of. I don't have an absolute categorical prescription against something, but I have the definitions. I have phraseology which has been carefully examined and arrived at as best as we can apply to exactly the situation and the actions which have taken place ... "

June 22, 1994 With still no sign of U.N. deployment, the Security Council authorizes the deployment of French forces in south-west Rwanda--"Operation Turquoise." They create a "safe area" in territory controlled by the government. However, killings of Tutsis continue in the safe area.

Mid-July 1994 The Tutsi RPF forces capture Kigali. The Hutu government flees to Zaire, followed by a tide of refugees. The French end their mission and are replaced by Ethiopian U.N. troops. The RPF sets up an interim government of national unity in Kigali.

Although disease and more killings claim additional lives in the refugee camps, the genocide is over. An estimated 800,000 Rwandans have been killed in 100 days.


epilogue
March 25, 1998 In Kigali, Rwanda President Clinton apologizes to the victims of genocide.

"... the international community, together with nations in Africa, must bear its share of responsibility for this tragedy, as well. We did not act quickly enough after the killing began. We should not have allowed the refugee camps to become safe havens for the killers. We did not immediately call these crimes by their rightful name: genocide. We cannot change the past. But we can and must do everything in our power to help you build a future without fear, and full of hope ..."

Click here for more of President Clinton's speech.

May 7, 1998 In Kigali, Rwanda U.N. Secretary-General, Kofi Annan apologizes to the Parliament of Rwanda

"... The world must deeply repent this failure. Rwanda's tragedy was the world's tragedy. All of us who cared about Rwanda, all of us who witnessed its suffering, fervently wish that we could have prevented the genocide. Looking back now, we see the signs which then were not recognized. Now we know that what we did was not nearly enough--not enough to save Rwanda from itself, not enough to honor the ideals for which the United Nations exists. We will not deny that, in their greatest hour of need, the world failed the people of Rwanda ..."

Click here to read Annan's speech.

December 1998 A French parliamentary commission completes a nine-month inquiry into France's military involvement in Rwanda before and during the genocide. The commission concludes that most of the blame lies with the international community, particularly the United Nations and the United States. Although France is noted as making "errors of judgment," the government is absolved of responsibility for the killings.

March 1999 A week before the fifth anniversary of the Rwanda genocide, the Paris-based International Federation of Human Rights Leagues and the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch release a report titled, "Leave None to Tell the Story." The 900-page report documents events before and during genocide. It also criticizes the U.N., the U.S., France and Belgium for knowing about preparations for the impending slaughter and not taking action to prevent the killings.

Click here to read the report.

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