Ghosts of Rwanda
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"Ghosts of Rwanda"

 

ANNOUNCER: Ten years ago, in the small East African country of Rwanda, 800,000 people were slaughtered by their own government.

Maj. BRENT BEARDSLEY, Military Ass't to Gen. Dallaire: This was ordinary men, women and children, and the only reason that they were killed was because they were Tutsi.

ANNOUNCER: Virtually the entire world turned away and did almost nothing to stop the genocide.

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, U.N. Ambassador: In retrospect, it all looks very clear. But at the time, what was happening in Rwanda, the situation was unclear.

PHILIPPE GAILLARD, Red Cross: They cannot tell me that they didn't know. Everybody knew what was happening.

ANNOUNCER: Tonight on FRONTLINE, the full story of perhaps the darkest and most brutal tragedy of our time. It is a story told by the victims and by the killers, by those who turned away and by those who stayed and tried desperately to save as many people as they could.

CARL WILKENS, Aid Worker, Adventist Church: By the time the genocide was over, I was so angry at America, America the beautiful, America the brave.

ANNOUNCER: They are all still haunted by what happened--

Gen. ROMEO DALLAIRE, U.N. Force Commander, Rwanda: I was the commander, and hundreds of thousands of people died. I can't find any solace in statements like, "I did my best."

ANNOUNCER: --still haunted by the Ghosts of Rwanda.

 

Gen. ROMEO DALLAIRE, U.N. Force Commander, Rwanda: Rwanda will never, ever leave me. It's in the pores of my body. My soul is in those hills. My spirit is with the spirits of all those people who were slaughtered and killed that I know of. And lots of those eyes still haunt me, angry eyes or innocent eyes. No laughing eyes. But the worst eyes that haunt me are the eyes of those people who were totally bewildered. They're looking at me, with my blue beret, and they're saying, "What in the hell happened? How come I'm dying here?" Those eyes dominate, and they're absolutely right.

How come I failed? How come my mission failed? How come, as the commander, I did not convince, I lost soldiers, and 800,000 people died?

August 1993

NARRATOR: For General Romeo Dallaire, commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda, it was his first trip to Africa.

Gen. ROMEO DALLAIRE: You know, the first breath of air of Africa-- oh, what a-- what a phenomenal experience! It's-- it felt like you were in another continent, that you were-- you were-- it was different. Felt a little nervousness, of course, you know, of the first shaking hands with-- with those leaders and starting up the mission.

NARRATOR: For Dallaire, a Canadian general who had never seen action, this was the command of a lifetime, a U.N. peacekeeping mission in the heart of Africa. His job seemed simple. He would enforce a peace agreement between the Rwandan government in Kigali and a rebel army positioned behind a ceasefire line. The rebels were mostly Tutsis, an ethnic minority that had been persecuted for decades.

Gen. PAUL KAGAME, Cmndr, Rwandan Patriotic Front: Some of us had been refugees since 1959. And over the years, in the early '60s and '70s, there had been killings of Tutsis from different parts of Rwanda. So we mainly focused on the very fact that there was a need for change in the country and that these stateless people, ourselves, who were everywhere in the neighboring countries and beyond, needed to come back home.

NARRATOR: The rebel threat had heightened tensions between Tutsis and the ethnic majority, the Hutus. The Hutus had ruled since independence from Belgium in the early '60s. Under the U.N.-backed peace accord, the Hutus would be forced to share power with the Tutsi rebels. But the peace process was already faltering, even as General Dallaire set up his command center in a rundown Kigali hotel. With only 2,500 lightly-armed troops, he was ill-prepared to enforce a fragile peace in a country he did not understand.

Maj. BRENT BEARDSLEY, Military Ass't to Gen. Dallaire: We had very, very little information, knowledge of the background to Rwanda, its history, its culture, the-- you know, what had taken place in the country since independence or even before independence, and especially even in the last couple of years. So we went in quite blind.

NARRATOR: From the moment he arrived, someone was testing Dallaire's ability to keep the peace. There were mysterious riots and assassinations.

Gen. ROMEO DALLAIRE: And-- and also, we were already getting all these stories about a third force, you know, of-- squadrons of killers. And we couldn't confirm anything. We were just getting all that, you know, as rumors, innuendoes, and we couldn't cross-check the damn stuff because I was not allowed to have an intelligence capability. So all that sort of-- sort of came as a dark cloud.

Ultimately, I-- I felt we could do it. But that is a bravado, I think, also, from my part. Nothing was going to stop me. Bit of innocence in there, eh?

January 1994

NARRATOR: Then, from inside the third force, an informant emerged. The informant revealed that a secretive group of Hutu extremists was plotting to derail the peace agreement and exterminate their enemies.

Gen. ROMEO DALLAIRE: And he was within the higher structures of the MNND party, which was the hard-line party of the president. He said that he-- he simply wasn't going to continue to work in that atmosphere, that they were undermining the whole process and they were ultimately planning the evilest of deeds, of-- of attacking not only Tutsis but all the moderate Hutu leaders also.

NARRATOR: The informant was a trainer for the Interahamwe, a paramilitary youth movement. He said they were planning to kill some of Dallaire's troops, Belgian soldiers, the backbone of the peacekeeping force.

Maj. BRENT BEARDSLEY: Jean-Pierre, the informant, said they felt that if the Belgians were killed, that Belgium and the U.N. would pack up and leave. So already, the situation was changing, that somebody didn't want us there and that they were going to target us to-- to encourage us to go.

NARRATOR: In an urgent cable to the U.N. leadership, Dallaire repeated the informant's warnings that there was a plan to exterminate all Tutsis in Kigali, that Belgian peacekeepers would also be killed in the belief that Belgium would then withdraw all its troops. Dallaire told New York he was going to raid the militia's arms caches. He signed off in his native French, "Where there's a will, there's a way. Let's go."

Gen. ROMEO DALLAIRE: I sent that, and then I went to bed and probably slept one of the best nights I had because I felt that, finally, we were going to-- we were going to take a certain level of control that would permit us to do so much more.

NARRATOR: The cable arrived in New York at the United Nations' peacekeeping department, then run by Kofi Annan.

Maj. BRENT BEARDSLEY: And the fax came in. And General Dallaire had also been in touch on the phone with General Baril, and in fact, he has sent other messages where sometimes his question that, "Somebody came and gave me this information. I don't know how sincere it is, whether I'm being manipulated or not," because intelligence can also be used to manipulate you.

NARRATOR: Annan was skeptical. In his response, he ordered Dallaire, first, not to take any action, and second, to share the informant's secrets with the Rwandan government, which he knew had strong ties to the Hutu extremists.

KOFI ANNAN, Head of Peacekeeping, U.N.: Why did we go that route? Often, sharing-- shining light on these things and telling those planning it at a governmental level that, "The international community knows what is being planned, we are monitoring, we are going to deal with you harshly and we know what you are up to"-- sometimes it's a very good deterrent.

NARRATOR: Annan told Dallaire he was not to raid the arms caches and he must avoid any action that might cause U.N. troops to use force.

Gen. ROMEO DALLAIRE: The big hammer at the end of the message that came to me within hours of my sending my information message was, "Stop, decease, and by the by, you're totally outside of your mandate." At that time, the whole philosophy was, "We don't want another Mogadishu, and so keep it tight."

NARRATOR: Mogadishu. Three months earlier, when the Black Hawks were shot down in Somalia and 18 American soldiers died on a U.N. mission, it changed everything about Washington's commitment to peacekeeping, especially in Africa.

MICHAEL SHEEHAN, White House Liaison on Somalia: The Clinton administration was brought to its knees by the-- by the problem in Somalia. A secretary of defense was fired, a presidency was dramatically weakened. They were enormously criticized for this adventure in Somalia. And now you had another situation unfolding in Rwanda. And certainly, no one was clamoring for a re-intervention into the heart of Africa.

March 1994

NARRATOR: Despite the growing sense of danger, Kigali was teeming with thousands of Western expatriates-- diplomats, aid workers and their families. The official line from the U.N. and all their embassies was that Rwanda was still safe.

CARL WILKENS, Aid Worker, Adventist Church: It was strange because, on the one hand, here's little groups of eight U.N. soldiers, fully decked out, you know, with all of their gear and their machine guns and everything, patrolling the city-- of eight, you know? And we used to joke, you can't-- you can't spit without hitting a U.N. car. And so you got all this white vehicles, black "U.N." all over them, and-- and occasionally, you would see some white tanks or something. There was an incredible sense of security in that. And yet we also knew things were going to blow.

NARRATOR: Hutu extremists were now confident the U.N. would not stand in their way. They imported thousands of machetes, prepared death lists and began targeting their political opponents.

MONIQUE MUJAWAMARIYA, Human Rights Activist: [through interpreter] It became simply a nightmare for the Tutsis, for all of the members of the opposition parties, even if they were Hutu, and we lived through a series of political assassinations almost on a daily basis. Every day, every day God gave us, we had three, four, five dead bodies, people that we picked up on the streets every day.

JOYCE LEADER, U.S. Embassy, Kigali: The people tried to tell us and tried to explain to us or help us understand, but we just-- maybe we just didn't get it. It was just very hard to conceive of something so awful actually being meticulously planned and carried out.

April 6, 1994, 8:30 PM

NARRATOR: In central Kigali, a group of friends gathered for dinner at the home of a young American diplomat, Laura Lane.

LAURA LANE, U.S. Embassy, Kigali: We had a couple of friends over, and you know, I just-- we just sat down to dinner, and all of a sudden, there was a huge explosion. And I-- I-- didn't instantly, you know, come to me what that was because I wasn't used to hearing those kinds of sounds.

Gen. ROMEO DALLAIRE: And then at 8:30, the first phone call came in, saying that there-- originally, the first phone call said that there had been a big explosion in Kinumbi camp, which is just at the end of the runway of the airfield, the Kigali airfield, saying that it looked like an ammunition dump had exploded.

Maj. BRENT BEARDSLEY: And it went from "There's been an explosion at the airport" to "We think it's the ammunition dump at Kinumbi that's blown up" to "It's a plane that's crashed" to "It's the presidential plane that's crashed."

NARRATOR: Someone had fired a missile that shot down the Hutu president's airplane. Even 10 years later, the responsibility for the attack remains a mystery.

Lt. Col. CHARLES VUCKOVIC, Defense Intelligence Agency: There are many theories as to who shot down the plane. I don't know if anybody has the answer to that. Was it Hutu extremists or was it Tutsi extremists? Was it done by the Tutsis as an excuse to begin the movement south by the RPF and take control of the country? Hard to say. Or was it used by the Hutu extremists to begin the genocide that took place? I don't know the answer to that.

10:00 PM

NARRATOR: That night, U.N. commanders were summoned to a crisis meeting at Rwandan Army headquarters.

Maj. BRENT BEARDSLEY: We were heading through very darkened streets in Kigali, very quiet streets. There was no-- the streets were just empty. It was like a ghost town.

NARRATOR: They found a leading Hutu extremist, Colonel Theoneste Bagosora, in control.

Gen. ROMEO DALLAIRE: Colonel Bagosora was the chef de cabinet of the minister of national defense and a hard-line person-- in fact, considered even more than hard-line. He was chairing the meeting.

NARRATOR: Bagosora had once vowed to launch an "apocalypse" against the Tutsis. Dallaire insisted he step aside and hand power to the moderate acting prime minister Madame Agathe. Dallaire knew she would resist the extremists' power grab and appeal for calm.

Gen. ROMEO DALLAIRE: Bagosora kept saying that she's of no use and she never was able to garner her cabinet anyways, and--

Maj. BRENT BEARDSLEY: An officer that was sitting next to me stunk of booze, started swearing in French underneath his breath about her and calling her various names and-- so we were stalemated.

April 7, 2:00 AM

NARRATOR: Dallaire asked U.N. headquarters for guidance. They responded by tightening his rules of engagement. He was ordered not to intervene, and above all, to avoid armed conflict.

KOFI ANNAN: We were concerned, one, that Dallaire and his force didn't have the capacity and didn't-- to take on that sort of responsibility and that if they attempted to do it and any of the peacekeepers were killed, we may see a repeat of Somalia and we may not even be able to offer any assistance.

[www.pbs.org: Read Annan's extended interview]

4:00 AM

LAURA LANE: You heard gunshots. You heard screams. You heard-- you heard just so much activity that you knew this was going to be, you know, an awful night. And in-- in the darkness, you were just-- I remember feeling like, "I don't want-- I don't want the daylight to come because I don't want to see, knowing what I'm hearing."

CARL WILKENS: [home video] Well, what's going on here, huh? We got all the kids in the hallway and the television. This is April 7. It's about-- it's about 6:00 o'clock in the morning, and we were woken up at about 5:15, 5:20, by a lot of gunfire and stuff.

Yeah, the killing was happening right there. Our kids were listening in. We-- while they're describing on the radio and I'm talking back to them and saying how people are being killed in their front yard, and I'm saying, "We're trying to get help." And we're just trying to figure out what we can do. This whole drama's unfolding, and our kids are standing there, glued to this thing. And all of a sudden, I go, "Whoa." I see, you know, one of them standing there and just transfixed. So I say, "Theresa, take him away."

7:00 AM

NARRATOR: That morning, Dallaire sent Belgian and Ghanaian peacekeepers to guard Madame Agathe, the moderate prime minister. Then he went to find the extremist leadership.

Gen. ROMEO DALLAIRE: Agathe was getting all the protection she needed, at least, we expected to need. I mean, we ended up by having 25 troops there. With that sort of in hand, my job now, because I was moving around, is to go get ahold of Bagosora and say, "OK, what's going on now? What is the situation?"

Roadblocks were coming up. But as I got closer to the inner core of the city, the roadblocks became more serious, and ultimately, the roadblocks in that inner circle there was controlled by the presidential guard. And so we made our way to the ministry of defense. Nobody was there. And so I said, "Well, maybe they're right back to where they were last night." So we just turned and went towards the center.

NARRATOR: As Dallaire looked for the extremist leaders, the prime minister's house was surrounded by Rwandan troops. Inside, U.N. peacekeepers sent to protect her were under orders not to use force. The prime minister called her neighbor, American diplomat Joyce Leader.

JOYCE LEADER: About 8:30 in the morning, she called and asked if she could come and hide in my house.

INTERVIEWER: The prime minister?

JOYCE LEADER: The prime minister. And I didn't give it very much thought, and I said yes, but then when the Ghanaian peacekeeper who was guarding her-- he must have put a ladder up on her side of the fence, and he came up above the-- he raised his head above the fence, and there were shots fired, just then.

NARRATOR: Rwandan troops stormed the prime minister's compound. The peacekeepers radioed for instructions from Dallaire's Ghanaian deputy.

Gen. HENRY ANYIDOHO, Deputy U.N. Cmndr, Rwanda: We were in communication with them all along, and it was not even rational for them to try to oppose them. The best they could do was to talk to them, to negotiate, to tell them, "Look, what you are about to do is wrong. You cannot do it."

NARRATOR: At gunpoint, the U.N. troops surrendered their weapons to the Rwandans. The Ghanaian peacekeepers were soon released, but the 10 Belgian troops were taken hostage and led away.

Gen. HENRY ANYIDOHO: Their radios became silent. Then you suspected something had gone wrong because communication was utterly cut off. Then you sense the danger. Something must have happened.

JOYCE LEADER: About another half hour later, we actually heard a scream and a shot and realized that it was the prime minister who had been found and killed.

NARRATOR: General Dallaire hadn't heard of the attack, but he'd learned the extremist leadership was meeting at army headquarters. As he approached, Dallaire caught a glimpse of his soldiers inside the Army compound, lying in the dirt.

Gen. ROMEO DALLAIRE: And at the gate, as we went by, I saw two soldiers in the Belgian uniform lying on the ground about 50-odd meters inside-- inside the camp. And so your whole life is dependent on those nano-seconds of taking that right decisions because it's life and death.

I was already saying, "I can't get those guys out of there. I just don't have the forces or the deployment capability. I've got so many other troops that I don't know of and all the vulnerability of the rest. I can't take these bastards on." To do anything for them and for the others, I had to negotiate.

NARRATOR: Dallaire carried on through the next gate to confront the extremist leadership. But he decided not to mention his troops, who he knew were being beaten 200 yards away.

Gen. ROMEO DALLAIRE: What I said was, "Get a grip of your units. I'm staying." The informant, Jean-Pierre, had told us that they were trying to set up to wipe out a dozen or so or 10 Belgians in order to break the back of our mission because if the Belgians pulled out, I had no real substantive capability to sustain myself, and that the international community would pull us all out. These guys knew about Mogadishu also. And so what I was making clear to them was, is that I'm staying.

NARRATOR: Dallaire later demanded to know what had happened to the Belgians, but he took no military action to rescue his troops.

Gen. ROMEO DALLAIRE: Finally, a phone call, after insistence, came in and said that they are all at the hospital, at the morgue. And so I said, "Right. Let's go." Morgue was a little shack, and a bit of an L-shaped small shack. And it was a 24-watt bulb, at best. And there in the corner of the L-shape was this pile of potato bags, just looked like a pile of potato-- big, huge potato bags. And as we got closer, we saw that they were bodies.

April 8

NARRATOR: In the wake of Somalia, the murder of more Western peacekeepers triggered an immediate response.

MIKE McCURRY, State Department Spokesman: Good afternoon, everybody. I wanted to start with the situation in Rwanda. The president called the secretary of state this morning to express the president's concern about the safety of Americans in Rwanda in light of the deteriorating situation there.

LAURA LANE, U.S. Embassy, Kigali: By that morning, we kind of had a sense that we were not going to be able to wait this out. I took our wedding album. We took our guns and put the dog at our feet and literally slumped down in the car and drove down the streets, like, just looking over the dashboard, you know, as we hear fire in the background, and made it to the embassy.

NARRATOR: The Clinton administration ordered an immediate evacuation of all 257 U.S. citizens in Rwanda. It was up to Laura Lane to get every American out alive.

LAURA LANE: We said, "We have to, you know, evacuate the American community out" because we couldn't risk, you know, their lives trying to wait this out because if this was a plan, it had a larger purpose, and that larger purpose would not be good where you'd want anyone in harm's way.

NARRATOR: But Lane told Washington she wanted to stay and keep the embassy open as a safe haven for Rwandans.

LAURA LANE: I felt very, very strongly that if there is someone who is planning this kind of evil, they need to know that there is also another group, that we, the Americans, will stand right here and stand against them. And I felt very, very strongly about that because otherwise, they'd think they could get away with it.

GEORGE MOOSE, Ass't Sec'y of State for Africa: Yeah, I do recall there-- there the notion that, yes, maybe we could stay behind and maybe we could do something. But then you have to say, with what do you create a safe haven? If the Belgian troops could not defend and protect the prime minister from a ruthless attack, what were unarmed Americans bearing a flag going to do?

LAURA LANE: I may be hopelessly naive. I mean, we are four people in an embassy, and a very small embassy community. But I don't know, I-- I think one person can make a difference, and maybe if we just saved one life, that was one life worth saving. Maybe we couldn't save everyone, but I would have rather stood there and said-- and stayed and said, "I am going to stay because it is worth that risk." So in the end, the decision was taken out of my hands.

NARRATOR: All embassies in Kigali closed. Aid workers and diplomats were ordered out of the country.

Maj. BRENT BEARDSLEY, Military Ass't to Gen. Dallaire: We started going out, picking up our military observers, who were at various locations, picking up our U.N. staff, picking up diplomats, picking up people at risk. And we started a whole series of what we call rescue missions to go pick people up, try to locate them.

NARRATOR: Beardsley went to rescue Polish Catholic priests trapped with two U.N. observers in a Kigali church where Tutsis had sought refuge.

Maj. BRENT BEARDSLEY: The military observers and the priests could hear people screaming over the church, so they'd left their quarters and had come over to see what was going on. They were grabbed and they were put up against the wall with rifle underneath their chin, and they were held there while the identity cards were-- were captured and were burned. And then the militia came in and the gendarmes literally-- the police literally handed them over to the-- to the militia, who then proceeded through the rest of the evening to chop them apart with machetes.

Inside the church itself were about 150 people. About 15 of them were still alive. The rest had been attacked with machetes and had been killed.

And-- and the thing that stood out in my mind, up until that day, it almost bore resemblance of a coup, taking out the moderates. But this was different. This was-- this was just ordinary men, women and children, and the only reason whatsoever that they were killed and targeted was because they were Tutsi.

Northern Rwanda

NARRATOR: Behind the ceasefire line, the Tutsi rebels of the Rwandan Patriotic Front were preparing to respond.

Gen. PAUL KAGAME, Cmndr, Rwandan Patriotic Front: The information very clearly came in very fast, showing how targeted killings were being carried out and how these were spreading out not only in Kigali, but going beyond Kigali to other parts of the country. And we knew that was the usual style. The massacres had started, and we have to take action.

NARRATOR: The rebels declared the peace process dead and attacked the extremist government. General Kagame had gone through training at Fort Leavenworth. The U.S. military maintained contact and understood the rebel leader's intentions.

Lt. Col. CHARLES VUCKOVIC, Defense Intelligence Agency: In retrospect, there was no chance, I think, that RPF was in any mood to negotiate right from the beginning.

INTERVIEWER: They wanted what?

Lt. Col. CHARLES VUCKOVIC: They wanted to control the country. They wanted to take over control politically, militarily. There was no way you were going to stop the RPF. There was no way that they were in the mood to negotiate once this all started.

April 9

NARRATOR: Overnight, 1,000 French and Belgian paratroopers had arrived without warning, seizing Kigali airport. These troops were not under U.N. command. Their mission was solely to get the expatriates out. Dozens of journalists had arrived with the new troops. They traveled with Belgian soldiers to Kigali's psychiatric hospital, where the Western staff was trapped. On the way in, they drove past the Interahamwe waiting outside.

Tutsis emerged from the hospital building, where they'd been hiding for three days. They said they were surrounded by the militias, that some of them had already been killed. When it was clear the soldiers weren't going to help, the refugees appealed to the journalists.

KATELIJNE HERMANS, Belgian Television: There was a whole group of people, but in the whole group, one woman started to speak and started to explain why they were afraid and what was happening to them. And she started begging us to take her and the others with us. She was speaking to me, a woman to a woman, saying, "I'm afraid. Please help me!" And we were just listening to her, and we couldn't do anything. At that moment, we thought we couldn't do anything, just listen and say "Yes."

So we left. For the white people, it's over, but we knew the hundreds that stayed. And we heard the shooting at the moment we left. So it was clear for me that hell starts for them.

NARRATOR: All Western troops and U.N. peacekeepers were under orders not to evacuate ordinary Rwandans.

Maj. BRENT BEARDSLEY: What that meant was, anybody that was white-skinned got to get on an airplane and fly to safety, and anybody that was black-skinned got to stay in Rwanda and get killed. And that's as simple as it came down to. It still to this day leaves a very, very bad taste in my mouth that the United States of America could have 350 Marines sitting at Bujumbura Airport, that the French were able to get in 500 or so paratroopers, that the Belgians had over a 1,000 paratroopers. You know, we basically had our intervention force already on the ground.

You know, what they later told us, is it was impossible to get on the ground. We had it on the ground on the 10th of April, within three days of this thing starting and-- but it wasn't there to intervene. It wasn't there to save Rwanda, it was there to save white people. And that's what it came down to.

NARRATOR: With the airport taking fire, the American embassy decided to evacuate its staff and expatriates overland in convoys, south to Burundi, where U.S. Marines were waiting.

JOYCE LEADER, U.S. Embassy, Kigali: And there were people standing on either side of the road, and it's my recollection that I saw some instruments, like machetes, in their hands. And I remember thinking, "Well, they're just waiting for us to get out of here before they go on about their gruesome business."

BONAVENTURE NIYIBIZI, U.S. Embassy Employee: I was working for the American embassy, basically. I saw them leaving. I saw the flags on the vehicles. I knew all the vehicles. I know all the people they belong to. And so I said, "OK." I think it was sad, surprising to see that by the end of the day, you are a person who have-- who has to die, when other people are allowed to be alive. This is a strange feeling. Americans were allowed to be alive. My neighbors were allowed to be alive. They were walking on the street. They were going to the market. And we were here, feeling that we had to die anyway.

NARRATOR: As she organized the last American convoy, Laura Lane made a final attempt to do what she thought was right.

LAURA LANE: We had-- we had a convoy of over 100 vehicles with over 600 people, only 9 Americans. Greg and I were the last two. The ambassador was at the front. And yes, there were-- there were Rwandans in there. There were Tutsis in there, and in some cases, there were Hutus. And so if they made it to our checkpoints and we-- you know, we could hide them, we did. Some of them were-- you know, we dubbed them Americans for the day, you know what I mean? We made them honorary Americans so that they could be in the convoy.

CARL WILKENS, Aid Worker, Adventist Church: If people in Rwanda ever needed help, now was the time. And everybody's leaving.

NARRATOR: Carl Wilkens had put his family on an American convoy, but he decided to stay behind with Rwandan colleagues and workers who'd sought refuge in his home.

CARL WILKENS: That Tutsi young lady and that Tutsi young man were faces right there to me representing the country, and I felt if I left, they were going to be killed. And then-- and then I recognized, you know, how is it-- I've got a-- I've got this blue American passport. That means I can go. But all of these people don't have a passport. They can't go. And-- and while all of those things played in, the bottom line is it just seemed the right thing to do.

NARRATOR: By the evening of April 10th, Carl Wilkens was the only American left in Rwanda.

WARREN CHRISTOPHER, Secretary of State: As far as I know, everyone in Kigali who's wanted to leave has been able to leave, and they're probably successfully out by now, safely out by now.

NARRATOR: The Clinton administration breathed a sigh of relief. In Belgium, the country was in crisis. With 10 of its soldiers dead, the government wanted to pull all its peacekeepers out of Rwanda, but it didn't want to be embarrassed by leaving alone. The foreign minister called Secretary of State Warren Christopher.

WILLY CLAES, Belgian Foreign Minister: 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. Warren Christopher told me that he understood perfectly why the Belgian government took that decision. He confirmed that the preference of the Americans went to the withdrawal of the MINUAR.

GEORGE MOOSE, Ass't Sec'y of State for Africa: Quite right. The Belgians wanted to have the cover of having others leave, as well. And I think-- and we sort of-- we did. We yielded to that request. In retrospect, I wonder if that was the right thing to do.

NARRATOR: Christopher instructed Madeleine Albright, America's ambassador at the U.N., to push for the withdrawal of the entire peacekeeping force.

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, U.N. Ambassador: My instructions were to support full withdrawal. And I listened to the discussion very carefully in the Security Council, and I could see that we-- our position was wrong, and especially in listening to the African delegate, Ambassador Gambari from Nigeria was very moving on this.

IBRAHIM GAMBARI, Nigerian U.N. Ambassador: And I had the full backing of my of my colleagues to argue, on the contrary, that we must forget about cutting and running, that it would be-- it would be callous. It would be contradictory to the spirit of the charter, which says the Security Council has a responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, everywhere in the world, including Africa.

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: And I asked my deputy to take my seat while I left and went out into the hall, into these phone booths, and called Washington. And they said, "Well, no, we're worrying about this, and we-- these are your instructions." And I-- I actually screamed into the phone. I said, "They're unacceptable. I want them changed."

NARRATOR: Albright's call was to Richard Clarke, head of peacekeeping at the National Security Council. Clarke declined to talk to FRONTLINE, but he did talk to journalist Samantha Power.

SAMANTHA POWER, Author, "A Problem from Hell": And they end up in a screaming match. The fight is not about whether to send U.S. troops to Rwanda. That's not even contemplated. The fight is simply about how to withdraw the U.N. peacekeepers and how many to withdraw and how many to leave in place and what the function of those peacekeepers should be who remain in place. That's what the fight is about. That's the extent of the dissent at the highest level of the U.S. government about this genocide. That's it, that phone call.

NARRATOR: With the United States demanding a withdrawal, the U.N. instructed General Dallaire to start closing his peacekeeping mission. Dallaire turned to his deputy, General Henry Anyidoho, for advice.

GEN. ROMEO DALLAIRE: And I remember sitting in front of his desk-- huge man sitting there, stoic. And I said, "Henry, they want us out. We've failed in the mission. We've failed in attempting to convince. We've failed the Rwandans. We are going to run and cut the losses. That's what they want us to do."

Gen. HENRY ANYIDOHO, Deputy U.N. Cmndr, Rwanda: And I said, "No, we haven't failed. And as commanders, we are going to sit here, work hard, and see to its solution. So let's tell those people back in New York that we do not think that the mission should be closed.

NARRATOR: Anyidoho assured Dallaire his Ghanaian peacekeepers would stay.

Gen. ROMEO DALLAIRE: And that was all I needed. That meant that I would still have troops on the ground, which were good troops-- not well equipped, but good troops. So I stood up and I said, "Henry, we're not going to run. We're not going to abandon the mission. And we will not be held in history of being accountable for the abandonment of the Rwandan people." It was just morally corrupt to do that. And that's why I went back and told them to go to hell.

Nyarubuye, Eastern Rwanda

NARRATOR: As the U.N. debated whether to keep a peacekeeping force in Kigali, the extremist Hutu leadership implemented the next phase of its plan, to spread the killing across the nation by exploiting Rwanda's culture of obedience. They told Hutus the Tutsi rebels were foreign invaders bent on turning them into slaves. Their propaganda reminded Hutus that the Tutsis had ruled them for centuries, often treating them with disdain.

GITERA RWAMUHIZI, Hutu Farmer: [through interpreter] Tutsis used to abuse Hutus. For example, if a Tutsi chief wished to stand up from his chair, he would call up a Hutu, who would allow his foot to be pierced by the Tutsi's spear as he stood up. My understanding is that Tutsis are not originally from Rwanda. I heard that they might have come from Egypt or somewhere else.

NARRATOR: An extremist hate radio station told Hutus to eliminate their Tutsi neighbors.

[radio broadcast]
[subtitles] All Tutsis will perish. They will disappear from the earth. Slowly, slowly, slowly, we will kill them like rats.

VALENTINA IRIBAGIZA, Tutsi Schoolgirl: [through interpreter] Then, when the war began, people changed. One day across the valley, we saw houses burning and people fleeing from their homes.

NARRATOR: A 12-year-old girl named Valentina followed her parents into the Catholic church in Nyarubuye, where along with more than 5,000 other Tutsis, they waited. It was April the 15th.

VALENTINA IRIBAGIZA: [through interpreter] I was a young girl. My parents thought the church was safe because no one would be killed in a church. When we arrived, I could see the older people were very sad and upset. Everybody was scared, but nobody knew what was going to happen.

GITERA RWAMUHIZI: [through interpreter] The leader of the local community told us that Tutsis had fled to Nyarubuye and that we're to go there and kill them. On the morning of April 15th, we woke up and started walking towards the church. It was like going to the marketplace.

VALENTINA IRIBAGIZA: [through interpreter] I saw the soldiers come in, and they started shooting and shooting. All we had to defend ourselves were rocks. And our local governor, Gacumbizi, came in and stood in front of us. Gacumbizi said that everyone should know what they were there for. He said that all those who were there should be killed, that no one should survive.

Then they started killing, hacking with their machetes. They kept doing it, and I was hiding under dead people. They didn't kill me. Because of the blood covering me, they thought they had killed me.

GITERA RWAMUHIZI: [through interpreter] It was as if we were taken over by Satan. When Satan is using you, you lose your mind. We were not ourselves. You couldn't be normal and you start butchering people for no reason. We'd been attacked by the devil.

VALENTINA IRIBAGIZA: [through interpreter] It was very late, around 2:00 AM, when the Interahamwe came back. One of them stepped on my head. He was shaking me with his foot to see if I was alive. He said, "This thing is dead," and so they left. I lived among the dead for a long time. At night, the dogs would come to eat the bodies. Once a dog was eating someone next to me. I threw something at the dog and he ran away. I hid in a small room. That's where I stayed and slept for 43 days.

NARRATOR: As the Tutsi rebel army pushed south towards the capital, they found evidence of massacres in village after village. With the rebels approaching, extremist Hutus unleashed more Interahamwe militias to accelerate the killing. The murdered prime minister had been replaced by Jean Kambanda, who incited followers to repulse the Tutsi rebels and their sympathizers, known as Inkotanyi.

JEAN KAMBANDA: [through interpreter] The Inkotanyi did not come to conquer power only. They are after you, too. They want to kill you all. Guns are not only for soldiers. Every person can own a gun. If they shoot, you shoot back. I, too, carry one all the time. Here it is.

Red Cross Hospital, Kigali

NARRATOR: Extremist Hutus referred to Tutsi survivors as "those not finished off." The Red Cross had never left Rwanda, and those who stayed confronted a stark moral dilemma. What do you do in the face of evil? A BBC reporter spoke to the Red Cross leader in Rwanda, Philippe Gaillard.

FERGAL KEANE, BBC: Walking around here, the images are quite horrific. You've been dealing with this for a long time. What do you think?

PHILIPPE GAILLARD, Red Cross: I don't know if I-- if I still feel something. I'm-- I have a brain of iron. That's the way I've survived. That's the way I can speak to you in so clear language.

FERGAL KEANE: Is there a high price to be paid for that kind of brain of iron? Later on, perhaps?

PHILIPPE GAILLARD: Later on, maybe. For the time being, so far, so good.

NARRATOR: Soon after the killing began, Gaillard decided he had to challenge the extremist government. Rwandan troops had stopped a Red Cross ambulance and killed six patients.

PHILIPPE GAILLARD: I decided to call my headquarters in Geneva to tell the story. And my counterpart in Geneva told me, "Do you think we could make it public?" And then you think twice. I mean, because if you make it public, then you know that people might kill you, or would really decided to kill you because of what you told. It was [unintelligible] We decided to do it. So following day, BBC, Reuters, Radio France Internationale-- it was everywhere.

NARRATOR: The publicity embarrassed the extremists, and their government gave the Red Cross safe passage throughout Rwanda.

PHILIPPE GAILLARD: So these six people didn't die for-- for nothing. I mean, they-- because of their deaths, hundreds of other people could be saved.

NARRATOR: Gaillard cultivated a relationship with the extremist leadership, which he believes helped the Red Cross save 65,000 lives.

PHILIPPE GAILLARD: When-- when we talk about mass saving, I think that's best. And the only way is to talk with the people who want to kill them.

I remember one day, I met by chance Colonel Theoneste Bagosora. I told him, "Colonel, do something to stop the killing. I mean, this is-- this is absurd. I mean this-- this-- this is suicide. I mean"-- And his answer was-- there are words you never forget, you know? His answer was, "Listen to, sir. If I want, tomorrow I can recruit 50,000 more Interahamwe." So I took him by the shirt. I'm 58 kilograms and he must be 115. Now I took him by the throat, looked his eyes and told him, "Theoneste, you will lose the war."

NARRATOR: Gaillard's network of aid workers across Rwanda gave him the most accurate count of the death toll. He estimated that in the first two weeks, 100,000 Rwandans had been killed.

The Red Cross has a tradition of neutrality and public silence, but Gaillard decided that this genocide would be different.

PHILIPPE GAILLARD: The International Committee of the Red Cross, which is a 140 years old organization, was not active during the Armenian genocide, shut up during the Holocaust. Everybody knew what was happening with the Jews. In such circumstances, if-- if you don't at least speak out clearly and-- you are participating to-- to the genocide. I mean, if you just shut up when you see what you see-- and morally, ethically, you cannot shut up! It's a responsibility to-- to talk, to speak out.

April 21

NARRATOR: A Rwandan human rights activist traveled to Washington. She'd been smuggled out of Kigali after a harrowing ordeal. Monique Mujawamariya came to tell American officials what was happening in her country and ask for stronger U.S. action.

MONIQUE MUJAWAMARIYA, Human Rights Activist: [through interpreter] The first person who I met when I arrived in the United States was Anthony Lake, who at the time was national security adviser. I will always remember him. He was very pleased to see me.

ANTHONY LAKE, Nat'l Security Advisor to Pres. Clinton: Well, I met with Monique and was moved and terrified for her by her story of barely escaping, hiding in the attack for a while and then getting out.

MONIQUE MUJAWAMARIYA: [through interpreter] I think he was partly affected by what was happening in Rwanda. But as a government official, he was not ready to take action. He didn't want to.

ANTHONY LAKE: And it's not that I didn't care, it's that any caring wasn't translated into any focus, any attention really. On something like this, it would have taken quite a push. And there's no question in my mind that, in the end, the president would have had to push it.

MONIQUE MUJAWAMARIYA: [through interpreter] A congressional official responsible for Africa gave me an explanation which was discouraging but also enlightening. He said, "Listen, Monique, the United States has no friends. 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. We have no incentive."

NARRATOR: As Monique lobbied Washington, America and the entire U.N. Security Council voted to withdraw 90 percent of the peacekeepers in Rwanda. This was the compromise Madeleine Albright had argued for. At least a token force was allowed to remain.

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: It was-- it was a very difficult time, and the situation was unclear. You know, in retrospect, it all looks very clear. But when you were at the time, when it was unclear about what was happening in Rwanda, it was very clear that Congress was not supportive of additional peacekeepers, very clear that the Pentagon was not interested in getting deeply involved.

INTERVIEWER: What was your gut feeling about the effectiveness of that force that was being left behind?

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that my gut feeling was that it couldn't do what it had to do.

Maj. BRENT BEARDSLEY, Military Ass't to Gen. Dallaire: It was like the world had disappeared out there. The world just didn't care. And it made no difference what you said or how you said it. We could have packed up dead bodies, put them on-- flown to New York, walked into the Security Council and dumped them on the floor in front of the Security Council, and all that would have happened was we would have been charged for illegally using a U.N. aircraft. They just didn't want to do anything.

Gen. ROMEO DALLAIRE: "Forget any idea that somebody's going to come and help you, Dallaire, or your forces, and that we're going to actually do something positive. We're just going to continue the movement that the Belgians have started of withdrawing and withdrawing and pulling out." That scenario brought an enormous gloom because there's no cavalry coming over the hill.

NARRATOR: General Dallaire was left in Kigali with only 450 ill-equipped troops from developing countries. Now he faced the moral burden of bearing witness to a genocide without the means to stop it.

PHILIPPE GAILLARD: He was abandoned by his own organization. This is terrible. To be abandoned by his own organization, it's terrible. I was always supported. It's a big difference, a huge difference. We needed surgeons, nurses, and these kind of very specialized stuff, you know? It arrived to Rwanda within days. It's very efficient, very short. They came. Some people had to be changed because some people got crazy. But then you find other people who, yeah, are able to take risks and to-- to do the very little things you can do, which are always miracles. Do miracles. That's-- yeah, in such context, it's the only way to do something, I guess, yeah.

April 25

CARL WILKENS: [home video] It's Monday, the 25th of April. It's a rainy, cold day, the day before the beginning of the historic elections in South Africa, and rockets have just been flying over the house.

NARRATOR: Carl Wilkens, the only American not to evacuate from Rwanda, hadn't left his home in nearly three weeks.

CARL WILKENS: And so when I went out, it was-- it was wild. There were horses roaming the streets, and there's no horses in Rwanda except at the Belgian Club, and someone, I guess, had let them out of their stalls. And there were guys sitting at roadblocks in couches, you know? And they'd have an old shotgun across their lap, and they'd have, like, a monkey, you know, on a leash, some foreigner's pet who had fled. Little kids were playing with all kinds of Western toys all over the city, little Rwandan kids who'd never seen these toys before, much less been able to touch them and play with them. It was-- it was a wild place out there.

[www.pbs.org: View Wilkens's video diaries]

NARRATOR: Gromo Alex, a veteran U.N. aid worker, volunteered to come back to Rwanda and set up a humanitarian team in Kigali.

GROMO ALEX, U.N. Humanitarian Team, Kigali: Very few people get opportunities to be real heroes, so I wanted to be one of those-- you know, one of those few.

INTERVIEWER: During the genocide, what was it like right here?

GROMO ALEX: Very dead quiet, barriers on most of the-- almost any road entering into the neighborhood was blocked off with tree stumps or logs or beer cases.

NARRATOR: Each day, Gromo Alex delivered food to refugees at U.N. safe havens in the city and learned to navigate the Interahamwe roadblocks.

GROMO ALEX: We started as early as we could in the morning -- not too early -- and we tried to finish it as early in the afternoon as possible because at-- by noon, they had been drinking and were intoxicated, and they had either killed people and wanted to kill more or they hadn't killed and they wanted to kill.

Killing was like a drink, that if you-- you took one drink, you wanted another one and you wanted another. You wanted to become more and more intoxicated. Sometimes people kill once, and then to lessen the impact of that murder on their psyches or on their conscience, they have to kill again, and then they kill again. And then each-- each murder drives you to kill again, not so much that you forget that you've killed before but that you've-- you've killed and it just becomes part of you. I mean, you've just got to kill and kill and kill.

NARRATOR: Four weeks into the genocide, the Red Cross estimated 300,000 Rwandans had been killed.

May 3

Pres. BILL CLINTON: I think the conscience of the world has grieved for the slaughter in Rwanda. But we also know from not only the Somalia experience but from what we read of the conflict between the Hutus and the Tutsis that there is a political and military element to this. And so I think we can take the lessons we learned and perhaps do a better job there.

ANTHONY LAKE, Nat'l Security Advisor to Pres. Clinton: I think the problem here for me, for the president, for most of us at senior levels was that it never became a serious issue. We never came to grips with what, in retrospect, should have been a central issue of do we do much more to insist that the international community intervene and go out and find the troops that are necessary or even contemplate an American intervention itself. That issue just never arose.

NARRATOR: The administration left Rwanda to the bureaucrats and an inter-agency working group led by the deputy assistant secretary of state for Africa, Prudence Bushnell.

PRUDENCE BUSHNELL, Dpty Ass't Sec'y of State for Africa: I mean, what an extraordinary way to spend time. "Bye, dear. I'm going off to the office today to sit with my people and talk about, is there any way we can save human beings from being slaughtered when there are no resources, there's no peacekeeping." It was-- these were conversations I'll never, ever forget.

NARRATOR: Bushnell's hands were tied by the government's policy of non-intervention. So when she called extremist Hutu leaders, she could threaten them only with words.

PRUDENCE BUSHNELL: I would set the alarm for 2:00 o'clock in the morning, and having these bizarre conversations in French. "Hello, this is Prudence Bushnell. Stop it! Stop killing people!"

NARRATOR: When she called General Kagame, the Tutsi rebel leader, Bushnell's instructions were to demand that he halt his advance and negotiate with the extremists.

PRUDENCE BUSHNELL: He was always very dispassionate, but there was a burst in the middle of this conversation of a fair amount of passion when he said to me, "Madam, they're killing my people." And it wasn't part of my instructions to be empathetic, to-- and yet it was-- it really pulled at my heart because I knew they were killing his people.

Gen. PAUL KAGAME, Cmndr, Rwandan Patriotic Front: And indeed, I talked to Pru Bushnell, and I hate remembering the conversations I had with her because it always brings back those memories, that while for us, we were focusing on and seeing that hundreds of thousands of people are being killed, somebody was talking about something else that had nothing to do with saving the lives of these people who were being killed.

PRUDENCE BUSHNELL: The only effort I could make, as a human being, to sort of reach out a hand of humanity by saying, as I signed off, "General, I wish you peace." And that's the way I ended my conversations with-- it was awful. Excuse me. It's really difficult.

Kigali

NARRATOR: As the outside world left Rwanda to its fate, one U.N. soldier in Kigali was taking matters into his own hands. Captain Mbaye Diagne of Senegal was an unarmed U.N. observer, renowned for his ability to charm his way past the killers.

ALEX GROMO: He's tall, a tall guy. And he had this smile, you know, a big, toothy smile. Even in all this gore and hatred, as long as you can have that brief glimpse of, you know, a smile or something to laugh about that's good, you grab onto it. And with Mbaye, I think that's what everybody did. At all those checkpoints, they all knew him.

NARRATOR: From the first hours of the genocide, Captain Mbaye had ignored orders to remain neutral. He had rescued the children of Prime Minister Agathe, hiding them in a closet while their mother was being killed. Based at the Hotel Mille Collines, a safe haven in the center of Kigali, Captain Mbaye was part of a group of U.N. observers whose very presence was often enough to keep the killers at bay.

Gen. ROMEO DALLAIRE: These guys didn't move, this heart of observers, the gang that stayed at the Mille Collines -- there were seven or eight of them. That particular group, on their own initiative, would go to places where people told there might be people hidden, and they would get them out and bring them to either the Mille Collines or another safe place that we had. And Diagne was one of those leaders in that. I mean, he was evident, courageous and risk-taking.

[www.pbs.org: Explore the story of Captain Mbaye]

NARRATOR: But even General Dallaire didn't realize the full extent of Captain Mbaye's secret rescue missions.

GROMO ALEX: We could see in this back room in the Amahoro Hotel, the headquarters, they had large groups of people that all of a sudden appeared and then the next day were gone. We began to put together that Mbaye was bringing people from all over town to the headquarters and then evacuating them or having them picked up and taken to safety elsewhere.

MARK DOYLE, BBC World Service: I knew what Mbaye Diagne was doing. I had a very, very strong suspicion -- put it that way -- of what he was doing. And had I investigated, I could have found out, but I didn't want to find out. I didn't want to say, "There is a Senegalese officer saving people in this town." You can imagine what the impact of that would have been. He would have been killed.

NARRATOR: While observers like Captain Mbaye were saving hundreds of lives, General Dallaire had a plan to save tens of thousands by creating more safe havens like the few his troops were already protecting in Kigali.

MARK DOYLE: Dallaire had a plan, which was basically to secure football stadiums in every town around Rwanda. Football stadiums were particularly defendable areas because they had large concrete stands. And if you have 50 soldiers with guns on the top of those stands, you can stop people coming in to kill people, basically. So it was-- I think it was very doable, if there had been a much bigger U.N.-- not that much bigger, a few-- a few thousand well-armed U.N. soldiers.

REPORTER: General, you do say that people are being killed, taken out of [unintelligible] What can the U.N. do about it?

Gen. ROMEO DALLAIRE: Send me troops.

REPORTER: Will you-- send troops?

Gen. ROMEO DALLAIRE: Well, what more do you want me to say? I'm waiting here. So send me troops.

NARRATOR: But the U.N. Security Council was skeptical.

MICHAEL SHEEHAN, Peacekeeping Advisor to Amb. Albright: Yeah, we knew what Dallaire was saying. But remember, the Belgians, which were the primary Western European force, had left. And there weren't many other European forces that had real capacity raising their hand up in the air, volunteering to put battalions on the ground in Rwanda. It just didn't exist.

NARRATOR: American officials worried that U.N. troops would get embroiled in Rwanda's civil war because the Tutsi rebels of the Rwanda Patriotic Front made it clear they would oppose a robust U.N. force.

MICHAEL SHEEHAN, Peacekeeping Advisor to Amb. Albright: At the time, the RPF was determined to take Kigali, take power back in Kigali, and they weren't interested in the U.N. coming back. And they saw a U.N. force as being a force that would prop up the Hutu regime that was committing the very atrocities that were ongoing. So the RPF was not interested in a U.N. force, and this was crucial to our decision making regarding whether a force would go in and whether it would go into Kigali.

NARRATOR: The U.N. told Dallaire he would get no more troops. And without a larger force, all he could do was to keep trying to negotiate a ceasefire between the Tutsi rebels and the Hutu government.

Gen. ROMEO DALLAIRE: I was also determined to continue to keep negotiations going because maybe it'll stop. Maybe, with a ceasefire, you know, between the two belligerents, we might be able to stop the massacring.

[www.pbs.org: Gen. Dallaire's extended interview]

NARRATOR: When the ceasefire talks again went nowhere, Dallaire asked to meet directly with the commanders of the death squads.

Gen. ROMEO DALLAIRE: I had to crack the nut of the militias, and so I asked Bagosora, I said, "Listen, let me meet these guys. Let me negotiate with them."

NARRATOR: Inside a Kigali hotel, the leaders of the Interahamwe were waiting.

Gen. ROMEO DALLAIRE: And so when I arrived, Bagosora introduced them. And as I was looking at them and shaking their hands, I noticed some blood spots still on them. And all of a sudden, it didn't-- they disappeared from being human. All of a sudden, something happened that turned them into non-human things. And I was not talking with humans, I literally was talking with evil. It even became a very difficult ethical problem. Do I actually negotiate with the devil to save people, or do I wipe it out, I shoot the bastards right there? I haven't answered that question yet.

NARRATOR: The Interahamwe continued to threaten U.N. safe havens like St. Famille Church in Kigali. The Tutsi refugees inside suspected the Hutu priest was helping the killers. They appealed to Dallaire.

BONAVENTURE NIYIBIZI, U.S. Embassy Employee: There were, like, two Senegalese military who were coming from time to time. And we said if they stay here permanently, we will be more or less protected because, you know, people did not want to kill and have-- and being seen, especially by the international community, journalists and so on.

NARRATOR: Dallaire placed the church under U.N. guard. As elsewhere, sometimes all he had to offer was a couple of unarmed U.N. soldiers.

ALEX GROMO: Quite amazingly, these people, who were very brave, managed here and at the ICRC hospital to prevent armed people from coming in, saying, "Stop. You're not allowed in here. This is-- this site is protected by the U.N." And you ask yourself, well, here's one guy with no gun, sitting on a wooden chair all day, and-- or, you know, all night, you know, not sleeping, and he's able with no gun to convince people that they're not allowed in here to kill people.

I mean, there were some powerful, brave things that were being done by U.N. soldiers completely devoid of any support from New York. Forget it. I'm sorry. Nothing came from those people.

PHILIPPE GAILLARD, Red Cross: Everybody knew every day, live, what was happening in this country. You could follow that every day on TV, on radio. Who moved? Nobody. Yeah.

MARK DOYLE, BBC World Service: I spoke to the Red Cross representative and asked him how many people had been killed. And Philippe said something along the lines of, "In the first few weeks, I said that 100,000 people had been killed. A few weeks later, I said loud and clear that I think half a million people have been killed. And now you're another journalist and you're asking me again, and I'm telling you I can't count anymore. Half a million people have been killed, and I've stopped counting."

PHILIPPE GAILLARD: They cannot tell us or tell me that they didn't know. They were told, every day, what was happening there. So don't come back to me and tell me, "Sorry, we didn't know." No, no. No, no. No, no. Everybody knew.

NARRATOR: After the Holocaust, the world said "Never again" and adopted a U.N. convention requiring that future genocides be stopped. When genocide happened in Rwanda, the United States, along with most other governments, simply avoided using the word.

April 28

REPORTER: --comment on that, or a view as to whether or not what is happening could be genocide?

CHRISTINE SHELLY, State Department Spokeswoman: Well, as I think you know, 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. When-- in looking at a situation to make a determination about that, before we begin to use that term, we have to know as much as possible about the facts of the situation and--

May 4

REPORTER: Just out of curiosity, given that so many people say that there is genocide under way or something that strongly resembles it, why wouldn't this convention be invoked?

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, U.N. Ambassador: Well, I think, as you know, this becomes a legal definitional thing, unfortunately, in terms of as horrendous as all these things are, there becomes a definitional question.

At the time, it-- I have to make so clear to you that at the time, people just did not have the sense that this was happening in the proportions that it was. And by the time that it happened, you couldn't do anything about it.

May 17

NARRATOR: Six weeks into the genocide, the Security Council finally changed course and authorized over 5,000 more peacekeepers for Rwanda, but none were immediately available.

KOFI ANNAN, Head of Peacekeeping, U.N.: The U.N. doesn't have any troops. We borrow them from governments. And I recall on the Rwanda thing, we approached about 80 governments, trying to get offers of troops. And they wouldn't give them to us.

NARRATOR: Washington promised logistical support. But as bodies flowed out of Rwanda down the rivers of Central Africa, State Department officials struggled to get the Pentagon to act.

TONY MARLEY, State Department Military Advisor: At one point, I had recommended that in response to the hate propaganda radio, known as Radio Mille Collines, that the U.S. could use military radio jamming equipment to block those radio transmissions, to take them off the air, effectively. One lawyer from the Pentagon made the argument that that would be contrary to the U.S. constitutional protection of freedom of the press, freedom of speech.

GEORGE MOOSE, Ass't Sec'y of State for Africa: Truly atrocious that we weren't able to do something because of some-- some legal nicety about international radio conventions. And then the APC thing, as sort of emblematic, symptomatic.

NARRATOR: Washington had agreed to send 40 armored personnel carriers to the United Nations peacekeepers, but they would take three months to arrive.

GEORGE MOOSE: Well, because we spent so much time wrangling about who was going to pay for them, who was going to pay for refurbishing them, who was going to transport them, who was going to pay for the transport, who was going to pay for the training of the Ghanaians so that they could use them. I mean, and again, it's sort of bureaucracy at its very worst and but we couldn't-- at our level, you know, there was-- we couldn't break through that. Somebody else would have had to intervene to say, "This is nonsense. Get on with it. Do it."

[www.pbs.org: Timeline -- the U.S. failure to act]

NARRATOR: The bureaucratic paralysis emerged from the administration's decision not to intervene. Seven weeks into the genocide, President Clinton restated his policy that the U.S. would intervene in a humanitarian crisis only if it were in America's national interest.

May 25

Pres. BILL CLINTON: The end of the superpower standoff lifted the lid from a cauldron of long-simmering hatreds. Now the entire global terrain is bloody with such conflicts, from Rwanda to Georgia. Whether we get involved in any of the world's ethnic conflicts in the end must depend on the cumulative weight of the American interests at stake.

NARRATOR: The one American to stay in Kigali when the embassy closed probably saved more lives during the genocide than the entire U.S. government. Carl Wilkens discovered the Interahamwe had surrounded an orphanage.

CARL WILKENS, Aid Worker, Adventist Church: One day, as we brought a load of water to them, this counselor, local counselor from the area comes ripping in in his-- in his little stolen Mercedes station wagon. And I-- as he got out of his car, I looked around, and here, surrounding the orphanage, just materializing, is, like, about 50 militia guys-- camo jackets or camo pants, but all of them with machine guns.

And I said to my Rwandan colleague, who was driving the truck, I said, "Siphon as slow as you can. We've got to make this last. I don't know what we're going to do, but it seems like they're not coming while we're here."

NARRATOR: While his colleague stayed at the orphanage, Wilkens went to the local government headquarters looking for help.

CARL WILKENS: And a young secretary I'd become friends with, he says, "The prime minister's here." And I'm, like, "So what's that mean?" And he's, like, "Ask him." And I'm, like, "Ask him?" You know, it's, like, that's the stupidest thing you could imagine, to ask this guy, who's obviously orchestrating the genocide, a key player. And yet I had no other options.

And door opens, everybody snaps to attention, and here comes Kambanda and his group, little entourage. And they're coming down the hall, and I'm-- you know, I'm-- and I stand up and I put my hand out and I said, "Mr. Prime Minister, I'm Carl Wilkens. The director of ADRA." And he stops and he looks at me, and then he takes my hand and shakes it. And he said, "Yeah, I've heard about you and your work. How is it?" And I said, "Well, honestly, sir it's not very good right now. The orphans at Gisimba are surrounded, and I think there's going to be a massacre, if there hasn't been already." Just tell him, you know?

And he turns around, talks to some of his aides or whatever. He says, "We're aware of the situation, and those orphans are going to be safe. I'll see to it."

NARRATOR: The orphans were saved. Years later, Prime Minister Kambanda would be convicted of genocide by a U.N. tribunal.

CARL WILKENS: You know, the genocide is so complicated. I was in so many positions that could have been interpreted as compromising or even collaborating with the enemy, huh? You know, who's going to believe someone who goes to court and says, "Well, actually, I asked Kambanda to help me save some Tutsis"? Huh? Who's going to believe that?

The stuff in the genocide just turns-- and that's why, you know, the thing about this is, is we got to recognize in each one of us there's such a potential for good and there's such a potential for evil.

NARRATOR: By late May, the extremists were running out of Tutsis to kill. They threatened to storm the U.N. sanctuary at the Hotel Mille Collines. Captain Mbaye Diagne of Senegal led 600 Tutsis to a safer part of town.

MARK DOYLE, BBC World Service: And the militia attacked the convoys. And I saw individual soldiers, including Captain Mbaye Diagne, actually kicking people off because they didn't have guns. The U.N. soldiers didn't have guns. They were actually kicking people off and saying, "You can't come up here. These people-- we're saving these people."

NARRATOR: A few days later, Captain Mbaye was driving from the hotel back to U.N. headquarters. He stopped at this bridge, a final checkpoint.

ALEX GROMO: A mortar had landed behind his car and shrapnel came through the back window and in the back of his head and apparently killed him instantly. They're calling around for a body bag, and there's no body bags, not a body bag. There's nothing left. There's nothing. And you wonder, you know, [unintelligible] at this time, we're starting to put it together and we're saying, you know, "Here's a-- here's a guy who gave his ultimate, did everything, and we don't even have a body bag," you know, nothing to, you know, show him some respect.

We had some UNICEF plastic sheeting and we had some tape. You know, we're folding him up and, you know, the creases aren't right, you know, because his feet are so damn big, you know? And you don't want that for him. You want it to be like, you know, just laid out perfectly so that, you know, when people look at him, you know, they-- they know that he was something great. [weeps]

NARRATOR: No one knows how many lives Captain Mbaye Diagne personally saved, at least 100, perhaps 1,000.

SENEGALESE OFFICER: Captain Mbaye Diagne is one of the best officers in my army. And the job he done here, none of-- one of us did it.

MARK DOYLE: I remember bursting into tears with a colleague of his, a Senegalese captain. And the captain said to me, "You're a journalist. I'm a soldier. Now you've got to tell the world what Mbaye Diagne did. You've got to tell the people that he saved lots of lives. Even while the U.N. was shamefully pulling out its troops, you know, he was saving people's lives and-- please tell the world."

Gen. ROMEO DALLAIRE: We carried the stretcher into the Hercules aircraft. It was a very, very low point, very low point, such an incredibly courageous individual, amongst others who were strong and courageous. But he seemed to be untouchable.

Nyarubuye

NARRATOR: As the civil war in Rwanda was drawing to a close, the BBC's Fergal Keane was traveling with the advancing Tutsi rebels. One evening in late May, they approached the church at Nyarubuye where more than 5,000 Tutsis had sought refuge.

FERGAL KEANE: And we got out of the car. And in front of the church, there were some bodies on the ground. You find yourself walking along and you're stepping around and stepping over bodies. And then we walked down this path through the church compound. It was heavily overgrown, heavily overgrown. And we went down further until we came to this kind of open courtyard area, where the bodies were stacked in against the walls.

And it started to get dark. And then we went into the church and there was no light in the church itself. You're walking around in the dark. And you-- suddenly, the light points here and you see a kid's body, and you know it's a kid because he's wearing his khaki school uniform. And he's lying there and his head's been bludgeoned away. And down in another corner there's a man, his body lying there.

As we're coming out, we hear noises, noises from other rooms. And I got very, very scared. And one of the drivers with us, a Ugandan, said, "Don't worry. It's only rats." Rats.

And we left. And I just remember looking up at the church itself, and there's this white statue of Christ standing with his arms open. And as you look down from him, there's the remains of a human body underneath. And I was-- you know, I was raised as a Catholic, and I kind of drifted away, big-time, from religion. But I really-- I prayed so hard. I said, "Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Give us thy kingdom come." I needed to believe in something.

I think going to Nyarubuye, seeing what had happened there a few weeks earlier and coming face to face with the human capacity for evil on a scale I just hadn't imagined-- you can imagine it in your mind, but until you experience it and smell it, until you walk there, in that, that changes you. But I don't welcome the fact that I was changed.

We've heard that there were survivors. And we got to the mayor's offices, offices that had been used by the man accused of leading the genocide. And we walked in, and sitting on the ground were this woman and, I think, two children. And one of the children, she looked in the most terrible state. She-- we could see that her hand was black, been hacked away. And there was a wound on the back of her head, as well. The nurse was trying to dress the wounds, and she just-- this child looked -- I looked at that kid and I said, "She's not going to make it." You know, "There's no way." The kid's name was Valentina.

VALENTINA IRIBAGIZA, Tutsi Schoolgirl: [through interpreter] I felt a lot of pain, a lot of pain, because my fingers had been chopped off. And my head had been cut. I was very sad because my family was all dead. I was waiting to die myself. I didn't think I was going to survive.

June 10

CHRISTINE SHELLY, State Department Spokeswoman: We have every reason to believe that acts of genocide have occurred.

REPORTER: How many acts of genocide does it take to make genocide?

CHRISTINE SHELLY: Allen, that's just not a question that I'm in a position to answer.

REPORTER: Is it true that the-- that you have specific guidance not to use the word "genocide" in isolation, but always to preface it with this-- with these words "acts of"?

CHRISTINE SHELLY: I have guidance which-- which-- to which I-- which I try to use as best as I can. I'm not-- I have-- 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 a phraseology which--

GEORGE MOOSE, Ass't Sec'y of State for Africa: It is ludicrous, in retrospect, that the discussion was about how might we be viewed if we declared that there is genocide and then we are not in a position or not ready or willing or able to do anything about it. The fact of the matter is, it was there, and the fact that we didn't say so was already tarnishing our credibility and our capacity to do something about it, so--

But I think-- I mean, as I've said, I think that's probably one of the most shameful passages in this-- in this whole exercise, was our-- the length of time and the amount of tortured discussion it took us to actually come to that determination.

NARRATOR: The Rwandan genocide came to an end in July, 1994. It had lasted 100 days and ended only when the Tutsi rebels won the civil war. Hutu extremists had killed over 800,000 people as the world stood by.

CARL WILKENS: When I'd lay down at night in the hallway there, there was a hope that something's going to happen, you know? Something's got to happen. This thing didn't end in a couple days, like we thought it did. It didn't end in a week or two, like we thought it would. Somebody's going to do something.

By the time the genocide was over, I was so angry, at America, America the beautiful, America the brave. I was angry with our government. I was angry with people who could do something, even the simplest things and they didn't.

NARRATOR: As the years passed, world leaders, who did little as genocide happened on their watch, came to places like Nyarubuye on pilgrimages of contrition.

ANTHONY LAKE, Nat'l Security Advisor to Pres. Clinton: At what point did I start saying to myself, "We should have done more"? When did that start coming to me? Honestly, it didn't start happening probably until I went to Rwanda, saw the bodies. It was worse than anything I had seen in Vietnam. And after that, I began understanding, or at least asking myself whether we-- whether we couldn't have done more.

January 1996

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: I think going to Rwanda was one of the biggest shocks for me. I went to this-- this church on a lake, and then there was a mass grave. And there was a small skeleton that they had managed to excavate, which was about the size of my grandchild at that time. And it just-- and you could see the machete mark on the skull.

I wish that I had pushed for a large humanitarian intervention. People would have thought I was crazy. It would never have happened. But I would have felt better about my own role in this.

May 1998

KOFI ANNAN: It was a very painful and traumatic experience for me personally, and I think in some way, for the United Nations. It's not something that you forget. If we were to be confronted with a new Rwanda, is the world ready to do it? Will the world move in to stop it? And my answer is, I really don't know. I wish I can say yes, but I am not convinced that we will see the kind of political will and the action required to stop it.

[www.pbs.org: The "responsibility to protect"]

NARRATOR: Eventually, President Clinton himself came to Rwanda.

March 1998

Pres. BILL CLINTON: I have come today to pay the respects of my nation to all who suffered and all who perished in the Rwandan genocide. It may seem strange to you here, especially the many of you who lost members of your family, but all over the world, there were people like me, sitting in offices day after day after day, who did not fully appreciate the depth and the speed with which you were being engulfed by this unimaginable terror.

NARRATOR: In his remarks, which were billed as an apology, Clinton did say the U.S. had made mistakes, but he never actually said he was sorry. He met with survivors and heard the human consequences of his policy of non-intervention, and then he left.

[May, 2003, University of Arkansas]

STUDENT: Mr. President, the lack of intervention in Rwanda-- can you tell us why the U.S. didn't intervene?

Pres. BILL CLINTON: I think that the people that were bringing these decisions to me felt that the Congress was still reeling from what had happened in Somalia, and by the time they finally-- you know, I sort of started focusing on this and seeing the news reports coming out of it, it was too late to do anything about it. And I feel terrible about it because I think we could have sent 5,000, 10,000 troops there and saved a couple hundred thousand lives. I think we could have saved about half of them. But I'll always regret that Rwandan thing. I will always feel terrible about it.

Gen. ROMEO DALLAIRE: I came back with-- and still live with this enormous guilt. You know, I became-- fell-- started falling into these depressions, and it's like a spiral. And so I'd find Scotch, mostly, and I'd just drink myself-- and drink, and then I'd, you know, cut myself or try to jump off things because the pain of killing yourself is nothing compared to the pain of living with this.

I was the commander. My mission failed and hundreds of thousands of people died. And that-- I can't find any solace in statements like, "I did my best." A commander can't use that as a reference in any operation. He succeeds or he fails, and then he stands by and to be accused of and to be held accountable for. And my mission failed, and that's that.

PHILIPPE GAILLARD, Red Cross: And I don't feel guilty. I never felt guilty. Dallaire felt guilty all the time. And I think this is the reason why he is still deeply wounded, while my scars are-- are OK. Yeah.

And when we came back from Rwanda with my wife-- we were deliberate-- deliberately, we had no-- no children. And it was so evident for her, for me, that after this experience, we both wanted to create life. I mean, I have never explained to my son that he was a product of the genocide. It is not easy to explain. Yes. Yeah. Nothing else, Greg.

 

GHOSTS OF RWANDA

WRITTEN, PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY
Greg Barker

CO-PRODUCER
Julia Powell

EDITOR
Paul Carlin

PRODUCTION MANAGER
Vivienne Steele

ASSISTANT PRODUCER
Steven Dagdigian

FIELD PRODUCER - AFRICA
Claudia Rizzi

PHOTOGRAPHY
Frank Lehmann
Ray Brislin
Fred Scott

CONSULTANTS
Samantha Power
Will Ferroggiaro

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Will Lyman

FOR BBC

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Fergal Keane

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Darren Kemp

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Lucy Willmore

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Fred Scott
Glenn Middleton
Mike Spooner

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Kate Redman

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Harrick Maury
Pete Peters
Alex Sullivan
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JP Whiteside

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Max Bygraves

TRANSLATION
Ines Mutaboba

ARCHIVE
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A FRONTLINE co-production with the BBC and Silverbridge Productions Limited.

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