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Ghosts of Rwanda

Significant events, statements and decisions that reveal how the United States and the West chose not to act to save hundreds of thousands of lives in the Rwandan genocide of 1994.

April 7

Hutu gunmen systematically start tracking down and killing moderate Hutu politicians and Tutsi leaders. The deputy to the U.S. ambassador in Rwanda tells Washington that the killings involve not just political murders, but genocide.

The U.S. decides to evacuate all Americans.

Canadian General Romeo Dallaire, head of the U.N. peacekeeping force in Rwanda, is told by headquarters not to intervene and to avoid armed conflict.

Day 1
Estimated Death Toll: 8,000

April 9, 10, 11

Evidence mounts of massacres targeting ordinary Tutsis. Front page stories newspaper stories cite reports of "tens of thousands" dead and "a pile of corpses six feet high" outside a main hospital.

Gen. Dallaire requests a doubling of his force to 5,000.

Nearly 3,300 Americans, French, Italians and Belgians are evacuated by troops sent in from their countries.

Day 4
Estimated Death Toll: 32,000

April 15

Belgium withdraws its troops from the U.N. force after ten Belgian soldiers are slain. Embarrassed to be withdrawing alone, Belgium asks the U.S. to support a full pullout. Secretary of State Christopher agrees and tells Madeleine Albright, America's U.N. ambassador, to demand complete withdrawal. She is opposed, as are some African nations. She pushes for a compromise: a dramatic cutback that would leave a token force in place.

Day 8
Estimated Death Toll: 64,000

April 16

The New York Times reports the shooting and hacking to death of some 1000 men, women and children in a church where they sought refuge.

Day 9
Estimated Death Toll: 72,000

April 19

By this date, Human Rights Watch estimates the number of dead at 100,000 and calls on the U.N. Security Council to use the word "genocide."

Belgian troops leave Rwanda; Gen. Dallaire is down to a force of 2,100. He will soon lose communication lines to outlying areas and will have only a satellite link to the outside world.

Day 12
Estimated Death Toll: 100,000

April 21, 22

The U.S. and the entire U.N. Security Council vote to withdraw 90% of the peacekeepers in Rwanda.

At the urging of Human Rights Watch, the White House issues a statement calling on four Rwandan military leaders to "end the violence."

It is the only time during the three months of genocide in which high-level U.S. attention is directed at the genocide leaders.

Day 14
Estimated Death Toll: 112,000

April 25

Gen. Dallaire is down to 450 ill-equipped troops from developing countries. He works to protect some 25,000 Rwandans who are at places guarded by U.N. forces. He still hopes the Security Council will change its mind and send him forces while there is still time.

Day 18
Estimated Death Toll: 144,000

April 27

Pope John Paul II uses the word "genocide" for the first time in describing the situation in Rwanda. This same day, Czechoslovakia and Argentina introduce a draft resolution to the U.N. Security Council that includes the word "genocide."

Day 20
Estimated Death Toll: 160,000

April 28

The press ask State Department spokeswoman Christine Shelly whether genocide is happening. Her response carefully tries to avoid the word: "…we have to undertake a very careful study before we can make a final kind of determination…."

Day 21
Estimated Death Toll: 168,000

May 1

A Defense Department discussion paper, prepared for a meeting of officials having day-to-day responsibility on the crisis, is filled with cautions about the U.S. becoming committed to taking action. The word genocide is a concern. "Be careful. Legal at State was worried about this yesterday -- Genocide finding could commit [the U.S.] to actually 'do something.'"

Day 25
Estimated Death Toll: 200,000

May 3

The U.S. unveils long-planned new peacekeeping doctrine (Presidential Decision Directive 25). In emphasizing the need to establish first what is in the "national interest," it limits U.S. participation in U.N. missions and U.S. support for other nations that hope to carry out U.N. missions.

Day 27
Estimated Death Toll: 216,000

May 5

A Pentagon memo rejects a proposal from Gen. Dallaire and State Department officials to diminish the killings by using Pentagon technology to jam the extremists' hate radio transmissions.

"We have … concluded jamming is an ineffective and expensive mechanism.… International legal conventions complicate airborne or ground based jamming and the mountainous terrain reduces the effectiveness of either option. … It costs approximately $8500 per flight hour … it would be wiser to use air to assist in the [food] relief effort."

Day 29
Estimated Death Toll: 232,000

May 13

Horrified by the scale of the killings, some members of the U.N. Security Council are ready to increase Gen. Dallaire's force. Dallaire's plan is for 5,000 more troops to secure Kigali and create safe havens in the countryside. But the State Department instructs U.N. Ambassador Albright to work to modify the plan. The U.S. wants to create protected zones at Rwanda's border areas, a less risky option for intervening troops.

Day 37
Estimated Death Toll: 296,000

May 17

Six weeks into the genocide, the U.N. and U.S. finally agree to a version of Gen. Dallaire's plan: nearly 5,000 mainly African U.N. forces will be sent in and the U.N. requests that the U.S. provide 50 armored personnel carriers (APCs).

Bureaucratic paralysis continues. Few African countries offer troops for the mission and the Pentagon and U.N. argue for two weeks over who will pay the costs of the APCs and who will pay for transporting them.

It takes a full month before the U.S. begins sending the APCs to Africa. They don't arrive until July.

Day 41
Estimated Death Toll: 328,000

May 25

Seven weeks into the genocide, President Clinton gives speech that restates his policy that humanitarian action anywhere in the world would have to be in America's national interest:

"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."

Day 49
Estimated Death Toll: 392,000

June 22

Eleven weeks into the genocide, with still no sign of a U.N. deployment to Rwanda, the U.N. Security Council authorizes France to unilaterally intervene in southwest Rwanda.

French forces create a safe area in territory controlled by the Rwanda Hutu government. But killings of Tutsis continue in the safe area.

Day 77
Estimated Death Toll: 616,000

July 17

By this date, Tutsi RPF forces have captured Kigali. The Hutu government flees to Zaire, followed by a tide of refugees. The French end their mission in Rwanda and are replaced by Ethiopian U.N. troops. The RPF sets up an interim government in Kigali.

Although disease and more killings claim additional lives in the refugee camps, the genocide is over.

Day 100
An estimated 800,000 Rwandans have been killed

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posted april 1, 2004

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