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Tuesday, March 23, 1999 Published at 12:11 GMT

World: Africa

UN plan Rwanda failures inquiry

Rwanda1994: 'A time of evil' in the words of Kofi Annan

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is planning an independent inquiry into the UN's failure to halt the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

In a letter to the UN Security Council seeking support for the inquiry, Mr Annan says it would aim to establish the facts and draw conclusions about the UN's role.

Our UN correspondent, Rob Watson, says the organisation's inability to prevent the genocide has long been regarded as its worst ever failure.

[ image: Hundreds of thousands of Rwandans fled the fighting]
Hundreds of thousands of Rwandans fled the fighting
Some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered by Hutu extremists between April and June 1994.

The UN had 2,000 peacekeepers in Rwanda before the genocide but it started to withdraw them as the killing began.

When the scale of the slaughter became clear, the UN authorised more troops to be sent to Rwanda, but they did not arrive in time to prevent the massacres.

Our correspondent says the UN's failure was widely criticised at the time and it continues to haunt the organisation and its secretary-general.

Signs not heeded

Mr Annan has acknowledged that failure, which he said happened in "a time of evil".

"Looking back, we now see signs which then were not recognised," he said on a visit to Rwanda last year. "Now we know that what we did was not nearly enough."

But by suggesting the tragedy had come from within the country and could not be blamed entirely on UN inaction, Mr Annan earned himself blistering attacks from Rwandan politicians and a boycott by the Rwandan President Pasteur Bizmungu.

As head of the UN's peacekeeping department in 1994, Mr Annan was attacked personally for refusing to authorise UN peacekeepers to disarm Hutu militiamen.

[ image: Col Romeo Dallaire 'warned UN of genocide preparations in Jan 1994']
Col Romeo Dallaire 'warned UN of genocide preparations in Jan 1994'
Early in 1994, the UN secretary-general at the time, Boutrous Boutrous Ghali, is reported to have received a warning from the head of the UN peacekeeping mission in Rwanda, Colonel Romeo Dallaire, that extremist Hutus were preparing for the genocide.

Mr Annan has always denied any kind of negligence on his part and is anxious to lay the whole issue to rest before it does any more harm to either his or the UN's reputation.

"In view of the enormity of the genocide that occurred in Rwanda questions continue to surround the actions of the United Nations immediately before and during the period of the crisis," he said in his letter to the Security Council on Monday.

"It is therefore my intention to set up an independent inquiry into the actions which the United Nations took at that time."

UN sources say the inquiry will be expected to interview any relevant witnesses and have full access to UN records, including internal documents and cables.

Sources close to Mr Annan say the inquiry would take months rather than years and would not be run by current UN personnel.

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