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BBC's Mark Devenport
"The report makes depressing reading"
 real 28k

Thursday, 16 December, 1999, 20:20 GMT
UN's lack of will highlighted

Many Rwandans are still homeless as a result of continuing instability Many Rwandans are still homeless as a result of continuing instability


By diplomatic correspondent Barnaby Mason

The report condemning the United Nations for failing to prevent the 1994 genocide in Rwanda comes just a month after a similar one on the massacre of civilians in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica.

In both cases, the fundamental criticism points at a lack of political will on the part of leading members of the Security Council.

The Rwanda report does criticise senior officials of the UN severely, saying they failed to sound alarm bells.

However, forceful action in such crises comes from the Security Council, and then only if some of its permanent members take the lead.

Debate but no action

The council debated the unfolding horrors of the genocide in Rwanda over many weeks in April and May 1994, but took no action.

Many of the doubts about the feasibility of an enlarged UN military mission were voiced by the United States, then suffering the trauma of its disastrous experience in Somalia the year before.

Even when a force of 5,500 was at last authorised, most of the troops were not forthcoming.

The report criticises key members of the Security Council, and says the fundamental failure was the lack of resources and the lack of will to make the commitment necessary to stop the genocide.

Bosnia

Similar criticisms have been made of the UN's performance in Bosnia, especially in Srebrenica.

Here too, the Security Council gave peacekeepers inadequate firepower and a weak mandate which made it almost impossible for them to protect the civilian population against atrocities.

Things changed only when the United States and other Western governments decided to act on their own through Nato.

International opinion is now more favourable towards action to prevent the gross abuse of human rights - even at the expense of national sovereignty.

But it has clear limits, as the current events in Chechnya demonstrate.

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See also:
31 Mar 99 |  Africa
Rwanda slaughter 'could have been prevented'
18 Mar 99 |  Africa
Eyewitness: Rwanda's survivors
04 May 98 |  Africa
Annan defends record on Rwanda
08 Dec 99 |  Africa
Prosecutor to pursue genocide suspect
21 Jun 99 |  Africa
Rwanda arrests 'hate radio' journalist

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