Archive for Monday, July 10, 2000

U.S. denies Rwanda culpability

July 10, 2000


— Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said Sunday that an international panel was wrong to blame the United States for failing to prevent the slaughter of more than 500,000 people in Rwanda.

She also said she had opposed U.S. inaction against genocide in the African country.

The report Friday blamed the U.N. Security Council, the United States, France and the Roman Catholic Church for failing to prevent the slaughter. A former Canadian ambassador said the United States did not act because it had lost 18 soldiers in a peacekeeping operation five months earlier.

"It is an inaccurate observation," Albright said in reply to the Canadian, Stephen Lewis, who was on the panel.

"It is horrendous that happened; we regret what happened," Albright said on ABC's "This Week," adding that Washington had since provided assistance to survivors and backed a war crimes tribunal.

The seven-member panel created by the Organization of African Unity urged nations, especially those that failed to prevent or help stop the 1994 genocide, to pay reparations to Rwanda "in the name of both justice and accountability."

Albright, who was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in 1994, said, "It's very hard for me to judge the fairness of the report."

But, she said, "In my entire time at the U.N., I screamed about the instructions I got at the time. I felt they were wrong."

She added: "The truth that has to be kept in mind is that the whole thing exploded rapidly. There wasn't a U.N. force capable of taking this on."

She did not say whether she had recommended a different course to policy-makers in Washington.

The 90-day genocide was orchestrated by a small group of Hutu extremists against the Tutsi minority. It followed a mysterious plane crash that killed the Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana.

More than a half-million Tutsis and thousands of moderate Hutus were killed in the slaughter, which ended when Tutsi-led rebels defeated the Hutu extremists in July 1994.

The OAU report was harsh in assessing blame, repudiating France's contention that it bore no responsibility for the genocide and President Clinton's insistence that the United States failed to act because of ignorance.

"A small number of major actors could directly have prevented, halted, or reduced the slaughter. They include France in Rwanda itself; the U.S. at the Security Council; Belgium, whose soldiers knew they could save countless lives if they were allowed to remain in the country; and Rwanda's church leaders," the report said.

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