Former commanding officer of the Ghana Military Academy, Major General Henry Kwame Anyidoho (retd) claims the United Nations could have prevented the 1994 Rwandan genocide from escalating.
Having served in numerous peacekeeping operations, he recalled that had the UN followed a lead proposed by the peacekeeping force at the time, hundreds of thousands people would not have been killed.
Over half a million people were massacred from April to July 1994 with extremist political groups organising the killings, directed primarily at the minority Tutsi ethnic group. Some moderate Hutus were also murdered. The slaughter ended when rebel forces of the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) overthrew the genocidal government.
Speaking exclusively on 3FM’s Sunrise Morning Show, Major Anyidoho recounted the grisly moments in Kigali as he shared his experience as a member of Ghana’s peacekeeping contingent during the civil war in Rwanda.
“As a mission we had the mandate to execute so we considered as part of that mandate or responsibility to make sure that the situation did not degenerate into what we saw so we proposed an operation to get rid of what we suspected were arms hidden within the city of Kigali.
“Normally when you make that kind of proposals you would have to send them to the UN headquarters back in New York for them to give you a clearance and we were not given the approval to conduct the search.
“We had a strong suspicion that there were arms and explosives hidden in Kigali but they considered it not part of our responsibility at that time but we hoped that if we could have done that we could have been able to avoid to some extent what happened afterwards.
“Remember, we were in Rwanda just after the confusion and the failures of the UN in Somalia where many people had been killed and the mission was aborted sort of, so we became the orphan mission of Somalia and the UN mission was being careful in allowing its missions outside to undertake certain types of operations that they considered outside their mandate.
“We didn’t consider it outside except that I think the UN knew very well that we were not equipped sufficiently to take on the heat if we had to enter into real fighting”.
Major Anyidoho defended former Secretary General of UN Kofi Annan who was then in charge of peacekeeping missions, noting that Mr. Annan was not the final decision maker in that particular instance.
“I appeared before many boards of enquiry after Rwanda and this question was put to me so many times because they knew we were compatriots.
“The truth is that he wasn’t the final decision maker… The permanent five that controlled the Security Council normally will take this kind of crucial decision so therefore if they disagreed with something, there is nothing else anybody could do.
“To the best of my knowledge I think Boutros Ghali (the UN Secretary General) was proposing an increase in the force at the time of the crisis and the UN Security Council went the opposite way which was completely abnormal.
“When you come under pressure during operations you need to have additional forces what we call the reserve forces to beef up the forces on the ground but in our case they reduced the force virtually to its shadow and that wasn’t done by either Boutros Ghali or Kofi Annan but by the council who took a wrong decision which they accepted later on”.