When I woke up late this morning, the news stories about the death of former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, greeted me. I had to bite my tongue, however, to honestly mourn this man, who, once assumed an office with the power to make decisions of life and death over many lives including my own life back in 1994.
Amidst a dozen newspaper articles praising his legacy, I rushed to check on survivors’ and some genocide scholars’ virtual platforms to make sure I’m not the only one questioning Annan’s legacy.
Not to my surprise, most survivors expressed mixed feelings at best and ‘‘who cares’’ kind of reaction at worst.
‘’Today, Kofi Annan goes down in history as a person who ignored the call to assist people in great danger. He will join in hell his boss Boutros Boutros Ghali and Francois Mitterrand who sided with genocidaires till the end’’, One survivor observed with anger.
This reaction is usually in stark contrast with basic ethics in our culture. If a human being dies, the Rwandan culture dictates us to express sympathy or at least keep silent. But the genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda broke down nearly each and every values and ritual we once believed in. Growing up we were told “Umuntu ni nyir’igitinyiro’’, a human being is sacred. But in 1994, we watched our families being chopped off with machetes and their corpses left on street rotting at the mercy of wild dogs.
Coming back to Annan, we are in a difficult position here: how can you express sympathy to a man who displayed utter indifference, if not complicity, when your family was being slaughtered? A ‘’tit for tat’’ sentiment seems to be absolutely a fair reaction to me. After all, why can’t we question the legacy of an official like Kofi Annan who failed to do, or at least try and fail to do, the job he signed up for?
Kofi Annan’s Passivity towards Genocide of Tutsi
Kofi Annan’s unconscionable passivity in the face of word that the Hutus were planning on slaughtering the Tutsis, amounts to complicity according to many genocide scholars.
Former Israeli Amb. Dore Gold’s book, Tower of Babble, documents Kofi Annan’s upsetting role in the genocide of Tutsis.
The most startling revelation: Despite having credible advance warning that a genocide was imminent, Kofi was the man who spearheaded the UN’s unconscionable position of “neutrality” as Hutu militias murdered thousands of Tutsis per day.
On January 11, 1994—three months before the genocide began—Major General Romeo Dallaire, head of the original UN peacekeeping unit in Rwanda, sent a secret cable to UN officials in New York warning that a “very, very important government politician” had put him in touch with a Hutu informant who warned that Hutu militias were planning the “extermination” of minority Tutsis.
No alarm bells went off at the UN, even though, as Gold writes, “Warning signs of an impending massacre were everywhere.” The man running the relevant division at the time, the Department of Peacekeeping Missions, was Kofi Annan. Actually, alarm bells didn’t necessarily have to go off, as Gen. Dallaire offered a silver lining: He knew the location of the Hutus’ weapons cache, and he was planning to seize it and stop the slaughter before it started.
But his plan to save hundreds of thousands of lives was short-circuited by Kofi Annan, who didn’t want to upset the sitting Hutu government or in any way appear to be taking sides. Not only did Kofi not do anything to prevent genocide, but his actions almost assured that the Security Council wouldn’t either.
Hiding truth about Genocide of Tutsi
According to various accounts cited by Gold, including the UN’s own post-debacle report, Security Council members complained that Kofi’s department kept them in the dark, not revealing the true nature and full extent of the genocide. Kofi’s caution could not be chalked up to doubts about the accuracy of the warning.
The UN secretary general’s personal representative investigated the matter. Despite his well-documented pro-Hutu leanings, he wrote back to the UN that he had “total, repeat total confidence in the veracity and true ambitions of the informant.” In other words, not only did Kofi and the UN have a Hutu informant who gave them advance notice of the genocide, but they were able to verify the veracity of that informant.
Still Kofi insisted on doing nothing. Once the slaughter started and tens of thousands had been murdered, Kofi acted—just not the right way. To make sure that Gen. Dallaire’s men were not trying to stop the genocide, he instructed the commander in Rwanda to “make every effort not to compromise your impartiality or to act beyond your mandate.”
Kofi’s advocacy for “impartiality” no doubt helped lead the Security Council to slash the already small peacekeeping contingent almost 90%.
So, let’s face it. Should we, the survivors, mourn the loss of Kofi Annan? Well, I find no incentive to do so. End
By Albert Gasake