Boutros Boutros-Ghali leaves behind unanswered Genocide questions

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A guide at the Kigali Memorial Centre showing a list of victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. (File)

Editor,

RE: “Boutros Boutros-Ghali: Gone with a guilty conscience?” (The New Times, February 21).

I had tried very studiously to keep quiet about the passing on of Boutros Boutros-Ghali. Our culture holds that if you have nothing good to say about a person on his death, best just to let the occasion pass without saying anything.

But given his complicity, through his criminal silence, with those intent on ensuring nothing would stand between them and their 1994 genocidal project for Rwanda’s Tutsi, it is really extremely hard not to note that death does eventually come for all.

And yet, while Boutros definitely has a very major responsibility in his organization’s culpable (and willful) failures before, during and following the Genocide, focusing only on him and his role would be a mistake as it tends to obscure the equally criminal role of the permanent members of the UN Security Council.

While France was actively involved in the Council to shield and to sustain, in any way possible, its then Rwandan client, its permanent member counterparts in the Council, with the US in the lead, did not want the UN to have to do anything that would require significant resources or involve any risk for a UN over which American influence was growing much faster than at any time in the organization’s history and which, with Russia’s continuing decline and perhaps complete collapse, Washington increasingly saw as a potentially very valuable instrument of its own geopolitical policy implementation.

Rwanda then—like Burundi today—did not represent any vital interest on which Washington would want to oppose its French ally which had a greater interest in ensuring the survival of its genocidal client regime in Kigali.

When, at the end of the Genocide, the scale of the killings became clear: the non-French permanent members of the UN security council needed a scapegoat to cover for their own failure to honour their legal obligations under the 1948 treaty to prevent and to punish the crime of genocide, and the world’s solemn undertaking Never Again to permit anyone to commit genocide.

Boutros was perfect for that scapegoat role, especially as he was indeed guilty of both crimes of commission and omission in the Genocide against the Tutsi. He was a man under French influence, and he had failed to get his friends in Paris not to actively ally themselves with people determined to do anything to retain absolute power, including to commit the unthinkable.

To summarize, then; yes, Boutros Boutros-Ghali has left this world without accounting for his role in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. But let’s not transform him into a scapegoat—deserving of the role as he is—and forget the many others actors who (like Koffi Annan…), by commission or omission, are equally responsible for allowing or abetting that crime.

Mwene Kalinda