Have any lessons been learnt from the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi? Is the world a better place because of these lessons? These are some of the questions that were pondered on this Wednesday April 28, as several experts met virtually for the “Colloquium on the UN and the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi’. The panel of nine was partly made up of people who were in Rwanda during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in which more than one million people were killed, while others have extensively researched on Rwanda No lessons learnt General Henry Kwame Anyidoho was the Deputy Force Commander of UNAMIR – the UN peacekeepers deployed in Rwanda in 1994 – and the head of the Ghanaian contingent that defied the UN directive to abandon Rwandans at the height of the genocide. In response to the questions raised above, Anyidoho said that although the UN promised to form a special standby force that would respond in countries that are at a high risk of plunging into a genocide, 27 years on, it does not exist. He raised his concerns over the international community and the UN attitude towards responding to bloodsheds on the African continent which he said has not changed adding that a repeat of what happened in Rwanda would not be a surprise. “Based on my experiences, I am not optimistic that a genocide would be prevented if the world’s leading powers remain interested only in areas of strategic interest to them, and if regional bodies like the AU cannot take decisive action to back their own strategic resolutions,” he said. “It is not good to say ‘Never Again’ after it has happened yet it could have been prevented. We have never lacked warning. Sometimes we have had these warnings ten years ahead of time, but it’s just that the world is not honest enough to call a spade a spade,” he said. Ineffectual council Lt. Gen (Rtd) Roméo Dallaire, who served as the force commander of UNAMIR, the ill-fated United Nations peacekeeping force for Rwanda between 1993 and 1994, said that attempts to form an advisory council (after the genocide in Rwanda) to stop any other genocide had failed because UN agencies were not cooperating. Dallaire, a Canadian, said that the advisory council, set up by the late Secretary General of the UN; Kofi Annan and on which he was appointed, was meant to collect all intelligence information but the body’s agencies made it impossible for it to proceed. “The Council sought to bring together all the intelligence information in all the UN agencies and organisations in order for us to actively anticipate the possibility of countries falling into genocide and ultimately, we failed. We could not bring the UN agencies to give us that information to a central area where it could be analysed,” he said. He reflected on the decision made by the Security Council to pull troops out of Rwanda and yet send more than 60,000 to Yugoslavia and his decision not to obey the order to evacuate. “At the same time that we were seeing more people being killed, mutilated, raped, internally displaced, orphaned in Rwanda, the UN was posting 67,000 troops to Yugoslavia. So the question remains, how is it possible that the international community and the UN were able to gather these troops for one country and not the other,” he wondered. He warned that the world should learn from the genocide regime’s recruitment of young people to hunt and kill Tutsis since it usually signifies danger ahead. “It is the grossest possible scenario of any failing state. If you are ready to use children to do such to their own populations, to indoctrinate them the way that government did, then you are prepared to go all the way and even as far as the genocide,” he said. Impunity is denial On his part, the Chief Prosecutor of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals Serge Brammertz said that although that from an accountability perspective, the UN and the rest of the world have not learnt from what happened in Rwanda. He said that while setting up a court like the one that he works for is one part of the answer, more than 1,000 fugitives wanted by Rwandan prosecution are still out there all over the world and there is little prospect that they will be brought to justice. “We still have six international arrest warrants and we are still having difficulties getting the cooperation that we need from a number of UN member states. The sad reality is that for the majority of international crimes committed in this world, impunity is the rule and accountability, the exception,” he said. He touched on the issue of Genocide denial and called for this to also be added to international crimes. “Every prosecution of any genocide perpetrator anywhere in the world is not a reminder of the truth of the genocide but also the best possible response to genocide denial and it high time we make denial a criminal offense worldwide as well,” he said. The Special Advisor to the UN Secretary General on the Prevention of Genocide, Alice Wairimu Nderitu agrees. She said that Rwandans should be supported as they seek accountability from those who perpetrated the genocide. We need to support Rwanda as it seeks accountability but also ensure that the facts around the genocide are never disputed or denied because denial sets a stage for another genocide and wounds the victims and survivors afresh,” she said. Rwanda’s Permanent Representative to the UN; Ambassador Valentine Rugwabiza who moderated the discussion appealed to the world to tell the about what happened in Rwanda. “Telling the truth about what happened doesn’t only contribute to effective prevention, it is also essential to justice and accountability,” she said. She commended the panelists for standing for what was right even when it meant risking everything. “You represent a group of those who take a stand of what is right at all times, even when pressure is immense, even when what is right and what is true is not popular. What can we do to ensure that you are not the exception?” she wondered.