UN chief regrets Rwanda genocide

The 1994 genocide occurred while he was the head of UN peacekeeping.

“The international community failed Rwanda and that must leave us always with a sense of bitter regret and abiding sorrow,” he told a memorial conference ahead of the 10th anniversary of the slaughter next month.

“If the international community had acted promptly and with determination, it could have stopped most of the killing. But the political will was not there, and nor were the troops,” Mr Annan said.

The massacre of 800,000 people, along with the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia-Hercegovina, had a lasting impact on his decision-making as secretary general of the world body, he said.

“I believed at the time I was doing my best. But I realised after the genocide that there was more that I could and should have done to sound the alarm and rally support,” he said.

The mass killing, which has remained one of the darkest moments in UN history, began in the tiny African nation after then president Juvenal Habyarimana’s plane was shot down while preparing to land.

His death unleashed the rage of ethnic Hutu extremists, who killed both Hutu moderates and their Tutsi rivals. Between 800,000 and one million people were killed between April and July 1994.

A 1999 report laid blame on Mr Annan as well as the United States and other Security Council nations for failing to take the steps needed to stop the killing.

The council declined to send extra troops for General Romeo Dallaire of Canada, who was head of the small UN peacekeeping force on the ground when the massacre took place.

And Canadian Foreign Minister Bill Graham told the memorial conference that one decade later, the United Nations had still not reached a consensus on how to stop such slaughters from occurring again.

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