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UN Peacekeeping Operations

Info: 3329 words (13 pages) Essay
Published: 5th Jun 2017 in History

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Peacekeeping was never has been mentioned in the UN Charter, but it has been a very effective means to respond to regional conflicts or civil wars. Peacekeeping, according to Mingst and Karns (2000), is the respond to deadlock of the Security Council to intervene civil wars due to the great veto powers. It helps the implementation of cease-firing agreement, prevents hostilities and it uses troops and civilian personals from the member states that voluntarily contributes their personals. It was first used, he adds, in the late 1940s to monitor the cease-fire agreeing in the land of Palestine and Kashmir. Since 1991, The UN has deployed many peacekeeping operations. It was launched in such countries as, Angola, El Salvador, Western Haiti, Cambodia, Rwanda, Yugoslavia etc…. Some of which were successful, yet some of which were not. Here, we will only examine on the UN peacekeeping operation in Rwanda (UNAMIR). We will discover whether or not the UNAMIR was successful. First, we will go briefly through the root cause of the conflict inside Rwanda. Second, we will look at UNAMIR mandate to see what task it was assigned to undertake. Later, as it is well-known that this peacekeeping operation was a failure, we will examine on why it was not able to fulfill its job. Yet, we still believe that there were some positive points of this operation too. Therefore, we will also find out what are all those points are. At last, we will come to the conclusion with the outcome of UNAMIR, and answer the objective question, “Was the UN peacekeeping operation in Rwanda successful or not?”

Root Causes of the Conflict

In order to understand the root causes of civil war inside Rwanda we need to look back to colonial periods. In one of her research, Heleta (2006) illustrates that Rwanda was made up of majority Hutus and Minority Tutsis. Hutus were mainly lower class people whereas Tutsis were mainly the nobles. They spoke the same language and lived side by side, yet they sometimes intermarried. Since 1890, according to Howard, Rwanda was under the colonization of Germany, and Belgium after the end of World War I. During colonial period, minority Tutsis was in favor of both colonial masters. Rwanda gained independence in 1962 after the majority Hutus raised up against Belgium, who promoted and placed many Tutsis in many positions of the administration. They also threatened the Tutsis to leave the country. Eventually, Major General Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu, in 1973, created an authoritarian government after staging a coup. Bruce says, the civil war erupted when Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF), a movement which was mainly made of Tutsis, started the offensive in from Ugandan-Rwandan border. After a series of fighting between the RPF and the FAR (Forces Arméss Rwandise) or the government military; and many negotiations resulted in cease firing that did not really last for long, the two warring parties agreed on Arusha Agreement of August 4, 1993. During the peace talks progress, Howard says, a new Hutu movement started to gained power and established their own militias to disrupt the peace talk and reconciliation. This is the Hutu extremist group that plans the genocide of the minority Tutsis. Heleta (2006) says, “…Hutu radicals, who saw no other solution to the Hutu-Tutsi problem but to exterminate the entire Tutsis Population in Rwanda”. The Arusha agreement was signed by both warring parties, and both parties consented the UN intervention to facilitate the implementation of the agreement.

UNAMIR Mandate

The UN resolution of peacekeeping operation is authorized by the Security Council to determine the size and its mandate in which any decision requires at least nine out of 15 votes, and is subject to a veto by any of the five permanent members- United States, United Kingdom, Russian Federation, France, and China. Importantly, to implement the peacekeeping operation, the member states are asked to voluntarily contribute in term of troops and civilian polices, equipment, supplies, transportation, and logistical support, and also the General Assembly is responsible for approval of budget and resources of the mission. Each and every United Nation peacekeeping operation is implemented with its own purposes and objectives. A paper that unequivocally describes the purpose and objectives is called mandate. Now we will examine what UNAMIR was originally assigned to do. From the outset, UNAMIR was created to facilitate the implementation of the Arusha agreement. The mandate stated that UNAMIR would observe the cease-fire, provide security and stability in Kigali, ensure the disarmament and create the non-military zone, assist in land mine clearance activity, monitor human right and the return of refugees, and prepare for the election. As it was implemented under the Chapter VI of the UN, the use of its force was strictly limited for only self-defense (Howard, 2008). Later, after the eruption of the mass killing, UNAMIR mandate was extended to mediate the two warring parties, protect the civilian who sought refuge with UNAMIR and provide many other humanitarian aids (Bruce, 2007). UNAMIR did receive consent from both warring parties, but why was it impossible to achieve? We will answer this question in the following section.

Failure and Causes

Why it is a failure?

The outbreak of the genocide in the face of the presence of the UN peacekeeper clearly demonstrates that the mission is a failure. According to Howard (2008), the mission was mandated to maintain peace, security and stability inside the country, but apparently it could not accomplish its tasks. The genocide killed approximately 800,000 people in just over 100 days. The UN peacekeeper was not able to respond when they were under attack from the Hutu extremists. They proved to be militarily weak, when 10 Belgium peacekeepers were killed and no respond was given from them. Instead of giving any response, the Belgium withdrew all their force; this paved the way for the genocide. What could have been worse while UNAMIR could not even prevent the outbreak of the genocide, and UNAMIR also was voted to reduce its size for the operation? In the following section, we will examine what were the obstacles, impediments and other contributing causes that contribute to its frustrating failure.

What made it a failure?

The failure of United Nation Peacekeeping Operation in Rwanda was result many contributing causes. The major cause is the lack of political interests from member states, especially the United States, the most prominent member of the United Nation Security Council, to take any action in response to the crisis. Howard (2008) argues that the Security Council intentionally did not want to identify the problem, the genocide. None of the members inside the council would dare to challenge the new disinterest of the US. The reason of the disinterest, he adds, was the incident of October 5 1993, in which the US rangers died in Somalia. The encouragement of new peacekeeping operation also declined.

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Similarly, the Secretary-General, Boutros Ghali, was dysfunctional. The report of violence in April 1994 in Rwanda did not come into the hand of him in time. The Secretary-General was touring around Europe, and came back to New York only a week after the report had been submitted. Eventually, the Secretary-General did produce a report to the Security Council, a mere report. In the report, the Secretary-General did present but did not recommend any of the following suggestion: withdraw all the force, send in massive peace enforcement force, and withdraw majority of the force to save the peacekeepers life while maintaining international community presence inside the country. In the report to the Security Council, the Secretary-General missed one crucial point; identify the violence as “genocide”. If the report had mentioned about the genocide, the Security would have decisively taken action against it (Howard, 2008). If the Secretary had mention “genocide” in the report, the action would have been taken decisively under Article II and 1948 Genocide Convention. Found in same book, Vaccaro (1996) says “The failure [UNAMIR] was twofold: not enough accurate analysis was available to the Council, and the information that was reported seems to have fallen on deaf ears.”

Some particular members such as US and Belgium endorsed the immediate withdrawal of the troops from the operation, complaining that they were under pressure of the mounting billion dollars operation debt; therefore, they need save up in order to pay off the debt. Besides, the United Kingdom opposed the suggestion of sending more forces into operation arguing that lessons learned from Somalia case proved that stronger force still would not be able to complete its mission, and would even worsen the situation there (Howard,2008). Eventually, the decision to downside the scale of operation was reach unanimously.

The US disinterest and Secretary-General’s dysfunction created many problems. As the most prominent member of the council, no member was willing to challenge US. The US did not support the mission in Rwanda; therefore, this leads to many problems such as troop contribution, funding, etc… Howard (2008) states, “The council did not recommend adequate funding nor did countries provide adequate troops, given the extensive mandate assigned to UNAMIR”. Jones (2007) argues that the political uncertainty during the birth of UNAMIR illustrates its destiny. Such uncertainty would provide limited implementation of its mandate, communication to its political master to respond to the problem effectively.

Not only the Secretary-General that was dysfunctional, the UN headquarter also was. A report, known as “black file” by Canadian Major-General Romeo A. Dallaire, was sent to the UN headquarter. The report explained the plan for genocide that was not planned by President Habyarimana but by a group of Hutu extremist. It also stated the plan to kill Belgian peacekeepers to provoke the withdrawal of them, and kill all the Tutsis. The information of this report was given by a high-level official in the government who gave this information in the return of protection from the UN. When the report come into the UN headquarter, it was put aside and ignore. General Dallaire was only told to alert Belgian, French, and US, and not to attack the weapon warehouse that he wanted to. Three months later, everything mentioned in the report became real. Ten Belgian peacekeepers were killed along with Prime Minister Agathe Uwlingiyimana.

Another contributing cause to the failure is the finance and logistic problems. The deployment of the UN peacekeeper to Rwanda was conducted in such a very slow manner. Jones (2007) describes the UNAMIR as “financially and logistically very weak”. He explains that the force was deployed in “small detachment” rather than “concentrated force”. The deployment of such small detachment did not provide much deterrence, and proved to be weak when the ten Belgium peacekeepers were killed by the extremist Rwandan. In term of financing the operation, it received its budget installment 8 months after the budget planned went to the UN Fifth Committee; the Advisory Committee on Activities and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ). Its budget was endorsed only two days before the genocidal attack broke out, and ultimately received all its financial support one month after the attack had stopped.

Moreover, UNAMIR never obtained critical asset such as intelligence capacity and defensive equipments (Jones, 2007). UNAMIR was only equipped with such armored personal carriers that was contributed from the UN operation in Mozambique. Many of those were not working, and this proved no sign in respond to the genocide. And when they were not equipped with advanced equipment, how could they face with the army with such sophisticated weapon?

According to its mandate, UNAMIR was deployed under the Chapter VI. Therefore, the weakness of UNAMIR lays in its mandate, in which it was stated that the use of force was strictly limited to only for self-defense. Jones (2007) argues that this weakness contribute a lot to the failure. When the genocide broke out, the UN peacekeepers were not able to respond and to confront the army with such sophisticated weapons. Moreover, the collecting weapon method was not included in its mandate. Howard stressed that “While the Secretary-General had recommended that the force be charged with collective weapons as a way to enhance the security, the Council did not include the provision in the mandate.”

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After the killing of the Belgium peacekeepers, Belgium government unilaterally withdrew its own force from Rwanda to prevent further causalities of their personals. According to Jones (2007), this action is called “Non-response”. Belgium did not seek for further method to keep peace inside the region, but they withdrew their own force and this decreased moral of the other peacekeepers there. They did not only withdraw their force, they also persuaded the others troop contributing nations to do so as well. Obviously, they did this because they wanted to lower their embarrassment. This would make the peacekeeping force even weaker, and also made other countries reluctant to contribute their force.

Even the new reinforcement of UNAMIR (later known as UNAMIR II) was approved in December 1994, with the mandate to protect civilians by granting 5,500 peacekeepers; however, there were not adequate troops and equipment to operate its mission. The reason of this is straightforward. UNAMIR II got narrow support from the Security Council with ten votes in favor and five abstentions by China, New Zealand, Brazil, Nigeria, and Pakistan. As a result of no immediate available force to operate, the reinforcement was only deployed in August 1995, by which the genocide had already reached its peak in mid-may and started become less severe (Jones, 2007). In short, UNAMIR II was a humanitarian mission rather than an effective peacekeeping operation.

Positive points about UNAMIR

The operation of UN in Rwanda is mostly considered as the failure because the lack of resources of UNAMIR in field and the limited political will commitment of UN member states and international community. Even though, they are recognized as the failure; UN had done several commitments to help Rwanda as well. These commitments would be counted as small success for UN’s operation.

First of all, In October, 1993 the Security Council, by its resolution 872 (1993), established the international force, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) to help the parties implement the agreement, monitor its implementation and support the transitional Government. In addition, UNAMIR troops managed to protect thousands of Rwandese who took shelter at sites under UNAMIR control. Howard (2008) says, “…some UNAMIR troops had begun to protect civilian against genocidal attacks, which was the morally appropriate action to take – civilian protection could have been included as part of a new mandate, but it was not.”

Next, UNAMIR also continued its efforts to ensure security and stability, support humanitarian assistance, clear landmines and help refugees to resettle. Then, when Rwanda conducted the meeting with the United Nations Development Program in 1996, international donors pledged over $617 million towards the reconstruction of the country, United Nations agencies have continued to provide humanitarian aid and to assist in the return of the refugees. After that, On 8 November 1994, the Security Council established “the International Tribunal for Rwanda” for the sole purpose of prosecuting persons responsible for genocide and other Rwandan citizens responsible for genocide and other such violations committed in the territory of neighboring States, between 1 January 1994 and 31 December 1994. And UN also support Rwanda’s national program for capacity building and contribute to the strengthening of local government and local development partner, as well as civil society actor.


In short, United Nations peacekeeping operation in Rwanda was a failure. Even though, it also had some positive points. Later in this section, we will access a very brief summary, personal analysis and recommendations.


UN peacekeeping operation in Rwanda (UNAMIR) was created to facilitate the implementation of the Arusha Agreement after many bitter fighting between the government and Rwandan Patriotic Front. It was mandated to ensure peace and stability in the capital Kigali, to create weapon-free zone around the city, to help clearing land mines, and to assist the returning of Rwandan refugees. However, it was not a satisfied and successful story. Ten Belgian peacekeepers were killed by the radical Hutus, and the number of international force was decrease. This paved the way for genocide to break out, which killed almost 800,000 minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus of Rwandan. Disinterest of the member states to deploy the mission in time and effectively, dysfunction of the Secretary-General were the two main reasons contributing to the failure. UNAMIR was also weak in term of financial, logistical, and military, while it was only allowed to use weapon in the means of “self-defense”.

Personal Analysis and Recommendations

After examining UNAMIR, we have found its weakness and we also have come out with what could be done to improve future peacekeeping operation. We will begin with our personal analysis.

We have found that the most prominent cause of the UNAMIR is the US disinterest in authorizing the mission. After the US peacekeepers were killed in Somalia, the US became reluctant to deploy another mission, fearing further casualties of their soldiers. Therefore, the peacekeeping was lack of leadership. As Jones (2007) says, “The political reluctance, which attended the birth of UNAMIR, shaped its destiny.” Another significant factors contributing to the failure is the inadequate of the information by the Secretary-General. The report that the Secretary-General submitted to the Security Council did not mention the violence as “genocide”, while it was “genocide” in every aspects of its but its name. If the Secretary-General had mentioned about the genocide, serious action could have been taken.

After giving our own analysis, here we will articulate our recommendation. What should be done to improve the effectiveness of the UN peacekeeping operation? First, UNAMIR should have been deployed under Chapter VII (peace enforcement) rather than under the Chapter VI. UNAMIR was in no position when the genocide broke out, because its use of weapon had been restricted to only “self-defense”. Therefore, we suggest that future peacekeeping operation to be deployed under Chapter VII (peace enforcement). If the mission is deployed with a broader use of weapon, the peacekeepers might use it to protect civilian to raid weapons warehouse, and for many other humanitarian purposes. Second, so far we have seen that only after the mission is authorized, then the troops are mobilized. UNAMIR II was authorized, but at that time it did not have immediate available troops, and it needed to wait for the member states to contribute their troops. This is a time wasting process. Therefore, we would suggest that the peacekeeping troops to be mobilized in advance. In other word, we suggest that UN should have the reserved troops for emergency.


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