HISTORY is made as Rwanda joins UNSC
Here, on June 8, 1994, ex-Rwanda envoy, Mr. Jean-Damascene Bizimana addressed the Security Council. (Photo: UN)
Back in April 1994, as the massacre of Tutsis rolled out, Rwanda’s diplomat in the UN Security Council, Jean Damascene Bizimana, firmly told colleagues there was no genocide and they agreed. Eighteen years later, Rwanda is back to the 15-member exclusive club. In a secret ballot, the country scooped 148 votes from the 192 cast – way ahead of the 128 required.
Rwandans and the global community will be enthusiastically waiting to see what will be the role of Rwanda after the country won a non permanent seat to the Security Council election on October 18. The mandate of the two year seat will commence 01 January 2013.
Perhaps the Seat will let the country regain its international battered image and influence since the period 1994-95 when it lastly held the seat. This chance may rise to reveal to the world what has always been ignored, a fact that the Rwandan Government of today is completely different from the former that perpetrated genocide and abused its seat at UN’s top decision-making body.
At the time, Rwanda under the former Government of Juvenal Habyarimana sat on one of 10 rotating seats, giving Jean Damascene Bizimana, the country’s 36-year-old ambassador, a place at the table for the council’s private deliberations.
Bizimana disappeared after Diplomats from the incoming government who took over Rwanda’s U.N. mission on East 39th Street in Manhattan-New York. The new team found the bank accounts empty and the offices stripped bare, according to reports at the time. Even the refrigerator was gone. Bizimana along with his wife and two little children simply vanished.
President Kagame speaks to unidentified official at the UN during the UN General Assembly in September, as Rwanda’s UN envoy, Eugene-Richard Gasana (centre), stands-by (Photo: PPU)
Rwanda’s foreign affairs minister, Louise Mushikiwabo, who attended the UN session, sounded convinced it had been obvious. “Rwanda elected to serve on UNSC, 2013/14,” said Mushikiwabo on Twitter.
“It’s the right thing, a testament to how far we’ve come and our commitment to international peace,” said the country’s top diplomat.
As the proceedings got under in the UN General Assembly hall, the DR Congo delegation asked for a “call to order”, saying Rwanda did not merit being on the UNSC due to its alleged links to the conflict in eastern DRC. The call to order was dismissed by the General Assembly president because it was not procedural. DRC was the only country that abstained from the vote, according to source.
Ignoring the genocide
At the moment, Rwanda is represented at the UN by Eugene-Richard Gasana, who is likely to join the United State’s Susan Rice, and other diplomats currently shaping a host of global affairs. Amb Gasana joins the 15-member club when Rwanda is different internally and instead among top contributors to UN peace keeping.
Despite hearing evidence of the targeted mass-murder of Tutsis by interahamwe militias in 1994, the critics say the UN deliberately avoided labelling the slaughter as ‘genocide’. As a result, they avoided being obliged to protect the Tutsis and the genocide continued until the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) fought its way to halting it. The massacres stopped in July.
On 21 April, while genocide raged, 11 Belgian peacekeepers were killed. As a result, instead of increasing forces, the UN reduced their forces from 2,500 to only 250.
On April 30, under intense pressure, the UN debated whether they should intervene in Rwanda to stop the massacres in Rwanda. The UN debated about the unfolding situation in Rwanda, and whether or not the International Community should intervene to prevent the escalation. The UN forces on the ground were forbidden to intervene to protect people; instead they had to “monitor” the situation.
Rather than act to stop the genocide, they failed to even acknowledge it as such, and only later on 22 June recognised genocide in Rwanda.
At this point still, no decision had been taken on sending troops into Rwanda to protect civilians. UN force commander General Romeo Dallaire was ordered to leave Rwanda three times. The Canadian refused on each occasion. By the end, more than one million people were no more, whilst the world watched on TV screens.
Where is Jean Damascene Bizimana?
Rwanda’s envoy Bizimana, initially told his fellow ambassadors that the violence was due to spontaneous public outrage over the president’s death on April 6, according to The Washington Post. He said that the interim government he represented at the time would quickly re-establish order.
While the UN Security Council approved the sending of 5,500 troops to Rwanda on 17 May 1994, their deployment was yet delayed over arguments about who would cover the cost of sending them.
The then Secretary General for UN, Boutros Boutros-Ghali was requested to ensure the immediate implementation of the then resolution and to make arrangements for the functioning of ‘A’ tribunal, including recommendations regarding the location of the ICTR.
According to the current Rwandan government, it is playing a remarkable role in keeping peace in the World and ensuring security in the Great Lakes region. Kigali said before the vote that in accordance with the Security Council’s rotation rules, whereby the ten non-permanent UNSC seats rotate among the various regional blocs into which UN member states traditionally divide themselves for voting and representation purposes.
Meanwhile, former envoy Bizimana, if he was aware, could have followed the proceedings at the UN with great unease. The Kigali government has filed an arrest warrant with the US government seeking the deportation of the ex-diplomat.
In April 2010, The Washington Post published a lengthy dossier on Bizimana, who had disappeared from public view, and actually obtained American citizenship. He was discovered living quietly in the small town of Opelika, in the State of Alabama., a few miles up the road from Auburn University. He’s an American citizen now. He works for a plastics company. And he doesn’t want to talk about genocide.
Ex-envoy Bizimana meets former UN Secretary General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali (Photo: UN)