Kofi Annan himself knew about the Rwandan government's plans to exterminate minority Tutsis, and his office ordered U.N. peacekeepers not to intervene, the New Yorker magazine reported today.
While the world body has admitted that mistakes were made, U.N. officials have blocked attempts to determine who was directly involved in the decision not to act.
A copy of a fax from U.N. headquarters, obtained by the New Yorker, showed that order not to intervene was from Annan _ now the U.N. secretary-general.
The Rwandan genocide erupted April 6, 1994, and by the time it was over three months later, Hutu extremists had killed at least 500,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. French, Belgian and U.S. officials have denied they had any warning of a government-orchestrated massacre.
Annan, on a tour of Africa, was not available for comment, but was expected to apologize to the Rwandan people for the slow response of the international community during a visit to Kigali, the capital, on Wednesday, a spokesman said.
Annan was the head of U.N. peacekeeping operations on Jan. 11, 1994, when the commander of U.N. forces in Rwanda, Gen. Romeo Dallaire, warned the world body that the Kigali government was planning to slaughter Tutsis and said he would raid a weapons stockpile within 36 hours.
In the fax sent to U.N. headquarters in New York, Dallaire quoted a senior Rwandan security official as saying he had been ordered to register all Tutsis in Kigali for the purpose, he suspected, of "their extermination."
The informant, a former member of the security staff of Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana, said that his personnel "could kill up to a thousand Tutsis" in 20 minutes, the fax said. But he offered to assist the U.N. force in raiding Hutu militia weapons caches, and Dallaire notified headquarters he intended to conduct such a raid.
Annan's office ordered Dallaire not to protect the informant or confiscate the arms stockpiles. Annan was aware of the order, said his aide, Iqbal Riza, who signed the response.
U.N. peacekeeping headquarters said the operation could not be allowed under the mission's mandate, and suggested Dallaire share the information with Habyarimana, who was assassinated on April 6, 1994.
During the next 100 days, an average of more than five Tutsis were murdered in Rwanda a minute, the magazine article by Philip Gourevitch said.
"I was responsible," Riza, still Annan's deputy, told the New Yorker when shown a copy of the order. "This is not to say that Mr. Annan was oblivious of what was going on. No. Part of my responsibility was to keep him informed."
Annan has blocked investigations to determine who saw the fax and ordered Dallaire to abandon his plan to intervene.
Riza said Dallaire's initial fax was dismissed because it was speculative. Also, since it came just four months after 18 U.S. soldiers were killed in Somalia during a U.N. peacekeeping mission, there was no political support for military intervention in Rwanda, Riza told the magazine.
The New Yorker quoted a Rwandan diplomat as saying "we were surprised" Annan would come, in view of his position during the genocide. "But let him come, and he can hear about it directly."