April 7, 2006 (UNITED NATIONS) — Twelve years after the Rwanda genocide, nations still seem unwilling to commit the troops and money that would be needed to stop mass slaughter of civilians, a top U.N. envoy said Friday.
Governments have repeatedly promised “never again” in the years since the Holocaust and the 1994 Rwanda killings. They have gotten better at nurturing peace processes, but are still reluctant to do much more, said Juan Mendez, the U.N. special adviser on prevention of genocide.
“My sense is there’s the same kind of wariness,” Mendez told a news conference. “‘Let somebody else do it’ is still very much in place.”
Mendez pointed to the continued violence in Sudan’s western Darfur region, labeled by the U.N. as the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.
The Darfur conflict started in 2003 and has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people, mainly through famine and disease. Several million more have either fled into neighboring Chad or been displaced inside Sudan.
Mendez said estimates of the number killed range from 100,000 to 400,000.
The international community and the Sudanese government share blame for the continued unrest, which is only getting worse, Mendez said. Foreign powers haven’t followed through on his recommendations to protect civilians properly and fund African Union troops, while Sudan has not broken the “cycle of impunity” that perpetuates the killings.
“In effect, for the last two years we have engaged in half measures, and those half measures, one, have not been sufficient to protect and, two, they’re showing signs of unraveling,” Mendez said.
He spoke on the 12th anniversary of the start of the Rwanda genocide, when the former extremist government unleashed a 100-day wave of slaughter that killed at least half a million people. The dead were mostly from the Tutsi ethnic minority and moderates of the Hutu majority.
The U.S. and several other nations have said genocide occurred in Darfur.
A U.N. investigative commission has concluded that crimes against humanity – but not genocide – had occurred in Darfur, and the Security Council referred the Darfur case to the Hague-based International Criminal Court last March.
The resolution required Sudan’s government and all other parties in the conflict to cooperate, but they have not done so fully, Mendez said.
Mendez said that if he thought it was necessary, he would not hesitate to tell the international community that it needed to send more troops to Darfur.
Mendez drew connections between Rwanda and Darfur, where the U.N. Security Council has agreed to begin preparing to transfer authority for the peacekeeping force in Darfur from the African Union to the U.N.
“Debates about troop strength on the ground and about mandates of the troops on the ground are very eerily reminiscent of what happened then” in Rwanda, Mendez said.