11. THE INFORMER & TEN BELGIANS
Having read many articles, reports and books on the Rwandan Genocide, I have pictures in my mind of the places where significant events occurred and I wanted to see as many of them as possible while in Rwanda. On Thursday afternoon, after doing banking and going to the Rwanda Office of Tourism and National Parks (ORTPN) to pay for our upcoming Monday visit to see the gorillas, we hired a taxi and went on a bit of a tour of Kigali, including the Belgian Soldiers' Memorial, pictured below:
The place where the ten Belgian UN soldiers died was one of the most important - not because their deaths were more tragic than the deaths of anyone else - but because their deaths symbolize a travesty of justice, by the United Nations, which set the stage for the resumption of civil war and the genocide of a million civilian Rwandans.
If General Romeo Dallaire, the Canadian commander of the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR), had done the militarily right thing based on information he received from an informer, instead of following the contra-indicated orders of the powers-that-be at UN headquarters in New York, there would have been no Genocide and Rwanda would have arrived at democracy without bloodshed. Romeo Dallaire would have been a true hero - albeit unsung - instead of the object of pity and ridicule he is now - even though he's been made into an author, an honourary doctor from universities, a Senator, a UN Advisor on Genocide and the object of documentaries and movies. See THE MYTH OF SAINT ROMEO.
I don't mean to blame the Genocide on Romeo Dallaire, because at least his intentions, although thwarted, were to stop it. The real blame for the Genocide in Rwanda belongs to then-UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali and then-head of the UN Security-Council, Kofi Annan (who was subsequently promoted to Secretary-General). [*See NEW article RWANDA ARMS AGAINST RPF]
They are the people to whom General Dallaire sent the information from the informer and they are the people who not only forbade him to act on it, but also ordered him to go and SHAKE THE DEVIL'S HAND (Habyarimana) and warn him he had a defector in his midst.
In SHAKE HANDS WITH THE DEVIL (documentary and book) Dallaire says, "The future of a nation was riding on how the UN was doing it....My failure to persuade New York to act on Jean-Pierre's [the infomer's] information still haunts me."
I'm sure it probably does, but if so, then why, when he was asked if he ever considered not following Annan's orders he says, in the documentary made ten years later, "To me, having disobeyed the orders would have been showmanship, would have been Hollywood, would have been totally irresponsible".
But, that's getting ahead of the story. Here's the basic background:
Three months after his October 1994 arrival in Rwanda, to take up his role as Commander of the United Nations Peace Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR), General Dallaire received information, from an informer, that the Rwandan government, under Hutu President Habyarimana, planned to assassinate leaders of the opposition, exterminate Tutsis and kill ten Belgian soldiers so that Belgium would have an excuse to pull all of its soldiers out of Rwanda.
The informer proved everything he said was true by taking Dallaire's men to places in Kigali where weapons were being stored in preparation for the war and genocide. All the informer wanted, in return for this information, was safe passage out of the country for himself and his family.
General Dallaire, upon being convinced of the informer's reliability, faxed the information to UN Peacekeeping Headquarters in New York, headed by Kofi Annan, head of the Security-Council, requesting protection for the informer and notifying them that he would be using his soldiers to attack and seize the weapons where they were being stored.
He immediately received a fax back, from Kofi Annan, forbidding him to seize the weapons and ordering him to go and tell President Habyarimana, the Hutu tyrant, that he had an informer in his government who was exposing his plans for war, genocide and murder of Belgian UN soldiers.
This was on January 11th, 1994.
General Dallaire, upon receiving these orders from Kofi Annan and HIS boss, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Secretary-General of United Nations, followed them explicitly. He didn't raid the weapons caches and he made an appointment to see President Habyarimana and told him everything the informer had revealed, effectively signing his death warrant.
Three months later, on April 7th, 1994, everything the informer said would happen, happened - the politicians were assassinated, the genocide began, ten Belgian soldiers were murdered and the civil war re-started. The peace was over. There was no longer any peace to keep, and Dallaire, in his own words, again quoting from the documentary, said, "The bastards should have pulled us out".
Before reading the following excerpt from Dallaire's book SHAKE HANDS WITH THE DEVIL, which describes the informer and the information he provided, readers may want to read RWANDA'S UN SOLDIERS DIE so as to be able to put the Belgians into context. Also, perhaps read INFORMING ON INFORMER, an interview with Philip Gourevitch for his description of the informer and his information.
Now read the following excerpt from
SHAKE HANDS WITH THE DEVIL, by Romeo Dallaire, pages 141-151:
(Note: I've made explanations [in square brackets] each time a new name or set of initials is mentioned, so readers won't be confused by the bureaucracy-speak which, like Orwell's Newspeak is meant to "narrow the range of thought".
"...Late in the afternoon of January 10, Faustin [Twagiramunga - the moderate politician selected by the Peace Accords held in Arusha, Tanzania to be temporary Prime Minister (to Habyarimana's government) until a democratic election could be held in September] came to my office and insisted on a private meeting. He was shaking with excitement and fear. I took him out onto the balcony where we could talk without being overheard. Almost breathlessly, he told me that he was in contact with someone inside the Interahamwe who had information he wanted to pass on to UNAMIR. I had a moment of wild exhilaration as I realized we might finally have a window on the mysterious third force, the shadowy collection of extremists that had been growing in strength ever since I had arrived in Rwanda.
After Faustin left, I immediately called [Colonel] Luc Marchal [Kigali Sector Commander & also Belgian Contingent Commander in UNAMIR] and asked him to meet me in my office. I briefed him on Faustin's news and suggested he try to arrange a rendezvous that night. Though I was as excited as he was, I cautioned Luc that the person who had come to Faustin might not be telling the truth and this might possibly be a set-up, and suggested that he take my intelligence officer along with him. I worked as long as I could and then headed home to the bungalow. [Major] Brent [Beardsley - Canadian Military Assistant to Dallaire who lived with Dallaire in a rented Kigali house] and I were both tense with anticipation and said little to each other. I made a pot of tea, sat down to watch some TV and tried to relax, but I just couldn't settle. Luc finally got to the bungalow with [Captain Frank] Claeys [Belgium leader of Kigali Sector Intelligent Unit] and Major Henry Kesteloot, the operations officer of Kigali Sector, at about 2200.
Drawing from the copious notes he had taken, Luc described his encounter with the informant we code-named Jean-Pierre. Jean-Pierre told Luc that he had been an officer in the commandos and the Presidential Guard. He said that he had left the army to become the chief trainer for the Interhamwe, and in 1993, he had begun drilling cells of young me in the communes (villages) of Rwanda, initially under the guise of preparing a civil-guard-style militia to fight the RPF if it resumed the offensive. Jeane-Pierre said that his direct superior was Mathieu Ngirumpatse, the president of the MRND party [Habyarimana's party]. He reported to and received his orders from Ngirumpatse, along with a salary of 150,000 Rwandan francs a month (at the time, about $1,500 U.S.). He told Luc that in the past few months, the real plan behind the training of the Interahamwe had begun to be articulated.
He and others like him were ordered to have the cells under their command make lists of the Tutsis in their various communes. Jean-Pierre suspected that these lists were being made so that, when the time came, the Tutsis or the Inyenzi as Rwandan hate radio called them -- the word means "cockroaches" in Kinyarwanda -- could easily be rounded up and exterminated. Jean-Pierre said he hated the RPF [Rwandese Patriotic Front] and saw them as the enemy of Rwanda, but he was horrified that he had been drawn into a plan to create a series of highly efficient death squads that, when turned loose on the population, could kill a thousand Tutsis in Kigali within twenty minutes of receiving the order. He described in detail how the Interahamwe were being trained at army bases and by army instructors in several locations around the country, and that on a weekly basis a number of young men would be collected and transported for a three-week weapons and paramilitary training course that placed special emphasis on killing techniques. Then the young men were returned to their communes and ordered to make lists of Tutsis and await the call to arms.
I was silent, hit by the depth and reality of this information. It was as if the informant, Jean-Pierre, had opened the floodgates on the hidden world of the extremist third force, which until this point had been a presence we could sense but couldn't grasp.
Luc told us that until now the only weapons the Interahamwe possessed were traditional spears, clubs and machetes, but Jean-Pierre had claimed that the army had recently transferred four large shipments of AK-47s, ammunition and grenades to the militia. These weapons were stored in four separate arms caches in Kigali. He offered to show us one of the caches to confirm the information he was giving us. For revealing all four arms caches and everything else he knew about the Interahamwe, including its leaders, financing, links to the MRND party, the civil service, army and the Gendarmerie [police], he wanted all his Rwandan francs exchanged for U.S.dollars and to be given passports for himself and his family to a friendly Western nation. He also warned us to be careful about who we told about him: not only was the local civilian staff of UNAMIR infiltrated, but the extremists had also recruited a civilian Franco-African on Booh-Booh's [Boutros-Ghali's representative in Rwanda] staff. Jean-Pierre said a stream of information about mission decisions at the highest level was being passed directly to Mathieu Ngirumpatse.
To demonstrate his authenticity Jean-Pierre said that he had helped organize and control the demonstrations that had occurred the previous Saturday morning. He said the aim of these violent demonstrations had been to provoke UNAMIR's Belgian troops. At each location, selected individuals were to threaten the Belgians with clubs and machetes in order to push them onto firing warning shots. Had this plan worked, as soon as shots rang out, members of the Presidential Guard, the Gendarmerie and the RGF [Rwandan Government Forces] para-commando regiment, already mingling with the crowd, would uncover hidden firearms. The roundabout near the Presidential Guards' compound had been littered with hidden weapons and radios. The ambush would be sprung for one purpose only: to kill Belgian soldiers.
Jean-Pierre told Luc that the trap was intended to kill some ten Belgians. The leadership of the Hutu Power movement had determined that Belgium had no stomach for taking casualties in their old colony, and if Belgian soldiers were killed, the nation would withdraw from UNAMIR. He said that the extremists knew the Belgians had the best contingent in UNAMIR and were the backbone of the mission, and they assumed that if the Belgians left, the mission would collapse. Jean-Pierre warned that the leadership was about to make a decision to distribute the arms caches to every Interahamwe cell in Kigali. If that happened, he said, there would be no way to stop the slaughter.
While listening to Luc's briefing, I made the decision to go after the weapons caches. I had to catch these guys off guard, send them a signal that I knew who they were and what they were up to, and that I fully intended to shut them down. I knew that such a raid carried a high degree of risk and might incur casualties, but I also knew it was well within my mandate and capabilities. The spectre of the peacekeeping disasters in Somalia did not come to mind. These weapons caches were a violation of the Kigali Weapons Secure Area agreement; the arming of militias violated the Arusha accords and our mandate and presented a great risk to the safety of my force. My rules of engagement allowed the use of unilateral force in self-defence, in the defence of the force overall and the prevention of crimes against humanity. We needed to confirm the existence of the caches before we acted, just in case Jean-Pierre was baiting a trap for us. But if the informer was telling the truth, we had to act.
When Luc finished his report, there was a moment of absolute silence. I looked over at Brent to find his face flushed with what I can only describe as elation. Finally it looked like we could identify the third force, grab hold of it and wrestle it down. After months of frustration, of being forced to act after the fact, we had a chance to seize the initiative.
Luc's debriefing had gone on for nearly two hours, bringing us to midnight. I thanked him for a job well done and instructed Captain Claeys to keep meeting with Jean-Pierre for more information. I then led what amounted to a council of war. I ordered Luc to have his staff begin planning four simultaneous search-and-seizure operations on the arms caches within the next thirty-six hours, and to keep this planning on a strict need-to-know basis within his headquarters. There was to be another attempt at a swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday, January 12, two days from now. Jean-Pierre represented a fork in the road. By acting on his information, we would either galvanize the political process or reveal it as a sham.
After Luc left, I decided to inform [Jacques-Roger Booh-Booh] the SRSG [Special Representative of UN Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali] first thing in the morning -- I was gravely concerned about the security of this information within the SRSG's staff -- and also to put together for General [Maurice] Baril [Canadian Military Advisor to UN Secretary-General Bourtros-Ghali] a carefully worded code cable, which I would send as soon as possible. By sendng the code cable directly to Baril, I was breaking the usual protocol....My decision on January 11  to send this code cable under my signature directly to the military advisor -- Maurice Baril -- was unprecedented. I was opening a line of communication in an area where I had no authority to do so. But I believed that these revelations from Jean-Pierre had to be acted upon immediately. I ended the cable with my high school and 5ieme Brigade motto: "Peux ce que veux. Allons-y!" [equivalent of "Let's Go"]
Sending the cable was also a risk on several fronts. While the code cable to New York was secure from intercept, documents often travelled through many hands before they reached the desks of Baril, [Iqbal] Riza [Deputy UN Secretary-General] and Annan. In one of those ironies of life, as of January 1, the Rwandan regime [Habyarimana's Hutu government] had a seat on the Security Council -- the luck of the rotation that saw member nations take up temporary duties on the council alongside the permanent members. As a result, the Rwandans [Habyarimana's Hutu government] were now privy to many secure documents concerning the mission in their home country.
I needed New York to realize that, even though I wanted to move quickly, I was not blind to the possibility that this could be a well-laid trap to force UNAMIR onto the offensive and jeopardize our role as keepers of a fragile peace. I also wanted to make it clear in the cable that I was not asking permission to raid the caches but was informing New York of my intentions, as was my responsibility as force commander. I was finally going to be able to wrest the initiative from the hard-liners. Brent and I fiddled around with the wording for over two hours. When we were satisfied with the document, Brent raced to the Amahoro to print it out and send it. I went to bed with the firm belief that we now had a handle on a situation that had been spiralling out of control.
When I woke up the next morning after a few fitful hours of sleep, I was still in seventh heaven. I was convinced that we were on the verge of regaining the initiative or at least of throwing the extremists off-balance, making them vulnerable to defections, to panic, to making foolish mistakes. Little did I realize as I waved to the local kids on the side of the dirt road on my way to work, that New York was already shooting my plan of action out of the water.
The code cable from Kofi Annan, signed by Riza, came to me and the SRSG [Booh-Booh]; its contents caught me completely off guard. It took me to task for even thinking about raiding the weapons caches and ordered me to suspend the operation immediately. Annan spelled out in excruciating detail the limits New York was placing upon me as force commander of a chapter-six peacekeeping operation; not only was I not allowed to conduct deterrent operations in support of UNAMIR, but in the interests of transparency, I was to provide the information that Jean-Pierre had given to us to President Habyarimana immediately. I was absolutely beside myself with frustration. The November massacres, the presence of heavily armed militias, a rabid extremist press screaming about Tutsi Inyenzi and demanding that blood be shed, the political impasse and the resultant tension -- all were signs that we were no longer in a classic chapter-six peacekeeping situation. Jean-Pierre simply connected the dots, revealing that the mission -- and the Arusha Peace Agreement -- were at risk. Something had to be done to save us from catastrophe. For the rest of the week, I made phone call after phone call to New York, arguing with Maurice over the necessity of raiding the arms caches. During these exchanges, I got the feeling that New York now saw me as a loose cannon and not as an aggressive but careful force commander.
My failure to persuade New York to act on Jean-Pierre's information still haunts me. If only I had been able to get Maurice onside, to have him as my friend in court to persuade Annan and Riza that I wasn't some gun-happy cowboy. I know now that the DPKO [Department of UN Peacekeeping Operations] was still reeling in the wake of the American debacle in Somalia, in which eighteen American soldiers were killed while attempting to arrest a warlord in the streets of Mogadishu. But I was presenting a reasonable, carefully laid-out plan that was consistent with the approach I had adopted from the very beginning: to maximize our rules of engagement in order to ensure the atmosphere of security demanded by the peace agreement. The tone of the DPKO's code cable suggested a total disconnect between me and New York; they no longer trusted my judgment to conduct an operation that, while risky, was nowhere near as dangerous as Operation Clean Corridor, which we had pulled off without a hitch. In my view the inside information offered us by Jean-Pierre represented a real chance to pull Rwanda out of the fire. The DPKO's response whipped the ground out from under me....
In my code cable I had pushed for a potentially high-risk offensive, diametrically opposed to the reigning climate at the UN...Still, as understandable as the UN decision was, it was unacceptable to me in the field. If we did not react to the reality of the arms caches, the weapons could eventually be turned against us and against many innocent Rwandans.
When I briefed the SRSG and Dr. [Abdul Hamid] Kabia [advisor to Booh-Booh] on the situation on the morning of January 11, Dr. Kabia supported me fully and Booh-Booh was noncommittal. I hoped the SRSG might help me make a last appeal to New York, but I was mistaken. He had authority to go directly to Boutros-Ghali to argue that the DPKO's decision be overturned, but he brushed aside any such idea and suggested we follow New York's instructions to the letter.
Just before going to see Habyarimana on the morning of January 12, the SRSG, Dr. Kabia and I fully briefed the ambassadors of Belgium and the United States and the charge d'affaires of France [did he also brief Kagame of the Rwandese Patriotic Front?]. All of them acknowledged the information we provided and stated they would inform their respective governments. None of them appeared to be surprised, which led me to conclude that our informant was merely confirming what they already knew. I pleaded with them to help us find sanctuary for Jean-Pierre and his family, but the Americans, the Belgians and the French refused to assist. We had been able to verify most of the information he had offered us at considerable risk to himself and his family; I knew the diplomatic community had helped other valued informants in tricky circumstances, and I could not and still cannot understand their refusal.
Usually when someone from UNAMIR requested a meeting with the president, Habyarimana would let us cool our heels for a couple of days before granting us an audience. Both the SRSG and I were rather taken aback when he agreed to meet with us immediately. He greeted us on his sunny patio, flanked by Enoch Ruhigira [former Prime Minister of Rwanda and now Chief of Cabinet]; Bizimana, the minister of defence; Major General Deogratias Nsabimana, the chief of staff of the army; and Major General Augustin Ndindiliyimana, the chief of staff of the Gendarmerie. Of the five men present, four were hard-liners and Ndindiliyimana was an uncertainty. I trusted none of them, and we were about to hand over the best inside information we had received to date. Booh-Booh led off, giving the president a detailed summary of our knowledge of his party's activities, including the distribution of illegal arms inside the Kigali Weapons Secure Area as well as the MRND [Habyariman's government] involvement with the Interahamwe and its attempts to subvert the Arusha accords.
It was with some satisfaction that I watched the presidential countenance shift from weary indifference to outright incredulity -- Habyarimana denied any knowledge of such caches. It was impossible to fathom whether he was actually surprised at the information or at the fact that UNAMIR had acquired it. The SRSG told Habyarmina that New York was expecting a complete investigation to be conducted within forty-eight hours and then went on to warn him that any subsequent violence in Kigali would be brought immediately to the attention of the Security Council. The president promised to take immediate action, and Booh-Booh was certain that Habyarimana had gotten the message. But I wasn't sure what message he had received. Had this come as a complete surprise to him? Was he part of it or was he losing control of his cronies? If he was losing his grip, who was actually in charge? Rumour had it that his wife and her brothers were at the heart of Hutu Power; they were called the 'clan de Madame'. The one thing I was certain about was that this information would be transmitted to the extremists, and the arms caches would be moved immediately or, worse, distributed.
At the end of the session, Habyarimana spontaneously asked if the SRSG and I would personally brief the president of the MRND [Hutu extremist Party] at party headquarters. This unusual request from the titular head [Commander in Chief] of the MRND suggested that a fracture may have been in the making between the hardline MRND and the extremist MRND, as the rmumour mill had been hinting.
When we went to see Mathieu Ngirumpatse (whom Jean-Pierre had said was his boss) and the party's secretary-general, Joseph Nzirorera, we confronted them with the information about the training of the Interahamwe and the illegal weapons caches within the KWSA [Kigali Weapons Secure Area]. Both tried to bluff, but when we protested that we had seen members of the Interahamwe participating in the violent demonstrations that had taken place on the previous Saturday, they conceded that some of their members had been in attendance. But they blamed the violence on infiltrators and bandits wearing MRND party insignia...
I was concerned that once Jean-Pierre learned we had relayed his information to Habyarimana and Ngirumpatse, he would stop talking to us, but he continued to feed us valuable and verifiable information. I wanted to secure him safe passage out of the country, but New York said it could not become involved in 'covert' activities, such as providing him with travel documents.
Before Jean-Pierre finally gave up on us and broke off communication altogether, he passed on vital information that enabled me to more clearly assess internal threats to the mission. He told us that operatives were working under civilian contracts inside the mission headquarters at the Amahoro and that one of them had been my driver before being replaced by Troute. He told us that on at least four occasions he had been summoned to listen to tapes of interviews between an MRND party official and a non-Rwandan French-speaking African who was providing political and administrative information about UNAMIR. He also gave us the road map to the struture and planning process of the extremists. By mid-January, thanks to Jean-Pierre, we had all the information we needed to confirm that there was a well-organized conspiracy inside the country, dedicatd to destroying the Arusha Peace Agreement by any means necessary.
Jean-Pierre disappeared near the end of January. Whether he had engineered an escape on his own or was uncovered and executed, I have never been able to find out...[end of quoting from Shake Hands with the Devil by Romeo Dallaire]
*RWANDA ARMS AGAINST RPF
go next to 12. THE REAL HOTEL RWANDA or back to index at DESTINY DESTINATION RWANDA
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