15 February 2008

The story was only published in the New Times of Kigali monitored by the BBC Africa service. It almost went unnoticed that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on a January 30 visit to Rwanda had pledged $10,000 to the victims of the 1994 massacre as he laid a wreath on the mass graves. It was a personal contribution in support of those survivors who are struggling to achieve the best in their lives, he said. Accompanied by his gracious wife Soon-Taek, he extended condolences. "Their resilience continues to inspire us; we are expressing our solidarity and hope that their lost future will be regained." He confirmed that he will continue his support both as the U.N. Secretary General and individually.

Such honourable action by Ban Ki-moon deserved wider attention. It was admirable and timely for a U.N. Secretary General to display such thoughtful sensitivity over the blatant murder of over 800,000 Rwandans as U.N. Peacekeeping officials in New York tied the hands of General Romeo Dallaire from taking preventive action on the ground. It is a clear change from the attitude of Mr. Annan and his Chef de Cabinet, his former deputy in peacekeeping, from displaying any tangible remorse. They shifted the blame to "the U.N.," like "we at the U.N. were not prepared to act." Typically, any failure was shifted elsewhere; any credit was personally claimed. There are at least three books detailing the positions of Kofi Annan and Iqbal Riza in the 1994 massacre. A Pulitzer Prize winner by the outstanding Harvard Professor Samantha Power provides specific details of cables exchanged; another by a former N.Y. Times later New Yorker reporter entitled "We Regret to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will All be Killed"; and a third, recent book by Adam Lebor "Witness to Evil," which advances the legal view that human rights courts could try those who knew of mass murders but did not take action to prevent them.

That's all well known by now, despite persistent attempts by P.R. beneficiaries and highly placed friends in the media to soften the blame and widen -- even conceptualize -- the accountability. Nor do we need to dwell on the vast difference between the roles, intentions and personalities of Kofi Annan and Iqbar Riza. Let's focus on what could be done now. There is an opportunity to seize on the welcome proposal by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on the Fund For The Victims. Surely Mr. Annan would be able comfortably to offer a reasonable amount, even as part of the proposed -- yet unrealized -- "Greening of Africa." As to Mr. Riza, whose role was clearer, he may feel less dour and sour if he ventured for once into doing a good public deed. That would be much more honourable than hiding forever behind that farcical Alliance of Civilizations.