UNITED NATIONS. RWANDAN "DEVIL" WORE PRADA

 

15 APRIL 2010

RWANDAN "DEVIL" WORE PRADA

Sister Ignatia could tell you. Dignified and devoted, she could calmly recount, after 30 years of helping to run a health center in a Rwandan rural community without access to electricity or running water, how the massacres spread; how a Hutu priest who tried to help an injured young Tutsi was beaten by Hutu "Interahamwe" accusing him of being a traitor; she could tell how on April 20, 1994, her church was surrounded, the killers advanced quietly and in the night, then there were explosions, guns fired. Even the medical center was destroyed and its 100 patients massacred. "When there was no one left to kill, the killers' "team leader" asked for a Caterpillar truck to move the bodies into a mass grave. Over 22,000 men, women and children were killed overnight."

While the Clinton Administration in the U.S. -- despite diplomatic reports and spy satellites -- like the Mitterand Administration in Paris, contended there was no clear indication of what was happening -- over 200,000 were dead by the end of April. By September, 800,000 human beings had been massacred. It was common knowledge that the crash of a plane carrying the President of Burundi and Rwanda, was the starting signal. The most noted "architect of the apocalypse" was Colonel Theoneste Bagasora, nicknamed "Colonel Mort." He had his own network and widely publicized plan for a "final solution" prepared at least one year in advance. Already in February 1993, after returning from the Arusha talks, he announced: "I come back to declare the apocalypse."

Colonel Death was closely linked by family to none other than Agathe Habyarimana, wife of the Hutu President who one year later died in the crash.

One of the most awkward mysteries for the U.N., in addition to allowing the massacre, was that the black box of the crashed plane was not immediately retrieved and not of interest to the investigators nor to the U.N. Prosecutor, Judge Louise Arbour. Reports about it being lost and found were eventually used to either cajole or embarrass Secretary General Kofi Annan. As is well known by now, it was at his watch as U.N. Peacekeeping, with his "Deputy" Iqbal Riza, that the Rwanda catastrophe happened. Despite being alerted by U.N. Commanding Officer in Kigali, General Romeo Dallaire, of a detailed plot, Riza -- in an infamous message -- blasted Dallaire for even thinking of taking preventive action.

What was not made public internationally was what was known on the ground. The need for higher level international support was due to the impression in Kigali that at the top -- or centre -- of the "license to kill" plan, was the wife of the President, who even before his death gave in to her determined interferences, though to a degree. She was a staunch and prominent supporter of the "Akazu" -- meaning "little house" in the local dialect -- who were suspected of planning, directing and implementing the genocide. When her husband, under great diplomatic pressure, had to sign a power-sharing arrangement with the Tutsi rebels, Akuzas were very upset, accusing him of betraying their cause. An official investigation conducted years later by the Tutsi government accused her of knowing of the plot to shoot down his plane; her family strongly denied it.

For sixteen years, Agathe, with her cashmere cream scarf and fairly elegant appearance, has been a prominent figure amongst the African community in France. Strong-willed and well-connected, she maintains an aura of influence and authority, though in a very small tightly knit circle of Rwandan -- mostly Hutu -- community.

Last month, as President Sarkozy acknowledged "errors of judgment, political errors, with deep tragic consequences" over Rwanda, Agathe was detained near Paris, though a request to extradite her was not yet granted.

It has been a lesson of history throughout the ages. Governments "re-evaluate" or "re-assess" their policies while masses of innocent people lose their lives. And given time, little "devils" are caught in their own web -- with or without their Prada.