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Question 1: Identify and discuss how the various actors and situational factors in the
international political system (IPS) affected or attempted to affect U.S. national security
decision making that led President Clinton on July 22, 1994, to decide to commit U.S.
forces to relief effort in Rwanda and Operation Support Hope. As part of your discussion,
include what impact, if any, the domestic political system (DPS) and the national security
system (NSS) had on IPS.
The way colonial powers occupied Africa, lacking full understanding of ethnic and
cultural differences, paved the way to the confusion or chaos that occurred when the former
colonies had demanded independence. Rwanda was not an exception.
Germany claimed the colony in the end of 19th century. During World War I, Belgian
forces entered and took control. As a consequence of Versailles, Belgium inherited the colony.
The new administrators exploited the ethnic differences in Rwandan society, represented
by Hutus, larger in number and usually the clients in this patronage system, and the Tutsis, the
patrons. Belgians had clearly supported the Tutsis until they started asking for independence.
Then, by turning its back on the Tutsis, Belgium helped the Hutus to break a bloody rebellion in
1959. A great part of the Tutsi population left the country for refuge in Uganda.
From independence in 1962 to 1973 when Rwanda military Chief of Staff Juvenal
Habyarimana seized the power following a coup, Tutsi guerrilla attacks managed only to bring
more killings and purges.
The new Hutu group in power was the most aggressive, the Akazu. The main
characteristics of their ruling were greater corruption and discrimination against the Tutsis. The
propaganda was very effective in diverting people’s attention from the country problems to the
threat allegedly posed by the Tutsis.
The second generation of refugees in Uganda enlisted and fought the revolution that
resulted in the overthrown of Milton Obote by the army of Yoweri Museveni. This war
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experience and the determination to return to Rwanda favored the formation of the Rwandan
Patriotic Front (RPF).
In the early 90s, the RPF offensive and international pressure made the Rwandan
government susceptible to negotiation. At this time the greatest achievement was the acceptance
of the points of Arusha accords in July 12, 1992. It included a cease-fire, the creation of a buffer
zone between Rwandan Army and RPF, monitoring provided by the Organization of African
Unity (OAU) and a peace agreement within a year.
After the RPF had violated the cease-fire in February 1993 and obtained important
victories, Rwanda and Uganda requested United Nations (UN) support to deal with the
increasing number of displaced persons. The response was the inherently ineffective UN
Observer Mission in Uganda and Rwanda (UNOMUR).
In September, the UN Security Council approved the absorption of UNOMUR by a new
operation called UN Assistance Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR).
A military coup in Burundi and the consequent entrance of hundreds of thousands of
Hutus in Rwanda overstretched UNAMIR. Mass killings were reported in November.
The direct participation of UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali and the
extension of troops and duration of UNAMIR in late 1993 and early 1994 were not enough to
pressure Rwandan government and opposition groups to cease hostilities and to form a
transitional government as defined in Arusha Accords. The attempts of agreement by
Habyarimana upset the Hutu extremists to the point that they planned and executed the killing of
the president and anyone else; moderate Hutu or Tutsi, who could oppose them. This “operation”
started on April 6, 1994 when the plane carrying the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi was shot
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The situation was then deteriorating fast and the United States, after the Somalia
experience less than one year before, again faced the decision whether or not to commit troops
for humanitarian intervention.
International political system from April 6 to July 22, 1994
Before discussing the international political system, it is important to understand that the
major influence of the National Security System in this case was the lesson apparently learned in
events like Lebanon and more recently Somalia. If the situation shows no National Interest at
stake, why should the United States use military force in peacekeeping missions? The “neutral”
status in a conflict like this is hard to achieve and peacekeepers can become targets.
The supposed lack of information about what was actually happening and the uncertainty
of the success of UNAMIR set the tone of this “wait and see” phase of the decision making
RWANDA. The pivotal state of the crisis did not seem interested in many other things
than defeating the opposing forces at any cost. This sense of detachment proved cruel to the
persecuted groups and represented a danger to troops eventually sent there to enforce the peace
under Chapter VII of United Nations Charter.
Statements of condemnation made by the President and U.S. officials had no considerable
effect on Rwandan government.
BELGIUM. The Belgian government helped the United States justify the cautious way
the National Security System was dealing with the crisis. Belgium had ruled the territory for
more than fifty years and, in theory, was the most knowledgeable about the possible outcomes,
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but did not approve the idea of military intervention and recommended the suspension of
FRANCE. The French position about the early proposals of intervention and the
unilateral decision made later to command a multinational force under Chapter VII were
welcomed. It was almost the opposite of the Belgian situation but things had changed so far. In
late June, the situation was becoming less chaotic because of the foreseeable victory of RPF and
France assumed the risks of sending troops to a region its government knew better than United
On June 7, President Clinton made the case for not intervening militarily in Rwanda to
the French media.
TANZANIA. Its formal protest on 1 May following the beginning of deeper international
media coverage gave the impression that the international community had not been interested
about the violence and the displacement of people which were occurring. In order to show some
concern and, at the same time, maintain its policy of no direct intervention, the United States
offered assistance in organizing and funding an African-led intervention.
UNITED NATIONS. Because of its complexity, the actions and impacts will be
presented by organs.
Security Council. Despite some public statements made by Boutros-Ghali and Kofi
Annan denouncing the apathy of much of the international community on this case, the U.S.
diplomatic effort achieved its goal of approving resolutions consistent with the administration
view, established in a timely fashion by Presidential Decision Directive 25 (PDD 25). Leading
this effort and presenting it to both domestic and international media was the Ambassador to the
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United Nations, Madeleine Albright. She was especially successful in avoiding the term
genocide even after Secretary General had referred to it.
Kofi Annan used his testimony to the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on May
2 to point out that United States was able to help without committing forces on ground.
UN Assistance Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR). In contacts with U.S. Senators,
nongovernmental organizations representatives and the media, General Dallaire, UNAMIR
commander, tried to show that genocide was occurring and that it was possible to stop it with
troop reinforcement. His “message” was sent to President Clinton by Senators Paul Simon (D-
IL) and Jim Jeffords (R-VT).
As an impact NSS had on this actor’s role, the unusual delay of the Armored Personnel
Carriers (APC) requested for UNAMIR II had contributed to its ineffectiveness.
On July 15, with RPF victory a near certainty, General Dallaire and the deputy director,
UNAMIR Emergency Office, Charlie Petrie, stressed the sense of urgency, already made
notorious by media coverage at that point, to Brian Atwood, director, USAID, sent to Goma
refugee camps by President Clinton to evaluate the situation. This was important because USAID
had a role in National Security System in this crisis.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The way it had reported the worsening
of the situation in the refugee camps after the cholera and dysentery outbreaks contributed to the
perception that United States was probably the only country with a deployable structure that
could prevent a greater disaster in short term. As a consequence of that and the practical victory
of RPF, the final decision of sending troops was announced on July 22.
ORGANIZATION FOR AFRICAN UNITY (OAU). It did not play an extensive role
in affecting National Security System but was very important because its willingness to support
efforts in Rwanda gave some sort of legitimacy to U.S. proposals of an African solution.
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RWANDA PATRIOTIC FORCES. Their members were confident of military victory
and believed that external intervention could jeopardize the campaign. Apart from the fact that
there was no National Interest at stake, the National Security System considered this
environment too uncertain.
With the RPF final victory, the new status quo brought some stability and reduced the
risk of sending U.S. troops to the region.
HUMANITARIAN RELIEF ORGANIZATIONS. They used the media, state and IGO
actors and, in less degree, an interest group to report the chaotic situation in Rwanda and the fact
that they were no longer able to deal with it.
This in part resulted in the appointment of USAID as player in the National Security
Like a number of NGOs, while based on the United States, CNN has an international
dimension. Following the Gulf War, three years prior, this new media coverage format (“24/7”)
had been playing a decisive role. This crisis proved to be no different.
Reports from apparently reliable sources such as humanitarian relief NGOs and
UNAMIR as well as the images of violence and suffering influenced public opinion and helped
to force the administration to reassess its options and risks involved.
Among others presented throughout this work, the two below were crucial.
THE TERM “GENOCIDE”. Despite the evidence and the fact that important actors
used the term to denounce the mass killings, many in the International Political System avoided
using it and refused to act on the requests of those calling it genocide. This “common ground”
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allowed the United States to stick to its justification for not intervening: there was no National
Interest at stake and U.S. forces were already committed in places like Haiti, Bosnia and Korea.
CHOLERA AND DYSENTERIA OUTBREAKS. An unpredictable event that exerted
huge influence in final steps of the decision making process. In conjunction with the end of
major hostilities, it forced a humanitarian relief action without the risks of combat casualties.
The decision making process used the rational perspective until it was clear that the risks
of a repetition of Somalia experience were very low. For that, the administration stuck to the
principle that there was no National Interest involved and used diplomatic efforts to avoid any
commitment of troops. When the National Security System viewed the risks as acceptable, the
situation was reassessed according to the governmental politics perspective and the final decision
to use military forces in support of humanitarian operations was made.