Is the United Nations A Symbol of False Hope?

, Emmanuel Opati, Leave a comment

The United Nations has come under criticism for lack of actions to avert genocides during the last decade, raising questions as to whether it is complicit with evil.

It was said that the UN Secretariat staff who portray themselves as impartial civil servants waiting for instructions from the Security Council have largely undermined the core rationale for its establishment.

The preamble of United Nations Charter states that the UN is “determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind.” During the last decade, the UN observed the slaughter of 800,000 people in Rwanda in 1994, the Srebrenica Massacre in Bosnia in 1995 and now in Darfur.

Presenting his book Complicity with Evil: The United Nations in the Age of Modern Genocide at the Heritage Foundation, Adam LeBor, author and journalist, said that because of its obsession with neutrality, the UN failed to act to stop the genocide by the Hutu government in 1994 in Rwanda and Slobodan Milosevic’s government against Srebrenica Massacre in 1995. By not acting to help the victims, the UN became a de facto ally of those carrying out the atrocities, he argues.

He stated that in contrast to the conventional understanding that the Secretariat does not have much influence in the UN peacekeeping mission, LeBor said that “this is not the case, in-fact the Secretariat has repeatedly intervened in policymaking and peacekeeping operations, often with disastrous results.”

Assessing Kofi Annan’s (former UN Secretary General) legacy, Mr. LeBor said behind the international applause and praise for Kofi Annan, “there is a much darker story of incompetence, mismanagement and worse.”

LeBor said both genocides in the last decade happened under Annan’s watch. The Srebrenica Massacre of up to 8,000 men and boys and the slaughter of 800,000 people in Rwanda both happened when Kofi Annan was the head of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (PDKO) (March 1993- December 1996).

These genocides did not happen overnight, LeBor argues. There were indications of preparations and warnings leading up to the genocides.

In Rwanda, LeBor says, Lieutenant General Roméo Dallaire (commander of the UN Peacekeeping Mission to Rwanda also known as UNMIR) had received detailed information of the planned mass murder of the Tutsis by the Hutu government from a source inside the Hutu militia.

When General Dallaire asked PDKO (in New York) for authorization to raid and disarm the Hutu militia, says LeBor, Kofi Annan’s Office (PDKO) quickly replied a cable message signed by his deputy saying “no reconnaissance or other action including response for request for protection should be taken by UNMIR until clear guidance is received from headquarters.” LeBor added that Annan’s Office ordered Dallaire not to proceed with the planned raids saying “it was beyond the UNMIR’s mandate under UN Security Council Resolution 872.”

In Bosnia, LeBor adds, the UN was more concerned about protecting Slobodan Milosevic than the innocent boys. “For the previous two weeks the UN Military intelligence officers had been cabling back to New York indicating that the Serbs were preparing an attack on Srebrenica and that the war lords had been seen in the area.” “Lieutenant General Rupert Smith (Commander of UN forces in Bosnia) cabled Yasushi Akashi (Japanese Diplomat at the UN) saying ‘we must have an air strike, we have the mandate for this and we have to stop this,’” LeBor said.

However, General Smith’s request was refused because an air strike would weaken Slobodan Milosevic. “[Yasushi Akasha] believed that the UN needed Milosevic to negotiate the peace,” said LeBor.

“The UN was arguing that Milosevic [the man who was the architect of all the Yugoslovian wars] had to be strengthened,” added LeBor.

On May 7th, 1995 the Bosnian Serbs shelled Sarajevo (one of the safe places mandated under Security Council), killing and injuring several people, he said.

In relation to the current crisis in Darfur, LeBor said that when the crisis in Darfur erupted in early 2003 after rebels rose up to demand a greater share of resources, Khartoum responded ferociously and systematically. They launched a systematic campaign with the aim of destroying the entire society, he said.

Althought the conflict in Darfur has been going on for more than four years, LeBor argues, “there are still no UN peacekeepers deployed there.” He emphasized that Sudan has managed to avoid any meaningful action being taken by the Security Council “with the help of its allies on the Security Council, principally China.”

He added that hundreds of villages have been completely destroyed and burnt down, more than two million people have been displaced, and perhaps up to 400,000 have been killed or died of disease or malnutrition. The Janjaweed rebels continue to slaughter people but the UN Secretary General says that “engagement with Sudan, not pressure, is the way forward,” said LeBor.

In addition he argues, this September Ban Ki-Moon (UN Secretary General) met with President of Sudan and said that “we have taken a big step forward in meeting our shared goal of bringing peace to Darfur and look forward to the long-term development of Sudan.”

LeBor adds that Ban-Ki-Moon was quotted in an article published by the Washington Post saying “the climate change was the major factor in the Darfur crisis.”

Jean-Marie Guéhenno, the UN’s under-secretary for peacekeeping was quoted by the Economist early this year saying that he was cautious about what he can achieve in Darfur. “In a region as vast as Darfur, an effective UN force would need to be highly mobile, and make use both of unmanned surveillance drones and special forces. It would need to sustain itself in a harsh environment….”

LeBor argued that these actions indicate that “UN Officials are obsessed with preserving the UN’s neutrality over and above its humanity obligation.” Despite the failures of the United Nations, LeBor pointed out that in many regions of the world, “those blue helmets are a symbol of hope to the people.”