Let's Be Friends: The United States, Post-Genocide Rwanda, and Victor's Justice in Arusha
Institute of Development Policy and Management (IOB) of the University of Antwerp Discussion Paper
61 Pages Posted: 8 Jan 2013 Last revised: 5 Mar 2014
Date Written: January 1, 2013
The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda completed the trial phase of its mandate without prosecuting anyone from the victorious Rwandan Patriotic Front. This article examines whether the ICTR was doomed from the start to be a court of ‘victor’s justice.’ I explore the issue by re-examining the politics of its creation. Interviews with (former) US and UN ambassadors and hundreds of declassified diplomatic telegrams (‘cables’) and intelligence reports of the US Department of State shed new light on this process. My analysis concentrates on the strategy of the RPF vis-à-vis the international community and the responses of the United Nations and United States. I argue that understanding the evolution of the relation between Washington and Kigali – from an early, almost accidental support of the RPF to nearly unconditional backing – can help explain RPF impunity. I do not suggest that Washington planned to shield Kagame from international prosecution, or that the US was the only Security Council member to embrace him. However, once Washington entered into a partnership with the ‘new’ Rwanda, it was committed to moving forward – and this implied burying the past and oftentimes also ignoring the present. The result was victor’s justice in Arusha – and seemingly endless war in neighboring Congo.
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