Too Little, Too Late: France’s Zone Humanitaire Sûre in Rwanda

  • Carol McQueen
Part of the Rethinking Peace and Conflict Studies book series (RCS)


In the midst of the UN Secretary-General’s desperate efforts to speed the deployment of UNAMIR II, the French government announced unexpectedly its decision to launch a military mission to Rwanda so as to maintain a humanitarian presence in the country pending the arrival of UNAMIR II. Assuring the international community that the operation’s humanitarian purpose excluded ‘any interference in the development of the balance of military forces between the parties involved in the conflict’,4 the French tabled a resolution in the Security Council on 22 June 1994, which was adopted by ten votes, with five abstentions. Acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, the Security Council stressed the ‘strictly humanitarian character’ of the mission and welcomed ‘the establishment of a temporary operation under national command and control aimed at contributing, in an impartial way, to the security and protection of displaced persons, refugees and civilians at risk in Rwanda…’5 Opération Turquoise was accorded a similar mandate to UNAMIR II in terms of the tasks it was allowed to perform, including the ‘establishment and maintenance, where feasible, of secure humanitarian areas’,6 but was authorized to use all necessary means to achieve these humanitarian objectives.


Security Council Humanitarian Intervention Safety Zone Community Interest Security Council Resolution 
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  1. 9.
    Stephen Smith, ‘France-Rwanda: Lévirat Colonial et Abandon dans la Région des Grands Lacs’, in Les Crises Politiques au Burundi et au Rwanda, 1993–1994: Analyses, Faits et Documents, ed. André Gichaoua (Paris: Karthala, 1995), p. 448.Google Scholar
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    Rony Brauman, Devant le Mal: Un Génocide en Direct (Paris: Arléa, 1994), p. 62. Here again the issue of French culpability and indifference arises. It is difficult to imagine that the French military did not have any idea of the purpose for which these militias were being trained. See Agnès Callamard, ‘French Policy in Rwanda’ in The Path of A Genocide, ed. Adelman and Suhrke, pp. 168–169.Google Scholar
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    Unfortunately, due perhaps to this ethnic divisiveness and the fear of another genocide, the RPF has only been able to retain its hold over Rwanda by putting in place a de facto relatively benign dictatorship, lending greater credibility to France’s views of the early 1990s about the prospects for democracy in Rwanda under the RPF. See, for example, Filip Reyntjens, ‘Rwanda, Ten Years On: From Genocide to Dictatorship’, African Affairs 103 (2004), pp. 177–210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Borton, Brusset and Halam, Study III, p. 55. See also Stephanie T. E. Kleine-Ahlbrandt, The Protection Gap in the International Protection of Internally Displaced Persons: the Case of Rwanda (Geneva: Institut Universitaire de Hautes Etudes Internationales, 1996); and Adelman and Suhrke, Study II, pp. 62–65.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Carol McQueen 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carol McQueen
    • 1
  1. 1.United Nations Peacekeeping MissionDemocratic Republic of Congo

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