Voicing "deep remorse" over UN's failure to halt Rwanda genocide, Kofi Annan urges action to prevent new tragedies

Expressing "deep remorse" over United Nations failure to prevent the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, Secretary- General Kofi Annan today reiterated his strong commitment to making sure the UN never again falters in stopping mass slaughter.
"All of us must bitterly regret that we did not do more to prevent it," the Secretary-General said in welcoming the publication this morning of the report of an independent inquiry he had commissioned to investigate the UN's actions during the 1994 mass killings, in which 800,000 men, women and children were slaughtered.

. "Of all my aims as Secretary-General, there is none to which I feel more deeply committed than that of enabling the United Nations never again to fail in protecting a civilian population from genocide or mass slaughter," Mr Annan added.

The report by a three-person panel headed by the former Prime Minister of Sweden Ingvar Carlsson had concluded that the UN "failed the people of Rwanda during the genocide in 1994" and went on to make a series of recommendations to help ensure the international community would be better prepared to prevent such catastrophes in the future.

"I fully accept their conclusions, including those which reflect on officials of the UN Secretariat, of whom I myself was one," Mr. Annan said in a written statement released at UN Headquarters on Thursday.

The Secretary-General welcomed the inquiry's emphasis on the lessons to be learned from the tragedy as well as its recommendations. "These recommendations merit very serious attention, leading to prompt and effective action - by the Secretariat, by the Security Council, and the international community as a whole," Mr. Annan said.

The Secretary-General said that while the report acknowledged that some steps have already been taken over the past few years to improve the UN's capacity to respond to conflicts, and specifically to respond to some of the mistakes made in Rwanda, much remained to be done.

"It was precisely in the hope of preventing further such tragedies that, in my address to the General Assembly in September, I called on the international community to reflect on ways in which the United Nations could intervene more promptly, and more effectively, to prevent or halt massive and systematic violations of human rights," Mr. Annan said.

Noting that the Rwanda inquiry and his own recent report on the events in Srebrenica reflected a "profound determination to present the truth," the Secretary-General said he had urged Member States to engage in a process of reflection and analysis, aimed at improving the capacity of the UN to respond to various forms of conflict. He said that "very soon" he intended to make further recommendations on the form which this process should take.