Skip to comments.UN Finds Black Box Lost in Rwanda Genocide Probe
Posted on 03/11/2004 2:40:59 PM PST by knak
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - A red-faced United Nations acknowledged on Thursday that an aircraft black box possibly linked to an air crash that triggered the 1994 genocide in Rwanda had turned up in a U.N. filing cabinet.
The Paris daily Le Monde reported this week that a black box from the Falcon 50 shot down by a rocket on April 6, 1994, killing the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi, had been sent to U.N. headquarters in New York and was never seen again.
The newspaper accused the United Nations of obstructing a French investigation into the crash, which was widely blamed at the time for sparking the 1994 slaughter of some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus by the French-backed Hutu regime then in power in Rwanda.
The genocide has been a major embarrassment for the United Nations and in particular for Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who led its peacekeeping operation at the time, as U.N. peacekeepers were unable to prevent the slaughter.
Asked about the article on Tuesday, U.N. chief spokesman Fred Eckhard flatly dismissed charges the United Nations was obstructing the probe or had the black box, joking, "I've got it right under the table here."
But two days later, an embarrassed Eckhard said the world body had indeed found a black box locked in a filing cabinet.
He said the device had been sent by diplomatic pouch to U.N. headquarters from Rwanda in 1994. But U.N. air safety experts had put it away in the filing cabinet after concluding it was not from the crashed plane because it was undamaged.
"And because of that judgment, the air safety experts, after unsuccessfully trying to identify its source, put the black box in the file cabinet and did not report it up the chain of command," he said.
The United Nations does not ordinarily investigate air crashes, and current U.N. officials could not even say if the device was a cockpit voice recorder or a flight data recorder, Eckhard said.
Annan, asked about the discovery, said, "I must say, I was as surprised as you were to find out that a black box existed, much less in this building. From what I have picked up, it sounds like a real foul-up, a first-class foul-up."
"I don't think there has been any attempt to cover up," he said, adding that in his view, the U.N. legal office had been cooperating "very effectively" with the French probe.
U.N. officials would now give the device to outside experts to see if it did come from the downed Falcon. The U.N. inspector general would also investigate whether the matter was handled correctly at the time, Eckhard said.
The newspaper report was based on a six-year inquiry by French investigating magistrate Jean-Louis Bruguiere, who was asked to investigate by relatives of the plane's French crew.
Bruguiere faulted the United Nations for failing to open its own investigation into the plane's downing and trying to prevent the truth from coming out, the newspaper reported.
Bruguiere's main conclusion, according to the newspaper, was that Rwanda's current president, Paul Kagame, had ordered the downing of the plane near Kigali airport with Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana and Burundian head of state Cyprien Ntaryamira on board.
Kagame's government has denied the report as "shameful and baseless."
Sorry, Rwanda. My bad.
A lot of companies have policies which reassign, promote, or transfer employees every two years. By the time they get organized enough to hide failures, stonewall auditors, and con management, they're having to clear out to move on and organize their files and data for the next replacement.
It's a pretty effective method. It roots out those never go on vacation or take a sick day kind of employee. Beware, for that is also the first to arrive and the last to leave type too.
So, not bothering to check serial numbers, or, heaven forbid, listen to the recording? Not to mention examining any of
the other info recorded...
Annan failed to prevent genocide? Talk about the Peter Principle in action.
Only after the slaughter was mostly over and done with did we finally step in. I enjoy the occassional conspiracy theory, but I don't usually take them too seriously--but something of this situation stunk.
(Sorry if I'm a bit heated here. I have several friends who narrowly escaped with their lives from Rwanda, all of which lost most of their own family and friends in the process.)
What it *doesn't* mention is that that investigation, begun under the aegis of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was quashed and its findings suppressed when the lead investigator, former Australian crown prosecutor Michael Hourigan, made it clear that the evidence pointed to Kagame directly ordering an RPA assassination of the president. Hourigan quit in protest over the deliberate cover-up of his work (by the ICTR chief prosecutor at the time, Canadian judge Louise Arbour) which was clearly taking things in a direction which Kagame and his patron the Clinton Administration didn't want, and Hourigan and former high-ranking RPA informants who'd co-operated with the investigation - some of whom Kagame's had bumped off - then co-operated with Bruguière's inquiry, which arrived at the same conclusion as Hourigan, who'd worked with a veteran FBI investigator btw.
Both the Clinton administration and Kagame's gov't blocked requests by other states to have an inquiry into the shooting down of the plane, which is odd behaviour considering that the assassination of 2 heads of state would quite normally occasion a criminal investigation. Safe to say that if assassins shot down a plane with Dubya and Vicente Fox aboard, the matter would be looked into, and promptly.
As the noose of facts tightens around Kagame his PR situation becomes more desperate, and I notice that this wire report, in addition to airbrushing all the points I made above, includes Kagame's now ritual denunciation of Bruguière. The effect is to keep on life supports Kagame's tattered image as a Clinton-backed "liberation fighter" who bravely took out a French-backed tinpot régime. Both U.S. intelligence before the plane downing and RPA intelligence explicitly predicted that *if* the Rwandan president was assassinated, it would trigger ethnic violence leading to up to half a million deaths (declassified letter of Warren Christopher, among other docs).
Kagame's also been feeling the squeeze over the data from UN rapporteurs and many observers on the ground about the 100's of 1000's of Rwandans (mostly Hutu) and millions of Congolese who've been snuffed since his RPA and the Ugandan army invaded Zaire/Congo with Clinton's backing. And Kagame has also denounced the report announced here, http://www.urhome.umd.edu/newsdesk/sociss/release.cfm?ArticleID=898 , and by his own admission, before even *reading* it.
A most interesting development indeed. As the French would say, « A suivre ».