Let’s be friends: the United States, post-genocide Rwanda, and victor’s justice in Arusha
The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda issued its last verdict in December 2012. 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 the ICTR’s 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. In a previous publication, I claim that US leadership is a necessary (but not a sufficient) condition for successful international prosecutions. Building on that research, 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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