Mahmood Mamdani attempts to debunk the analogy between Darfur and Rwanda by suggesting that US closeness with the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) dates back to the genesis of the movement. But the RPF emerged from the military phase of Museveni’s National Resistance Movement in Uganda; and in this regard, was more a product of regional than international politics. When it first invaded north-eastern Rwanda in 1990, international interest in the conflict was limited to Belgium and France; there is no record of American interest or support for the RPF at this point, or indeed during the Arusha peace process or, finally, when the genocide began. US attention in Africa was firmly focused on the ongoing debacle in Somalia. All this had changed by November 1996, when the ‘war of liberation’ over Zaire/Democratic Republic of Congo began. The US recognised the rot of Mobutu’s regime, but how much support, formal or informal, it provided to the Rwandan/Ugandan advance at this point is a matter for speculation.
To suggest that Kagame’s military training in the US is evidence of support or approval of the RPF is spurious, as is the drawing of an analogy with US military involvement in Ethiopia, where US engagement has a long and varied history. Odder still is the notion that ‘the US suggested to one of the parties [the RPF] that it could pursue victory with impunity.’ How? By stifling debate on Rwanda at the Security Council? By encouraging a withdrawal of UNAMIR, the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda? With the genocide already well underway these actions encouraged the génocidaires, not the RPF.
The United States should be held responsible for what it did and failed to do in Rwanda and Central Africa, but as regards what happened before 1994, it should be accused of inattention, not interference.