chapter  5
21 Pages

Early warning

Introduction This chapter will set out to explore the uncharted waters of the Rwandan drama, namely the mechanisms and structures that explain the failures of UN officials and diplomats. Chapter 3 located these in the socio-historical context of UN conflict management in the 1990s, whilst this chapter and the next one will put that structural framework into practice by means of an inquiry into the role of these mechanisms in the Rwandan case. The primary methodological tool will be the first phase of the method of double movement, that is, abstraction. As outlined in Chapter 2, abstraction moves beyond the ‘surface level’ of describing phenomena and events to the ‘underlying level’ of understanding the mechanisms and structures in which these are rooted. Within the theoretical framework employed here, abstraction refers to the retroduction of mechanisms from events. This chapter will concentrate exclusively on early warning, surely the mechanism that harboured the greatest potential to detect the genocide. The secondary methodological tool derives from the second phase of the method of double movement. Chapter 3 demonstrated that the two phases of double movement are not strictly linear steps. The search for an emancipatory vision delineating outcomes which would have been more desirable in the Rwandan case must not, therefore, necessarily be delayed until the net effect of all four mechanisms has been assessed. This chapter and the next one will thus contain sections that will address the intriguing questions pertaining to how agents could have transformed the UN system in order to liberate themselves from the dysfunctional effects of a particular mechanism, and what positive outcomes such transformations could have produced. The first section of the chapter will draw upon new evidence from the Melvern Archive to reveal the diverse ways in which the malfunctions of the early warning mechanism actually contributed to the UN’s failure. The second section will explore the institutional weaknesses underlying the shortcomings of early warning. It will be argued that the vacuum of early warning structures was so profound that it obstructed not only proactive conflict prevention in the pregenocide phase, as certain previous studies maintain (Adelman 1998a: 56), but also reactive conflict prevention during the early weeks of the genocide.