In 1993, the United Nations (UN) Security Council created the UN Observer Mission Uganda-Rwanda (UMOMUR) to supervise an unstable peace between the Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda. It also established the UN Assistance Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR). The Hutu president of Rwanda, Juvenal Habyarimana, had managed to negotiate an agreement with the Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front. The UN appointed a Canadian, Major-General Roméo Dallaire, to command the 2,400-man UNAMIR force in Rwanda. It was to monitor the peace agreement and ensure that military supplies did not cross the border from neighbouring Uganda. Shortly after his arrival, Major-General Dallaire informed UN officials that the potential for serious large-scale violence existed in Rwanda. He had received reports that the Hutu-dominated Rwandan army and armed Hutu militia units were planning to attack the Tutsi population. However, his concerns elicited no response from the UN.

On 6 April 1994, President Habyarimana died when rocket fire hit his plane. The following day, Hutu army units and armed militia unleashed a campaign of terror against the Tutsi population. They slaughtered thousands in the streets, sparing no one. Hutu forces captured, tortured, and killed 10 Belgian soldiers. The Belgian government evacuated its troops, and Major-General Dallaire was left with a dramatically reduced force, many members of which were poorly trained and ill-prepared for peacekeeping. Those Tutsis that survived the initial butchery fled to nearby Zaire and Burundi. France and the United States reluctantly sent troops to stop the massacre and protect more than 2 million Tutsi refugees.

In August 1994, Canadian Major-General Guy Tousignant succeeded Dallaire as commander of UNAMIR. The UN increased the size of the force to 5,500, including 600 Canadian troops.


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