Developing receptivity to warning of emerging threats


Despite the significant presence and ample evidence of deteriorating circumstances in Rwanda, there was an acute failure to respond. A number of factors contributed to this failure. According to one report: There existed an internal predisposition on the part of a number of the key actors to deny the possibility of genocide because facing the consequences might have required them to alter their course of action. The mesmerization with the success of Arusha The 1993 peace accord between the Hutu- dominated government and the Tutsi-dominated Rwandan Patriotic Front and the failure of Somalia together cast long shadows and distorted an objective analysis of Rwanda.

Among the more obvious warning signals were "hate radio" broadcasts directed at Tutsis and moderate Hutus, continued training of Hutu militia units, and government-sponsored killings. Yet none of the major outside actors formulated, let alone articulated, a response to the potential outbreak of widespread violence. According to Human Rights Watch consultant Alison Des Forges, a particularly important event was the February 1994 murder of a moderate Hutu cabinet member by government soldiers. Des Forges noted, "when they Hutu extremists saw they could get away with that kind of violence... it encouraged them to go ahead with the larger operation."


Most specialists have urged that the problem of securing and analyzing warning should be linked closely with the problem of deciding what responses are appropriate and useful in the light of the available warning, however equivocal or ambiguous it may be. While high-confidence warning is desirable, often it is not available. But neither is high-confidence warning always necessary for making useful responses to the possibility of an emerging crisis.

Type Classification:
F: Exceptional strategies