In the next hundred days, 800,000 Rwandans would be killed. It ended when the Tutsi rebels, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), took Kigali. Later, everyone would argue about whether or not there were warning signs and if the violence could have been prevented or reduced.
In fact, almost three months before the genocide, the U.N.'s field commander, General Romeo Dallaire, warned the U.N. in New York that Hutu extremists might be planning to destroy the peace process, kill large numbers of Tutsi civilians, and even attack Belgian peacekeepers.
Dallaire sent a fax to New York. It would later be called "the genocide fax," although Dallaire says he didn't use the term 'genocide.'
"They were planning to conduct huge massacres, or massacres on a larger scale."
But the United Nations rebuffed General Dallaire's request to raid the militia's weapons caches. For many at the U.N. headquarters in New York, genocide was a remote concept.
Boutrous Boutrous-Ghali, who was the U.N. Secretary General at the time explaines, "For us, genocide was the gas chamber, what happened in Germany, and we were not able to realize that with a machete you can create a genocide. We were not realizing in our point of view they have not the tools for genocide. This was our perception, which was a wrong perception by the way."
It would later be determined that by mid-April, 100,000 people were dead. At about that time, Monique Mujawamariya arrived in the United States to tell her harrowing story. A Rwandan human rights activist, she had saved her life by hiding from the militias in the attic of a house. Later, she was smuggled out of Kigali. Once in the United States, she spoke to whomever she could about what was happening, including members of Congress and staff at the White House and the State Department. She wanted American policy makers to understand the scale of the killings.
"It is something that I've lived with for a long time that during all the visits I made in America I would meet people who were very touched by what was going on but who were not ready to invest any of their political capital."
Mujawamariya had met President Clinton with other human rights campaigners four months earlier. This time, she was able to talk with his national security advisor, Anthony Lake.
"I think that he was humanly affected by what was happening in Rwanda but as a politician he was not ready to invest, he didn't want to. But he was unhappy about what was going on."
Anthony Lake remembers conveying to Monique Mujawamariya his own assessment that little could be done for Rwanda.
"It would have taken quite a push. It was almost literally inconceivable that American troops would go to Rwanda. There was no appetite in the international community for such an effort and I might add not just among other governments, but in the whole international community. Editorial writers, legislators, other African governments, even NGOs."