22.- 25.9
2020

RT 01

Germany and the Rwandan genocide: New evidence from the German Foreign
Office’s archives

Sarah Brockmeier, Global Public Policy Institute (GPPI), Berlin
Anton Peez, Peace Research Institute Frankfurt/Main (Leibniz Institute HSFK/PRIF), Berlin and Frankfurt
Philipp Rotmann, Global Public Policy Institute (GPPI), Berlin
Chair:
Antonia Witt, Peace Research Institute Frankfurt/Main (Leibniz Institute HSFK/PRIF),
Frankfurt

Short abstract:

This roundtable will discuss insights from the first public study of German foreign office files on Rwanda before and during the 1994 genocide. The study examines how German
authorities assessed the Rwandan political landscape leading up to the genocide, which
decisions were made, and how they were internally justified.

Long abstract:

The prevention of genocide is a key pillar of German foreign policy. But how does this
translate practically? In both public discourse and academia, knowledge about Germany’s
specific role in the build-up and during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda is still limited. Against this background, this roundtable will present and discuss the results of the first public study of German foreign office files on Rwanda before and during the 1994 genocide. The report also draws on direct accounts of David Rawson, US ambassador to Rwanda from 1993–1995, who will be interviewed on this topic for the first time.
The project is supported and will be published by the Heinrich Böll Foundation. Building on previous work, both public and initially classified, the study asks how German authorities assessed the Rwandan political landscape leading up to the genocide. We further examine which political decisions were subsequently made and how they were internally and publicly justified. The study situates the German diplomatic response and emergency preparedness within broader German Africa policy at the time. Finally, the study asks which lessons can be learned from Germany’s policy towards Rwanda in 1990/1993–1994 for today’s efforts to prevent conflicts and mass atrocities.

The roundtable brings together the authors of this study and experts on German Africa
policy to critically discuss the report’s findings and situate them into the broader picture of
Germany’s (diplomatic) role in Africa. Not least, this also provides an opportunity to reflect on the potentials and limits of dialogue between academia and policy-makers; and how contemporary empirical scholarship on the diverse challenges to peace and security on the African continent can be (better) used to inform policy debates.