Dallaire discusses Rwandan genocide

Retired peacekeeper examines Canada’s military role

Lt.-Gen. Roméo Dallaire spoke at Grant Hall Saturday to commemorate Sept. 11. The event was organized by the AMS Speaker’s Committee.
Lt.-Gen. Roméo Dallaire spoke at Grant Hall Saturday to commemorate Sept. 11. The event was organized by the AMS Speaker’s Committee.
Photo: 
In early 2004, Lt.-Gen. Roméo Dallaire returned to Rwanda for the first time since the 1994 genocide.
In early 2004, Lt.-Gen. Roméo Dallaire returned to Rwanda for the first time since the 1994 genocide.
Credit: 
Photo courtesy of e.bell.ca

On Saturday, more than 400 Queen’s students, staff and community members filled Grant Hall to hear retired Lt.-Gen. Roméo Dallaire speak on war and peace in the post-9/11 world.

During his time as a peacekeeper, Dallaire saw much war and desperately little peace. As commander of UN forces in Rwanda, Dallaire began warning his UN superiors of planned ethnic massacres in January 1994. In April, the genocide Dallaire had warned against began after the murder of the Hutu president, Juvenal Habyarimana.

Although roots of the violence reach back to the colonial era, Dallaire believed the genocide could have been prevented if the international community had been willing to step in.

“When black Africans were slaughtering each other, people were saying, ‘It’s an African problem, so let Africans solve it,’ ” Dallaire told the crowd.

The West failed to realize the depth of their responsibility due to imperialism, Dallaire said. “We have witnessed, more than solved,” he said.

He stressed there must be a willingness to view our own security as contingent on the well-being of everyone on earth. He said we must also value each life as equally important, whether it is Canadian or African.

The world cannot go on without more energy devoted to solving complex international and intra-state problems, Dallaire said.

“Peacekeeping is not meeting the requirement. Conflict resolution is,” he said. “We deal with people who say this is not real soldiering, this is not real work. And then we end up with 9/11, and an explosion of terrorism, where there are no rules.” Institutions such as the Geneva Convention and the International War Crimes Tribunal “don’t exist” to terrorists, Dallaire said. He also said the military can play a key role in conflict management, but needs to adapt and work with other forces.

Dallaire said the military lexicon consists of words such as “capture, block, contain,” but that these words are inadequate to resolve complex conflicts. Humanitarian, political and military strategies and goals must be integrated to produce success.

“Can we prevent conflict, or are we in a state where we’re always reacting to the initiatives of the belligerents?” Dallaire said. “Are we always going to be crisis managers?”

Michael Gallagher, ArtSci ’05, said he agreed with Dallaire’s vision of the military’s role in future conflicts.

“I thought he gave a really sophisticated, multidimensional perspective of what was really going on,” he said. “In particular, it was a liberal perspective combined with a willingness to work with the military, and we don’t usually see that.”

Dallaire highlighted how Canada, as the leader among world “middle powers” can be proactive in international conflict resolution. He said increasing the capabilities of the Canadian military and the Canadian role in international affairs was a necessity.

“It’s not a matter of how many troops or tanks, it’s a matter of the state of mind of Canadians, and how we situate ourselves in this complex era,” he said. “Do we, as the leading middle power, only take care of home? Or do we become a proactive nation?”

Dallaire pointed out that Canada as a middle power can use its international status to prod a more powerful nation such as the United States into action.

“We cannot continue without the Americans,” he said. “[But] we must keep attriting their stance that some call imperial ... This is where the middle powers come in.”

Dallaire said Canadians must decide which path to take in the future concerning their place on the international stage. Canadians are among the 20 per cent of the world’s people who live in relative wealth compared to the 80 per cent living in conditions of indignity. “First, we could hunker down and take care of our own and our vital interests,” he said. “The other one is going beyond the horizon. To where the source of the conflict is, to where the rage is toward that 20 per cent [of well-off people], assisting those 80 per cent to not feel that they’re not human.

“It is time for us to focus where all our capability is to go. Is it time for us to wait until the rage crosses our borders, or do we move to tell others that the rage is not a residual activity?”

Meghan Ward, ArtSci ’07, said she appreciated Dallaire’s call to action.

“I think people in the Cold War would have looked at their situation and thought, ‘It can’t get worse than that,’ ” she said.

“Then people in the Gulf War would have looked at theirs and thought, ‘No, it can’t get worse than this.’ But what are we waiting for? Do we wait for more deaths before we actually do something?”

The Roots of Genocide

1918 - The origins of the Rwandan genocide can be traced to when Belgian colonists first assume power in Rwanda. The Belgians colonize a land populated by two marginally different ethnic groups—the Hutus and the Tutsis—who share the same language and traditions. The Belgians arbitrarily declare the minority Tutsis superior to the majority Hutus and give the Tutsis more power and privilege.

Late 1950s - Hutus rebel against the Belgian and Tutsi rule. Hutus win municipal elections organized by the Belgians.

1962 - Belgium grants independence to Rwanda and a Hutu revolution installs a Hutu president. Fighting between Hutus and Tutsis forces Tutsis to flee. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s the Tutsis are victims of ethnic violence
in Rwanda.

1980s - Tutsis continue to be excluded from Rwandan society. The Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) is formed mostly by Tutsis exiled from Rwanda.

1990-1991 - The RPF launches attacks into Rwanda. The Rwandan army organizes civilian militias, and thousands of Tutsis are killed in separate massacres around the country.

1993 - The RPF invades Rwanda and months of fighting ensue. A peace accord is signed between the Rwandan government and the RPF. 2,500 UN troops, commanded by Roméo Dallaire, arrive to oversee the implementation of the peace accord.

January, 1994 - Dallaire warns UN headquarters in New York of reports that Hutu militias are intensifying training.

April 6, 1994 - Rwanda’s Hutu president, Juvenal Habyarimana (right), is killed when his plane is shot down. Within hours, mass murder has begun. The Rwandan army and militias systematically begin killing Tutsis and moderate Hutus. UN forces do not intervene since their mandate is simply to “monitor.” Within 100 days, 800,000 Rwandans—primarily Tutsis—will be murdered.

April 21, 1994 - The UN cuts its forces by 90 per cent in Rwanda after the killing of ten Belgian UN peacekeepers assigned to protect the moderate Hutu prime minister, who is also murdered. The UN resolution condemning the killing does not use the word “genocide” as doing so would oblige the UN to “prevent and punish” those responsible.

May 17, 1994 - For the first time, the UN uses the word “genocide” in a resolution regarding Rwanda. The UN agrees to send 5,500 troops to Rwanda but the UN and U.S. disagree over financing.

June 22, 1994 - An emergency UN force of 2,500 French troops is eventually deployed, but the killings continue.

July 1994 - The RPF takes the capital city of Rwanda, announces itself the victor in the war and declares a ceasefire.

With files from bbc.com and pbs.org

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