Friday, December 05, 2008

MORE on the UN's unforgivable role in the Rwandan genocide (in CNN, no less):
In 1993, Romeo Dallaire was full of hope for the future of Rwanda.

The Canadian lieutenant general and son of a soldier was about to take up the biggest command of his career -- leading United Nations peacekeepers in the central African nation.

A year later he left Rwanda a broken man, having watched helplessly as more than 800,000 people perished in Rwanda's genocide despite his pleas for more troops to stop the massacre.

"We could have actually saved hundreds of thousands," Dallaire told CNN's Christiane Amanpour for "Scream Bloody Murder."

"Nobody was interested."

Dallaire's mission was to monitor a peace deal between two warring ethnic groups, the Hutus and the Tutsis. But the agreement was just a façade. Hutu extremists within the government were stockpiling weapons, and Tutsi refugees had formed a rebel army. VideoWatch Dallaire describe how he could have stopped the genocide »

The Tutsis were a minority in Rwanda, and their plight was personal for Dallaire. His Dutch mother had watched friends die in the Holocaust, and he had been raised on stories of heroic Canadian soldiers who brought hope to war-torn Europe.

A French Canadian raised in Montreal, Dallaire had experienced discrimination first-hand and was determined to protect the Tutsi minority. But he soon found his was a lone voice.

On January 20, 1994, Dallaire made a chilling discovery: An informant warned him that Hutu government agents were planning bloodshed.

"They were going to conduct an outright slaughter and elimination of the opposition," Dallaire said.

Dallaire cabled his bosses in New York, warning that his informant "has been ordered to register all Tutsi in Kigali. He suspects it is for their extermination."

The informant described a major weapons cache, which Dallaire said he planned to raid in the next 36 hours. VideoWatch Dallaire describe the warnings from the informant »

Kofi Annan, then head of the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations, was concerned about the safety of Dallaire's limited U.N. force. Annan's office told Dallaire: "We cannot agree to the operation contemplated ... as it clearly goes beyond the mandate."

Dallaire tried to change Annan's mind, repeatedly exchanging faxes with New York through the rest of January and into February.

"Ultimately I got authority. It took two months, and by then it was far too late," Dallaire said.
(read also this 2004 piece on Dallaire in the New York Times Magazine)