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General Dallaire on the World Today
"The UN is nothing but a front man"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 6 September, 2000, 14:58 GMT 15:58 UK
Eyewitness: UN in Rwanda 1994

Romeo Dallaire: "I don't want to see the Rwandan genocide disappear"

Canadian General Romeo Dallaire was commander of UN peacekeepers in Rwanda in 1994, one of UN peacekeeping's darkest hours. Hutu extremists embarked on a killing spree which ended with the death of 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. As the UN Millennium Summit discusses the future for peacekeeping, he spoke to BBC World Service's The World Today programme about his experiences:

What went wrong?

Everything that possibly could have [gone wrong, did go wrong]. There was no infrastructure in the country to sustain the force that was deployed. And nobody was really interested except the French at that time, as they had a small force, a token force in the country.

At the time, could you have intervened?


The logistics capability of the UN was not the logistics capability of Nato

Romeo Dallaire
On one hand, I would like to say yes, but on the other I can't. Yes in so far as we did conduct minor operations after the first couple of days: saving people, moving them through the lines, pulling out missionaries and trying to assist in evacuating seriously injured people.

No, in the sense that, as I was so often reminded, the logistics capability of the UN was not the logistics capability of Nato - or Canadian or British structures.

I would have needed eight to 12 months to build up before I could actually say that the mission was ready.

Would you agree that the Rwanda operation reflects very badly on the UN as a whole?


The mass slaughter is ongoing. What is the trip wire? 50,000? 100,000? 200,000?

Romeo Dallaire
I have been taking the position from the start that the United Nations is nothing but the front man in this failure.

The true culprits are the sovereign states that influence the Security Council, that influence other nations into participating or not.

And I would say there are a number of countries who absolutely did not want to get embroiled in any possible complex mission, and brought their weight to prevent others who were ready to go, as, for example, a number of African nations.

And so here I am, commencing a third week of war. The mass slaughter is ongoing. What is the trip wire? 50,000? 100,000? 200,000?

What have you got to put on the table to get the Western world to realise that maybe this is not acceptable within the human race?

You once said "I know there's a hell. I shook hands with the devil". How long before those demons are laid to rest for you?


What you have seen and lived through will never disappear. In fact it becomes clearer and clearer as the years go by

Romeo Dallaire
The Rwandan massacres will never disappear.

We don't have as many people injured by bullets or shrapnel any more. But in this new generation of operations we're picking up casualties that have had physical effects on their brains, and as such have suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome.

In post-traumatic stress syndrome, one of the dominating components of it is that what you have seen and lived through will never disappear.

In fact it becomes clearer and clearer as the years go by.

I don't want to see the Rwandan genocide disappear. I don't have the abilities, and nor do the Rwandans, of keeping it at the forefront of people's attention, as the Holocaust has been.

And so, on one side I'll keep myself involved. On the other, on the personal side, I hope to establish a level of life that will permit me to continue.

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See also:

05 Jul 00 | Africa
UN general's Rwandan nightmares
16 Dec 99 | Africa
UN admits failure in Rwanda
18 Mar 99 | Africa
Eyewitness: Rwanda's survivors
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