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by Lt.Gen. (retired) Romeo Dallaire
Retired General Romeo
Dallaire gives the keynote address
Romeo Dallaire: Well good
morning ladies and gentleman. It is truly most encouraging
to see the turnout, and in particular, the turnout of the
students, grads and undergrads to this event, as although
you' ll read books, and you' ll read accounts, there' s nothing
stronger pedagogically than, in fact, listening to human beings
speaking, debating with their eyes and their commitment to
a subject of this nature. And so, thank you for being here,
and also thank you colleagues, who have responded to come
to this one day symposium that really could last three or
four. And so, in the nature and meeting the challenge from
Allan in regards to ensuring that we stay within the time
constraints, I will do what my Marine corps colleagues taught
me in 1980 in Virginia, I will power talk, and I hope that,
in fact, most of my points will get across.
I thought it important to set the scene
of 1993-1994, and then to go through a number of elements
in which the media were involved, both locally and internationally
during that year, where a country had finished of civil war
and massacres, had signed a peace agreement, some of them
under duress, and over the process of a year, barely 12 months,
moved from a peace agreement to political stagnation to assassinations
to massacres to civil war, and ultimately genocide, and then
to a state, where the minority actually won the war, gained
control of the whole country, and is now in a different path.
There are many factors in regards to Rwanda
and the effects of that, but I think one that is pertinent,
particularly to Canadians as we live in a nation that has
two founding nations is the fact that the Franco-Anglo dimension
of Rwanda was in the forefront, and not hidden in the back.
The majority of the population spoke French. The government
was a French government, out of le francophonie. The rebel
forces were English speaking, and essentially introduced the
English language as one of the dominant languages now, if
not the dominant language in the structure of the nation.
The enjeu between the old colonial powers,
and the Americans in Africa exists still today, and is heightened
by an inability of the ex-colonial powers, and I think the
crassness of the instruments of the imperial power of today
in attempting to resolve their history, and marry it up with
the history of these new independent nations. And we still
see fundamental racism, we see abuse, we see raping of the
nations for their resources, and ultimately the African continent,
sub-Sahara particularly continue to be treated as a residual,
as a problem, as a hassle, and not mainstream. The African
continent is reflective of the 80 per cent of humanity that
is still living in the blood, and the mud, and the misery,
and the suffering, and the indignation of not being considered
really human. The 20 per cent of humanity that' s taking off
to Mars, still considers that 80 per cent as a problem, and
not as an equal, as an entity in which millions upon millions
of human beings just like us exist. Until the international
community, until the powers actually consider all of humanity
as the same entity, we will not see humanity advance. It is
not by going to Mars and leaving 80 per cent of humanity in
the mud, and the suffering, and the indignity that we can
say ultimately that humanity is advancing. It is only when
those people will have the serenity, will be treated with
the dignity, have the hope and the aspirations for future
generations that the whole of humanity will, in fact, advance.
And Rwanda is not only living in the context
of the déchirement with the ex-powers and the complexity
of ethnicities inside it' s own nation, it' s a country that
is attempting to build from the past in efforts of reconciliation
and bringing the nation back to a one single body. And it
is my belief that, in fact, reconciliation in that nation,
as in others, will be done by the women, particularly the
mothers and the children. And through education, the difference
amongst will be overcome.
Now, 1993-1994 was an era in the New World
disorder. That' s not what George Bush senior said, he said,
" New World order" , and in fact, many of us thought
that we had entered the New World order, so much so that even
though the Cold War had ended, and there was a peace dividend
being demanded, the conservative entities of the powerful
nations, and particularly the west, still believe that the
era was an era just like the past that is the normal nation
state, sovereign state situation, in which the people, the
governments, and the military continued to advance these independent
states into the future. And as such, required still classic
military capabilities because there was a classic threat ultimately.
And one could look at today the way the Americans are attempting
to surround China to sometimes question whether or not there
will ultimately 10 years or 15 years from now be a friction
that will create possibly another classic upgraded war scenario.
However, at the time, the Gulf War gave many in the west the
feeling that things were going to be just like before.
And no new military thinking, no new diplomatic
thinking actually was coming to the fore, and what we lived
in Rwanda was the belief that, in fact, the whole of the international
community would simply be going down a similar route as the
past, but in a far more peaceful scenario. And so as the example
of Rwanda, the mission was a classic chapter six. Both sides
had stopped fighting. They had a peace agreement. They were
in their trenches and waiting for the politicians to implement
that peace agreement, and ultimately just like Cyprus, a green
line or referee was required, and then it was in years the
whole of the nation would be built in a what the west considered
a democratic process.
However, that is not what was happening
under the veneer of peace, both in classic peacekeeping, and
in classic war fighting. We entered an era of conflict, where
ladies and gentlemen, many of the diplomats, political, military
and humanitarians stumbled, not only stumbled into this era
of conflict, but also ad hoc did a lot of on job training,
did a lot of crisis management, and hit and miss in many circumstances,
sometimes putting too much resources at terrible cost of life,
and other times as in Rwanda not getting involved at all,
and created orphan nations, where in fact, these people simply
didn' t count.
In that era, discussions and debates were
taken, and modes of thought in the international community
were moving. The example of the Americans in Mogadishu in
October, 1993, changed significantly the will of the western
world to actually commit itself to the betterment of the developing
world. Eighteen American soldiers were killed, professional
soldiers, who knew that everyday when they woke up, they could
be dead in some place somewhere in the world. It was part
of their way of life, their professional commitment, and 72
were injured, and 1.6 million people in uniform from that
imperial power turned pale and ran.
The Americans had entered with the Canadians,
and many other countries, and the UN into Somali because hundreds
of thousands of Somalis were dying of thirst, dying of lack
of food, medical supplies and the like. And when the Americans
pulled out, and pulled the heart out of the mission, leaving
it in the hands of Pakistanis, and Italians, and Canadians
and UN, there was still hundreds of thousands of Somalis dying
of thirst, lack of food and medical support. However, the
price had become too high. The price of 18 soldiers was too
high for the American government to actually continue in its
stated aim of helping the Somalis who were dying by the tens
of thousands. Ten soldiers were too much in the first 24 hours
of the war in Rwanda, for Belgium, the ex-colonial power to
sustain. It was a massive shock, I agree, and the Belgians
pulled out, and convinced everybody else that we should leave,
because we' d all be massacred, and nobody wanted to risk
returning into another African escapade, where the risk of
soldier' s lives was too high.
One major power came to me within the first
weeks, and said quite clearly after they did their assessment
that they were not going to come and stop the carnage. There
were bodies all over. We were already burning bodies with
diesel fuel, because of the fear of disease, and the smell,
and the wild dogs. They said, " You know, this country
is of no strategic value. Geographically, it provides us nothing.
It' s not even worth putting a radar here. Economically it'
s nothing, because there' s no strategic resources, only tea
and coffee, and those resources already the market is falling
out of those markets." They said, " In fact what
there' s too much of here is people" , and they said,
" Well we' re not going to come because of people."
And in fact, in quantifying that said, " That not only
the government, but the people of that nation could possibly
reconsider if for every soldier either killed or injured,
there would be an equivalent of 85,000 dead Rwandans."
Are all humans human or are some more human
than others? Do some count more than others? Millions were
going into Yugoslavia. Tens of thousands of troops were going
into Yugoslavia. Everybody was looking at Yugoslavia. Nobody
came to Rwanda. They pulled everything out, and abandoned
us in the field. There were more people killed, injured, internally
displaced and refugeed in 100 days in Rwanda than the six
years of the Yugoslav campaign, and yet they ripped the heart
out of the possibility of stopping, or at least curtailing,
or saving a number of black Africans. They don' t count. In
Yugoslavia, it was portrayed as long seething problems that
educated people had debated, and it' s religious, and it'
s ethnic, and it' s been something studied and analyzed. As
such, we brought in new terms, like " ethnic cleansing"
. That' s what the problem was in Yugoslavia. In Rwanda, it
was just a bunch of tribes going at each other, like they
always do. Rwanda was black. Yugoslavia was white European.
Where was the media? Where was the media
in that debate? How many got suckered in to the big game,
perceived as a big game, set up as a big game? While when
you look at humanity, and the plight within the humanity,
the big game, the real crisis was in a small country in dark
Africa that nobody really was interested in. The media and
its power is to my chagrin not controlled by the media. It
is my opinion that because of the business dimension of the
media, because of the essentiality created of certain events
and certain priorities that the media, in the main, moves
down the road of the mainstream crisis or thinking of the
world powers, and what was missing in Rwanda was essentially
the depth, the knowledge of really what was Rwanda.
O.J. Simpson, as Allan said, was on the
airwaves. Tanya Harding' s kneecapping of her colleague, her
competitor in figure skating was sneaking in trying to take
the airwaves. You had Nelson Mandela' s election. You had
Yugoslavia, and oh yes somewhere in there, a bunch of black
tribesmen in Africa are killing each other. There was more
coverage of Tanya Harding during the 3½ months of the
Rwandan genocide by ABC, CBS and NBC than the Rwandan genocide.
Now, was it because of a love of pathos? Was it because of
a love of the excitement? Was it because it was on CNN' s
radar screen that that effort was done? Or was it the hand
of someone above, guiding the media, and informing it in subtle
fashions that, " Listen, we have absolutely no interest
in going into another hellhole in Africa. We do not want to
get involved in Rwanda. So don' t get us involved." How
much of that influence actually bayed upon the leadership
of those three great media consortiums?
Ladies and gentlemen, the media like so
many others failed. We failed. The media failed. The world
powers failed. Individually we failed. How is it possible
that in the news in the evening in a country like Canada with
it' s depth of human rights and it' s belief in the individual,
that its people can watch a newscast, where one of our own
is being abused by our own judicial system, yet in the same
newscast, they' re showing thousands of human beings, barely
12 hours away, being slaughtered. We' re uproared against
our own judicial system abusing our own, but we take it in
stride the destruction of human beings far away.
How can we be so becifal (sic), and in
fact, in the media coverage, how can they be so becifal? The
media before the war started was essentially internal with
some local staffers, who were responding more often than not
to the main reporters or journalists in Nairobi. Nairobi was
a lot better and more interesting than Kigali. And so international
involvement up until the start of the war was one of, "
Is there an event? Do we go or do we just get the staffer?"
And so in the months leading to the genocide, when we opened
up the headquarters with the President, Habyarimana, there
were a number of international press. When the president was
signed in as part of the new government, there was international
press. When there was a massacre in the northwest of the country,
there was international press. But in essence, the international
press were neophytes of Rwanda to the extent that one international
media body was taking the information from a Rwandan staffer
in downtown Kigali, who was part of the extremist movement.
And so I get a call from London, oh did I mention that, saying,
" What' s going on? How come you' re doing this, and
this and this" , which were false. The staffer was feeding
false information to London, who was airing it until someone
realized that maybe we got to get another angle to this. And
thank God a person like Mark Doyle came on the ground, and
proved the whole situation wrong.
Ladies and gentlemen, people who came into
Rwanda when the war started knew nothing of Rwanda or very
little, and those who knew a lot were not necessarily listened
to. Many of the stories were simply gruesome reaccountings.
In the European press, there was a lot of discussion on recommendations
on the loss of the soldiers, on the Anglo-Franco, American,
European, colonial exercises going on at that point. But in
the heart of it, why the reconciliation had failed over the
years, and why did we let a potential peace process fall into
disarray? It was nothing.
Within the country, as you will hear in
the discussions and the debates of the panelists, media was
exceptionally important. The country is known as a radio country.
The voice of the radio is the voice at some villages in talking
to them, of near God. In the displaced camps, in the refugee
camps, at the height of the killing, you could still find
people with portable radios. Where did they get the batteries?
We couldn' t even get batteries for our flashlights. How were
they able to keep that going? And how did they continue to
advance it? The events, in fact, the media response, and in
particular, the response to the RTLM, the extremist radio.
There was a government radio that did expound the party line
of the single party nation, an nascent multi-party system,
and there was a radio handled, or under the authority of the
rebels called Radio Muhaburu, who gave their side of the debate.
We came in there bare bum. We had no radio station. We had
looked at Cambodia, how essential it had been. No radio stations
were available in the inventory of UN, and it was dropped
from the budget.
Not only did we not have a radio station
to partake in the debate, to be a platform for both sides,
to come with us and discuss, to sell our product for it became
evident that none of the radio stations in Rwanda actually
told the people that we were there. There was no information
being passed on, and all they saw was a white vehicle with
a blue flag going by at 70 kilometres per hour. That does
not explain what we were doing there. And so many Rwandans
didn' t have a clue why we were there. And those who knew
we were there, were told that we were to do so much more than
the mandate had permitted us.
The peace agreement wanted the neutral
international force to do this much. My report said about
the same. By the time, the Security Council signed my mandate,
we had that much. And although we fiddled in the margins to
go beyond the mandate, we were brought back brutally on January
11, with the response to our desire to launch offensive operations,
and in fact, disrupt the activities of the extremists. RTLM
became the voice of the devil, and through January, and February
and March, accelerated its concepts, its precepts that there
are people, who should not live in that country, and here
are the ways to eliminate them.
The war started, and all of a sudden everybody
wanted to jump on whatever aircraft or truck to get to Kigali.
They didn' t know exactly what they were looking for, but
there was excitement, and it had reached the CNN radar scope.
And so within the first days, a number of journalists did
appear, and within the first week, over 200 were sitting in
Nairobi. I have a long time ago learned that 1) you never
lie to the media ever, 2) you don' t play coy with the media,
3) you must establish a credibility with the media, 4) some
of the reporters have got to establish personal credibility
There is a great debate that went on about
the January 11 fax, in which because I received orders not
to intervene, many people felt I should have simply leaked
it to the media, and then see the reaction. You will not get
the depth of the story. You will not comprehend all the factors
that are involved in these stories if you wait, or as I say,
you work under the doctrine of in, out and a prayer for a
scoop. You will not get the story. And so as an example, if
the media had come and asked me what was going on, if they
had come and queried at this stage of the evolution of the
stagnation, and the process that was going on politically
and security wise, and asked me what were we doing, they would
have got the answer. And they could have reported what was
happening, but I was not going to leak it. You cannot be ethical
and fiddle. And so the problem of that event and that point
rests in the inability to get within the entrails of the organization
and the story.
And so ladies and gentlemen, it was fine
to come and report that they were slaughtering them by the
tens of thousands, and it was fine platoons of journalists
would come in for three or four days, and then they' d leave
so I could bring more in. And it was fine that we guaranteed
their safety, and provided them with transport, and food,
and lodging. Their people were on a budget too, so if we can
do it for free, why not? And it was absolutely essential that
every day they get their story. And I put the lives of my
troops on the line to guarantee that people got their daily
story. Not only in these places, where in fact, the catastrophe
was evolving, but also in getting their stories out. I had
officers and soldiers run the gauntlet to get the story to
my headquarters in Uganda, from which it went to Kampala and
then Nairobi for the technology was not available inside Rwanda.
And only after time did the big outfits come in and set up
their international capabilities. It was fine to do that,
in fact, ladies and gentlemen, it was essential, because within
the third week of Rwanda, where the UN had buckled under,
and had decided that it was not only not going to reinforce,
but it was going to abandon Rwanda, the only voice, the only
weapon that I had was the media. If I could shame the international
community into acting through the media, then I would have
achieved my aim. And although there were valiant efforts done
and courageous work done in the field, often it never went
beyond the editor' s desk. And the story never really got
told, and that' s why O.J. Simpson and Tanya Harding got a
lot more press than 800,000 human beings being slaughtered
The media is a two way street. I was able
to give them what they required and more, but they were also
instrumental in providing me with intelligence information.
Many of the journalists were courageous enough to go between
the lines, and they would come in, and I opened my headquarters
totally to them. The only time I didn' t want them there was
when we were doing planning of operations. The other times,
I saw journalists standing at the big map boards with my operations
duty officers, and they' re marking on the map, and then saying,
" Yes I' ve been through there, and yeah there is a massacre
site there, and yes there are about 50,000 people on the side
of that hill over there." The exchange was transparent.
The credibility had been established, and individuals had
come into my realm of decision. People, as an example, like
Mark Doyle stayed throughout, and he stayed throughout because
he was there before. And he and I exchanged continuously.
Yes, establishing an intimate, or least a human link between
the authorities and yourselves based on credibility will give
dividends beyond your wildest expectations, and when it was
said " off the record" with those people, it was
off the record.
And so ladies and gentlemen, I have spoken
too long, and I wish only to present to you the multifacetedness
of the media, and how significant it can be considered as
a weapon to advance a situation, as well as a conscience to
humanity and to the local, both inside and beyond. I will
give you what I consider the most perverse abuse of the media
in Rwanda, perverse and the most unethical. I was against
children being exported. Everybody wanted to come and take
the poor children away, and I kept telling them that we don'
t export Rwandans, we help them. We build orphanages. We protect
them. We feed them. We talk to them. We teach them how to
laugh again, and so the money you want to move a dozen or
two, I can build an orphanage and feed 1,000. And so my superiors
gave me an order to permit this nation to come in and to take
some of the children from Rwanda. The nation was France, and
the front man was Bernard Kouchner and essentially the argument
was that Paris could not handle any more seeing these children
being abused and destroyed, and something had to be done.
And so under duress, I let 60 children, who were badly injured,
on a Canadian Hercules airplane, go to Nairobi, where a hospital
aircraft was to bring them from there to Paris. And so the
plan went on, the children in the Hercules aircraft landed
in Nairobi, but the hospital aircraft was not there. They
waited nine hours on the tarmac in the heat, and one child
died, because the Kenyans didn' t want them off the aircraft.
And finally the aircraft came in, and the hospital aircraft,
and we loaded them, and they went back home. And when we queried
" Why was there a delay?" the candid response…was
that if we had stayed with the original plan, the children
would have arrived around midnight, and so in order to get
maximum impact, we delayed by 9 hours so the children would
arrive in Paris at 10 o' clock in the morning, and ultimately
that lead to an operation that I can be very caustic about
it' s ulterior aims.
Ladies and gentleman, you are powerful
individually and collectively, but you can be set up so easily
if the depth of the subject is not there. Thank you so much.