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Opening by Symposium Chair, Allan Thompson,
Assistant Professor, School of Journalism and Communication,
Allan Thompson introduces
keynote speaker Romeo Dallaire
Allan Thompson: Good morning
ladies and gentleman. Welcome to Carleton University, and
to this symposium " The Media and the Rwanda Genocide."
Just a few weeks before the 10th anniversary of the Rwanda
genocide, we have set out to explore both the international
media coverage of the genocide, and the role played by domestic
media in Rwanda. We will also examine the issue of media intervention
before, during and after such a conflict. My name is Allan
Thompson. I' m an Assistant Professor in the Journalism faculty
here at Carleton, and I will be acting as the chair of this
It is fitting that Canada' s premier School
of Journalism and Communication, here at Carleton, should
play host to an event of this magnitude. Journalism has been
central to Carleton' s mission since the university' s earliest
days. Today, the school has nearly 900 undergraduate and graduate
students majoring in its Journalism and Mass Communications
Programs. What better place to gather for a serious debate
about the role of the news media in the cataclysmic events
in Rwanda in 1994.
Romeo Dallaire, who will deliver this morning'
s keynote address, subtitled his memoir " The Failure
of Humanity in Rwanda" . What part did the news media
play in that failure? At every turn it seems, we return to
a troubling equation, an equation that implicates the news
media, both within Rwanda and internationally, in the genocide.
The issue of hate media in Rwanda has drawn considerable attention,
and it has become almost a truism by now to state that the
international media missed the story in Rwanda, and yet these
two sides of the media equation have rarely been examined
Today, we bring together all of the main
players in this discussion, gathered in one place for the
first time. This symposium involves not only the people in
this hall. Others are seated in an overflow room upstairs,
and around the world scores more are participating through
a live webcast on the symposium website. Notably, the webcast
is being monitored by students and faculty at the School of
Journalism and Communication at the National University of
Rwanda, in Butare. In addition, today' s proceedings are being
recorded for broadcast by CPAC, Canada' s political channel,
and arrangements are already being made for the publication
of an edited volume of the papers presented during this symposium.
I would also like to draw to your attention in your program
a copy of a statement to the symposium from the Secretary
General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan.
We have a full day ahead of us, and difficult
issues to confront. While the world stood by, the Rwanda genocide
claimed the lives of an estimated 800,000 people in the space
of 100 days. It' s widely held that most international news
organizations initially misunderstood the nature of the killing
in Rwanda. On the night that the Rwanda genocide began, April
6, 1994, many television views in the west were transfixed
by another event; live television coverage of actor, O.J.
Simpson, riding in his Bronco, away from his Brentwood home.
There is some debate whether or not more informed and comprehensive
coverage of the Rwanda genocide might have mitigated or even
halted the killing by sparking an international outcry. Some
have asked, " Did the western media' s failure to report
adequately on the genocide possibly contribute to international
indifference, and hence the crime itself?" And there
is abundant evidence that within Rwanda, hate radio broadcasts
were instrumental in fanning the flames, and implicating ordinary
people in the extermination campaign.
When does journalism become genocide? How
should we respond to the drumbeat of hate media? How do we
navigate the grey zone of media intervention without violating
cherished principles of freedom of expression? The objective
of this symposium is to examine the historical experience
of the Rwanda genocide as part of a broader discussion of
the role of the news media in conflict prevention or resolution.
Before I introduce our keynote speaker,
I would like to give you a very quick preview of the day ahead.
The full details, complete with biographies of all of the
panelists are included in the program. Panel 1 will examine
the role of hate media in Rwanda. Panel 2 will expose in detail
the Rwanda tribunal' s recent landmark verdict in the medial
trial. After lunch, we will switch to the other side of the
equation, and turn our attention to international media coverage
of the genocide. Panel 3 will feature leading journalists,
who reported daily on the horror of the genocide, and others
who have analyzed the impact of western media coverage. Finally,
Panel 4 will confront the way forward, and the complicated
question of media intervention.
I will remind you of this later, but don'
t forget lunch will be served at 1:00 p.m. in the Fresh Food
Company Buffet in the residence commons. If anyone needs assistance
to find their way through the tunnels or above ground, look
for someone with a volunteer tag.
At the end of the day, there will be a
reception upstairs in the upper foyer, and I would also like
to draw to your attention in the upper foyer a number of books
about the genocide are on sale. All of these books including
General Dallaire' s " Shake Hands with the Devil"
are being sold at a special discount for this event. The upper
foyer also features an exhibit by Toronto artist Gertrude
Kearns, so I would again draw it to your attention.
This event was made possible by generous
contributions from the International Development Research
Centre and the government of Canada through the Global Issues
Bureau of the Foreign Affairs Department, and the Canadian
International Development Agency. I would like to thank Foreign
Affairs Minister, Bill Graham, who hosted a special reception
last evening on Parliament Hill for all of our panelists.
I would also like to thank Professor Chris Dornan, Director
of the School of Journalism and Dean Katherine Graham, Dean
of the Faculty of Public Affairs and Management, for their
support. This event could not have come together without hours
and hours of work by our Logistics Coordinator Claire Fitzpatrick,
our Registrar Nancy Huang, Computer Technician Roger Martin,
and Heba Aly, who headed our team of student volunteers. Many
other members of the staff here at Carleton helped to pull
this event together, and for this I thank them.
I thank particularly the panelists, who
are joining us here today. This is a virtual who' s who on
the question of Rwanda and the media, and many people have
traveled a great distance to be with us, and we' re privileged
to have them here. We have also invited two of the faculty
members from the School of Journalism in Rwanda, Jean Pierre
Gatsinzi and Ines Mpambara to join us here today so that we
can begin to explore how we can work together. And with the
help of CIDA and IDRC, we have arranged for a delegation of
leading African journalists to travel to Ottawa to participate
in this event, and those journalists come, in addition to
Rwanda, from Burundi, Sierra Leone, Cameroon and Congo.
Without further delay, I would like to
introduce our keynote speaker this morning, a man who has
given his strong moral support to this event. Lt-Gen Romeo
Dallaire. General Dallaire is one of those people, who needs
no introduction, but richly deserves one anyway. His military
colleagues still call him " the general" . Friends
call him Romeo, and others, they just call, and call, and
call, hoping to get him on the phone. Even before the publication
of his best selling memoir " Shake Hands with the Devil"
, General Dallaire was one of Canada' s most sought after
public speakers. He served as an advisor to CIDA on war-effected
children, as well as a consultant to the Canadian military
and the Veterans Affairs department, and of course, he has
his new life as a best selling author. In fact, he' s already
talking about his second book on conflict resolution. He begins
work on that project this fall as a research fellow at Harvard
University' s prestigious Carr Center for Human Rights Policy.
We are honored to have him with us today.
As the world returns it' s gaze to Rwanda,
however briefly, Romeo Dallaire still stands front and center.
In some ways, it is as if he never left. His personal story
has now become almost the stuff of legend, but in the context
of this event, the outline bears repeating.
A career officer in the Canadian army,
General Dallaire went to Rwanda in late 1993, and became Force
Commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission to Rwanda
(UNAMIR). His friends and family will tell you that the Romeo
Dallaire who went off to Africa that fall never returned.
His mission was to a postage stamp sized country in a corner
of Africa, a place that barely registered on the map before
an explosion of brutality. General Dallaire commanded the
ill-equipped UN force of 2,500 troops that was reduced to
450, and left high and dry by the international community.
Many of the hundreds of thousands of Rwandans, who were slaughtered
huddled in churches for sanctuary. Death squads lobbed in
grenades. In their frenzy, killers severed the Achilles' tendon
the heels of their victims so they could return and finish
the job later. Teachers killed students. Neighbor slaughtered
neighbor as local officials helped organize the killing. Months
before the genocide, General Dallaire told his superiors at
UN Headquarters in New York that there was an informant who
claimed the Hutu extremists were plotting mass killing, but
General Dallaire was told that it was beyond his mandate to
raid arms caches or to intervene. Once the massacres began,
his force was left virtually powerless to stop the killing,
and his cries for reinforcement and international intervention
fell on deaf ears.
After he returned to Canada in mid 1994,
there were telltale signs that General Dallaire was suffering
from post-traumatic stress disorder. In April, 2000, he left
the Canadian Armed Forces on medical grounds, but he very
quickly took on other roles; first as a special advisor to
the Canadian International Development Agency on the plight
of war-effected children, and throughout, he has remained
a tireless advocate for the memory of what happened in Rwanda.
General Dallaire served in Rwanda as a
military man, a general, the force commander, and yet he has
emerged all of these years later as one of the most important
chroniclers of those events. He has also evolved into something
of a touchstone, the world' s conscience on the question of
Rwanda. Sadly, I think General Dallaire' s honesty and willingness
to lay bare his soul in public has probably resulted in him
being typecast by media coverage, and yet he has so much more
In the course of promoting this event,
I made calls to a number of media organizations. One journalist
reacted this way. " Oh Rwanda, 10 years later, how sad,
but I can' t cover this event. I' m on holiday, but even if
I weren' t on holiday, I don' t think my newspaper would send
me anyway. Why don' t you try one of the university newspapers
or the alternative media." To some degree, the media
ambivalence continues, and yet look at the crowd, and look
at the number of people who care enough to devote a weekend
to this issue, and to hear the message of our keynote speaker.
A couple of months ago when I was reading
General Dallaire' s book, my little boy, who is a four-year-old
asked me, " Who is the man on the cover of that book?"
and I struggled for words to try and explain to him who this
person was and what he did, and told him this man was a soldier,
who served in Rwanda, in a country where there was a war,
where people were being hurt, and he tried to help people.
And I said some people say that he is a hero, and my son,
wide-eyed, turned to me and said, " A super hero"
. I said, " Yes, yes a super hero." To which he
replied, " You mean like Batman!" Hero. I can think
of no better word to describe our keynote speaker this morning.
General Dallaire, Romeo, we' re honored to have you with us
today, and I would invite you to deliver the keynote address.