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Panel 4: Preventing Genocide
Frank Chalk
Philippe Dahinden
Mark Frohardt
Paul Heinbecker
Questions »

Panel 4: Preventing Genocide: the International Architecture of Media and Humanitarian Intervention > Question Period

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Paul Heinbecker (left) and Romeo Dallaire listen to questions

General Dallaire: As the subject is preventing genocide, some of the examples before we enter the next phase of this panel. Two weeks before the Americans launched into Iraq, the President of United States stated on the State of the Union, which is more and more becoming State of the World, he said that the United States is not going to do like the UN and what it did in Rwanda, it’s going to intervene. When we know ladies and gentlemen that, in fact, the United States was one of the leading countries that prevented the intervention in Rwanda, you got to wonder about history, and the idea and the aims of that nation in prevention. Sir.

Jean-Marie Higiro

Jean-Marie Higiro, Associate Professor in the Department of Communication at Western New England College, former Director of the Rwandan Information Office: My first question, I would like to come back to the intervention made by the last speaker, and also by Frank Chalk. Who would make the decisions if there are early warnings of genocide? Who will determine that a genocide is about to occur? And somebody supposedly was mentioned, who would implement those responses? Recently, I was browsing the Internet, and somehow I came across a report on Ethiopia. Somehow there is a group in Ethiopia, who is being killed. Now, we do know that some countries in Africa have leaders, who are the darling sons of the most powerful countries in the world. So how would you then intervene? These are people who have a lot of support. That is my first question.

General Dallaire: Yes please, response?

Frank Chalk: Okay. I’m not sure whether you’re referring to the Oromo or the Anuak, but I’ll respond, because it’s a general problem, as well as a specific problem. It would be dishonest of anybody to claim that the chances for intervention in an ongoing mass killing are high when that country is under the protection, and in an alliance with the most powerful nations on the face of the earth. So let’s start there. Let’s recognize that. That’s true. It’s highly unlikely. In the case of East Pakistan in 1971, the alliance between China and Pakistan discouraged the United States from intervening, and Henry Kissinger supported continued military assistance to the army of West Pakistan for fear, we talk about the most powerful nation on earth, but he was engaged in his China diplomacy, and he was using Pakistan as a conduit, and he didn’t want to offend the generals in Pakistan, and so he refused to cut off all of the military aid going to Pakistan, while 10 million refugees were forced to flee to India, and approximately 1 million were killed, and tens of thousands of Bengali women were raped. And not much was done until India, which had no reason to be loyal to the United States, took the opportunity of all these refugees flooding into their camps, to intervene. India then suffered international condemnation, lost it’s western foreign aid, became more reliant on the Soviet Union as a consequence, and paid for many years for this.

I’ll be brief here, I’ll just give you one more example, in 1978-79, Vietnam invaded Cambodia after being provoked by the Khmer Rouge regime on numerous occasions, overthrew the most murderous regime we’ve ever seen in southeast Asia, and was penalized for that act by being denied foreign aid again for many years to come, and condemned by the United Nations for transgressing national borders. So let’s recognize not only that the odds are slim of getting great power intervention, but also that even those nations that seek to intervene will pay a price. I’m not arguing they had humanitarian motives for these interventions, but they did stop these ongoing genocides. However, I think Ambassador Heinbecker has pointed to a very important new development, and I want to pass it over to him now, or pass the mic over to him now so he can comment on this, because I think this fantastically good report that the commission has brought in, which I have read, and which was distributed in January at the Stockholm Conference on the Prevention of Genocide, marks a real landmark of creative and rigorous new thinking about what we can do, but it will all happen within the framework that the question gave us.

Paul Heinbecker: On who decides, and whether anybody decides, after the presentation of this commission report, there was a retreat of the Security Council. They have them periodically, and the Secretary General asked the countries present, in light of what was happening in Burundi at the time, whether they would be prepared to intervene, and it transpired as the discussion took place that none of the major powers, the representatives of none of the major powers who were present at this retreat, thought that their countries would intervene. That if the same thing began to happen in Burundi that happened in Rwanda, there would be no intervention. I don’t actually believe that. It may be just a personality trait, maybe I’m foolishly optimistic, but I think the world has got that message. I think when you look at what the French did in Bunya, the British action in Sierra Leone, some sort of intervention that took place in Liberia, I think that we are making progress. We’ve seen some mandates for UN missions that required them to protect civilians. Not very much, but some. When you think about it, Canadians I’m sure, assume that peacekeeping missions are there to protect people, and they’d be shocked to read the mandates to find that that isn’t the case. Sorry.

General Dallaire: Thank you.

Jean-Marie Higiro: My last question is addressed to Philippe Dahinden. In those countries where there are indications that genocide could be perpetrated, and often these are countries with dictatorial systems of government. If you want to intervene, when would you intervene? Because if you intervene after the genocide, then it’s too late to do anything. Of course, you can use the media in order to encourage reconciliation, but I would imagine that intervention should take place beforehand in a country, as I said, which is run by a dictatorship. So what can be done? So where should you start?

Philippe Dahinden: Well in my view, this leads to a broader question, a more wide ranging question than we can address here, that is the actual right of interference. If you want to provide information to a country which refuses it, which gives no possibility for the domestic journalists, or even less international journalists, who are working with the domestic or international journalists in such a case, then we have to ask a question, that is could it be done from the outside for a limited time in conditions which we’ve just heard? For example, the question is when is it possible to come and assist a civil population that is being manipulated and mistreated? When can information be given from outside the country? I think really, that the real problem, is to decide what security to those people working in that kind of operation, because inevitably there have to journalists there inside the country. Today, with Internet and other means, then in a quite discrete way you can get information out, but you have to recognize that these journalists will be very exposed.

So I’d say one other thing also, namely, unfortunately we often come too late. For example, the situation really is so locked up, that we weren’t able to get in before. Foreign organizations such as ours, or people who work in our organization, well it’s also because there’s no geopolitical interest of the international community, therefore they won’t fund or assist this kind of project, but there are situations where unfortunately the crisis is repeated. For example, the Great Lakes region, we came there too late for the genocide, because by the time we set up a radio station, this takes about a month, a month and a half, it was a bit too late unfortunately, but then other things happened in the region, and I think that while in those we did help a little bit to prevent some.

General Dallaire: Very good. Thank you very much. Now a few questions. Any questions from the floor. We’ve got about 10 minutes left. So I’ll start on the right side. That has nothing to do with my political sympathies. Go ahead young man.

Unknown questionner: Thank you very much. I’m an international consultant. We can see really a failure of institutions in general, beginning with the United Nations, going onto government, western government, of course, the armies also, the church also or churches. So we can see really there is a failure here on the part of institutions. Everyone saw this. Everyone knew this when they saw the genocide which took place in Rwanda, nothing was done. So what we see here by reviewing the situation now, well we can conclude is a failure. So I’ll come to my question now to Dr. Frank, or Paul, or General Dallaire could answer also. The institution that I would propose, that I would dream of is it here, do we have something, namely university, research, information? Am I dreaming when I say that if I were to propose that? That you can abolish national armies, is that just a dream, or is it something that could be considered, that is abolishing national armies in order to set up an armed institution, which has a monopoly of violence there. Thank you very much.

General Dallaire: Thank you, thank you. An answer please, I think he asked you the question.

Frank Chalk: Why don’t you start this time?

General Dallaire: Yes. So the question is quite simple, the institutions in place at the present time, which have failed, could they be replaced? Could they be replaced by another structure of institutions, and particularly could be eliminate the armed forces in the future so as to promote the cause of peace and humanity? I think that’s a fair summary. Please go ahead.

Frank Chalk: I can pick it up. I just didn’t want to hog it. I heard my name. When I interviewed the military liaison officer between the Pentagon and the State Department, who was in place at the time of the Rwanda genocide, and also had been active in the Somalia sphere in 1993, he said to me, both about Somalia and about Rwanda, “the American military could have handled this assignment.” Many officers of the American army were devastated by President Clinton’s decision that for political reasons, the American Armed Forces should be withdrawn from Somalia. We heard a lot about the Joint Chiefs of Staff at high level, but in the middle level ranks of the American Armed Forces, and among the Special Forces, and others who knew the situation well, they were devastated. They didn’t want to leave after suffering a handful of casualties. General Dallaire actually sounds to me, when he points out that a relatively small number of deaths in the American army caused the withdrawal, like these American army officers. They’re not happy about it any more than he is, or we are. So I don’t think it’s just a dream that we’ll have action. I think that a lot of the military in the western democracies, and the British in Sierra Leone were another example, are willing to take responsibility. Yes it may happen through executive outcomes at the beginning, then they may have to switch to the real army, etc., but I think the will is there. The problem is not the military. The problem we have with the military is that guys like me, who oppose the war in Viet Nam in the late ’60s, and early ’70s, before there was Somalia, did a pretty good job. And American politicians certainly are still afraid of what we call “The Vietmalia syndrome,” the integration of the two; Vietnam and Somalia. But I think it was General Bush, who said to us in 1998 on the 50th anniversary of the UN Genocide Convention and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, he said, “Chalk, you sound like one of those B-52 liberals calling on us to intervene,” and I said, “yes General, I have become a B5-2 liberal after all of those years.” And I think there is a lot of popular support for intervention.

General Dallaire: Anybody else?

Paul Heinbecker: I would just like to add I don’t think the problem is with the military, it is with the government, and if there’s a deficit at the UN, the deficit is in the membership. The UN is not some independent entity that can act or not act. It really is with the governments, and we’ve seen, as I said with that anecdote with President Clinton, that people do make a difference in either direction in that case.

General Dallaire: Very rapidly if I may. When the Kofi Annan went and asked the nations to provide troops, there was an entente that had been signed in September of1993, where 68 nations had agreed that if Kofi Annan needs troops, they would respond. All 68 nations refused to send any troops. On January 13, which is two days after January 11 fax where we described in great detail what was going to happen including the massacres, and the support of other information on massacres, and we informed the ‘big three’ in Rwanda of that. None of them, even through their ambassadors were prepared to have their forces intervene in a proactive fashion. They couldn’t substantiate it back home. If sending troops in there prevented it from happening, was that the right decision? Did, in fact, did they have to send the troops, and did they have to spend all that money and risk other situations? None of them had the fundamental courage to take that risk of going in, solving a problem that may have never appeared in the eyes of the population.

Lastly, the doves of the Cold War, and now the hawks of this era, and I believe fundamentally that what we’re asking our military is not to fight wars in the classic sense, but in fact, to acquire a whole new set of skills. Skills that are in conflict resolution in which we can, in fact, resolve conflicts, participate in an integrative way with the humanitarians and the diplomats in a whole new sequence of solutioning these complex problems versus the old Cold War methods of a military plan, a civilian plan, and so on. So there’s great optimism in the future use of forces as long as you can move away the conservatives, who are simply expecting World War Three to happen next week. Sir.

Unknown questionner: Thank you. My question is to any member of the panel, even to the organizer of this conference. The role of the media as we pointed out, the positive role of the democratic media in the prevention of catastrophes, such as genocide, but sometimes at first sight, a word which seems to be quite innocuous lead to an unexpected or undesired result. For example, as we’re approaching the 10th anniversary, if you wil,l of the genocide against the people in Rwanda, the media tend to use the term “genocide” of the people of Rwanda. Was there, in fact, a Rwandese genocide, a Rwanda genocide? There was an Armenian genocide committed. There was a Jewish genocide also committed by the Nazis, but there was a genocide of the people of Rwanda? We know that the people who were targeted at the time were Tutsi, moderate Hutu also, and democratic people were massacred also, but for the genocide, it was the Tutsi. So I think really we should have the courage really to call a spade a spade here. Don’t you think if we’re to do that, it might contribute, if we were to take this approach to tend to forget certain aspects involved here?

General Dallaire: Well I will answer that if I may, that essentially the Rwanda genocide, one, it’s the Rwandan people, who actually committed the genocide, and in this context you have to use that term. Now the target wasn’t only the Tutsi, but it was also moderates around them, but particularly the major target was the destruction of a philosophy of life, a philosophy of a nation, that is the philosophy of reconciliation, and they eliminated this philosophy, and in so doing, they eliminated at the same time hundreds of thousands of Tutsis. Anybody else? We one more question.

Unknown questionner: Natalie (?) from the International Bureau for Children’s Rights in Montreal. I’ll ask my question in English. I don’t have the training as a journalist. So it might seem a bit naïve, my question. I know that certain non-governmental organizations choose not to speak out against certain violent events. So when you decide to become a journalist, when you work for a press agency, when you actually observe or hear about violent events, which are disturbing, does the question arise? That is, should you publish or not? Should you report the news or not regardless, of the reason chosen to do so, not to do so? And if the question does arise, what are the obstacles you have to overcome? And is there a more conducive time when you decide to publish your piece of news of when you’re a journalist, because you’re sure, or can you always be sure that you will, in fact, be able to report disturbing piece of news?

Philippe Dahinden: Well I’ll answer first, because I guess it directed to me. In a zone of conflict, there’s no reason not to give the same information as elsewhere, but you need to be a lot more rigorous about it. You have to be a lot more vigilant is the term we used today, because the consequences could be enormous. But I think if you don’t give information, it’s worse, because then there’ll be rumors. There’ll be disinformation. Therefore you have to take certain precautions as a journalist. When you’re talking about very sensitive information, when you’re in an area, where there’s a great deal of violence, so you have to stick only to the facts. Don’t make any comment, and do this in such an austere way as possible, and the most sober way possible. I’ll give you two examples. I was in Bukavu. There was a demonstration by students, which was put down by Mobutu’s military, and two people were killed. The national radio would never have dared talk about that. We talked about it. But we simply said that a demonstration had been organized by the students for a certain reason, that the force of order considered the public order had been disturbed. They intervened, and there were two people killed. Two people died. We didn’t repeat it 10 times for two weeks. That’s an example that I can give you.

The second point was recently. In the radio station, which I put up with other journalists in the Congo in Kisangani, a larger city, a large town by the Congo River, there was a mutiny. They tried to take over, the military mutineers, they took over the radio station in the morning. There were massacres, killings in working class areas, and when we broadcast the news, we were the only one to have the news, because even the military people there were not able to go into that neighborhood. So our journalists collected evidence in Swahili, the language that is spoken in that region. We listened 10 times, 20 times for a long time. We had it translated by a Swahili journalist to be sure that we’re going to broadcast something, which could not be interpreted. For example, there was one person, who said, “I saw the military arrive. They killed everyone.” No doubt he was telling the truth, given what he himself had seen, but we didn’t have a number there. If we had, in fact, broadcast that, that interview as such, then it could have been far open to interpretation, therefore we got rid of it. So have to be very vigilant. I remember we on after midnight, listening to each piece of evidence, and choosing only those, which we could be sure could not be interpreted in a different way. However, we did say the truth. We did repeat what people said in the neighborhood. That’s something else, which is very interesting is that these people said to us, “But is the UN doing? The UN is there to observe the corpses. There’s UN mission, people are being killed, and the UN is doing nothing.” And the radio station, which we set up, Radio Okapi, we set that up in cooperation with the UN, and the UN played along. It admitted this radio station was able to criticize it, or disseminate information criticizing. So except in exceptional cases, where you put in danger thousands of people by giving information, I mean in hostage taking incidents. There are cases, of course, where you have a very limited ability, and really have to keep the information quiet, but that’s exceptional. In most cases, you can find a way of saying it. You have to give the information, and if not you must realize that it will leave the field open to rumors, and for example in Bukavu, people will tell you that hundreds of students were killed, others would say something else. So it’s far better just to tell the truth.

General Dallaire: Thank you. We’ve got permission for two other questions very quickly. Please go ahead quickly.

Unknown questioner: Thank you. Good day. I’m (?). I’m a survivor of the Tutsi genocide. I was in Rwanda in ’94, and I worked as a journalist for five years in Rwanda. I saw that very few people spoke about journalists, who were killed during the genocide. You talked at length about the genocide media, and journalists, who propagated hatred, but there’s a risk here. We might tend to overlook the fact that many journalists had, in fact, resisted this hate propaganda, and did fight the genocide right to the death. Kangura, everyone knows Kangura now, but very few people know about Kanguka, which was poles apart from Kangura, and the head of this was killed. I think we risk having genocide without victims, and if mechanisms were set in place to keep alive the memory with concrete facts, for example, if there was a fund, an award which could be set up for journalists, who were gallant, who died because of their bravery. Secondly, in Ottawa, we have an association, Humura which is organizing the 10th commemoration of genocide…

General Dallaire: Well it’s here, please ask your question.

Unknown questioner: My question is how should we think about this. How can we possibly remember these people? Humura wants to set up a reference library on genocide. We would ask the authors of works on genocide to contribute copies to this reference library. If you contribute, I’d be very grateful. Thank you.

General Dallaire: Well thank you very much for wanting to immortalize, as you put it, the genocide, and there’s no doubt that through journalists, who conduct investigations, who raise certain questions as a result of this, they probably will not forget the scope of this genocide, the fact the genocide took place, although some people do tend to forget it. We’ll end with you. I’d like to thank everybody else. Also we’re not taking any more questions.

Unknown questioner: Thank you. My question is for Mark Frohardt, I’m sorry I can’t see that far. Regarding your study, among your conclusions was that the monitoring and reviewing of vulnerable media was crucial. I was wondering if you meant internal monitoring by academics, or by governments, or by the media, institutions themselves, or external, and secondary to that, what will you do with the results of this monitoring? How would you turn them into real and useful information for people to act on?

Mark Frohardt: First of all, thank you for the question. I was wondering how overwhelming my presentation was, or underwhelming. In any case, I would say that one of the things that I tried to focus on here in this paper, which can be found at the USIP website if one wants to look at it more extensively. It does look at various forms of intervention, later forms of intervention, but for me I think that the most important is the earliest, because that is when you can actually create a local capacity to address these problems where you don’t have to wait until it gets to a point where the interventions demand a more large scale force, whether it be military or humanitarian. So in this case with regard to monitoring and evaluation, the most effective form of monitoring of the media is done by peer review. It is done when journalists monitor themselves, when they establish organizations. They establish associations. They develop ethical codes of conduct, and they criticize each other when they start to report in a non-professional fashion. And so I would say that we would always support the idea of working at a level that would try and foster that type of development and peer review. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen in Rwanda and elsewhere, there are several situations, which get much too far along the way, where that is not possible, and as Philippe has mentioned earlier, there are situations in which it’s impossible for media organizations to do much of anything. And in those cases, there needs to be something, which is external. There needs to be some type of international forum or a system for monitoring. The United States has FBIS, the Foreign Broadcast Information Service. BBC has BBC monitoring. There have been local monitoring systems set up, for example, in conflict areas, or post-conflict areas, for example, in East Timor. All of these are noble efforts, but none of them are comprehensive enough now to actually have a network, where people are going to really pay attention, especially in some of the most vulnerable societies. There are societies where media is vulnerable. Those are a lot of times not the ones which are being covered by these monitoring organs.

So what I would say is that there needs to be a more structure for monitoring, but that needs to include organizations, which not only can help gather that information, and help the development of local organizations that can gather this information, but also can have an agreed-on plan on what they are going to do with it, and that’s the reason why I mention the importance of working with donors and international institutions ahead of time, because we need to be able to first of all, have the systems in place to monitor, but then we also have to have a system in place of what we’re going to do when we identify there are problems. And so yes there does definitely need to be an international effort, but at the same time, we would like to think that you could start locally first.

General Dallaire: Well thank you very much gentlemen. If I may conclude this before we hand over to our leader. It is my experience, and as I go across the country talking about conflict and conflict resolution, it seems to me that the future of many of the organs that may prevent conflict lays in the hands of the NGOs. And I consider the NGO community to be still a very immature structure, and it doesn’t realize the full potential that it can have, and certainly journalists, who can work not only their professional and direct missions and roles that they have, but also strengthen international journalists, NGOs can I think do a lot in enhancing their position within the world of conflict and conflict resolution. Thank you.

Next: Closing



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