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An Analysis of Romeo Dallaire’s View on the Rwandan Genocide

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An Analysis of Romeo Dallaire’s view on the Rwandan Genocide

Conrad Pietrzak

Gr. 10 History

Dr. Enrico Cumbo

June 11, 2018

The United Nations (UN) Peacekeeping initiative is an organization with its founding ambitions lying in the promise to bring peace and stability to a world of conflict.  It has had respectable impact, making the world we live in more peaceful and hospitable. Although, its interventions have brought many successes[1] in operations such as Cambodia, El Salvador, Guatemala and others, there are examples of the organization’s occasionally catastrophic failure. The quintessence of this failure can be regarded as the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR), where French-Canadian General Romeo Dallaire, with his grossly under-manned and under-supplied operation force, was forced to watch as the internal conflicts in the small African country boiled over into the bloody civil war resulting in the mass genocide of 800,000 Tutsi people. The combination of undeceive bureaucratic nature along with the unwillingness of world powers to come to the aid of a needing people, have resulted in some of the modern worlds greatest crimes against humanity. The previously devoted soldier and loyal peacekeeper; Romeo Dallaire, in his written account “Shake Hand with the Devil- The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda” sheds the day-by-day reality of the war, described with all the emotion and actuality of the real thing. He also brings to light the disregard for the loss of human life, shown by the world’s larger powers as well the UN itself. With all this in mind, this paper, using Dallaire’s book “Shake Hand with the Devil” and its accompanying review as the main points of reference, will look at how the Canadian general’s actions and decisions during the conflict were predominantly correct, considering his circumstance, while also agreeing with his opinions regarding the lack of global involvement during the crisis. Definitions “actions and decisions” as, the totality of Romeo Dallaire’s physical manoeuvres conducted during his command in Rwanda, “predominantly correct, considering his circumstance” as, mostly done right, regarding his moral, ethical and duty[2] parameters while appreciating and recognizing reasonability for him to preform to the degree that he did in the situation he was under, “agreeing with his opinions” as, seeing validity and correctness in his points/statements and “lack of global involvement” as, the minimal or non-existent constructive input[3] of the world’s appropriate nations who’s shier size and presence denotes an inherent moral and political responsibility to contribute to the UNAMIR mission. This paper will be looking at the events concerning General Romeo Dallaire’s time as a commanding officer in the UNAMIR mission between of June 1993 and September of 1994 and the political landscape during and directly following, his book “Shake Hand with the Devil- The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda”, the book’s review as part of “International Journal, Vol. 59, No. 2 (Spring, 2004)” reviewed by Dr. of History, Roger Sarty and a book critic article by The Guardian’s Gil Courtemanche, a Canadian progressive journalist and novelist in third-world and international politics.

The immediate roots of the conflict in Rwanda date back to the First World War, when Belgium took over ownership of the former German colony. The Belgians promoted the minority Tutsi tribe as the elite administrative class of their new colony until revolution by the Hutu majority brought national independence in 1962. Violent repression by the new Hutu-dominated government caused hundreds of thousands of Tutsis to flee, mainly to neighbouring Uganda. The Tutsi repeatedly mounted cross-border attacks in an effort to bring down the Hutu regime and allow a return of the refugees to their homes. In 1990 the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), led by Tutsis who had become capable soldiers in Uganda's internal conflicts, launched an offensive that would have defeated the Hutu led government’s force under President Habyarimana, if not for the assistance the latter received from France and Belgium. This prolonged the conflict, allowing the two sides to become more equal in fighting strength. The conflict was coming to a close in the early parts of 1993. Following stalemate on the battlefield, the warring parties committed themselves to the rapid creation of a joint transitional government and military demobilization. It was only at this point that the UN enters the equation, after receiving requests from both parties for a UN force to supervise the transition and disarmament. The UN conceived the UNAMIR mission in great hope, as they needed a success after the apparent failures[4] in Somalia and the Balkans and at face value  the UN saw the Rwandan commitment as a possible low-cost success. Romeo Dallaire was chosen as the leading commander for the mission, unaware of the true situation in Rwanda the UN set him in undermanned and unprepared for any major conflicts. Upon his arrival in fall of 93’ what he saw was “that agreement [between the two forces] - if, in fact, it had ever existed - was crumbling”[5]. Despite all the best efforts of the mission, violence still in sued. With the Rwandan government forces, extremist "Hutu Power" elements were assembling weapons caches and secretly training militia systematically to slaughter Hutu political moderates (the key element in the peace accords) and massacre the Tutsi population. When Dallaire learned of this he immediately passed this information to UN headquarters in New York and announced his intention to seize the weapons caches. Upon hearing this “Headquarters instantly instructed him to desist, and, as required under his limited mandate, to inform the Rwandan government - the very body implicated in the scheme - of all that he knew”.[6]  The major spark for the coming months of hate and death was the mysterious crash of the president's aircraft the night April 6th 1994 as it landed at Kigali (Rwanda’s capital) airport, killing all on board. Although this tragedy, Dallaire’s was informed that the president power had already been usurped by more extreme elements the Hutu Power. Colonel Theoneste Bagosora the man who filled the Rwandan government’s power vacuum, whom Dallaire previously suspected of leading the extremist elements, delivered the news of the crash.

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