KAGAME WANTED UN WEAPONS
The following newspaper article describes Paul Kagame's thoughts about General Dallaire's and the United Nations' failure to stop the Rwandan genocide. ~ Jackie Jura
UN's inaction almost led Tutsis to capture Dallaire's weapons
Rwanda's leader says he wanted to overpower Canadian-led force
By Stephanie Nolen, Globe & Mail, Apr 5, 2004
KIGALI -- Rwandan President Paul Kagame says he was so frustrated by the UN's failure to intervene in the 1994 genocide in his country that he contemplated overpowering the United Nations peacekeeping force, led by Canadian Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire, and seizing its arms to stop the massacres.
"Dallaire had soldiers, weapons and armoured personnel carriers, and I confess for the first time that I contemplated taking those arms from him by force," Mr. Kagame told an audience at an International Conference on Genocide Prevention in Kigali, Rwanda's capital.
He said he had never spoken publicly about this before and that he wanted to talk to Gen. Dallaire about it. The general, who is in Rwanda as the country marks the 10th anniversary of the genocide, was slated to be among the guests of honour yesterday at the conference, but he was not in the audience.
A spokesman later said Gen. Dallaire had not heard the President's comments.
"I used to ask [Gen. Dallaire] what he as a general and his forces were doing to stop the genocide," said Mr. Kagame, who in 1994 was the head of the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front.
"The answer to me was that he did not have the mandate. And I asked him, what mandate did he then have? I thought the generals, the forces they led, the weapons they had, had been sent here to show that the peace process [between the Hutu-led government and the RPF] was implemented. And in so doing they would protect Rwandese.
"Then I asked him, what about the arms? What about the soldiers you have? . . . The answer was, 'No mandate.' Then I would ask, 'What are you doing here? You have no mandate, you are not going to protect people, so what are you doing here?' In fact, at one point I asked him, 'Why don't you give me those arms and stay back, and I will use those arms to protect people?' " That remark prompted a round of applause from the Rwandan-dominated audience.
Ten years ago this week, a frenzy of killing began in Rwanda. When it ended 100 days later, an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus had been killed by Hutu extremists. Gen. Dallaire, who has since retired, was unable to persuade the UN to increase the size of its minuscule force, and no country sent troops or arms to staunch the massacres until it was too late.
Mr. Kagame said he polled his colleagues "in the bush" about overpowering the small UN force and seizing their arms. "But of course we knew that would open another front for us to fight when we still had another complicated situation to deal with. So after second thought I abandoned that idea."
Mr. Kagame said Gen. Dallaire did not respond to his questions, and added, "He is a very good man who was caught up in a mess."
Many in the audience saw Mr. Kagame's remarks as a direct response to the allegations Gen. Dallaire makes in his book, Shake Hands With The Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda, accusing the then-rebel leader of sacrificing Tutsi lives he could have saved, for military and political expediency.
In his address, Mr. Kagame also accused the international community of racism and "blatant indifference" to genocide in Africa. "How could a million lives of Rwandan people be regarded as so insignificant to anyone in terms of strategic or national interest? Do the powerful nations have a hidden agenda? I would hate to believe that this agenda is dictated by racist considerations or the colour of the skin."
He questioned whether the response of the international community would be substantially different today.
"If confronted by similar humanitarian atrocity, how ready are we to deal with it? Would the international community today be better prepared to face it, or would they simply be happy to say that they are only guilty of sins of omission?"
He added that "the most powerful people responsible for it" have never been held accountable for their inaction.
Mr. Kagame also urged the international community to establish "effective instruments" to respond to the systemic human-rights abuses that always, he said, precede genocide.
"It should take strong and immediate action, including military action, if need be."
RWANDA'S GOOD MAN KAGAME and HOW KAGAME BECAME LEADER
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