Remembering Rwanda 20 years on.

April 10, 2014

A few years ago, in college, our English professor brought us to the cinema and had us watch documentaries/ films presented by the Canadian Embassy (I think). One of the documentaries shown was “Shake Hands with the Devil.” It was through that experience that a few gaps in my wall of history were filled with stories I have not yet seen/ read. And I have to say, it was heartbreaking. I watched a different kind of courage enfold. One that Paulo Coelho’s warrior of the light would surely know about, write and share with us.

Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire, showed us a different kind of courage in the midst of extreme helplessness. A kind of courage where no hero is lauded, but hundreds of thousands of innocent people mourned for years.

So 20 years on, we remember with silent prayer those who have perished and those who have been left behind with wounded spirits.

Here’s an interview I found online. In a very special program, Ted Koppel joins General Roméo Dallaire for a conversation about his experiences in Rwanda during the genocide. I’ve copied parts of the interview–

Ted Koppel: Here is what I am trying to understand. You go from doing everything you can rationally do, everything you can reasonably do, you make as tough a representation time and time again to headquarters in New York as you felt you could do. You didn’t feel that quitting was an option because it would have been deserting your men, it would have been deserting the mission, and it wouldn’t have accomplished anything, 15-second sound bite, you say.

So why after it’s all over do we find General Dallaire sitting on a park bench drunk in Canada? What was it you thought you could have done or should have done that would have made a difference?

Roméo Dallaire: I ultimately felt that I had not convinced. I ultimately felt that I could have had colleagues who could have potentially done a better job. I felt that the ability to bring across not only the seriousness before the war started, but during the war of what was going on. My abilities had not been up to the requirement.

It was a self- reassessment in the face of this catastrophe where I was simply feeling the guilt of not having in fact brought those ex-belligerents to a peace agreement. And it’s that guilt that has remained, and that’s why I still take pills, that at different times exploded and that’s what happened.

Ted Koppel: But you know better. You couldn’t have stopped it and nobody else could have stopped it.

Roméo Dallaire: We could have interfered. We could have wrested the initiative from the extremists. We could have pushed it to an area that maybe we could have influenced countries who had capabilities to come in and do things.

Ted Koppel: Which countries…. ?

Roméo Dallaire: The ones I hold accountable for not understanding and not rising above self-interest to a level of humanity where every human counts and we’re all the same. Self-interest, political posturing, image dominated their decision processes in regard to Rwanda.

Ted Koppel: Nations don’t have friends, nations have interests. Charles de Gaulle said that years ago, correct?

Roméo Dallaire: Yes, except I believe, as Kofi Annan has stated in the millennium speech he gave at the General Assembly called “We, the Peoples,” that we have entered a millennium where in fact humanity, the human race, is to become the dominant factor, not the self-interest. That in fact the 20 percent that’s running away with all the marbles cannot morally continue to do that when 80 percent of humanity, that three-year old kid in Rwanda that was grimy, that was dirty, that was sick, flies all over him, that three-year old is exactly the same as my three-year old. That level of consideration of human life raising these countries to that level out of the self-interest level is, I believe, an achievable objective in the centuries to come.

PS It felt wrong to not write something about this in my MGATT, especially since a few days ago I was reminded by the Universe. So, this is in remembrance and prayer. +

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