CNN April 06, 2004

Western powers bear “criminal responsibility” for Rwanda’s 1994 genocide because they did not attempt to stop it, the commander of the U.N. peacekeeping force in the country at the time has said.

“The international community didn’t give one damn for Rwandans because Rwanda was a country of no strategic importance,” General Romeo Dallaire told a conference in Kigali marking the 10th anniversary of the slaughter.

“It’s up to Rwanda not to let others forget they are criminally responsible for the genocide,” he said, singling out France, Britain and the United States.

“The genocide was brutal, criminal and disgusting and continued for 100 days under the eyes of the international community.”

Rwanda’s genocide began on the night of April 6, 1994, after the shooting down of a plane carrying the Rwandan and Burundian presidents, who both died in the crash near Kigali.

Nearly one million Tutsis and Hutu moderates were butchered by Hutu extremists in 100 days of brutal and unrestrained violence.

The 57-year-old Canadian general is making his first return visit to the central African country since 1994 to talk about his memories of the bloodshed and make recommendations for future peacekeeping missions.

Dallaire was commander of a small U.N. peacekeeping force already in Rwanda when the genocide began. Months earlier he had raised the alarm in an SOS to the United Nations.

He suffered post traumatic stress syndrome, and remains haunted by the fact that his alarm was ignored, and angry at what he calls the world’s callous characterization of the Rwanda genocide.

He told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour: “Rwanda was tribalism. They simplified it. Let black Africans do that and when they are finished we’ll pick up some of the pieces.

“I don’t think there’s any justification for what happened, it was a shameful episode for collective shame.”

Dallaire battled for a more robust U.N. peacekeeping mission with a mandate to stop the killings, but Security Council members voted instead to cut his force from 2,500 troops to 450 poorly trained and ill-equipped men.

Dallaire said on Tuesday events in Somalia in 1993, when 18 U.S. troops supporting a U.N. peace mission were killed and one of their bodies was dragged through the streets, had created a “fear of casualties” in the West.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame called Dallaire “a good man caught up in a mess” at the opening of a conference on genocide prevention on Sunday, launching a week of memorial events.

Kagame led the rebel army which ousted the extremist Hutu government that planned and carried out the three months of mass killings initially ignored by world leaders.


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