Peacekeeping is our responsibility: Dallaire

Romeo DallaireSenator Lt. General (retired) Roméo Dallaire’s final speech to the Senate took aim at Stephen Harper’s foreign policy agenda and “provided Canada’s leadership with what should be Canada’s mission statement for the 21st century,” reports Stewart Webb (“Weekly Recap: For the Record – Senator Lt. General Roméo Dallaire and Canada’s Future Path,” Defence Report, 21 June 2014).

Dallaire was the Force Commander of the UN peacekeeping mission in Rwanda 20 years ago and tried to prevent a terrible genocide. In a 100-day bloodbath, 800,000–1,000,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed, while millions more were displaced. The international community refused to recognize that a genocide was underway and failed to give the UN mission the support it needed to intervene effectively.

Dallaire has struggled with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) ever since. 

Since returning from Rwanda, Dallaire has spearheaded campaigns against the use of child soldiers and worked to prevent mass atrocities.

In May, Senator Dallaire announced he was leaving the Red Chamber to focus on his humanitarian activities.

In his last remarks to the Senate, Dallaire revealed his concern over the similarities between the Rwanda genocide and the war in the Central African Republic (CAR).

He chided the government for abandoning international peacekeeping missions, for hiding behind lofty rhetoric, and for its failure to demonstrate a “principled foreign policy” for countries in crisis like CAR.

Observing Canada’s present role in the world, Dallaire commented:

Today we have 43 peacekeepers deployed out of a possible 110,000 peacekeepers worldwide. Today we have to dance around the words ‘responsibility to protect’ and the International Criminal Court, and even the term ‘child soldiers’ to protect out of fear of having to actually maybe turn our alleged principled foreign policy into principled action.

Today we point to the humanitarian aid dollars we’ve given, which are never enough, and proclaim we’ve done our part. Today we have more sabre-rattling and less credibility; more expressions of concern and less contingency planning; more endless consultation with allies, or so we are told, and less real action being taken; and more empty calls for respect for human rights and less actual engagement with the violators.

Canadians continue to identify themselves as peacekeepers. But, sadly, Canada’s present ranking among military contributors to UN peacekeeping operations is 69th.

In Dallaire’s view,

there is no more pressing and more appropriate place to start than with the Central African Republic. As has been well documented in the media and spoken to in this chamber, there is an ongoing humanitarian crisis in the CAR that bears a strong resemblance to the catastrophe that played out in Rwanda 20 years ago. Thousands have been targeted and killed by roaming gangs on the basis of their religious identity. Hundreds of thousands have been displaced, many of whom fled beyond borders as refugees. Entire families have been wiped out, with women repeatedly victims of sexual violence. Rape is an instrument of war.

Speaking at the International Conference on the Prevention of Genocide, in Brussels, on the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, Foreign Minister John Baird said, “We must be vigilant and never allow such horrific crimes to be forgotten or repeated…. Let us not look back when it’s too late, and wonder if we really did enough.”

Now is the time for the government to show Canadians the “principled foreign policy” that it so often touts and re-engage in international peacekeeping operations, starting with the Central African Republic.

Tags: Canada, Canadian foreign policy, Central African Republic, Human rights, Peacekeeping, Romeo Dallaire, UN peacekeeping, United Nations