Dallaire salutes Rwanda on child soldier rehabilitation
Lt. Gen (rtd) Roméo Dallaire, has commended Rwanda’s efforts in rehabilitating and reintegrating ex-child soldiers, especially former members of the terror group, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).
The Canadian Senator is on a working trip to Rwanda. He was the force commander of the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR), during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Speaking to The New Times, on Thursday, Dallaire noted that the “enormous progress” the country attained in rehabilitating and reintegrating ex-child soldiers, especially former FDLR members repatriated from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is reason why the country “is a good, stable reference to build on.”
This was shortly after holding talks with the Foreign Affairs Minister, Louie Mushikiwabo, at her offices in Kimihurura.
“There are child soldiers from the DR Congo who have been brought in, and those wanting to come back home…and their rehabilitation and reintegration. Though Rwanda doesn’t have child soldiers now, the Interahamwe had young people in their routes; so there is a history of that and how it’s been handled,” said Dallaire.
The Rwanda Demobilisation and Reintegration Commission (RDRC) has repatriated, rehabilitated and reintegrated over 800 ex-child soldiers from DRC. The commission offers civic and formal education, vocational skills and counselling to the ex-child soldiers.
Dallaire is in Rwanda to officially start his project, Child Soldiers Initiative (CSI), aimed at building the political will to end the use and recruitment of child soldiers.
His project also seeks to develope compelling new research on issues related to child soldiers, build a movement against the recruitment and the use of child soldiers and prevent their recruitment through training and capacity building.
Currently, no country or organisation has yet to develop coherent policies, official doctrine or substantive practical guidance on how security forces should deal with child soldiers.
Dallaire is the author of the award-winning ‘Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda,’ a book that chronicles the fateful months of his tour as Force Commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) in 1993-1994, during which he witnessed the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
His most recent book, “They Fight Like Soldiers; They Die Like Children – the Global Quest to Eradicate the Use of Child Soldiers,” introduces the Child Soldier phenomenon and solutions to eradicate it: a mission to which he has committed the rest of his life.
“There has been a lot of engagement and Rwanda’s desire to move to prevent countries from going catastrophic in genocide and living a horrific experience,” Dallaire said.
It is known that as head of UNAMIR, he provided the UN with information about the planned massacre, which ultimately took more than one million lives in less than 100 days, yet permission to intervene was denied and the UN instead withdrew its peacekeeping forces.
During the Genocide, Dallaire, along with a small contingent of Ghanaian soldiers and military observers, disobeyed the command to withdraw and remained in Rwanda to fulfil their ethical obligation to protect those who sought refuge with the UN forces.
Apart from being a best-selling author, he is an outspoken advocate for human rights, mainly war-affected children, women; a respected champion of Genocide prevention initiatives, the responsibility to protect doctrine, and Nuclear Non-Proliferation.
In his distinguished military career, Dallaire served in staff, training, and command positions through North America, Europe, and Africa, rising in rank from Army Cadet in 1960 to Lieutenant-General in 1998.
His courage and leadership during this mission earned him the Meritorious Service Cross, the United States Legion of Merit, the Aegis Award on Genocide Prevention, and the affection and admiration of Rwandans and people around the globe.
Upon being medically released from the Canadian Army in 2000, he has served on the UN Advisory Committee on Genocide Prevention, as Special Advisor to the Minister of Veterans Affairs Canada, as Advisor to the Minister of National Defence, and as Special Advisor to the Minister responsible for the Canadian International Development Agency on matters relating to War Affected Children.
Contact email: bosco.asiimwe[at]newtimes.co.rw, james.karuhanga[at]newtimes.co.rw