There is need to rethink the approach to peacekeeping and give new meaning to peace operations, to ensure such missions deliver on their mandate wherever they are deployed, according to Lt Gen (Rtd) Romeo Dallaire.
Dallaire, a former Force Commander of the UN Mission that was deployed in Rwanda at the time of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, said this, yesterday, as he delivered a lecture on lessons learnt in peacekeeping to a group of officers from Rwanda and neighbouring countries.
Despite his force – the UN Assistance Mission in Rwanda (Unamir) – being on ground two years before the Genocide, the pogrom went full scale, with his superiors at the UN headquarters instead calling him to lead the force out of danger.
“We need to reinforce Chapter VIII of peacekeeping because this kind of deployment comes with responsibility and with peacekeepers well aware of the context of the problem, because it means regional intervention,” the Canadian said.
He said Chapter VI of the UN Charter, under which Unamir was deployed, is an irrelevant approach to peacekeeping, saying that some of the global players flaunt such missions for a ‘feel good’ reason, to be seen as having done something, when actually it amounts to wastage of resources.
Chapter VIII of the Charter of the United Nations provides the constitutional basis for the involvement of regional organisations in the maintenance of peace and security, while Chapter VI only provides for a UN peacekeeping mission to observe a peaceful resolution of a conflict.
“Nations have got to build and emphasise their capabilities to handle the region,” he said, commending the achievement by the East Africa Region for making impressive strides towards setting up the East African Standby Force.
Poor approach to peacekeeping?
Several commentators have previously castigated the approach, where officers from far-flung nations are deployed to peacekeeping missions that end up having no impact because the peacekeepers are either disinterested in solving the problem or lack understanding of context.
The former Canadian senator was addressing officers attending the Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF) Command and Staff College in Musanze District in a lecture dubbed, “Contemporary Peacekeeping Operations: Challenges, Prospects and Lessons Learnt.”
The lecture was facilitated by Rwanda Peace Academy.
He reminded the officers, whose course is on Peace Support Operations, of the three dilemmas that they will always encounter as commanders of peace operations namely; ethical, moral and legal.
In 1994, he said, his moral obligation prevailed over the legal one, when he defied the UN Secretary-General to lead all the peacekeepers out of Rwanda, on grounds that they were in danger.
Dallaire stayed in Rwanda with only 400 members of the Ghanaian contingent after all the other peacekeepers were evacuated at the height of the Genocide.
“It was not that I would stop the Genocide; I did not have the resources, but then I would not live with myself if I had taken flight,” said Dallaire, who has written about his experience in Rwanda in his book, Shake Hands with the Devil.
For the officers to be effective commanders, Dallaire advised them to always be able to make the right call under all circumstances.
“The UN will be a deterrent force if, only if, it is given the resources in a timely fashion to do it.
But as long as it is there just to make people feel good that they have sent a UN force, with no resources and structured mandate, it will not achieve anything,” he said.
Tribute to RDF
The retired general paid tribute to RDF for their resilience, saying that they owe it to the world to ensure they use their experience and discipline to help bring world order.
“In the first week after the Genocide, on July 18, Paul Kagame put it to me that if ever any country was going into a genocide, anywhere in the world, his force would not allow that to happen and he has stayed true to his word,” he said.
“You have a fine force, with great discipline and excellent leadership, you must leverage that to ensure no genocide happens anywhere on your watch.”
Rwanda’s contribution to the UN peacekeeping missions is not only big in numbers but also in the quality of officers deployed, he said.
Commending Rwanda’s post-Genocide recovery, he said most countries cannot in generations achieve what Rwanda has achieved in 20 years.
“The UN has maintained a peacekeeping force in Cypress for 60 years but nothing compares to Rwanda,” he said.
Gen Dallaire is one of the about 40 scholars, journalists and authors who last year protested the BBC documentary titled ‘Rwanda, the Untold Story’ which they said sought to revise and trivialise the Genocide.
He said Rwandans have the primary role to ensure Genocide denial is countered from all corners of the world, whenever it comes up.
“There are movements out to deny the Genocide that happened in Rwanda, for reasons only known to themselves. I faced it when I was in the Canadian senate where some of my colleagues always came to me with conspiracies that allude to double Genocide,” he said.
“The Jewish community took it upon themselves to ensure Holocaust denial was criminalised worldwide,” he said, adding that before he left Rwanda, he took it upon himself to always counter anyone who trivialises or denies the Genocide against the Tutsi, as long as he lives.
Besides Rwanda, other officers undertaking the course are drawn from Uganda, Burundi, Tanzania and South Sudan.