Welcome 'home' Gen Dallaire, take the good message back to Canada

The good old General from Canada is in town, a town in which he lived for almost two years, until late 1994, and where he witnessed the worst form of human insanity, which in his own words, will remain etched on his heart for as long as he lives.

The good old General from Canada is in town, a town in which he lived for almost two years, until late 1994, and where he witnessed the worst form of human insanity, which in his own words, will remain etched on his heart for as long as he lives.

The retired Lt Gen Romeo Dallaire, who has also served as a senator in his country, met the devil in Rwanda, shook hands with it, and later came to be affected psychologically by the level of human madness he witnessed in 1994.

He is the General who looked on helplessly as the forces he commanded under the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda trooped out of the country on orders of his superiors. He stayed put, if only to clear his conscience that he had not abandoned Rwandans at their neediest time, and for that, history will judge him fairly.

He left Rwanda in 1994 and returned 10 years later, in 2004, to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Genocide against the Tutsi. If my memory serves me right, that should be the last time Dallaire was officially in Rwanda.

He has since then been here briefly on informal trips like shooting of the movie based on his book ‘Shake Hands with the Devil’ or transited through Kigali.

Despite suffering from post-traumatic disorder as a result of what he witnessed here, Dallaire remains a strong defender of the facts behind the Genocide. He has no kind words for deniers because, unlike him who saw the Genocide first hand, a good bunch of these negationists are mere textbook theorists.

During his latest lecture to senior RDF students at the Rwanda Peace Academy, he took time to remind everyone of this commitment—the unshakeable stand of fighting whoever attempts to trivialise this human slaughter.

The three-star General also paid tribute to the RDF, describing the troops as a “fine force with great discipline and excellent leadership.” To sum up his take on Rwanda’s recovery, the former UNAMIR Commander said it would take generations for even normal countries to achieve what Rwanda has registered over these past 20 years.

And yet the picture of Rwanda that Dallaire describes today—one, which puts his heart at peace—seems to receive distortions in some Canadian circles. Dallaire is probably more qualified than any other Canadian to speak on matters of Rwanda because of what he witnessed here and what he sees on the ground today.

But, lately, a good chunk of Canadians are being fed on one-sided, highly biased stories running in some respected media networks like the Toronto Star. The common denominator of all these stories is the sheer absence of credibility based on the kind of sources quoted in most of the stories.

You cannot line up self-exiled opposition figures, defence counsels of Genocide suspects or politically disgruntled elements to form the body of your story without taking time to verify why these people are preaching one narrative or better still, accord the other side the opportunity to respond.

The mere fact that someone is scared of his shadow and dreams of being hunted by a government hundreds of thousands of miles away, should not be the basis for a reputable publication to carry a headline. It simply puts to shame the values of fairness, fact checking, truth, impartiality, and credibility that define this profession.

In some two stories that appeared in Toronto Satar, it was clearly evident, even to a little child, that a personal attachment between the publisher and the source of the story pushed the former to ignore these basic values.

But that is a smaller issue driven by a conflict of interest. The bigger one is that Canada seems to be the epicentre of false rumors about Rwanda. And yet, this is not what this great country was known for. It has become almost fashionable to dub anyone travelling from Kigali to Canada as a member of a supposed hit squad. This, to me, is madness at its best that should not be tolerated by any credible media outlet.

Journalism emphasises the values of double-checking—the principle of questioning why a particular story line is being propagated but not finding conclusion on a storyline cooked out of personal vendetta. Like they say, anyone who doesn’t think there are two sides to an argument is probably in one.

Therefore, as this decorated Canadian General traverses Rwanda and eventually returns home, his historic visit can only serve as an eye opener for some of our Canadian friends caught in this trap of rumors and lies.

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