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a time for fear
 
Wednesday, January 21, 2004  
Romeo Dun

And this is Romeo Dellaire talking; the dashing UN General ordered by the Security Council to do nothing as he witnessed Hutus massacre Tutsis and Hutu moderates with machetes and machine guns in a genocidal bloodbath. The price of following orders: early retirement due to post-traumatic stress disorder; nightmares and flashbacks.

Dellaire is testifying against Rwandan colonel Theoneste Bagosara who took control of the country on April 7, the day after Hutu President Juvenal Habyarimana's plane was shot down (killing everyone on board, including Burundian president Cyprian Ntarymira). Bogosara and his officers are accused of organising and unleashing a country-wide slaughter that began within hours of Habyarimana's assassination - the result of a conspiracy involving Madame Agathe Kanzinga (Hutu Power icon; wife of Habyarimana), the Presidential guard, the Rwandan Armed forces, and the interahamwe militias.

The initial spark was an accord signed between Habyarimana and the Rwandan Patriotic Front (a Tutsi army engaged in civil war with the Hutu regime). However, the assassination marked the culmination of a simmering campaign of ethnic hatred ("tension" would be an inadequate description) fomented by State media under the control of Hutu extremists. The planned genocide had been explained in detail on live radio for months before: killing techniques and lists of local armed militias ("These people were trained to be able to kill 1 000 Tutsis in 20 minutes," says Dellaire*) were broadcast to a captive Hutu population ; Tutsis listened with a passive fatalism borne of dread. The death of Habyarimana provided the opportunity for Hutu extremists to begin the slaughter. (It's astonishing that this could ever be conceived as a rational plan - which it was - no state could continue to function, or even exist, after genocide on this scale: the Hutu plan was not only genocidal, it was suicidal too).

I'm glad that Dellaire is testifying in Tanzania, and he should be commended; it does something to address, if not redress, forced non-intervention - a kind of revenge on Hutu genocide criminals, the UN, and every country guilty of abandoning Rwanda to ethnic apocalypse; leaving a UN general and a handful of soldiers to somehow cope alone in the midst of a human disaster with few historical precedents. Dellaire is the last person to blame: this is not the culpability of one man, but an indictment of Western priority and motive.

*And this is explosive: He said foreigners supervised the training alongside Rwandan officers, without identifying their nationality.

10:24 AM

 
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