That Halo Over Romeo Dalliare’s Head Has More Than One Hole in It!

When International Criminal Tribunal prosecutor Carla Del Ponte learned from a Canadian newspaper in 2000 that the Rwandan Patriotic Front and its leader Paul Kagame were prime suspects in the April 6, 1994, assassination of the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi, she reportedly said: “If it is the RPF that shot down the plane, the history of genocide must be rewritten”.

Hopefully others will be as candid as Ms Del Ponte as more and more information surfaces on events in Rwanda in the early 90s. First on that list should be retired Canadian general and former UN peacekeeper in Rwanda Romeo Dallaire. However, Dallaire may find it hard to swallow his pride after enjoying such a massive PR campaign organized for him ever since his 600-page book appeared in October 2003 (Shake Hands with the Devil, The failure of Humanity in Rwanda, Random House Canada).

Dallaire toured Canada, parts of the US, Belgium, France, Tanzania, where he witnessed for the prosecution at the ICTR, and Rwanda, where he joined Paul Kagame for commemorations in Kigali. He appeared on all the right programs, with the right people, and his verge-of-tears attitude protected him from the tough questions that reporters should have been asking him. One of his Canadian government handlers justified the enormous security for Dallaire in Tanzania by describing him as Canada’s “national treasure”. He is now being touted as the future Governor General of Canada.

The saintly halo carefully placed over his head has also prompted Michael Ignatieff to invite him to be a fellow of Harvard’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, where paradoxically he will specialize in “conflict resolution”. Ignatieff probably sees the appointment as a way to cover his own conflict-inflicting support of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Romeo Dallaire supposedly told all in his book. However, since so many people in influential positions have been bluntly contradicting Dallaire, it’s time he and his ghostwriters sat down and rewrote the book. These include former the Chief of the 1994 United Nations Mission in Rwanda the Cameroonian diplomat Jacques-Roger Booh-Booh–Dallaire was only in charge of the military component ­, UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the French anti-terrorist judge Jean-Louis Bruguière, Colonel Luc Marchal, the Belgian commander of UN troops in Kigali who worked under Dallaire and many more. If we accept as true half what these people have said, either most of the information in Dallaire’s book can no longer be taken seriously or the book as whole should be rejected as base propaganda.
Jacques-Roger Booh-Booh was the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative in Rwanda, and therefore in charge of the mission in Rwanda.

An experienced diplomat having served as Cameroon’s Ambassador to France and to the former USSR, Booh-Booh was also very familiar with African politics, unlike Dallaire who admits not knowing that Rwanda was in Africa when he was appointed in 1993. Since the Rwandan tragedy, Booh-Booh has remained silent and respected the neutrality that comes with his position. (Dallaire of course never respected the obligation of neutrality). Booh-Booh broke that silence in April in an interview with the French-language monthly Africa International.

When asked to react to criticisms leveled by Dallaire, Booh-Booh replied that General Dallaire never accepted the fact that he was only a military officer reporting to the civilian authority appointed by the UN Secretary General, and that he has been inconsolable ever since because he never obtained Booh-Booh’s job though he tried very hard. In the field, according to Booh-Booh, Dallaire abandoned his military responsibilities to do politics, though that was not his job, and he violated the principle of neutrality by becoming the objective ally of the RPF. Moreover, Dallaire’s “duplicity” was widely known in UN mission circles. Booh-Booh adds that “from a strictly military standpoint, UNAMIR controlled absolutely nothing under Dallaire’s command”, citing as an example his total failure to rid Kigali of arms and militias.

Booh-Booh’s comments about Dallaire’s political involvement in Rwanda raise important questions, especially in light of Boutros-Ghali’s statements during the 10th anniversary commemorations.

Boutros-Ghali, who told me in a 2002 interview that the Rwandan genocide was 100 percent American responsibility, also told the French daily Libération that one of the UN’s problems in Rwanda was that “the Department of Peacekeeping Operations [headed by Kofi Annan at the time] was very much infiltrated by the American authorities. Since the we [the UN] lacked money, we recruited officers who were on their own government’s payroll.”

This statement should be considered together with Dallaire’s candid boasts in his book that he violated fundamental rules of a peacekeeping mission by going over the head of the mission chief, Booh-Booh, and communicating directly to the DPKO leaders Kofi Annan and Maurice Baril at UN headquarters.

Can Dallaire’s intense–and unsuccessful–involvement in Rwandan politics and his pro-RPF stance be explained by the fact that he was receiving instructions directly from US or pro-US people in the UN’s peacekeeping operations department? This is very plausible since we know that from the early 1990s the United States, along with Great Britain, was openly challenging France in French-speaking Africa, and particularly in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo). The English-speaking Rwandan Patriotic Front, based as it was in Uganda, was perceived as a means to accomplish that end.

On the other hand, Boutros-Ghali, whom Madeleine Albright nicknamed “Frenchie”, was perceived as an obstacle, as undoubtedly was the head of the UN mission in Rwanda, Jacques-Roger Booh-Booh. Soon after the Rwandan tragedy, the US unceremoniously dumped Boutros-Ghali–Albright vetoed renewal of his mandate–and installed Kofi Annan, thereby further advancing their strategy in French-speaking Africa.

Add to this the fact that Dallaire was chosen for the position in 1993 mainly because the United States demanded a French-speaking military commander, and ideally anti-French. Obviously that excluded a French national. Anybody who follows Canadian politics knows that that type of military person can be found in Ottawa, where distrust and dislike of France are at the heart of all foreign policy.

These links help explain both Kofi Annan’s and Romeo Dallaire’s silence regarding the shooting down of the plane carrying the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi–both have persisted in calling that SAM missile attack an “accident” or a “crash”, and Kofi Annan’s reaction regarding the plane’s Black Box following the Bruguière revelations was frankly insulting. All information, all research and all investigations, and especially Judge Bruguière’s, now point to Paul Kagame and the Rwandan Patriotic Front. If and when France issues international arrest warrants for the perpetrators of that crime, Kofi Annan and Romeo Dallaire will have a lot of questions to answer.

Another example of Romeo Dallaire naysayers is Colonel Luc Marchal who led the UN troops in Kigali. Unlike Dallaire who tours the world to defend Paul Kagame and the RPF, Marchal is very critical of both. “I am personally very convinced in the RPF’s implication in the Rwandan tragedy”, writes Marchal in a 1998 letter, “because I too had been fooled by their smart propaganda during the Arusha negotiations [in 1993]. Once I was in Kigali, the gulf that separated what was said and what was really happening became obvious. In fact the RPF movement is totalitarian and it crushes absolutely everything in its way.” He also pointed out in a 2003 interview that the shooting down of President Habyarimana’s plane would have required months to plan and carry out, and that the rapid deployment of RPF troops in Kigali and in the North on April 7, 1994 would also have required months to prepare. Marchal leaves no doubt that he suspects the RPF of committing that crime and considers it to be crucial to understanding what happened after.

In a much more honest book about the Rwandan events published in 2001, Marchal also clearly implicates the United States in the 10-year cover-up of the April 6, 1994, terrorist attack that triggered the terrible massacres. “Who is powerful enough to have prevented a real international inquiry from casting light upon the events that occurred when President Habyarimana was flying home from a regional summit in Dar Es-Salaam?”

ROBIN PHILPOT is a Montreal writer. His book Ça ne s’est pas passé comme ça à Kigali (That’s not what happened in Rwanda) will soon appear in English. ROBIN PHILPOT can be reached at