L’aventure de l’ONU au Rwanda: histoire d’un échec non assumé

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The UN Adventure in Rwanda : A Story of an Unacknowledged Failure

Analyses and Comments of :J’ai serré la main du diable (Outremont :Edition Libre Expression, 2003) by General Romeo Dallaire and Le patron de Dallaire PARLE (Paris : Editions Duboiris, 2005) by Jacques Roger Booh-Booh

Olivier Nyirubugara
April 2007


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Olivier Nyirubugara, www.olny.nl Editor

Olivier Nyirubugara, Rédacteur www.olny.nl
©O. Nyirubugara,October 2006

Of the whole post-genocide literature, the works of Canadian General Romeo Dallaire - J’ai serré la main du diable (2003) – and of Cameroonian diplomat Jacques Roger Booh Booh – Le Patron de Dallaire PARLE (2005) – belong to a special category, as their authors had a special status in the Rwandan crisis and its resolution. They had relationships with all the players on the Rwandan political and military arena. The two authors embodied the international community, the one reproached to have abandoned Rwanda and Rwandans during the crisis.

The other interesting point concerning the two books is that they are connected to each other, one – Dallaire’s – justifying the existence of the other – Booh Booh’s. The reader will realize that both authors, who were the closest collaborators and UN referees in the Rwandan crisis , were and are still far from having the same picture of the crisis. That divergence about the Rwandan conflict pushes the reader and any other advised observer to raise questions about the difficult six-month cohabitation in Kigali. Though there is no doubt whatsoever about that unusual situation, there is still a big need to demonstrate to which extent it impacted on the unstable situation in Rwanda which worsened with the assassination of President Juvenal Habyarimana a un UN-protected zone.

The situation as depicted by the main UN actors themselves looks like a football game opposing two rival clubs (e.g. FC. Barcelona-Real Madrid or Marseille-PSG), which always poses security challenges. “ The Rwandan game” was opposing the Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR), the MRND Party and its allies on the one hand, and the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) and their allies on the other hand. It is pointless to mention that this was a high-risk party necessitating a UN “Pierluigi Collina” and good assistant referees among others.

Before reading either book, the reader has some legitimate expectations, unanswered questions for which “definitive” answers could only come from the mouth and/or pen of Dallaire and Booh Booh. This article will attempt to point out some of those questions, to highlight that strange UN cacophony and, above all, to establish a link between that cacophony and the tragedy that engulfed Rwanda from 6 April 1994. Since the limits of this article are situated around that date, we will simply analyze chapters 8 and 9 of J’ai serré la main du diable and Booh Booh’s whole book.

Two Captains on the Same Ship

 Jacques Roger Booh Booh,UN Secretary General's Sprecial Representative in Rwanda

Jacques Roger Booh Booh,UN Secretary General's Sprecial Representative in Rwanda
© Radio Canada

 General Romeo Dallaire and UNAMIR soldiers under his command

General Romeo Dallaire and UNAMIR soldiers under his command.
© Radio Canada

Booh Booh chose a title that summarizes alone the content of the book and the motives behind his late decision to pick up a pen and tell his story: Le patron de Dallaire PARLE. Révélation sur les dérives d’un général de l’ONU au Rwanda. This title could be translated as : Dallaire’s Boss SPEAKS. Revelations on the Misconduct of a UN General in Rwanda. This title infers that this is a reaction, or rather a contradiction of what a certain General Dallaire wrote. The terms “ Boss” and “ SPEAK” –the latter word in upper case – drew our attention. A boss, in the general meaning of that word, implies a certain level of authority, which no one can contradict, challenge or hinder, especially when the holder of that authority “ SPEAKS’ . It is not even “ one of Dallaire’s Bosses” but the [single] Boss of Dallaire. The title seems to be pretentious and, after reading the book, we wondered whether the title was conflicting with the content.

It is self-evident that there were two captains on the same Rwandan ship and that the one pretending to be the single captain bore that title artificially. Before flying to Rwanda, Booh Booh, whose position of UN Secretary General ‘s Special Representative (UNSGSR) were temporarily occupied by Dallaire, had foreseen the conflict that would oppose him to the provisional “ Boss” of the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR). He writes:

C’est au cours de ce briefing [Novembre 1993 au siège des Nations Unies à New York] que j’ai appris que le général Dallaire avait demandé avec insistance de cumuler les fonctions de commandant de la force avec celles de Représentant Spécial du Secrétaire Général de l’ONU au Rwanda. Je ne me suis pas attardé sur ce volet estimant que si le général Dallaire faisait du cumul de fonctions, une condition sine qua none pour servir au Rwanda , il finirait devant le refus du Secrétaire Général, par claquer la porte et retourner chez lui au Canada (Booh Booh, p.29)

It is during that briefing [November 1993 at the UN Headquarters in New York] that I learnt that General Dallaire had requested with insistence to combine the positions of Commander of the UN Force and of UN Secretary General ‘s Special Representative in Rwanda. I did not spend much time on that point thinking that General Dallaire's sine qua none condition of combining the two positions before any acceptance to serve in Rwanda,would end up in his resignation and return to Canada after the UN Secretary General’s refusal. (Booh Booh, p.29, translation: Olivier Nyirubugara)

At this stage, we would like to mention this Rwandan proverb: Ibuye ryagaragaye ntiriba rikishe isuka which literally means that a discovered stone cannot damage the hoe. This is to say that Booh Booh was warned that Dallaire was eying his position and that he would do all to have it. Dallaire did not wait long before testing his Boss. According to Booh Booh (pp. 34-35, translation: Olivier Nyirubugara), “ Dallaire, who had been so far the interim head of the UNAMIR, would have handed service-related stuff to the Special Representative who I was…He did no want to do it, twenty four hours after my arrival in Kigali”. It is in that situation of total ignorance that Booh Booh was received by President Habyarimana on 24 November 1993, in company of Dallaire.

Let us go back to the title. Under the above-mentioned conditions, could one talk of “ Dallaire’s Boss” ? It rather appears that Dallaire remained UNAMIR’s boss, and this is confirmed by the fact that the one supposed to be his “ boss” “ never knew why he [Dallaire] had adopted that behaviour” (Booh Booh, p. 35, translation: Olivier Nyirubugara). Is that an attitude of a boss? Where is his authority if he cannot give instructions, ask for explanations from and reprimand a rebellious collaborator under his authority?

Having tested the capacity of reaction of his boss, Dallaire certainly drew some conclusions as to which attitude to adopt. Dallaire behaved as a true boss of the UNAMIR when he undertook political, military and diplomatic actions without the knowledge of his “ boss”. Let us focus on his meeting with French and German ambassadors:

J’ai décidé d’approcher les ambassadeurs français et allemands pour obtenir de l’équipement anti-émeute pour la Gendarmerie, mais pas un des deux pays concernés ne s’est montrés d’accord pour fournir ses ressources. Cela m’a surpris, car ils étaient les premiers à condamner la violence civile et à supplier le gouvernement rwandais de ne pas réagir de manière trop violente. Cependant, au moment de joindre le geste à la parole, ils ne faisaient rien. (Dallaire, pp. 231-2)

I decided to take contact with the French and German ambassadors to request anti-riot equipment for the Gendarmerie, but none of the two countries agreed to provide those resources. That surprised me, because they were on the forefront to condemn violence and to urge the Rwandan government not to harshly react. However, when the time came to join acts to words, they did nothing. (Dallaire, pp. 231-2, translation: Olivier Nyirubugara)

The two diplomats must have been surprised to deal with Dallaire, while they normally should deal with another colleague head of diplomatic mission. Is that perhaps the reason why Dallaire’s request was rejected? They certainly wondered about cohesion within UNAMIR’s leadership.

It is now obvious that that cohesion never existed because that leadership was built on a conflict of positions which Booh Booh failed to solve by putting his lower-ranked collaborator in his place. He just “mentions that the UNAMIR was facing regrettable malfunctioning problems”, since “ General Romeo Dallaire who had tried in vain to be simultaneously appointed UN Secretary General ‘s Special Representative and UNAMIR Commander in Rwanda, had undertaken acts of sabotage within the mission” (Booh Booh, p. 13, translation: Olivier Nyirubugara).

In our opinion, a good boss detects problems before they come out and, above all, takes appropriate measures to solve them. At the end, it will be his task to write the mission report, not those who sabotaged the mission. Moreover, Booh Booh accuses Dallaire of being a racist who “suffered a lot from being under the authority of an African” (Booh Booh, p. 15, translation: Olivier Nyirubugara)

The list of Boob Booh’s complaints is long. We will only consider the most shocking ones before closing this section. The foregoing reveals that Dallaire was preventing any success of Booh Booh and that, even when the latter managed to achieve some success, Dallaire would do all to hinder his efforts. One of those diplomatic successes was the 10 December 1993 meeting between the government and RPF that Booh Booh says to have organized after intensive consultations. During that meeting, Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana and RPF Chairman Alexis Kanyarengwe signed a “ important declaration” which provoked a general sentiment of optimism. According to Booh Booh, that did not please Dallaire:

Acceptant mal le succès que j’avais remporté ce jour-là, le général Dallaire est venu brusquement interrompre la réunion sous prétexte que, pour des raisons de sécurité, il était obligé de ramener chaque partie contractante à sa base. Ce qui était faux. Ce comportement insolite s’est répété à plusieurs occasions. (Booh Booh, p. 52)

Refusing to admit the success I had booked that day, General Dallaire abruptly entered and stopped the meeting under the pretext that he had to bring each party in their base for security reasons. That was not true. That strange behavior repeated itself on many occasions. (Booh Booh, p. 52, translation: Olivier Nyirubugara)

Some of those many other occasions were after the resumption of hostilities hours after the assassination of President Habyarimana. Booh Booh never managed to meet interim Prime Minister Jean Kambanda “for the security reasons that Dallaire mentioned all the time” (Booh Booh, p. 120, translation: Olivier Nyirubugara); he did not manage to finish the meeting between the FAR and RPF on 15 April 1994. Regarding this meeting which aimed at signing a cease-fire, Booh Booh writes:

Le débat s’est engagé sur ma méthode de travail et a évolué de façon constructive e lorsque d’un geste brutal et intempestif, le général Dallaire a interrompu les discussions pour des raisons fallacieuses de sécurité…Ce n’était pas la première fois que ce général agissait ainsi ; il était visiblement hors de lui chaque fois qu’il me voyait faire un travail de taille pour la MINUAR car il a toujours voulu accréditer l’idée, bien sûr fausse, que c’était lui qui était le cerveau de la mission et faisait tout le travail. (Booh Booh, pp. 173-174, )

The debate started with my working method and was evolving in a constructive way when General Dallaire brutally and abruptly interrupted the discussions for fallacious security reasons…This was not the first time that that general behaved that way; he obviously lost his temper any time that he saw me accomplish an important task for the UNAMIR as he had always wrongly made the public believe that he was the mission’s mastermind and that all was done by him. (Booh Booh, pp. 173-174, translation: Olivier Nyirubugara)

Finally, Dallaire would prevent the last-chance meeting scheduled on 7 April 1994 in the morning at the US ambassador’s residence and which was to be attended by western ambassadors and FAR senior officers. He refused to provide escort to his boss and to the ambassadors (Booh Booh, p.156).

It is useless to list all the conflicts between the numbers one and two of the UNAMIR. Let us rather ask the question to know who of the two “captains” had full control of the “ship”. Theoretically, Booh Booh was the boss, but practically Dallaire controlled the entire situation. He could prevent his boss from accomplishing his mission whereas he, Dallaire, seemed to be beyond the reach of Booh Booh’s authority. In fact, all along his book, Booh Booh keeps complaining while mentioning his numerous attempts. He writes nowhere about any disciplinary action he took to bring Dallaire back to order; we cannot find anything about any report that Booh Booh sent to have Dallaire replaced.

The last three quotes are about diplomatic actions that would most likely have constituted a turning point in the peace process. Dallaire sabotaged them and his boss accommodated himself with that situation as he took no action to correct it. That is either powerlessness in front of Dallaire or a laisser-faire attitude that is close to irresponsibility. We would be pleased to read Booh Booh’s reaction about this issue as a whole victimized generation is waiting for it and from him.

“Devils” and “Angels”

In the previous section, we pointed out that General Dallaire first tested his “boss” before realizing that his capacity of reaction was very little or even inexistent. From that moment, at least according to Booh Booh’s book, he decided to remain the “mission’s mastermind” he was before the coming of Booh Booh in November 1993, and to do “the work alone” (Booh Booh, p.174).

Having the freedom of action, Dallaire first mapped the Rwandan political arena into two camps: the Hutu extremists who want to exterminate the Tutsi on the one had and the Tutsi and moderate Hutu allied to RPF whom he also call Hutu from the south, on the other hand. While describing his interlocutors on the governmental side, Dallaire uses a special method consisting in “demonizing” the interlocutor without even writing a few lines to clarify his allegations. He writes about interior minister Faustin Munyazesa qualifying him as “ a well known MRND extremist” (Dallaire, p. 251, translation: Olivier Nyirubugara), and further on, he writes: “ I knew very well that when I spoke to the defense and interior ministers, I was speaking to extremists” (Dallaire, p. 252, translation: Olivier Nyirubugara). We would have liked it if we could understand what Dallaire meant with “well known extremist” and, above all, why he puts those allegations forward without providing an explanation. His boss did better because all his allegations against Dallaire are backed by at least one example.

The most detailed description is reserved to colonel Theoneste Bagosora. The reader realizes that there is a deeply rooted hatred behind words. Bagosora was a very important interlocutor of Dallaire in security matters. We thus wonder how the UNAMIR and the defense ministry could frankly and fruitfully collaborate if, quite in the beginning of his mission, Dallaire considered the defense minister and his director of cabinet as extremists. Here are an quick overview of some passages where Dallaire depicted Bagosora. Hours after the downing of Habyarimana’s plane, Bagosora was chairing a crisis meeting at the defense ministry in his capacity as director of cabinet in that ministry. Dallaire, who joined the meeting writes:

Le fait qu’il [Bagosora] soit le responsable ne présageait de rien…S’agissait il d’un coup d’Etat bien organisé ou ses officiers étaient-ils là pour maintenir la paix jusqu’à ce que soit choisie la personne qui prendrait le pouvoir ? La présence de Bagosora ébranlait le maigre espoir que j’entretenais : celui que ce coup d’Etat –si coup d’Etat il y avait – ait été planifié par des éléments modérés de l’armée et par la Gendarmerie. (Dallaire, pp. 291-292)

The fact that he [Bagosora] was the chairman was not a good sign…Was it a well organized coup d’ Etat or were those officers there to maintain peace until someone is designated to take power? The little hope I had vanished because of Bagosora’s presence: the one that this coup d’ Etat – if any – had been planned by moderate army and gendarmerie officers. (Dallaire, pp. 291-292, translation: Olivier Nyirubugara)

The two distinct camps in Dallaire’s mind appear in this quote. The good ones – the moderates – and the bad ones led by Bagosora. Once again, we would like to know how Dallaire managed to draw the lines between the extremists and the moderates and especially how he divides them into sub-categories of “ well known extremists” [that is how he describes minister Munyazesa] and “ well known Moderates” [that is the description he made regarding Minister Gatabazi]. Obviously Dallaire had a scale on which to place the extremists at different levels, including those he did not even know, such as Rwandan ambassador to the UN Jean Damascene Bizimana. Regarding this diplomat, Dallaire requested that he no longer attend the UN Security Council meetings because, he writes:

J’étais donc là avec ma toute petite unité de renseignement dont les membres risquaient leur vie pour glaner des bribes d’informations pendant que les extrémistes étaient branchés directement sur des sources de renseignements à caractère stratégique leur permettant de suivre tous mes mouvements sans problème (Dallaire, p. 256, translation: Olivier Nyirubugara)

I was thus there with my tiny intelligence unit whose members risked their lives to collect bits of information whereas extremists were directly connected to the sources of that strategic intelligence enabling them to easily monitor all my movements (Dallaire, p. 256, translation: Olivier Nyirubugara)

To go back to Bagosora, Dallaire regrets that the 7 April meeting failed to take place because “ we missed a good opportunity to influence Bagosora” (Dallaire, pp. 303-304, translation: Olivier Nyirubugara). Any inquisitive reader will wonder the kind of obstacle Bagosora was forming between 6 April in the evening and 7 April in the morning.

On the other side of the “good ones”, Dallaire lacks terms to describe and praise them and fell in the dangerous trap of prejudice and hurriedly-made judgments. Let us consider this evening of February 1994 that Dallaire described and especially the conclusion he came to:

Ce soir là [le 20 février 1994], à la résidence de l’ambassadeur de Belgique, au centre de Kigali, un dîner était donné en l’honneur de la délégation belge qui quittait le pays. Willy Claes allait être au premier rang pour connaître la nature explosive de la politique au Rwanda. La communauté diplomatique au grand complet, le RSSG, les chefs des partis politiques officiels, y compris le FPR et moi-même, représentant la MINUAR, avions été invités. Les extrémistes étaient assis à côté des modérés. ..C’est alors que quelque chose de totalement inattendu s’est produit. J’étais assis près de Félicien Gatabazi - chef du très influent PSD (un parti encore uni), Hutu modéré bien connu du sud et très pro-FPR. Il avait un peu trop bu et entrait dans une très vive discussion avec des membres du MRND au sujet de leurs idées extrémistes. Plus Gatabazi buvait, plus il était bruyant jusqu’au point où il s’est mis à hurler. Il à commencé à insulter certains membres du MRND, les a accusés de manipuler le processus politique et d’être la cause de l’impasse. La pièce est devenue totalement silencieuse, les invités voulant tous entendre. Gatabazi avait déjà accusé publiquement la Garde présidentielle de procéder à l’entraînement de milices dans la caserne de Kanombe, et avait reçu un certain nombre de menaces de mort. Ce soir là, il n’avait pas peur. J’ai essayé d’alléger le climat en l’interrompant pour changer le sujet de conversation, cependant, le dommage était fait.

Lorsque j’ai regardé dans les yeux des extrémistes du MRND, j’ai senti une haine incroyable nous submerger, Gatabazi et moi. Je n’avait aucun doute quant au fait que Gatabazi avait signé lui-même, ce soir là, sa condamnation à mort. Pourtant, c’est Faustin Twagiramungu qui est tombé dans une embuscade en rentrant chez lui. Il s’en est sorti, mais un de ses gardes du corps a été tué. … (Dallaire, p. 247)

That evening [20 February 1994], at the Belgian ambassador’s residence in the centre of Kigali, a diner was offered in the honor of the Belgian delegation which was leaving the country. Willy Claes was going to witness by himself the explosive nature of politics in Rwanda. The entire diplomatic corps, the UNSGSR, the leaders of official political parties including the RPF and myself representing the UNAMIR, were invited. Extremists sat beside moderates…At that moment something totally unexpected took place. I was seated beside Felicien Gatabazi – an influential PSD [a party still united] leader and well known moderate Hutu from the south and pro-RPF. He was drunk when he joined a vivid discussion with some MRND members about their extremist ideas. The more Gatabazi drank the louder he spoke to the extent of growling. He began to insult some MRND members, accusing them of manipulating the political process and of being responsible for the deadlock. The room became totally silent as all the invitees wanted to listen. Gatabazi had already publicly accused Presidential Guards of training militias in the Kanombe barrack, and had received a number of death threats. That evening, he was not afraid. I tried to appease the atmosphere by disrupting him and changing the subject, but the damage was irreparable.

When I looked into the MRND extremists’ eyes, I felt an incredible hatred invading both Gatabazi and myself. I had no doubt that Gatabazi had just signed his own death sentence that evening. However, it is rather Faustin Twagiramungu who was caught in an ambush while riding back home. He survived it but his body guards were killed… (Dallaire, p. 247, translation: Olivier Nyirubugara)

All those who read the book by lieutenant Abdul Ruzibiza (Rwanda : Histoire secrète, 2005) will be shocked by the certainty with which Dallaire presents Gatabazi’s assassination. He had no suspicion whatsoever concerning the RPF invitees who saw that incident and who could take advantage of it to settle some obscure scores with Gatabazi. Dallaire does not cover himself with the intellectual precaution of turning certain unproved assertions into hypotheses, which would spare him suspicions of partiality. His boss handles that case more gently as he sees a possible RPF’s hand behind the assassination, noting at the same time that he had no formal evidence. He writes:

Le nom du FPR a été cité plusieurs fois dans plusieurs cas d’assassinats avant le 6 avril 1994. Les assassinats de Félicien Gatabazi, ainsi que celui d’Emmanuel Gapyisi, ont mis en effet en cause le FPR, même si des preuves formelles n’ont pas été apportées. Je constate que Dallaire n’a mis à ma disposition aucun rapport précis sur ces faits. (Booh Booh, p. 118)

The name of RPF was cited many times in murders before 6 April 1994. The murders of Felicien Gatabazi and Emmanuel Gapyisi bear the RPF’s signature though formal evidence was not found. I note that Dallaire never put at my disposal any detailed report about those murders. (Booh Booh, p. 118, translation: Olivier Nyirubugara)

Going on with Dallaire’s partiality, Booh Booh points out that Dallaire “ was never inquisitive about RPF’s military and paramilitary actions” »(Booh Booh, p.70, translation: Olivier Nyirubugara), while rumours about war preparations were persistent. Booh Booh adds that his UNAMIR commander neglected to check RPF’s supply sources which rendered his work “ impartial and unbalanced as he only focused on arm caches and purchases for which Habyariman was held responsible” (Booh Booh, p.95, translation: Olivier Nyirubugara). Once again, Booh Booh depicts Dallaire as being a major obstacle to his peace mission in Rwanda. He, the boss, was like an observer since he seemed to be taking notes for his memoirs. What did he do when he realized that Dallaire was not neutral? What did he do when he suspected that Dallaire harboured a Tutsi lady in his house (Booh Booh, p. 121)? Worse, Booh Booh admits that the RPF had infiltrated the UNAMIR (Booh Booh, p. 117), and that Dallaire was RPF’s “ sub-marine” within the UNAMIR (Booh Booh, p. 121), which blinded that UN force with regards to RPF’s methods of action.

These details provided by Booh Booh, though they put him in a very delicate position of simple, powerless, silent observer and not the one of the boss, shed some light on Dallaire’s map showing extremists, well known extremists, moderates and well known moderates and the Tutsi (without categories). We can now attempt to answer the following question: extremists/ moderates well known by whom? Very likely by the RPF agents who had infiltrated the UNAMIR and/or the lady[ies] Dallaire harboured.

The reader having some interest in Rwandan politics in the 50s and 60s especially the months preceding and following the November 1959 Social Revolution, will be amazed by a number of astonishing similarities between Dallaire’s map and the one of another officer, colonel Guy Logiest, special resident in Rwanda at that time. The two senior officers played a decisive role in political changes that took place while they were serving in Rwanda. Capping the Belgian colonial administration in Rwanda, Logiest – who was appointed military resident in November 1959 to restore order after interethnic clashes of that month – clearly chose his side. His map is reflected in this excerpt from his communiqué No 7 :

…Et nous avons donc dû constater que c'était bien ainsi. Il y a parmi les autorités les plus importantes du Ruanda, des menteurs qui lancent de tels bruits pour tromper la population. Mais cela est faux évidemment, et ceux qui discutent cela sont des membres d'un parti qui emploient des moyens malhonnêtes pour essayer de faire triompher leur parti. Ce sont des gens qui, ainsi que nous le disons dans le communiqué no 6, emploient la terreur, l'intimidation et le mensonge pour l'emporter. Ces gens trompent la population et rendent un mauvais service à leur pays. Je vous donne un exemple. Il y a un parti qui s'appelle "Parmehutu". Je vous en ai parlé en même temps que des autres partis dans le communiqué précédent. Quel est le programme de ce parti? Il demande une démocratie véritable; l’union réelle de tous les habitants du Ruanda et l'abolition de la domination d'une seul race; un Mwami constitutionnel aidant à instaurer la démocratie; des conseils élus démocratiquement; une réforme judiciaire et l'élection de certains juges; une réforme foncière importante; un impôt proportionnel à la richesse de chacun; des facilités aux plus pauvres pour poursuivre leur études. (Nkundabagenzi, pp.219-220)

… We have noted that it was alright like that. There are liars among senior officials of Ruanda, who spread rumours to deceive the population. But all that is not true of course, and those who do that are members of one party who use dishonest means to try and impose their party. Those are people who, as we mentioned in communiqué No 6, rely on terror, intimidation and lies to win. Those people deceive the population and render a bad service to their country. Here is an example: There is one party called “ Parmehutu”. I have already talked about it together with other parties in the previous communiqué. What is the programme of that party? They demand an equitable democracy; a true union of all Ruanda’ s inhabitants; a constitutional Monarch helping institute democracy; democratically elected counsels; judicial reforms and the election of certain judges; significant agrarian reforms; taxes commensurate with individuals’ wealth; assistance to the poorest allowing them to pursue their education. (Nkundabagenzi, pp.219-220, translation: Olivier Nyirubugara)

If we replace ‘Parmehutu’ by ‘RPF’ and the UNAR [Tutsi party] and the monarch by MRND and president Habyarimana, the result will be close to Dallaire’s map. Logiest also instructed provincial administrators during the 11 January 1960 meeting in Kigali to carry out “ actions favourable to the Hutu who live in ignorance and under the influence of oppression” (Nkundabagenzi, pp.215, translation: Olivier Nyirubugara). Like Dallaire, Logiest found himself in front two options, the one of “supporting the Tutsi structure” and the one of “opening the country to democratization” by favoring the Hutu to the detriment of the Tutsi. For him, “ the first option would be to the detriment of the masses” and the most realistic one was “ the institution of a republic and the suppression of the Tutsi hegemony” (Reyntjens, 1985: pp.267-272, translation: Olivier Nyirubugara)

However, we should note the difference between the missions entrusted to the two officers. Whereas Dallaire had to do all to have the Arusha Accord respected without siding with any of the parties of course, Logiest had the mission to restore order by all means, including military, administrative and political actions. Thus, unlike Dallaire, he defined his mission and strategy very honestly and clearly to the provincial administrators during a meeting in Kigali on 17 November 1959:

La position d'un résident militaire n'est pas une position politique; son rôle est de laisser, en abandonnant le commandement, une situation moins susceptible de troubles que la situation actuelle. Pour cela, nous devons favoriser les éléments d'ordre et affaiblir les éléments de désordre, en d'autres termes favoriser l'élément hutu et défavoriser l'élément tutsi parce que l'un sera obéi et l'autre pas. En conséquence nous avons pleine initiative pour mettre en place des sous-chefs hutu, là où ils ont une chance de réussir avec l'ide de l'administration (Reyntjens, 1985: pp.267-272).

The position of a military resident is not a political position; his role is, when his mission ends, to leave behind a situation less susceptible to encourage riots than the current one. For that, we have to favour those contributing to order restoration and weaken those contributing to disorder; in other words, to favour the Hutu and disfavour the Tutsi because one will be obeyed and the other not. Consequently, we have taken the initiative to appoint Hutu sub-chiefs where they are likely to succeed with the support of the administration. (Reyntjens,1985: pp.267-272, translation: Olivier Nyirubugara).

This quote astonishingly resembles Dallaire’s proposal to the UN Headquarters, days after the death of President Habyarimana:

J’avais en ligne Kofi Annan, Iqbal Riza et Hedi Annabi. Je leur ai raconté les déboires de la journée : la mort de mes soldats et des chefs politiques modérés, les meurtres systématiques, les échecs des réunions politiques, les offres de Kagame [d’assister la gendarmerie à prendre les choses en main] les actions de Bagosora,…J’ai évoqué la possibilité que les modérés puissent s’unir à nous pendant la nuit, ce qui nous permettrait, peut-être, de contrôler la situation, au moins en ce qui concernait l’aspect militaire. Cela voulait dire que je devais leur montrer mon appui et leur donner le sentiment que la communauté internationale leur apporterait la sécurité. Ils m’ont répondu que non. Je devais laisser les modérés faire les premiers pas, ne pas offrir le soutien de la MINUAR comme force de protection à l’une des deux factions. Cet ordre m’a déconcerté. Les modérés ne montreraient leur jeu sans que, d’abord, je montre le mien. J’ai insisté : là résidait peut-être notre unique chance de remettre le Rwanda sur le chemin de l’Accord d’Arusha, et nous ne devions pas la laisser passer. Dans le cas contraire, nous permettrions aux extrémistes de prendre l’initiative, et nous ne deviendrions rien d’autres que les témoins d’un génocide. La réponse est arrivée sans que je puisse me méprendre : je ne devais pas prendre parti, c’était aux rwandais de décider de leur sort… (Dallaire, pp.334-335)

I had Kofi Annan, Iqbal Riza and Hedi Annabi on line. I told them about the events of the day: the deaths of my soldiers and of moderate political leaders, the systematic murders, the failures of political meetings, Kagame’s offers [to assist the gendarmerie take control of the situation], Bagosora’s actions,…I talked about the possibility of getting moderates join us during the night , which would perhaps enable us to control the situation, at least the military aspect. That meant that I had to show them my support and give them the feeling that the international community would provide security. They rejected the proposal. I had to let the moderates make the first steps, avoiding to offer UNAMIR’s protection to either faction. This order put me out of myself. The moderates will never unveil their plan without first seeing my own plan. I insisted: there resided perhaps our single chance to put Rwanda back to the Arusha Accord rails, and we had not to waste that opportunity. Otherwise, we would allow the extremists to take the initiative, putting us in the position of genocide witnesses. The answer came in leaving me no other choice: I had not to side with any party, it was up to Rwandans to decide about their fate… (Dallaire, pp.334-335, translation: Olivier Nyirubugara)

We should note that every time that Dallaire mentioned the “moderates” he added that they were close to the RPF . He writes for instance that Gatabazi was a “well known moderate Hutu from the south and very pro-RPF” (Dallaire, p. 247, translation: Olivier Nyirubugara). This might mean that the support to the “moderates” would actually be understood as a support to the RPF, which he finally provided despite the clear instructions of neutrality he received from New York. Booh Booh, using his good observation skills, asserts that Dallaire secretly rendered services to the RPF providing them with fuel and food and giving them access to UNAMIR’s telecommunication equipment (Booh Booh, p. 126). Booh Booh adds that by doing so, Dallaire wanted “to be kind with the RPF” (Booh Booh, p. 127), before concluding in clear terms that Dallaire did nothing but “actively serve one side, the RPF” and that he was not neutral but rather “in league with the RPF” (Booh Booh, p. 123). To ensure a perpetual ignorance about his guilty relations with the RPF, Dallaire emptied the RPF’s Arusha Accord violations file in the UNAMIR force’s archives (Booh Booh, p. 123).

The result of those strategies of demonizing one part of the political arena resulted in the victory of the favoured side – to the social Revolution and the institution of the Republic that the disfavoured Tutsi perceived as a political hold-up accompanied by genocidal massacres; and to the installation of a mono-ethnic regime based on a genocide and massacres of hundreds of thousands of civilians and which the Hutu find scandalous as it is not representative. Under those conditions, would we conclude that Rwandan politicians are the only ones to account for the Rwandan tragedy?

Conclusion: Shared Responsibilities

Pendant un certain temps, je devins un bouc émissaire commode pour tout ce qui avait mal tourné au Rwanda » (Dallaire, p. 14)

For some time, I became a good scapegoat for every thing that failed in Rwanda (Dallaire, p. 14, translation: Olivier Nyirubugara)

Il ne sert à rien de chercher les boucs émissaires à l’étranger pour expliquer cette tragédie lorsqu’on est longtemps sourd aux appels à la raison de la Communauté internationale. (Booh Booh, p. 73)

It is useless to seek scapegoats abroad to explain that tragedy when you remained deaf to appeals to reason from the International Community. (Booh Booh, p. 73, translation: Olivier Nyirubugara)

The Rwandan tragedy is very often presented as being a consequence of the intransigence of the various Rwandan political and military actors. According to analysts and observers, Rwandans rejected the peace process that the international community had accepted to back and accompany.

The two books we are analyzing go in the same direction and the two authors, independently of each other, push all the responsibilities to Rwandan politicians. That vision is wrong because there were three sides in the crisis, notably the government and allies, the RPF and allies, and the International Community, the latter playing the role of mediator and referee. Let us admit that Rwandan sides – the government and the RPF – deliberately rejected the peace process. Did every thing work fine on the UNAMIR side? Did the UN Mission [perfectly] play the role it was supposed to play in the crisis? The authors answer with an unambiguous NO before engaging in a kind of verbal ping-pong.

Dallaire wonders if Booh Booh sent all the reports to New York (Dallaire, p. 272) and comes to the conclusion that only a few reports reached concerned officials at the UN Headquarters, which pushed him to knowingly and willingly violate the normal hierarchical procedure. In this regard, the famous fax announcing the preparation of a genocide dated January 1994 landed on the desk of Dallaire’s compatriot and friend General Paul Barril at the UN Headquerters without the knowledge of Booh Booh. According to Booh Booh, that fax was simply classified and given no further consideration “ because it lacked my stamp” » (Booh Booh, p.93). It is obvious that this malfunctioning did not play in favour of that peace that the two authors claim to have served.

We also mentioned that Booh Booh, who was supposed to be the UNAMIR’s boss, kept complaining that Dallaire was sabotaging his efforts to restore dialogue among the different actors. On many occasions, he stopped crucial meetings, prevented others from taking place thereby annihilating any chance of changing the negative course of events. Booh Booh’s conviction is that Dallaire could not allow him to book any success (Booh Booh, p. 52). And if Rwandan political leaders had been wiser allowing Booh Booh to bring every body together for the installation of the broad-based transitional government, would Dallaire not have sabotaged this effort? We put this question because Booh Booh himself unambiguously suggests that “Dallaire constituted a major obstacle for the UNAMIR” (Booh Booh, p. 139, translation: Olivier Nyirubugara).

A careful and analytical reading of the two books pushes us to confidently conclude that Booh Booh and Dallaire are actually not scapegoats but rather bear huge responsibilities in the Rwandan tragedy. The UNAMIR as presented by its two leaders, was incapable of playing its role not because of insufficient logistics and funds but because it was deeply undermined by internal rivalries, racism, indiscipline, partiality and inaction to rectify anomalies.

It is doubtless that Dallaire took the political and diplomatic functions of his boss and that the latter remained inactive knowing very well that the situation within the UNAMIR was rotten. On his arrival in Rwanda, Booh Booh certainly discovered that his closest collaborator would hinder his mission. He did not react. Later on, Dallaire prevented him from achieving some success and he did not react. He writes that Dallaire was a RPF’s “sub-marine” within the UNAMIR (Booh Booh, p. 121), but refrains from saying what he did to change that. He knew that Dallaire was suing UNAMIR resources and logistics in RPF’s favour and did nothing. Under those conditions, any responsible official -UN, governmental or the like - would give a choice to his hierarchy: he would either resign as his mission would be impossible or demand the recall of the collaborator behind the sabotage.

The list of omissions is long but can be summarized in one sentence: Booh Booh accepted to work with a man he considered to be “a major handicap for the UNAMIR” (Booh Booh, p. 139) and yet rejects any responsibility for the failure of his peace mission. Why having inaction after inaction while millions of Rwandans had placed their hopes in the International Community that Booh Booh represented? Will the entire generation hurt and traumatized by the Rwandan conflict accept Booh Booh’s slight regrets that he would have been “more attentive to all the recurrent rumours coming from the President of the Republic and foreign NGOs”? (Booh Booh, p. 72, translation: Olivier Nyirubugara).

One of the lessons that the reader of the two books will have drawn, especially UN officials, is summarized by a universal-wisdom proverb below, which Rwandans express as follows: Ibihanga bibiri ntibitekwa mu nkowono imwe (two cattle heads cannot be cooked in one pan), and which we find in neighbouring Swahili speaking countries - Fahali wawili hawakai zizi moja (two bulls cannot cohabitate in the same cattle shed) – and in the Anglo-Saxon culture - Two captains will sink the ship – as well as in the French culture - on ne peut pas mettre deux caïmans dans le même marigot (two caimans cannot cohabitate in one pond). When a mission has two heads, it ceases to be a mission to become an adventure. If every body had been wiser…

Bibliography :

  • Booh Booh, Jacques Roger, Le patron de Dallaire PARLE : Révélations sur les dérives d’un général de l’ONU au Rwanda (Paris : Editions Duboiris, 2005)
  • Dallaire, Roméo, J’ai serré la main du diable : la faillite de l’humanité au Rwanda (Outremont: Editions Libre Expression, 2003)
  • Nkundabagenzi, Fidèle, RWANDA POLITIQUE 1958-1960 (Bruxelles :CRISP, ??)
  • Reyntjens, Filip, Pouvoir et Droit au Rwanda. Droit public et Evolution Politique, 1916-1973 (Tervueren, Koninklijk Museum voor Midden Afrika, 1985)

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