Open Letter To Lieutenant-General (Rtd) Roméo Dallaire
TORONTO, October 20, 2017
Dear Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire, before I address the purpose of my letter, I salute you for your humanitarian work of advancing the cause of genocide-prevention. Above all, as a Rwandan-born Canadian, I pay my respect. You did the very best you could when you led the United Nations’ forces during the 1994 genocide in my birthplace – always hold your head high. It was not your fault that up to a million Rwandans perished. The United Nations and world powers denied you human and material resources to stop the tragedy.
General Dallaire, that brings me to the point of this letter. I am truly puzzled as to why you keep company of the current Rwandan ruler, President Paul Kagame, and his military generals.
The Kagame-led Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) government that took power 23 years ago is doing the very things that led to genocide. Kagame terrorizes, tortures, imprisons, and kills Rwandans and Congolese in unknown numbers. Power at all cost is what motivates the regime – much like its predecessor.
General Dallaire, you do not have to take my word for any of this. Let me sample for you how the UN bodies, human rights organizations, and donor governments describe Kagame’s Rwanda.
General Dallaire, on October 20, 2017, the United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) abandoned their mission to Rwanda. The mission was suspended because of the obstructions imposed by the Kagame regime. In the words of the mission team:
“We have been barred from completing our work in some places, and grave limitations have been imposed on granting access to certain places of detention…We have also been unable to carry out private and confidential interviews with some persons deprived of their liberty. Moreover, many of those we have managed to interview have expressed fears of reprisals. We must not place the persons that have cooperated with us in danger.”
General Dallaire, a month earlier, Human Rights Watch (HRW) had issued its report, “‘We Will Force You to Confess’: Torture and Unlawful Military Detention in Rwanda.” The report documents unlawful detention in military camps and systematic torture by the Rwandan military. HRW called upon Rwandan authorities and United Nations to investigate these atrocities immediately. The UN’s attempt to investigate these crimes has now been blocked by the regime of Paul Kagame.
General Dallaire, still earlier in the year, the United States governmentdescribed realities in Kagame’s Rwanda in the following shocking terms:
“The most important human rights problems were government harassment, arrest, and abuse of political opponents…Other major human rights problems included arbitrary or unlawful killings; torture and harsh conditions in prisons and detention centers; arbitrary arrest; prolonged pretrial detention; government infringement on citizens’ privacy rights and on freedoms of speech, assembly, and association…”
General Dallaire, the British Government similarly describes Rwanda in the following alarming terms:
“We continue to urge the Rwandan government to address human rights concerns around freedom of expression and political space…Former Head of Rwandan Intelligence, Patrick Karegeya, was found murdered in a hotel room in Johannesburg, South Africa. In August, a South African court found four men guilty of the attempted assassination of former Rwandan Army Chief of Staff, Kayumba Nyamwasa. The judge concluded that the crime had been ‘politically motivated’ and had ‘emanated from a certain group of people from Rwanda.’ The UK is deeply concerned by what appears to be a succession of acts of violence against Rwandan opposition figures.”
And so, General Dallaire, I kindly ask you as a Canadian compatriot: why do you persist in legitimizing Kagame? What is not clear about what Kagame or his generals stand for? Surely, as a witness to genocide, you saw firsthand what happened when a regime gets intoxicated with power.
General Dallaire, associating with a brutal dictator is not the Canadian way of thinking or doing things. Autocratic rule and human rights atrocities are not our values. I understand that you may be keen to give back to Rwanda in your humanitarian work. But the current realities in Rwanda do not permit constructive or meaningful engagement except on the Rwandan dictator’s terms. That is called appeasement and legitimation.
In conclusion, General Dallaire, I beg you to reconsider your relationship with Paul Kagame. He is not worthy of friendship to a distinguished Canadian military leader, a former senator, a global humanitarian, and a decent human being who tried to save Rwandan lives. Kagame represents something entirely different – a dictator that does not hesitate to kill his own people to stay in power. As you may be aware, Kagame “won” presidential elections by 99% in August 2017; he is set to rule Rwanda until 2034, as per new constitution he engineered to indefinitely cling to power. We are talking here, dear General Dallaire, of Rwanda’s version of Kim Jong-un, the supreme ruler of North Korea.