UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
RWANDA: Former UN general in Rwanda testifies at tribunal
ARUSHA, 20 January 2004 (IRIN) - The commander of UN troops who were in Rwanda leading up to and during the 1994 genocide, Gen. Romeo Dallaire, testified on Monday before the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha, Tanzania, about the military's role in the killing spree, which lasted 100 days and left at least 800,000 people dead.
In his testimony for the prosecution in the case against Theoneste Bagasora, former director of cabinet in the Ministry of Defence, and three other military leaders, Dallaire spoke of Bagasora's control over the ministry and the army and, after the start of the killings, his apparent satisfaction of a plan falling into place.
Following the shooting down of a plane carrying Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana on the night of 16 April 1994, widespread killings, primarily carried out by militias known as the Interahamwe, left hundreds of thousands of Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus dead.
Dallaire, a retired Canadian general, is an outspoken critic of the international indifference and UN bureaucracy that denied him additional troops and a mandate to stop the killings three months before they began in earnest. He is due to give evidence for at least a week.
At the beginning of the court's proceedings, Dallaire was asked to stand up and point out Bagasora, a man who, during their last meeting at the end of the genocide in Rwanda, he said had threatened to kill him if they were ever to meet again.
Despite Bagasora's resignation from the army in late 1993 and not being the minister of defence, Dallaire said that, in his position as commander of the UN troops in Rwanda, he felt that Bagasora was the man in charge - the "kingpin".
"Bagasora was the person exercising authority - even when he was not the senior military commander, Bagasora chaired the meetings," Dallaire told the court on Monday. "No one in those meetings went against what he said."
Dallaire also complained about the government's lack of cooperation in disseminating information about the role of the UN mission in Rwanda. In fact, when rumours were circulating in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, that Belgian UN troops had been involved in the shooting down of the presidential aircraft, the military did nothing to dismiss them.
"No action was taken to defuse the situation and no attempt was taken to explain our role in Rwanda," he said.
Dallaire said that as he tried to re-establish order, he was astounded by Bagasora's calm manner despite the apparent crisis once the killings began following the president's death.
"I had never seen anyone so calm and at ease with what was going on. It was surreal," Dallaire said. "He received phone calls, spoke to people and shuffled papers. Augustin Bizimungu [chief of staff of the army] was even asleep in the corner."
Dallaire added, "He was either totally on another planet or something was clearly operating according to plan."
Following information about the preparation of weapons stashes, Dallaire warned his superiors of an impending escalation of violence and, on 11 January 1994, asked the UN for more troops and a strengthened mandate. His calls were ignored.
Despite this, the UN troops in Rwanda protected about 30,000 people in various sites. Dallaire testified that only later did he realise that, in even protecting these people, he was going "beyond his mandate".
Dallaire's recent book "Shake Hands with the Devil - the failure of humanity in Rwanda" is a damning indictment of world leaders and the UN bureaucracy that failed to stop the genocide and is likely to be used by the prosecution.
He was the prosecution's 37th witness in the trial known as "Military Trial I", which began on 2 April 2002. The trial is being heard by Judges Erik Mose from Norway (presiding), Serguei Aleckseievich Egorov from Russia, and Jai Ram Reddy of Fiji.
Besides Bagosora, 61, the other defendants are Col. Anatole Nsengiyumva, 52, a former commander of military operations in the province of Gisenyi; Maj. Aloys Ntabakuze, 48, a former commander of the paracommando battalion in the Rwandan army and Brig-Gen. Gratien Kabiligi, 51, a former chief of military operations within the High Command of the army.
All four have denied several counts of genocide and crimes against humanity.
Dallaire's testimony marked his second appearance before tribunal. He gave evidence in 1998 in the trial of a former mayor, Jean-Paul Akayesu, who was later convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
Theme(s): (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Governance, (IRIN) Human Rights
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