Dallaire says Canada should lead

A massive line snaked through MacEwan Student Centre, winding around deserted tables as the eager audience waited nearly an hour for retired lieutenant general Romeo Dallaire to take the stage.

Dallaire was greeted by a welcome fit for a rock star, as the sold-out crowd of approximately 1,000 rose to their feet to give him a standing ovation on Fri., Mar. 10.

He began the event with a presentation entitled ‘Rwanda-Sudan-Terrorism: When Humanity Fails.’ The lively French-Canadian promptly delved into relations between developing and developed nations, discussing how the developed world has failed to help its less advanced neighbours.

“What I am speaking of is not necessarily a downer,” he stated. “But 80 per cent of humanity is deeper in the mud, the blood, and the suffering of indignity.”

Dallaire continued by identifying globalism as one of the most effective tools for advancing the whole of humanity, noting the role of non-governmental organizations is increasingly important to solve contemporary problems.

“Classic war has disappeared from the end of the Cold War,” said Dallaire. “Rwanda failed because of different parameters as defined from before.”

Dallaire touched on the experience he is best-known for, serving as force commander to the United Nations’ mission to Rwanda.

During his time in the tiny African nation, approximately 800,000 people were murdered in just 100 days, while he stood by, paralyzed by a lack of interest and assistance from the same developed countries who quickly raised over$3 billion in aid for the Asian Tsunami.

He explained the small amount of media coverage concerning the genocide casually attributed the conflict to tribal conflict that had been persisting for generations. With the lack of intervention–coupled with world leaders and journalists alike downgrading the seriousness of the situation–Dallaire witnessed atrocities that eventually caused him to develop post-traumatic stress disorder. After over three decades of service, he was released from the Canadian Forces on medical grounds connected to the disorder.

“We weren’t ready for the savvy of the people involved in Rwanda, but they go to the same colleges and universities as we do [in the western world],” said Dallaire, citing the Universite de Montreal and the London School of Economics in particular.

Underestimating new enemies was not the only issue in Rwanda. Dallaire also elaborated on the evolution of warfare and how it has fundamentally changed since the bipolar system of the Cold War collapsed.

“We’ve entered an era of low-tech but we still have a high-tech philosophy,” he stated. “There are massive numbers of youths totally disenfranchised and new weapons are appearing–like fear–that are making the population an instrument of war. Rape has become a tool of war and the use of children to conduct war has also been introduced massively since the late 1980s.”

Among the many ethical dilemmas Dallaire has encountered, he appeared to be most effected by the changing role of children in developing nations.

“Do you kill children that kill?” he questioned. “Children under duress who have been abducted, not fully conscious and who are half drugged up? Which society is the best one? The one who kills children or the one who makes children soldiers? There is no good choice.”

After managing stress and rebounding from suicide attempts, Dallaire has grown from his experience in Africa, working as a visiting lecturer at several Canadian and American universities while currently pursuing a fellowship at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.

He now concerns himself with spreading the lessons learned in Rwanda and making prescriptions for current struggles in a changing world.

“We were absolutely right in not joining the American coalition in Iraq,” he said to resounding applause. “But we were not right in abandoning the Iraqis. Let us middle powers go in under the UN. It’s our responsibility to be the leading middle power and to hopefully one day prevent conflict.”

He punctuated the conclusion of his speech with a message he has been careful to emphasize in the past.

“All humans are human. Not one is more human than the other.”

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