GEORGETWON, P.E.I. – It’s been nearly 20 years since world powers failed to intervene in the humanitarian crisis in Rwanda and watched from the sidelines as a genocide took place.
More than 800,000 Tutsis were killed in just 100 days before a Tutsi offensive – led by current President Paul Kagame – invaded from Uganda and pushed out the Hutu government and Interahamwe militia.
Canadian Lt.-Gen. (Ret.) Romeo Dallaire commanded the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda between 1993 and 1994. He alerted the UN of Hutu plans to massacre Tutsis, but had his initial requests for intervention denied.
He said the international response to Syria, two decades later, isn’t much better and it’s coming way too late.
“I think that there should have been an intervention,” Dallaire told Global News in Georgetown, P.E.I., where he’s attending the Liberal caucus meeting. But, he said that should have happened more than a year ago.
“[An intervention] should’ve been on the ground and it should have been an intervention not to sustain the combat, but an intervention to separate the fighting forces – to protect the civilians instead of having to see the civilians arm themselves and fight.”
The brutal massacres and human rights violations that took place in Rwanda, while Dalliare argued for the international community to step in, eventually led to the United Nations agreeing to the Responsibility to Protect (R2P).
“Military intervention under the Responsibility to Protect… was the answer a year plus ago,” he said, “When the fighting in this horrific civil war wasn’t all so inter-meshed in urban areas, that would require hundreds of thousands of troops to do the job that R2P is asking, which is protecting civilians.”
R2P is an initiative all UN members agreed to in 2005, making a commitment to act when a government fails to protect or is unable to protect its citizens from genocide, massacres, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.
“[Obama] setting a red line… on a crime against humanity is something that every country should have simply agreed to and said that is certainly a reference point,” he said. “But we set a line in 2005 with Responsibility to Protect.”
“A hundred thousand plus civilians [killed] and millions who are internally displaced… doesn’t seem to be a ‘red line’ that was even considered.”
As it stands now, Dallaire thinks the conflict and crisis will end “with a lot of dead Syrians [and] a lot of Syrians suffering.”
He has some skepticism about what could be accomplished with a military intervention, which now seems possible within a matter of days.
He wants a solution that will see “engagement in protection [for] the people that are still in Syria,” rather than military strikes, as the U.S. appears to be preparing for.
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Dallaire questions why foreign governments don’t want a solution similar to the Dayton Accords in 1995, which brought an end to the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
“We deployed 67,000 troops in the ex-Yugoslavia,” he said. “What’s the difference between a scenario of catastrophic failure, of imploding nations and failing states in Europe and the same thing happening in the Middle East and the Arab world.”
According to Dallaire, military force targeting facilities such as chemical weapons sites or command centres may achieve something, but it’s not going to ensure the death toll is going to stop climbing.
He said the alleged use of chemical weapons on civilians is actually a sign the Syrian regime is getting desperate to stay in power.
An inspection team is still investigating the attack of one week ago, but the UN’s special envoy to Syria said Wednesday that evidence suggests chemicals were used in the Aug. 21 attack.
Dallaire fears there’s no clear plan in place to assist the Syrian people moving forward to stabilize the country.
“We saw with Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Chad and the problems like Darfur not being resolved, and Sudan remaining vulnerable [after intervention],” he said.
Dallaire said the international community needs to show Syria, and the countries in the surrounding region, that they’re not “standing alone.”
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