By: Danielle Poirier
Friday Nov. 2, 2012 Senator and retired General Romeo Dallaire addressed a small audience in the J. A. DeSeve theatre at Concordia University. Dallaire explored the current and past issues of mass atrocities, genocide, and human rights while constantly reflecting on where Canada stood in the equation. He asked; is humanity to thrive or strive the future? More specifically; what is Canada’s role on protecting human rights? and what role will the youth play in protecting human rights?
Dallaire is most widely recognized as being the Force Commander in the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR) in 1993-1994. The ill-fated peacekeeping mission was persevered to its last breath by the honourable Senator Dallaire in his fight against genocide. Dallaire is currently a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Montreal Institute for Genocide Studies (MIGS), a Concordia-based initiative. He also published two novels titled Shake Hands with the Devil and They Fight like Soldiers, They Die like Children.
“We have the responsibility when people’s human rights are breeched, we have to intervene,” Dallaire said at the talk. Dallaire encouraged the audience to ask what camp that they considered themselves to be in; strive or thrive. Are we in a mode of survival or is the aim of humanity to continue to strive? The latter was the camp in which Dallaire placed himself, and encouraged human rights advocates to be situated in as well.
While humanity will aim to strive you can only strive on a long-term scale. You don’t always see results right away, let alone positive results, Dallaire explained. “The essence of humanity is serenity,” He said, it is our responsibility as a country to find non-confrontational means to protect human rights. War is good for absolutely nothing.
“War must be perceived as [an] outright failure,” he declared.
Dallaire explored the possibility of non-confrontational methods of peacekeeping while reflecting upon the mass atrocities of Rwanda and the inequality of support it received in comparison to Yugoslavia at the time. He blames the existence of the human pecking order [societial hiearchy] for the acceptability of the difference in human treatment. Rwanda was further down on the rungs of the pecking order. Dallaire recalled calling for supplemental aid and how none was sent. However aid was given to Yugoslavia, which suffered far less deaths and accounts of rape than Rwanda did. He stated that ten thousand Rwandans died a day, and that the Blue Berets were to be withdrawn from their mission to protect them because of the absence of strategic resources Rwanda had to offer.
“That is what happens when humans become things,” said Dallaire in reference to the massive abuse of human rights.
“Humanity has failed”, he said, regarding the failure of humanity in the twentieth century. After the Holocaust, humanity vowed that never again would such atrocities happen, but they have been occurring over and over again. Dallaire brought to light that since the cold war hundreds of billions of dollars have been invested in the most useless defense system – war, and that power sharing pushes people to the point of genocide, which we never thought we’d see again. “Genocide is not an action verb,” Dallaire declared. He saw no excuses for such a failure, in the past we were separated and isolated, limited by our location. But now we are all in a position of capability of responding equally with electronic communications.
So what is the solution and what road can we take, inquired Dallaire. He looks to the youth of today and implores them to maximize their potential, utilize their 2.9 million votes. In a time when self-interest dominates, what are needed are multi disciplinary leaders who will integrate and create something new. A combination of military, humanitarian and political disciplines must be integrated equally in leaders. Dallaire says that this is the goal of MIGS and in order to erase the ambiguities of this era we need willingness to risk. He implores that those twenty-five and under activists push the borders, take the risks. We have the possibility to be the most awakened activists “take care of [the] ones next to you as you take care of others…One is not exclusive of the other” said Dallaire.