Does history repeat itself? In this 28and commemoration of the start of the Rwandan genocide, the horror parades again before our amazed but distant eyes. This time, it is Ukraine which is the scene of massacres. Boutcha, Mariupol, and where else? The international community’s refusal to intervene is still there, but invoked for different reasons. The central point remains the same: “human beings are not a factor [suffisamment] important in influencing us to literally want to save them and prevent them from being killed”, drops Roméo Dallaire.
For the one who had suffered a refusal from the UN to intervene to put an end to the carnage of 1994, when he was at the head of the Blue Helmets in Rwanda, the moral bankruptcy of the international community resounded once again. Although the scale of the Rwandan genocide, with its 800,000 victims, is not comparable to the loss of human life in Ukraine, the similarities in the reaction of the international community are there and are “scandalous”, notes the former Canadian senator .
And yet. In 2005, all the countries of the world adopted, under the aegis of the UN, the principle of the “responsibility to protect” populations against genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.
“The whole world had agreed on the responsibility to intervene in the event of [violations] massive human rights campaigns,” said General Dallaire. But what we notice is that the needs [d’être protégés] human beings in Ukraine fall almost last [de tous les facteurs pris en considération] “.
For fear of creating an escalation and destabilizing international security, Western countries have favored “indirect methods” to support the Ukrainians, such as arms transfers and economic sanctions. “Despite the millions of displaced people, the rapes, the number of civilian victims, the violations of human rights, we are on the border of the conflict, and not in the direct intervention to protect these people”, denounces he.
However, does not the threat also reside in this message sent to Russia that, despite the violations of international law that it is committing, the international community will remain on the sidelines? asks General Dallaire.
“If every country that has nuclear weapons can play like the Russians did to keep every NATO country out of the fight, we’re not just going to have [la guerre en] Ukraine, but we risk seeing other countries being invaded. »
Twenty-eight years after the international community remained a spectator of the carnage perpetrated in Rwanda, passages from the book I shook hands with the devil. The bankruptcy of humanity in Rwandain which Roméo Dallaire retraces this tragedy, remain disturbingly topical. Like this excerpt on “humanity’s inability to hear the call for help launched by a people in danger”, or the one on the will to act of States, “each of which found an excuse not to to be the one who would move”.
“It’s the same reaction from the international community, which doesn’t want to intervene because it’s not in our interests,” said General Dallaire. Only this time we [fait référence] to international security. »
Will the Ukrainians ever forgive us for watching them die without flinching? “I think that on an ethical level, Ukrainians will have the right to question this quasi-inaction on the part of other countries”, affirms the one who suffered from post-traumatic shock on his return from Rwanda. “The Ukrainians may look at us like the Poles looked at us at the start of World War II, when we had essentially abandoned them. »
The windows for intervention by the international community are narrowing, however, as the war progresses, underlines Roméo Dallaire. “The possibility of Russia using tactical nuclear weapons increases as we face a bled, embarrassed enemy who, in this wound, may become more unpredictable in its ultimate decision to achieve its objectives. »
The war in Ukraine has also become an urban war, with more opportunities for ambushes. “Apart from the civil war, it’s one of the worst wars to fight,” explains the ex-soldier. To win, Russian President Vladimir Putin will have to deploy more robust means. But conversely, if NATO decided to intervene, the Alliance would need to send a lot of soldiers on the ground to drive the Russians out of Ukrainian territory.
“It would probably require hundreds of thousands of troops, whereas in the beginning we could have potentially done this with a lot less [de soldats]and we couldn’t have had a potentially more desperate enemy in front of us,” continued General Dallaire.
In addition to nuclear deterrence, there is also the fear of seeing soldiers die during a mission abroad. “It can be very difficult to sell to the population [locale] “, he underlines. The ex-soldier recalls in this respect the traumatic episode for the Americans and for President Bill Clinton of the battle of Mogadishu in 1993, during which 19 American soldiers had lost their lives. Some bodies had been dragged by cars through the streets of the Somali capital.
“Do we really want to take the risk of losing troops to save the Ukrainians? In my opinion, there does not seem to be any desire on the part of countries to take that risk. But so far, they have not been forced to answer this question, because, [de toute façon]we are afraid of military escalation. »
In his book, General Dallaire echoed the words of former Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, who pointed out at the time that a war without risk waged for the protection of human rights constituted a “moral contradiction”. Since “war without risk supposes that our life counts more than that of those we want to save”, he noted.
Until these contradictions are unraveled, Roméo Dallaire hopes that investigators from the UN Human Rights Council will quickly travel to Ukraine to document human rights violations, war crimes and the possible massacres that could have a genocidal intent. So that once again, we can say: never again.