Shame on Unifor. Applauding Roméo Dallaire is wrong and giving him an award named after Nelson Mandela is simply embarrassing.
At its convention in Québec City next week Canada’s largest private sector union is set to give Dallaire its Nelson Mandela Award, which is supposed to go to an individual advancing the cause of international peace and justice. But, Dallaire is an ally and apologist of Paul Kagame, the most bloodstained African leader. Kagame’s repeated invasions of Congo is responsible for incredible bloodletting, gaining him the moniker “butcher of Africa’s Great Lakes.” Beyond his support for Rwanda’s ruthless dictator, Dallaire has taken numerous positions hard to align with championing international peace and justice:
- Dallaire was widely quoted criticizing the use of the term “genocide” in the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
- Dallaire has called for increased military spending.
- Dallaire is a proponent of Canada joining US Ballistic Missile ‘Defence’.
- Dallaire opposed calls to withdraw Canadian soldiers from Afghanistan, saying they should stay until the job is done.
- Dallaire supported the overthrow of Haiti’s elected government in 2004, according to the Montreal Gazette. In a story five days after the Canadian-backed coup titled “Dallaire fears new Rwanda disaster in Haiti: Ex-UN commander urges Canada to act”, the former general said, “anywhere people are being abused, the world should be involved.
- Dallaire regularly speaks to anti-Palestinian groups and repeated their claims about the “genocidal intent of the Iranian state”. At a 2011 Senate inquiry looking at the plight of the Baha’i in Iran, he claimed “the similarities with what I saw in Rwanda are absolutely unquestionable, equal and, in fact, applied with seemingly the same verve. We are witnessing a slow-motion rehearsal for genocide.”
- Dallaire argued that Canada should have secured Baghdad before the 2003 US invasion, according to an October 2006 Edmonton Journal article titled “Canada should have led Iraq invasion, Dallaire says” (but he did not want Canada to participate in the actual US-led coalition).
- Dallaire said Canadian air strikes in Iraq/Syria in 2014-16 weren’t sufficient. “There is no way that you will destroy that enemy without boots on the ground,” he said.
- Comparing Darfur and Syria to Rwanda, Dallaire called for western intervention there.
- Dallaire backed the 2011 NATO war on Libya. After the war he complained we didn’t go in “forcefully enough.”
Most significantly, Dallaire has deliberately twisted the events he was party to in Rwanda in 1993–94 to align with those seeking an ideological cover to justify US-backed Western interventions (and the Kagame dictatorship). In response to the general’s self-serving portrayal of his time in Rwanda, the overall head of the UN mission in Rwanda, Jacques-Roger Booh Booh, published Le Patron de Dallaire Parle (The Boss of Dallaire Speaks). And many other individuals in the UN mission, such as the head of Belgian troops in Kigali Colonel Luc Marchal and UN intelligence officer Amadou Deme, have contradicted Dallaire’s portrayal of the complex tragedy that engulfed Rwanda and Burundi.
The Unifor leadership doesn’t care about any of this. They are seduced by the “Canadian hero” propaganda surrounding Dallaire who spoke at Unifor’s 2015 convention and at conventions of its predecessor union. (In another sign of the union’s political outlook, foreign minister Chrystia Freeland is also set to address the Unifor convention.) I contacted the union’s communications department (I previously worked at Unifor) to ask, “who is driving this and if they’re willing to comment on record about Dallaire’s politics, specifically his continued support for the most repressive and murderous African leader: Paul Kagame.”
At the time of publication no one from Unifor had been put forward to discuss Dallaire’s award.
Associating Dallaire with Mandela is downright embarrassing. The anti-apartheid leader strongly backed the Palestinian liberation struggle and praised Fidel Castro. Mandela also supported Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi against NATO’s machinations (alongside the African Union). After Haitian president Jean Bertrand Aristide was ousted by the US, France and Canada, South Africa gave him asylum and Mandela invited Aristide to his home. Mandela criticized the US war in Afghanistan and aggressively denounced the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Worse than disgracing the memory of Mandela, Unifor’s promotion of Dallaire perpetuates liberal imperialist Canadian mythology.
Hopefully, when Dallaire speaks someone at the convention will take the stage with a sign saying, “why do you support murderous dictator Paul Kagame”.
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