Careful when shaking Rwandans’ blood-soaked hands, Mr. Dallaire

Romeo Dallaire speaks with Paul Kagame in Toronto, 2016

If a famed Canadian ‘humanitarian’ participated in a government-sponsored conference in Moscow there would be howls of outrage. But Romeo Dallaire boosting Africa’s most bloodstained regime will likely be ignored.

Later in the month Dallaire is scheduled to speak at the 20th anniversary festival of the Giants of Africa basketball initiative. The Kigali event is sponsored by Rwanda’s Sports Ministry and Visit Rwanda tourism department. The release announcing the gathering notes, “Special thanks to His Excellency President Paul Kagame for his unwavering support of Giants of Africa and for graciously hosting the Festival in Rwanda.” Kagame, who has ruled for 30 years, will likely speak at an event held amidst a new wave of Rwandan terror in eastern Congo.

Last month the United Nations Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo released its latest report on violence there. The UN detailed the M23’s killings and rapes. They again concluded that Rwandan forces have supported the M23 rebels including by sending soldiers to fight.

A week earlier Human Rights Watch released a report documenting M23 killings, rapes and war crimes over the past six months. They documented 14 mass grave sites in one village. Human Rights Watch called on the United Nations Security Council to sanction M23 leaders and Rwandan officials.

Over the past 18 months Rwanda has instigated a new wave of violence in eastern Congo that has driven one million from their homes. Begun in 2012, the M23 is the successor to a Rwanda-backed rebel force led by Laurent Nkunda, who grew to prominence after Rwanda invaded. In 1996 Rwandan forces marched 1,500 km to topple the regime in Kinshasa. Two years later they re-invaded after the Congolese government it installed expelled Rwandan troops. This led to an eight-country war between 1998 and 2003, which left millions dead. Ever since Rwanda has had significant sway over eastern Congo, which it has pillaged of minerals.

In response to the latest UN report Judy Rever, author of In Praise of Blood: The Crimes of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, tweeted: “Gen Romeo Dallaire, next to Rwanda’s James Kabarebe, who oversaw troops that stalked and slaughtered civilians in Zaire (Congo) 96-97. He is now behind deadly Rwandan operations in eastern Congo. How much longer will Canada fund Rwanda’s army via the Dallaire Institute? This is aiding and abetting crimes.”

Kabarebe, whose family reportedly lives in Canada, was cited in the recent UN expert report as coordinating Rwandan forces. Rwandan military operations in eastern Congo, they concluded, “were designed and co-ordinated” by Kabarebe, a former defence minister and current security adviser to Kagame. A 2012 UN report labeled Kabarebe “a central player in recruiting on behalf of M23” and noted that “he has often been in direct contact with M23 members on the ground to coordinate military activities.”

In 2015 Kabarebe was arrested in London under a Spanish indictment for war crimes. Three years later Dallaire met Kabarebe in Vancouver. Long after his extensive crimes had been documented by major Canadian media, Dallaire spoke alongside Kagame in 2018. Dallaire has repeatedly participated in events promoting the government of an individual trained at the US officer academy in Fort Leavenworth Kansas. When Dallaire labeled Kagame an “extraordinary man” in his 2003 book he already had more African blood on his hands than any other individual.

The Dallaire Institute’s African Regional Centre of Excellence is based in Rwanda. It works closely with Rwandan security forces as part of its purported bid to eradicate child soldiers. But the UN found that the M23 employed child soldiers as the Globe and Mail reported four months ago in “Canada’s child-soldier effort hits headwind in Congo”. The Globe pointed out that the Trudeau government provided $5.6 million to the Dallaire Institute, which has “a training partnership with the Rwandan military.”

Canada has little problem with Rwandan violence in eastern Congo. Trudeau has repeatedly met Kagame and Ottawa provides tens of millions of dollars annually in assistance to Rwanda. Seven months into Rwanda’s latest wave of violence in eastern Congo, Canada announced it was opening an embassy in Kigali to combat Russian influence in the region. Amidst fighting in Congo, Trudeau attended the Commonwealth Summit in Kigali and focused his discussion with Kagame on opposing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Last week then international development minister Harjit Sajjan, Gender Equality Minister Marci Ien and Liberal MP Arielle Kayabaga met Kagame and multiple Rwandan ministers. They released a statement boasting about how they were deepening ties to Africa’s most bloodstained dictator. Headlined “Canada strengthens bilateral relationship with Rwandan President”, the readout about the meeting Rwanda’s role in “regional stability”. (The over-the-top release is likely part of a bid to woo Kagame to deploy his forces to Haiti to staff the UN occupation.)

Journalists should ask Romeo Dallaire about his forthcoming trip to Kigali. Real humanitarians wouldn’t support Africa’s most bloodstained dictator.

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