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All hell breaks loose in Kigali

With more than 800,000 people slaughtered in 100 days the Rwandan genocide stands as one of the most horrific mass murders of the past century. In the middle of the horror was a Canadian peacekeeper whose efforts to avert the tragedy were thwarted by political apathy and incalculable evil. CBC Digital Archives looks back at this sad chapter in Africa's history and how Lt.-Gen. Roméo Dallaire managed to survive to become Canada's most famous casualty of war.

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On the evening of April 6, 1994, a plane carrying the Hutu presidents of Rwanda and nearby Burundi is shot down. As news of the presidents' deaths spreads, armed Hutu extremists launch a calculated campaign of terror and begin killing hundreds of Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus. In this clip from CBC Radio's As It Happens, a shaken Roméo Dallaire describes the scene from Kigali, saying Hutu militias have "gone on a rampage" of "killing, destroying, massacring [and] mutilating."
• This interview with CBC Radio's Ann Medina was one of the first interviews Roméo Dallaire gave about the situation in Kigali.

• Despite what was going on around him, Lt.-Gen. Roméo Dallaire was determined to "spark the conscience of the world" by granting interviews to as many journalists as possible.

• When asked by Medina about reports that "all hell is breaking loose" in the capital, Dallaire replied "That would be a reasonably fair statement."

• In what would become an oft-repeated phrase, Dallaire described his force as "a classic peacekeeping mission" gone awry. From within UN headquarters in the heart of Kigali, he reported that militiamen and Hutu extremists were having "a field day" killing Tutsis and non-extreme Hutus in areas throughout the city.

• Dallaire laughed when asked if he or his personnel were in danger; as he explained, the UN headquarters was being repeatedly fired on and had become the target of mortar shells.

• Speculation still surrounds the April 6 assassination of Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana and Cyprien Ntaryamira, the president of Burundi. Shortly after their plane was shot down at 8:45 p.m., Hutu radio stations reported that members of the Tutsi rebel group the RPF were responsible. Belgium and France were also blamed.

• The overall effect was the same, as hundreds of Interahamwe militia and members of the elite presidential guard went on a deadly killing spree of Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

• Investigations carried out by human rights groups later blamed the assassinations on extremist Hutus within the government who believed Habyarimana was too moderate.

• These extremists were frustrated with the delay in putting into action a secret plan to eliminate all political opposition. The plan was dubbed "Network Zero" in reference to the total number of Tutsis they hoped to leave alive. Investigations have shown that this cabal planned the presidents' deaths and used the media to blame the Tutsis.

• The leader of this group was allegedly Théoneste Bagosora, a colonel in the Rwandan military. After his first meeting with Bagosora in 1993, Dallaire said he felt like he had "shaken hands with the devil."

• After he learned of the assassinations, Dallaire drove to the presidential palace where he discovered Bagosora sitting behind Habyarimana's desk. For the next 100 days Bagosora would serve as the country's self-appointed leader.

• One of the first things Bagosora allegedly did was to order the presidential guard to kill Agathe Uwilingiyimana, the country's Tutsi prime minister and second-in-command.

• Uwilingiyimana, her husband and children were murdered in the attack. The 10 Belgian soldiers that Dallaire had sent to protect her were captured, tortured and later killed. The incident prompted Belgium to remove their troops from Rwanda a week later.

• In this clip, Dallaire ominously refers to this incident. When Ann Medina asks him about news reports that said three peacekeepers were killed, he says "We've lost more than that."

• This interview would be the first of many that Dallaire provided to CBC Radio. Frustrated by the lack of UN action, he had hoped to create a groundswell of global opinion that would force his superiors into sending more troops.

• The UN would eventually approve more troops -- three months after the genocide's end.

• To hear about the role the Western media played in reporting on the genocide in Rwanda, listen to this additional clip about the failure of the media in Rwanda.

Medium: Radio
Program: As It Happens
Broadcast Date: April 7, 1994
Guest(s): Roméo Dallaire
Host: Barbara Budd
Interviewer: Ann Medina
Duration: 4:57

Last updated: February 2, 2015

Page consulted on February 2, 2015

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