CBC Digital Archives

The killings continue in Rwanda in 1994

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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WARNING: This clip features graphic images.
It's one month after the initial killings, and Roméo Dallaire is trying to salvage some sort of peace in Rwanda. Isolated from his UN bosses who withdraw most of his troops, Dallaire is forced to stand helplessly as the genocide explodes around him.
As global interest in Rwanda wanes, Dallaire explains in this CBC Television report what he hopes to do for Rwandans and why "I don't think walking out of here is an option."
• By the time this report was broadcast in early May 1994, the situation in Rwanda had become much worse. As Susan Harada reports, the killings had spread beyond Kigali into rural towns and villages where most of the population lived.
• International Red Cross officials estimated that tens of thousands of Rwandans had been shot or hacked to death in the first few days of the genocide.

• Fear of the roving Interahamwe militia sparked a mass exodus, with more than one million refugees fleeing into neighbouring countries during the first two weeks of the killings.
• Workers with non-governmental organizations, and foreign nationals -- including about 200 Canadians -- also rushed to get out of the chaos.

• Amidst all this, Dallaire learned that the UN Security Council was looking to greatly reduce UNAMIR, since its six-month mandate had expired. Dallaire fought against this move and asked again for extra troops to help end the killings.
• On April 21 the Security Council voted to withdraw 90 per cent of UNAMIR's troops, leaving Dallaire with only 270 soldiers.

• At the time this clip aired, aid workers estimated that 500,000 Rwandans had already been slaughtered.
• Dallaire managed to save the lives of about 20,000 Rwandans, including thousands who had sought refuge in a Kigali sports stadium. Despite international calls for Dallaire to get his soldiers out of harm's way, he refused. As he explained in this clip, "I don't think walking out of here is an option."

• A large part of Dallaire's growing frustration came in the form of a controversial May 17, 1994, resolution issued by the UN Security Council. The resolution stated that "acts of genocide may have been committed" in Rwanda. Dallaire and many others at the time, were angered by the careful characterization of the situation.
• According to the UN charter, genocide is considered "a crime under international law which [the member nations] undertake to prevent and to punish."

• Dallaire believed the resolution was phrased in such a way that the UN and the United States could avoid being forced by its own mandate to send more troops into Rwanda.
• The killings in Rwanda occurred a year after a U.S. Black Hawk helicopter was shot down during a peacekeeping mission in Somalia. Photos of an American soldier being beaten and killed in the streets of Mogadishu had proved politically damaging for U.S. President Bill Clinton.

• In the wake of this, Clinton had vowed not to risk the lives of any more U.S. soldiers in Africa.
• Internal White House memos released in 2001 show that the Clinton administration went to great lengths to avoid using the word 'genocide' in reference to Rwanda. The memos included legal advice that warned Clinton that the United States, via their involvement in the UN, would be obliged to send troops into Rwanda if the situation was acknowledged as a genocide.

• More than a month later the Security Council agreed the situation was a genocide and approved the sending of more troops.
• To learn about an independent investigation that criticized the UN's inaction in Rwanda, listen to this additional clip.
• On July 18, 1994, after 100 days of killing, the rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front took over Kigali. The massacre came to an end, and the RPF installed a transitional government in full co-operation with Dallaire.

• An estimated 800,000 people -- including 300,000 children -- are believed to have died.
• Fearing retribution, hundreds of thousands of Hutus and Tutsis fled the country, only to return years later.
Medium: Television
Program: Prime Time News
Broadcast Date: May 5, 1994
Guest(s): Roméo Dallaire, Phillipe Gaillard
Reporter: Susan Harada
Duration: 6:15

Last updated: October 2, 2012

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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