Dallaire welcomes GG's Rwanda apology

Senator Roméo Dallaire welcomed Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean's apology for the world's failure to respond to the Rwandan genocide, a tragedy the retired general tried to prevent.

Senator Roméo Dallaire welcomed Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean's apology for the world's failure to respond to the Rwandan genocide — a tragedy the retired general tried and failed to prevent.

Dallaire said Jean's comments in Kigali, the Rwandan capital, on Wednesday were a great gesture. He said suggestions that her words were not a formal apology, but simply a restatement of Canada's recognition that the international community failed the Rwandan people, are a quibble over semantics.

The Governor General's officials described her message as an apology and said it had been cleared with the government. But the Prime Minister's Office later insisted that Jean wasn't delivering a formal apology.

"That's irrelevant to me," Dallaire said Thursday. "And I say that as the former force commander on the ground with bodies up to my neck, screaming for support."

Dallaire led the ill-fated United Nations mission that was helpless to stop the rampage that slaughtered up to 800,000 people in Rwanda in 1994. He was tormented by post-traumatic stress disorder for years after his return from the central African country.

Dallaire said Jean's comments are very welcome, not just for him, but for the handful of other Canadians who served there and the transport crews who risked their lives to fly in supplies.

"My head of state, who was there, who's the commander-in-chief of our Forces and has articulated those statements there, I think that's a great source of personal relief to the 11 officers who were with me — 12, in fact, one of them committed suicide — and myself and to all the Hercules staff who flew in under fire to keep us going."

He called it "a very positive recognition to them and to their families."

Jean, who is on an African visit, toured a genocide museum in Kigali on Wednesday. The exhibits include one that pays tribute to Dallaire's vain efforts to stop the catastrophe.

She noted that Parliament has passed resolutions of regret.

"In 2008, Canada, with a government motion, reiterated that this genocide was made possible by the indifference and inaction of the international community," she told Rwandans.

"The world's failure to respond adequately to the genocide is a failure in which Canada, as part of the international community, readily acknowledges its fair share of responsibility."

Dallaire was given command of a UN force in Rwanda in 1993, made up of soldiers from Belgium, Ghana, Pakistan, Tunisia and Bangladesh and a small staff of Canadians. They were to supervise a recently signed peace agreement between the Hutu government and Tutsi rebels.

Early in 1994, he saw signs that weapons were being stockpiled and violence planned, but he was refused permission for a pre-emptive strike. He and his men were essentially abandoned by the international community as the country sank into internecine bloodshed.