Ex-U.N. Commander in Rwanda Sends Warning

Gen. Romeo Dallaire, who commanded U.N. forces in Rwanda during that nation's genocide sent a letter this week to the joint United Nations-African Union forces whose task is to stabilize Darfur.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Coming up, autumn heat in baseball's playoff races.

But first, the commander of the U.N. African Union forces who will try to stabilize Darfur in December received what must have been a sobering warning this week.

Nigeria's General Martin Agwai received an open letter from the retired Lieutenant General Romeo Dallaire who commanded U.N. troops when the genocide began in Rwanda. General Dallaire said that General Agwai should expect to be, quote, "let down by everyone, and whom you depend for support, be that troops, funding, logistics or political engagement."

General Dallaire, of course, is now a senator in the Canadian parliament. He joins us by phone from Timmins, Ontario.

General Dallaire, thanks very much for being with us.

Lieutenant General ROMEO DALLAIRE (Retired, Canadian Army; Senator, Parliament of Canada): All right.

SIMON: What are some of the obstacles that General Agwai faces in commanding this force in Darfur?

Lt. Gen. DALLAIRE: Well, I think it comes from two major areas. One is that developed countries have demonstrated a very lackadaisical, if at all, interest in providing assets to the mission that are critical for its success. In 2004, when I was in Boston, we did an initial assessment. I estimated we needed about 40,000 troops to do the job with significant force multipliers of helicopters, attack helicopters, transport, night vision systems, unmanned vehicles - a whole bunch of things - because of the size of the terrain and the nature of the beast that they're facing.

None of those capabilities are there. On top of that, we've created a hybrid entity of the African Union and the U.N. that requires some pretty sophisticated staff work and staff officers. Again, those are not necessarily available.

SIMON: How does this work? Or how do you foresee that, alas, it may not work if the general in command on the ground has to go through both the United Nations in New York and the African Union in Addis Ababa?

Lt. Gen. DALLAIRE: You got it. I mean, where will his authority come from? And who will be the ultimate political leadership when you will have to conduct delicate and difficult operations. As an example, take on the Janjaweed. As an example, take on some of the rebel forces.

SIMON: What could make this force work, General Dallaire?

Lt. Gen. DALLAIRE: What could make this force work, in my mind, is we take the determination of the leading powers in the efforts, let's say, in Afghanistan. We take the determination that the Americans have demonstrated in Iraq. We take the nascent regional capability that's the European Union. And we then put them around the table with the Arab League and with the Muslim leadership. And we'd lock the door and don't let them out until they come up with a solution.

The fiddling behind the scenes of some not wanting to play, like the Arab League and the Muslim community, of the developing world, picking and choosing where it wants to go and is ready to throw some cash at the problem and hopefully it disappear. Like Darfur, as we've seen in the last four years, even though the Americans have called it a genocide and not responded to it. And the ultimate inability of the political will in the world to recognize that they all signed up in September 2005 to a new concept that holds them accountable. And that concept was the concept of the responsibility to protect that says that if a country massively abuses the human rights of its people or can't stop it, we have a responsibility to go in and help sort it out. And so they backed off from that. And that to me is just as bad as Rwanda was.

SIMON: Retired Lieutenant General Romeo Dallaire, who commanded United Nations troops in Rwanda. He's now a senator in the Canadian Parliament.

Thanks very much for being with us, General.

Lt. Gen. DALLAIRE: Yes. But remain optimistic. We will, one day - it might take a couple of centuries - but we will bring a solution about.

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