Romeo Dallaire: Harper scared to take up reins in Darfour

Senator Romeo Dallaire said Canada’s role as a middle power gives it a national responsibility to react in times of international crises.

“Canada is just wasting time and money hoping someone else will do the work,” said Dallaire at a conference entitled “Darfour: l’Urgence d’Intervenir!” at UQAM March 16.

Canada has given $61 million in aid to Sudan’s Darfur region since Stephen Harper became Prime Minister. But Dallaire believes Harper is just throwing out money because he is scared to take the reins and draw up plans to intervene.

The senator said it is the responsibility of the world’s middle powers like Germany, Italy, Japan and Canada to take the initiative in Darfur because the major powers have too many reasons not to intervene.

A major player in Sudan is China, a country Dallaire dubbed “the vulture of Africa.” China buys two- thirds of Sudan’s oil and is the leading weapons supplier to the regime. Russia and the United States are also major dealers of small arms in Sudan. In addition, the Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir has visited the White House on three occasions regarding information he holds about Osama bin Laden.

He said it is therefore up to the middle powers to pressure nations like China, France and Egypt to intervene positively.

After initially showing little interest in Darfur, the spread of the Janjaweed rebels into the French zone of influence in Africa has recently peaked French interest. Dallaire said a French intervention in Eastern Chad could work to contain the spread of the rebels.

Since China has many interests vested in Sudan, Dallaire suggested a Chinese mandate in Darfur which would be supervised by the other members of the Security Council.

Yet Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir continues to rebuff the UN’s attempts to intervene.

The problem lies in the fact that UN resolution 1706 doesn’t identify who is committing the atrocities and it gives the Sudanese government the right to consent to a UN intervention. However, under its Chapter 7 mandate, the UN has the right to intervene if a nation’s government is shown to be responsible for, or is incapable of dealing with, crimes against humanity.

Dallaire suggested adopting a Chapter 8 mandate, which is meant to reinforce a regional force. This would mean providing the African Union with the material, expertise and political will to stop the crisis without supplying any soldiers.

Dallaire said that since the Janjaweed rebels rely heavily on helicopters to attack villages, a no-fly zone could be placed in Darfur.

Dallaire said going to the Americans for support should be a last resort because of the hostility the Muslim world holds towards the U.S. But while it may not be an advantage to have Americans troops on the terrain, cooperation with Americans in any UN mission is necessary to success. “Even though the Americans are talking out both sides of their mouths, you can never ignore them,” said Dallaire.

Dallaire said that while there are multiple options in Darfur, the worst one is the one that UN members are currently engaged in: avoiding even making a plan of intervention.

Dallaire said the Rwandan genocide demonstrated that UN peacekeeping strategies are out of date. He called the 1990s an age of revolutionary warfare in which the line between civilians and combatants was blurred.

He said we live in a period in which the old tools of the Cold War era, the Geneva Convention, the UN Charter, the 1948 Convention on Genocide and the Hague Convention of 1954, no longer work. He said the Convention on Genocide simply works to pick up the pieces afterwards and does little to prevent genocide.

The killing of 18 American soldiers in Somalia in 1993 sparked a complete U.S. withdrawal. The killing of 10 Belgian soldiers in Rwanda in 1994 led the UN to allow 800,000 people to be killed. Since big bombs no longer work in this revolutionary military era, Dallaire believes “the international community must ask itself at what point it is willing to sacrifice ‘our people’ for ‘theirs’.”


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