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Belgian senator hits out at Rwanda critic

Published on 07/04/2004

7 April 2004

BRUSSELS – A Belgian senator has reacted angrily to suggestions from the UN’s former military commander in Rwanda that his country shared a ‘criminal’ responsibility for the terrible genocide that gripped the country ten years ago.

Belgian senator Alain Destexhe, a member of the centre right Mouvement Reformateur (MR), who is in Rwanda attending an international memorial for victims of the genocide, said criticisms made by Canadian General Romeo Dallaire were unfair.

“It’s too easy to refuse to take any responsibility and to heap the blame on others as he did,” said Destexhe during a conference on the genocide held in Rwandan capital Kigali on Tuesday.

Destexhe trained as a medical doctor, is a member of humanitarian organisation ‘Doctors Without Borders’ and is an expert on Rwanda.

Earlier at Tuesday’s event, Dallaire, who ten years ago headed the United Nations Assistance Mission to Rwanda (UNAMIR), launched a blistering attack on the international community, saying countries including Belgium, France and the UK failed to intervene to prevent the Rwandan genocide.

“You, me and my forces were abandoned by our own countries and by the international community,” the general said angrily.

“Rwandans should never let these people forget that they are criminals and, that they are criminally responsible for the genocide in this country,” he added.

Dallaire has in the past been especially critical of Belgium, which pulled out of UNAMIR after 10 Belgian soldiers were captured and hacked to death by Hutu extremists at the outset of the genocide.

But the General’s critics say he did not do enough to protect the Belgian troops or to prevent the genocide.

Belgian academic Joel Kotek said the General’s argument that the UN had ordered him not to intervene was not good enough.

“Their obedience was criminal,” he said referring to Dallaire and other senior UNAMIR commanders.

“Despite the fact they had no mandate, shouldn’t we question their moral responsibility?” he added.

Belgium’s Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, Foreign Minister Louis Michel and Defence Minister Andre Flahaut were all in Rwanda for the genocide memorial on Tuesday. But all three refused to respond to Dallaire’s comments.

On Tuesday night Michel said only that he would not react to “provocative and insulting declarations that have been made about my country this evening.”

Up to a million Tutsis and moderate Hutus died in the Rwandan genocide.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Belgian news