This year’s Lodhi Memorial Lecture has generated tremendous interest, said Dr. Christina Szurlej, a Human Rights professor at STU and director of the Atlantic Human Rights Centre.
The Atlantic Human Rights Centre is excited to welcome Lieutenant-General, the Honorable Roméo Dallaire, former head of the United Nations peacekeeping force in Rwanda, on February 18. His talk, called “R2P and the Syrian Conflict: Lessons Learned from Rwanda,” examines the parallels between the Rwandan genocide and the refugee crisis in Syria.
“The lecture topic is timely and reflects a pressing urgency for the international community to act to prevent serious human rights violations against the Syrian populace,” said Szurlej. “At the time the Rwandan genocide took place, there was no international responsibility to prevent and protect (R2P) against genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing. Though R2P has existed since 2005, the conflict in Syria represents yet another failure to act and provide asylum for Syrian refugees.”
Dallaire was born in the Netherlands, but came to Canada when he was six months old. He joined the military in 1963. In 1993 he became the Major-General of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda. While in Rwanda he witnessed horrors during the genocide where the majority Hutu population exterminated both minority Tutsi and Hutus considered moderate or sympathetic to the Tutsis including Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana, and his Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana. Up to a million people were killed in the genocide.
After Dallaire returned to Canada he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, and attempted suicide by combining alcohol and antidepressants. He would recover however and become an advocate for child soldiers. He wrote a book about his experiences in Rwanda Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda in 2003. The book would later become a documentary, and finally a feature film in 2007.
Dallaire was appointed to the senate in 2005 and sat as a Liberal. He left the senate in 2014.
Dallaire, who commanded the ill-fated United Nations peacekeeping mission in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide, will give a first-hand account of what went wrong, and how we can use these lessons to help those in Syria.
The Lodhi Memorial Lecture will be at 7 in Kinsella and Szurlej expects the auditorium to be filled to capacity.
“Those who are interested in attending are encouraged to arrive early to guarantee a seat,” she said.