Montreal, 1 October, 2007 (FH) - One the most decorated officers in Canada, senator and main character of a new film bringing him to the screen during the Rwandan genocide, General Roméo Dallaire, 61, testifies Tuesday as an " expert-witness" called by the prosecution at the trial of Désiré Munyaneza.

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Avoid presenting him as a hero. This request by the former commander-in-chief of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) in 1993-1994 is often repeated by him to Canadian journalists who interview him. "Because my mission failed: 800 000 people died ", he explained Sunday September 30 on Radio-Canada, a guest to the most watched talk-show in Quebec.

He went to promote the film "Shake Hands with the Devil" (an adaptation of its memoirs, with the same title, of the Rwandan conflict), Mr. Dallaire received a reception worthy of a rock star, typical of the status that he enjoys in Canada. Since his return from Africa, the homages and rewards have not stopped being given to him, making him one of the highest ranking Canadian soldiers. An ultimate recognition: in 2005, Paul Martin, the Prime Minister of the time, named him to the Senate.

"Canada will remain the only country of Humanity that aligns medals on the chest of a man who says" I failed ". The first gesture of humility would be of saying, "I do not deserve it" ", thinks François Bugingo, vice-president of Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) and spokesperson of the organization in Canada. According to the journalist, present in Rwanda during the conflict, the attitude of Roméo Dallaire is paradoxical, he denounces his failure while agreeing to be treated as a hero.

With a strong popularity, the former General does not hesitate to share his opinions during important d public debates. Thus, in April 2007, as a majority of Quebecers opposed the Canadian military intervention in Afghanistan, Mr. Dallaire denounced in the press the "self retreat" of the pacifists and wondered about "the maturity" of the Québécois society. In 2004, in a leading article published in the New York Times, he urged NATO to intervene in Darfour.

However, when it comes to his work in Rwanda, Roméo Dallaire is less voluble. He refuses to further appear before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), in Arusha (Tanzania), since he appeared in 1998 and 2004, at the time of the trial of Jean Paul Akayesu, the first to have been held at the ICTR, and then that of Colonel Théoneste Bagosora, who he accused of being the "mastermind" of the genocide. His entourage explains that "his medical adviser recommended him not to go there anymore". His last testimony goes back to November 2006, by video conference, from the headquarters of the Canadian armed forces surrounded by military advisers and with a lawyer at his side.

Suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, Mr. Dallaire tried on three occasions to commit suicide. Haunted by the genocide, he is still today under treatment. This health problem explains, according to his entourage, his reservations to appear as an expert-witness at the trial of Désiré Munyaneza (a Rwandan on trial in Montreal for war crimes and crimes against humanity). One of his close collaborators says that "he does not like to testify, he does not have to: all that he saw comes back to him".

If the former UNAMIR commander is often criticized in Belgium and France, rare are Canadians who call into question his past actions. Among them, François Bugingo. The vice-president of RSF reproaches the soldier of never having broken the UN rules of engagement, which only permit to resort to force in self-defence.

"At the time, all the observers present in Rwanda understood the role of Radio Mille Collins: it aired in the countryside the messages of incitement to massacre (...) each time that someone asks Dallier: "But why did you not bombard it, even by accident?" he answers: "I did not have the order"."According to Mr. Bugingo, the Canadian officer "preferred to sacrifice Rwandans rather than risk being court martialed...".

© Hirondelle News Agency