Tell me about your meeting with the informant.
The 10th of January I met for the first time, Jon Pierre. Jon Pierre was a kind
of leader in the MRND Party and played the role of a kind of leader of the
[interahamwe] militia. His job, in fact, was to train the militia and yes, he
was a real political leader from the militia, and he wanted to give UNAMIR some
information. I met him in my own headquarters. It was at night. There was no
electricity. It was with candlelight and those conditions were very strange for
me because it gives me the impression to be an actor in a James Bond movie. But
it was not a movie, it was not a picture, it was reality.
Jon Pierre told us that he had no objection to make war [with the] RPF people
because RPF was the enemy ... but his mission was now to prepare the killings
of civilian and Tutsi people... to make lists of Tutsi people, where they
lived, to be able, at a certain code name, to kill them. Kigali City was
divided in a certain number of areas, and ... each area was manned by, let's
say, 10 or maybe more people. Some were armed with firearms, some with other
kind of tools like machetes, and the mission of those persons was just to kill
the Tutsis. Another aspect of his mission was to distribute weapons to the
[interahamwe] militia, and so during this first meeting he told me that in the
area of Kigali there were a lot of arms caches and some ... of the weapons, the
firearms were in those caches.
How would you sum up what this man was telling you?
Jon Pierre gave me a very good and clear description about the interahamwe
organization. He described the cells, the armaments, the training, and he told
me that everybody was suspected ... and then the reaction will follow
immediately, and the reaction was to kill a maximum of Tutsis. And each family,
each house, was located in Kigali, so everything was being prepared ... And
[based] on what Jon Pierre told me of the interahamwe organization, I felt the
it was a real killing machine because the objective was very clear for
everybody--kill, kill and kill.
... Just kill a maximum of people.
Yes, of course, civilians, Tutsis, of course. Jon Pierre used the word
Tutsi.... there was no specification about the person, just Tutsis must be
Was this in your view a plan for genocide?
No. I never realized that it would [become] a genocide. But I realized that the
possibility of killing was very, very clear. And at that time, I mean in
January, I immediately realized that the possibility ... of the killing could
result in 10,000 deaths, and that ... we must stay in Rwanda and not leave the
Why had he come to you?
Because he told me that ... [to] make war against RPF was, for him, not a
problem, but to kill civilians ... he told me, "They are maybe Tutsis but they
are also Rwanda citizens." It was a conscience problem for him.
He wanted you, the U.N., to react, to do something to prevent these
Yes, this first meeting, he told me, "You know, for me, it's not a problem, I
will testify before the media. I just ask security for me and my family."
So he was going to tell everything about this plan to kill people and just
wanted some guarantee of his safety.
Yes. So, at that time, my problem was to be sure that Jon Pierre was credible.
My first reaction was to report to General Dallaire, and because the
information given by Jon Pierre was enormous and very important, General
Dallaire ... [had] a very quick reaction, because the same night he sent a
message to New York just to inform the DPKO.
The Department of Peacekeeping.
Yes, the Department of Peacekeeping Operation, about the contact I had with Jon
Did you think this man was credible?
That was my problem during this first meeting, just to evaluate if he was
credible. But he gave me some good arguments, for instance, that he was ready
to tell the media what was going on. He didn't ask for money. But there was
no certitude about his credibility. We got the certitude after, because we
visited some locations with hidden weapons and so it was a fact that what he
told us was a reality.
What was the reaction of the United Nations in New York to your plan?
New York didn't give us the authorization to go after the arms caches.
And your evaluation was that you should have done it... raid the arms
That was my proposition to General Dallaire.
You wanted to do the military operation, but they wouldn't let you.
No, the answer from New York was very clear. We have no authority to seize or
to attack the arms caches.
Had you ever come across anything like this in your military career
No, never. It was a very, very special situation and we were, in fact, not very
well prepared to face such a situation, because don't forget our mission was a
peace mission. General Dallaire requested more than 5,000 U.N. personnel
on the ground to fulfill his mission, and just received 2,500 U.N. people,
which was not enough to face such a situation.
You were sure he was telling the truth about the plan to kill so many
Yes, because the visit [took] place I think about 12th or 13th of January, so
very soon after our first meeting and he told us, "You know, you must react
very quickly because I received a directive to distribute those weapons, so if
you want to seize them, do it quickly because within a few days the location
will be empty."
He said they were going to move the weapons?
Yes, of course.
So you knew where the weapons were, and you knew you needed to act quickly.
What did you do?
Nothing, because New York didn't give the authorization to start with the
military operation to seize the arms caches. So after ... Jon Pierre told us
... that those weapons have been distributed to the militia, it was too late
for us to react.
So as far as you were concerned, this was your job, to get rid of the
weapons, to seize the weapons?
That was the way I feel myself and ... New York didn't give the authorization,
and I answered, "We will lose our credibility because everybody in Kigali knows
that there are arms caches, and everybody expects that UNAMIR will do something
to seize those armed caches." And we were standing without any reaction. So we
realized that, for us, it was the worst thing ... just to stay and to watch
Can you describe the night of April 6th for us. What was it like? How
difficult, for you, was it?
Truly the night, the 6th to the 7th of April, was unique. After the killing
of the president we realized we were facing a historical event. Our main
concern during that night was to manage the situation in coordination with the
Rwandan authorities ... and to show that we still had the situation under
One of the VIPs you guarded was a Monsieur Lando. Did you know him?
I knew him. He was the leader of the Liberal Party. He was protected through
UNAMIR people ...
When you sent your men to guard VIPs, what was their mission?
Their mission was to give some protection in certain limits. A normal guard was
four people, so if a VIP is attacked by a platoon or a small group of 10
people, four people can give a good answer to the security of the VIP. But I
think that the presence of UNAMIR people was more symbolic because the reason
of the presence of UNAMIR in Rwanda was to give a hand to Rwanda, to help them
to go to peace, to help them go to a better situation, and we were supposed
(UNAMIR) to work in peace condition. When you go outside of that kind of
condition, you have to face some problem of security ...
There were a number of killings that night of politicians. What happened to
In the morning of the 7th I received a phone call from Mrs. Lando requesting
me to send security because she was afraid for the safety of the Lando's
family. And I promised to Mrs. Lando to do my best, but we were confronted with
a lot of incidents in the Kigali area... she told me that the presidential
[guards] were preparing an attack against the residence of Mr. Lando. I tried
to get some more information about the situation and I promised to try to send
some detachment to secure the location. But at the same time we were
confronted with a lot of incidents in the Kigali area.
Two or three minutes later, Mr. Lando, himself, phoned me and he asked me again
to very quickly send some people to secure his residence, and he described the
situation outside his residence. I heard him [say] that more or less 15
presidential guards were preparing an attack against his residence, and he gave
me some details, real details about the preparation of the presidential guards.
And then at a certain moment I heard an explosion of hand grenades, firing and
so on, and Mr. Lando told me, "It's too late," and it was his last words. And
at that time he was killed I presume.
And you were listening on the phone?
Yes, of course, because he just phoned me and he tried to get some protection.
But I should say there was ... I was, personally, unable to send any force to
him because, as I said, we were confronted with a lot of security incident in
the whole area.
Why didn't you tell your men to open fire to protect him?
Because, firstly, I have no radio contact with those people. I was not the
commanding officer of the U.N. soldiers. I was the sector commander and that
detachment was again a detachment and, of course, it was the commander of the
Ghanaian detachment who eventually was able to contact his men, but not the
Kigali sector. So I had no any possibility to contact them. But I imagine that
they took this position to save their own life because the number of soldiers,
U.N. soldiers, in guard was four people and Mr. Lando spoke about 15 to 20
presidential guards. So my Ghanaian soldiers were unable to give any resistance
to the presidential guards.
Do you think the U.N. troops who were guarding him should have opened
It's very complicated to answer that kind of question because we must realize
and not forget that we were placed in a peace situation with the mandates and
UNAMIR had a peacekeeping mission, and we were totally outside that kind of
situation. At that moment, on the 7th April, for New York what has happened was
an internal problem between Rwanda. Let's say we did not [have] the
authorization to react against what was going on the ground at that moment.
But General Dallaire had drawn up rules of engagement that authorized U.N.
troops to fire to prevent murders and crimes against humanity. So didn't
General Dallaire's rules of engagement give you the authority to protect people
in those crucial hours?
No, rules of engagement must be understood as a guideline. It is a possibility,
and for a military, when you give an order, you also must think to the
consequence of your order. It is nonsense to open fire to save one life if you
lose 10, 20 or 30 other lives, and that was our problem at that moment. We were
a minority on the ground. Their army was better equipped and armed than UNAMIR.
I should say that the security of UNAMIR people, the security of the UNAMIR
civilian, there were more than 300 civilians, U.N. civilians in Kigali. The
security of--it's also important--of the expatriates, all that kind of argument
impose us to be very, very careful in our reaction, and for us it was also a
very important responsibility just to try to hold ... conflict as low as
possible. An overreaction from us was not precisely the best reaction.
How do you react to Americans who say, "Why should we join a force whose
soldiers can't even defend themselves, won't even defend themselves."
My first reaction is that it was not the reality because the rules of
engagement were very clear. Self-defense was authorized without any
restriction. So that is my first reaction. Secondly, sometimes you can be
placed in such situation that the only way to do is to give arms up, and at the
same moment, on the air field, we had a detachment of 20 U.N. soldiers who were
also disarmed, and nothing [happened] there. So it's very difficult to compare
some situation to other because everything of each situation is very
Looking back at the whole first day, ... during this first crucial 24 hours,
you, in UNAMIR, were on your own. Do you think that under terrible pressure you
did not take the right decisions, that if you had opened fire to protect
civilians, to protect yourself, you might have given the killers a warning and
prevented what was to follow?
I don't think so. I'm convinced that if we had a too hard reaction, we would be
confronted with the Rwandan army because, except what happened in Camp Kigali,
otherwise we had no problem with the Rwandan army, but if you fight against a
unit, the reaction will be very clear from this unit, you will be considered as
an enemy and we had no armament, no equipment to face such situation.
As the situation developed, do you believe that if you had the mandate, you
had enough men on the ground to save more lives?
For me, it is very clear, mandate, people, it was not a problem to manage and
to freeze the situation, and more than that, I am sure that a great part of the
Rwandan army was waiting [for] a sign from us and if we had showed the
direction there, they were able to follow us, just to hold the peace in the
What could you have done if you'd have had the mandate with the few men that
you had? What could you really have done?
Oh, it was not very difficult because in the first day after the coup there
were killings, but not on a great scale so we had just to occupy the terrain
and for us it was enough, just show to the population that UNAMIR was active,
show to the Rwandan army that our objective was to save the peace, because
don't forget with the president, the chief of staff of the army was also killed
... [the president] was considered a "god" in Rwanda, and the chief of staff of
the army was also a kind of god for the Rwandan. And it means that the whole
country was without any leader and they were really waiting for a sign from us,
and we didn't give that kind of sign.
So what could you have done as soldiers that you weren't allowed to do with
so few men?
At that time the only way to react was to avoid any ... armed confrontation
with the Rwandan army. You know, the Belgian contingent were located in 14
different locations, so the battalion was really confronted with a security
problem and the first decision of the battalion commander was to regroup.
During the first week of April, many civilians were coming to the Don Bosco
School. Why were so many peopleseeking UN sanctuary there?
The first directive I received from the first headquarters was to try to
persuade the civilian to stay outside the U.N. compounds. Why? Just for a
question of neutrality because in February we have the same situation and after
everything was returned to a normal situation we were confronted with political
problems with the Rwandan government because we protected some Tutsis people
during the troubled days of February, and we were accused from the Rwandan
government to be not neutral. So in the beginning we tried to avoid the same
problem, but it didn't took very long, two or three hours. To understand that,
we had to really protect that kind of people because outside the U.N. compound
it was not possible to give protection. Also there were so many refugees that
we were really in the minority ... we were at that time unable to react ...
that was my concern just to try to understand that we must be very careful with
the local population [not] to give the impression that we were able to protect
them because in the case of a new deployment first we shouldn't rush to execute
the redeployment, and in such situation we are, by definition, unable to do
another mission, I mean to protect people because of two different missions,
impossible to do that at the same time. So that was really my concern, that we
were confronted with a situation with such dimension that we realize that we
were unable to manage in that kind of situation.
Did you give the order to abandon Don Bosco?
Yes, I gave the order because I received personally that kind of order from
the force headquarters. Why? Just because the evolution of the situation on the
ground. The force commander ... the only possibility of contact outside from
there was the airfield, and so that was the last place to hold safe for UNAMIR
for U.N. civilians, for expatriates, for a lot of reasons of logistic and so
on. So it was a normal, let's say to execute a redeployment on the airfield and
to secure the whole area of the airfield, and that's the reason ...
You needed those men to secure the airfield?
Yes, of course.
But with more troops, you could have stayed, kept your men at Don Bosco and
looked after those civilians?
Yes, of course.
How many more troops would it have needed, just how many?
At that time, we have enough troops on the ground because U.N. force, I think
General Dallaire had 1,500 very good soldiers. At the same time Belgium sent
1,000 paratroopers in Africa. France had 450 paratroopers in Kigali, and Italy
also 85 paratroopers also in Kigali. It was enough people to cease the
situation inherent and to save the peace and to save the life from thousands of
So why wasn't it done?
That is a political situation.
But in your view there were enough soldiers on the ground to have protected
the lives of thousands, if not tens of thousands of civilians?
Yes, there is no problem with that.
It could have been done from a military point of view.
Yes, sure, certainly. It was not an impossible mission, it was really a
possible mission without any difficulty.
So there were enough troops on the ground to have saved the lives of the
people at Don Bosco.
Yes, there were enough troops on the ground in Kigali at that time.
And you couldn't have given them orders because they were not under your
command, is that right?
Of course, because ...
Because they were not United Nations troops.
Yes, they were national troops because Italy, France and Belgium, organized
their own evacuation of their own expatriates.
When you gave the order to abandon Don Bosco, what did you think would
happen to the people there?
At that time, I still believed that they would be able to go safe to their own
homes. We didn't just let them back ... we really tried to explain the
situation, to give some explanation, to give information and to give some way
to react, but in fact the reaction of the interahamwe militia were totally
different and, as we know at the present time, they killed them probably
Can you remember how did you react when your government told you it was time
to get out of Rwanda?
I remember very good because for me it's still a very painful memory. You know
the Belgian detachment was considered as the hard-core detachment of UNAMIR. In
the case of leaving, the consequence was obvious. It was a kind of collapse of
the UNAMIR mission. And also at that time I remember my contacts with Jon
Pierre, the informant, who told us how the interahamwe structure was organized
in Kigali, which was the directives he gave to his men just to locate each
Tutsis in Kigali and just waiting for a code word to kill them, and I realized
that if we left the country it was a kind of a ... I should say authorization
to pass to the execution of that kind of plan because nobody will stay on the
ground to try to react to that kind of situation.
I never imagined that genocide was possible because it's too enormous, but I
am really honest at that time I spoke about thousands of killings, and for me
it was a real certitude that the situation will go in that direction ... but it
was not a military decision, it was a political decision. To pull out.
What did you say to General Dallaire as you left him?
I wrote him a letter to try to explain to him that I had the feeling [of
leaving] the battlefield in the worst situation, and that my authorities give
me a very difficult order to follow because the consequence of that decision
was very clear for everybody.
Some people might say it was right to leave because the situation was not
what the United Nations had been brought in to do, because the United Nations
had never promised to stop this kind of situation and yours is a European army,
this was a faraway country. People like you can't solve Africa's
No, no. No, I am still thinking that the only reaction was to stay in Rwanda
... because the consequence of the collapse of the UNAMIR mission was the
What do you believe is the lesson of this whole episode for peacekeeping?
What is the lesson for future peacekeeping forces?
I think that the only way to respond to troubles in any part of the world is to
have a standing force ready to move and ready to be on the ground as soon as
possible. But, we need a political will.
A second lesson is...we thought that just to show our blue beret was enough to
manage a situation, and I will confess that we have been placed in a very
difficult situation, and that is a political decision. I mean political at the
U.N. level, because don't forget during the whole mission, to each of our
questions we received the same answer. It is a low budget operation, and that's
the reason we missed everything. So peacekeeping operation for me must be
considered as another kind of operation from a military operation. You are in
charge of the peace, but you must also be able to react to a war condition, and
therefore you must receive enough people, enough equipment, enough armament to
impose, if needed, the peace.
Do you feel that responsibility or guilt can go wider than simply the
people who shot the bullets and wielded the machetes?
Yes. I think that the whole international community is responsible for what
happened in Rwanda. I will take the words of General Dallaire, he said, "The
whole community ... international community has blood on his hands," and I feel
the same ... Because during the month of May it was obvious for the
whole world what was going on in Rwanda.