The ‘Price of Peace’

“Politics is war without bloodshed; war is politics with bloodshed .”- Mao

On 28th May 2022 Mariel Verroya, the program coordinator for the peace and security team of the UN Australia Association Qld, gave this brief message from the United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres. In Anzac Square that day were the governor of Queensland, Jeanette Young, a crowd of peacekeepers, military, united nations community of ambassadors, consuls and volunteers from India, Rwanda, Turkey, Cyprus, Indonesia, Portugal, Japan and the Queensland Country Women’s Association. Following her speech members of the Rwandan community sang. Although there was no mention of the Rwandan genocide on the day, I think it provides an important lesson of what not to do. A lesson for all of us.

The Rwandan genocide occurred in 1994 during civil war. No country intervened to stop the killings. According to the former United States deputy special envoy to Somalia, Walter Clarke: “The ghosts of Somalia continue to haunt US policy. Our lack of response in Rwanda was a fear of getting involved in something like a Somalia all over again.” This failure occurred during the US Presidency of Bill Clinton and most of Washington’s discussions centred around the evacuation of US citizens while over a million (?) Rwandan people were slaughtered.

In her 2004 book, Linda Melvern documented that “in the three years from October 1990, Rwanda, one of the poorest countries in the world, became the third largest importer of weapons in Africa, spending an estimated $US 112 million.” France denied “that its forces played any direct role in the fighting. However, sources told the Arms Project that French troops played a direct role in the conflict, including provision of infantry support for Rwandan forces during the February 1993 offensive. This goes well beyond France’s self-proclaimed mandate merely to protect the lives and ensure the evacuation of French expatriates and other foreign nationals. Sources also told the Arms Project that French trainers advised Rwandan field officers in tactical combat situations, going beyond France’s other self-proclaimed mandate merely to train Rwandan forces.” – Arming Rwanda – The Arms Trade and Human Rights Abuses in the Rwandan War published by Human Rights Watch. According to Human Rights Watch the apartheid state of South Africa along with Egypt, Uganda and Belgium also provided arms.

Here is the UN Secretary General’s message delivered by Mariel Verroya followed by the song by the Rwandan community. – Ian Curr, Ed., 1 June 2022.

Mariel Verroya – UNAAQ Peace & Security 

Good morning, Your Excellency, distinguished guests, our partner groups, families and friends. I too would like to begin by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land, the Yuggera and Turrubul people. I would like to pay respects to their elders past, present and emerging and extend that respect to all past Australians.

Today, we honour the more than 1 million women and men who have served as United Nations peacekeepers since 1948. We pay tribute to the nearly 4200 heroes and heroines who sacrificed their lives in the cause of peace. And we are reminded of an age old truth, peace can never be taken for granted. Peace is the prize. We are deeply grateful to the 87,000 civilian, police and military personnel now serving under the UN flag for helping to realize the prize of peace worldwide. They face enormous challenges.

Rising violence against peacekeepers has made their work even more dangerous. Restrictions due to the pandemic have made it more difficult. But United Nations peacekeepers continue to serve with distinction as partners for peace. And this year, we focus on the power of partnerships. We know that peace is won when governments and societies join forces to resolve differences through dialogue, build a culture of non-violence and (to) protect the most vulnerable. Around the globe, UN peacekeepers work with member states, civil society, humanitarians, the media, the communities they serve, and many others, to foster peace, protect civilians, promote human rights, the rule of law, and improve the lives of millions of people.

Today and every day, we salute their dedication in helping societies turn away from conflict towards a more peaceful and prosperous future for all. We are forever in their debt. Now, I would like to welcome Isaiah; he’s the secretary of the Rwandan association of Queensland, our sister group to perform a spoken word poetry.

Song by the Rwandan community.

Ian Curr
1 June 2022

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