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Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwandaby Romeo Dallaire
"Most books about genocides are understandably about either the perpetrators or the victims. Readers are left to wonder what was happening elsewhere in the world, why no one tried to stop it. Shake Hands with the Devil is about the Rwandan genocide, but from the point of view of the force commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR). There are many small acts of heroism in this book, but overall there are no good guys." Doug Brown, Powells.com (read the entire Powells.com review)
Synopses & Reviews
For the first time in the United States comes the tragic and profoundly important story of the legendary Canadian general who "watched as the devil took control of paradise on earth and fed on the blood of the people we were supposed to protect." When Roméo Dallaire was called on to serve as force commander of the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda, he believed that his assignment was to help two warring parties achieve the peace they both wanted. Instead, he was exposed to the most barbarous and chaotic display of civil war and genocide in the past decade, observing in just one hundred days the killings of more than eight hundred thousand Rwandans. With only a few troops, his own ingenuity and courage to direct his efforts, Dallaire rescued thousands, but his call for more support from the world body fell on deaf ears. In Shake Hands with the Devil, General Dallaire recreates the awful history the world community chose to ignore. He also chronicles his own progression from confident Cold Warrior to devastated UN commander, and finally to retired general struggling painfully, and publicly, to overcome posttraumatic stress disorder — the highest-ranking officer ever to share such experiences with readers.
"As former head of the late 1993 U.N. peacekeeping mission in Rwanda, Canadian general Dallaire's initial proposal called for 5,000 soldiers to permit orderly elections and the return of the refugees. Nothing like this number was supplied, and the result was an outright attempt at genocide against the Tutsis that nearly succeeded, with 800,000 dead over three months. The failure of the U.N.'s wealthier members to act as the tragedy unfolded obliged the author to leave military service to recover from PTSD (as well as the near breakdown of his family). While much of the account is a thickly described I-went-here, I went-there, I-met-X, I-said-this, one learns much more about the author's emotional states when making decisions than in a conventional military history, making this an important document of service — one that has been awarded Canada's Governor General's Award. And his descriptions of Rwanda's unraveling are disturbing, to say the least ('I then noticed large piles of blue-black bodies heaped on the creek banks'). Dallaire's argument that Rwanda-like situations are fires that can be put out with a small force if caught early enough will certainly draw debate, but the book documents in horrifying detail what happens when no serious effort is made." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Lt. General Roméo Dallaire is revered by Canadians everywhere. When I finished the book, I could understand why. Here was a man who screamed into the void. No one listened, no one cared, no one heard. But he never stopped screaming. He valued every human life. He wept for every human loss. He never gave up." Stephen Lewis in The Walrus
"For those who would understand the inexorable but entirely preventable unfolding of the Rwandan holocaust, this account, told from the eye of the storm, is indispensable." Booklist (Starred Review)
"A stirring indictment..." Kirkus Reviews
"...Dallaire's first-person account is essential to complete the history [of the Rwanda massacres] and, one feels, vital to the author's need to bear public witness...." Madeleine K. Albright, Washington Post
"Now recovered from a deep, post-trauma depression, Dallaire has written a gripping, detailed chronicle, buttressed with added research and valuable reflections." Baltimore Sun
"...Dallaire's tale is both horrifying and necessary — and though it cannot provide the answers we need, it does cause us to care about finding those answers." San Francisco Chronicle
Canadian Gen. Romaeo Dallaire, force commander of the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda, recreates the history of the most barbarous and chaotic civil war and genocide — which transformed him from confident Cold Warrior to devastated UN commander, and finally to retired general struggling painfully, and publicly, to overcome posttraumatic stress disorder.
About the Author
LT. GEN. ROMÉO DALLAIRE joined the Canadian Army in 1964. After returning from Rwanda, he was promoted to three-star general and served in various senior positions including assistant deputy minister in the Canadian Ministry of Defence. He is the highest-ranking military figure ever stricken with post-traumatic stress disorder, and continues to advise Canadian Forces and Veterans Affairs in matters related to PTSD. In January 2002 he received the inaugural Aegis Award for Genocide Prevention in London.
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History and Social Science » Africa » Rwanda and Burundi