11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 30 December 2006
Dallaire accepted a mission to Rawanda and entered hell, though at the time he did not know this. The book is a roler coaster of emotions as Dallaire and his UN heroes are constantly let down, exploited and undermined as they risk their lives daily to save others. Dallaire was badly let down and has suffred hugely because of it - finally, having a nervous breakdown. The book, is how I suspect Dallaire is, truthful with no agenda; knowing right from wrong and not interested in point scoring just trying to help people (in this case understand what happened). Dallaire's honesty is such that he does not paint himself as a saint but shows his own imperfections - that we all have. He was a brave man who others, for political reasons (not least the French)sort to discredit.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 15 September 2005
This book provides a first hand account of the tragedy in Rwanda in the 1990's. I must admit that before reading, I had only a sketchy understanding of what took place largely influenced by memories of the media coverage at the time.
Reading was tough as Dellaire records the terrible suffering of the Rwandan people during a time when the rest of the world chose not to be interested in a small African country with no strategic or economic value. As a consequence over 800,000 Rwandans died at the hands of various militias in just 100 days.
If Dallaire would have been given the requested resources for his peace keeping mission the genocide could have been prevented. Instead the UN proved to be an ineffective and bureaucratic shambles and the major world powers showed themselves to be shamelessly self interested and ignorant.
How Dallaire continues to cope after witnessing such devastation I don't know but having the conviction to document his experience is great testiment to this remarkable soldier.
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on 31 May 2005
Absolutely terrifying! Nothing less can be described when it comes to narrowing down the content of this tale by a soldier of the UN. Having had close contact with people who have actually been through this holocaust I was astonished at the reactions of the world! Or rather the lack of response or interest in hundreds of thousands being killed, mutilated, raped, tortured and even God cannot describe what other horrors...General Dallaire has gone through hell himself being there and having seen it all, and as a member of a world community, who did not care at all what went on at that time it is an indictment which strikes deeply. Rwanda was only third or fourth in priority of the UN missions and the grievances and daily hardships the few brave men and women of the UN mission in Rwanda had to cope with did not receive a fraction of the credits from the superiors in the UN and from the world that they deserved. Sad but true, and this story cannot be told by anyone who has not been there, it is extraordinaryly told with passion, strength and a sense of details that can only make the reader weep from the heart.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 16 July 2008
I worked in Rwanda at the time of the genocide and then again more recently. Whatever he thinks of himself, (and in this book Romeo Dallaire is pretty, and unfairly, critical of some of his own limitations) he is thought of as a hero by the majority of Rwandans today as along with Phillipe Gaillard of the IRC, he was one of the few whites of any importance who remained in Rwanda during the attrocities. This book gives a real, but at times unintentional insight into the complete failures of the UN. Whereas Linda Melville's excellent book 'A People Betrayed' concentrates on the history of the machinations and politics, Dallaire tells it how it was, at the time, - on the ground. If he had a ghost writer, they could've make the writing slightly less amateurish, but the editor has done a great job with no irrelevances or other distractions. It is a great book to understand the problems, and to gain some hope for this country. Though not as detailed as some other commentaries, such as that by Phillip Gourevitch, you get a real sense of 'now' in the book. Amazing, as Dallaire poignantly says it took him over ten years to be sufficiently 'stable' to sit and write the book.
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on 23 February 2006
In our lifetime we only read a few books that truly redefine how we see the world and our fellow human beings – the very worst behaviours imaginable on one side and the highest levels of courage on the other. This must be one such book.
Read it and be appalled how we can sit in our cosy homes and, in ignorance maybe, allow such barbarity to go on. What is worse, we let our governments dither and debate the legal niceties of what is meant by “genocide”. We in the so-called civilised West should hang our heads in shame that we allowed this to happen, while each country insisting it was someone’s else responsibility to sort it out. The book is unsentimental yet so very painful. Nearly every page punches you emotionally.
Romeo Dallaire, having put his life on the line in Rwanda, now puts his story to print as a testimony to man’s inhumanity but shows us in that in these extreme circumstances, there are some few individuals who are worthy of our greatest respect and gratitude. These few reclaim some semblance of pride we might hope to see in ourselves.
No book has ever made me cry – this one did.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 16 April 2008
This is a book all schoolchildren should read. Maybe, just maybe it could help to make the world a more tolerant place.
Dallaire was on the ground from beginning to end of the slaughter of nearly a million mostly Tutsi, Rwandans, trying to prevent a crisis with too few troops and no political support.
With harrowing detail he describes how the militant Genocidaires gained political power in the tiny, over-populated, remote African state and shows how the world, lead by a dithering UN, stood back and did nothing. Clinton says it's greatest regret. It should be. While leaving out much personal emotion from the proceedings, Dallaire describes the events' full effects in the intro, talking us through his complete emotional breakdown and his lengthy, unfinished recovery.
The reader is left with a gut wrenching feeling upon completion of this book. A book like this should never have to be written again.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 5 September 2012
Although the savagery of the 100-day Rwanda genocide in 1994 tempts one to consign it as something that could only have occurred on the Dark Continent, the underlying problems that set it in motion could have existed anywhere where attitudes had been allowed to become so polarized, people feared so much for their security, and the situation allowed to so degrade.
Romeo Dallaire and his modest team on the ground were able to sniff out fairly early who the bad guys were and what they were up to, but somehow nobody outside Rwanda really seemed to want to know. The French, who had previously mentored and supported the baddies, and still furtively maintained some advisors among them, overtly (I choose my word carefully) caught on too late, towards the end, when they put into action operation Turquoise to try to protect their retreating protégés. Belgium, who had once ruled the country, had the best equipped troops on the ground but fled at first blood. Most other nations, even those present in Rwanda, failed their duties, with the notable exception of Ghana and Tunisia whose troops exhibited such bravery and professionalism. It is a damning account of how elements of the large institution that is the United Nations managed to work nine to five in every sense of the term while the Tutsi population was being slaughtered by an astonishing ten thousand a day. Such attitudes might yet be explicable if the UN had been overwhelmed with resources, but Romeo Dallaire never ceases to describe the poor and often shoddy resources at his disposal, and this would make you think that more people in New York and elsewhere, as well as politicians closer to the epicentre, would have stood up to be counted with better result.
And then you realise that it may not be as simple as that. If every UN commander on the ground were to have the resources that he felt he needed, his troops would be much more likely to get drawn into the fray and become another belligerent. It is made clear that this risk was foremost in the minds of those in New York. Fortunately, in stating his case, Dallaire avoids this becoming a trap. He shows that he never asked for excessively large means to do his job, and instead refers to a number of specific missed opportunities that could have critically altered the course of events that followed. Too many of the misses appear due to inadequate decision making by the UN at critical times rather than resources. I started this book expecting it to be a condemnation of Kofi Annan and his team, who proved to be excessively cautious and unprepared to make the necessary moves when these opportunities arose. Dallaire chooses to avoid this, but why on earth did Annan not go to Rwanda himself? Why on earth did no-one at the UN get the sack?
Dallaire seems to belatedly wake up to the potential role of the media in helping his situation. It may be simply due to the way that he structured his book, but key items such the evil RGF propaganda radio station, RTLM, and on the other side the positive help he got from Mark Thomson of the BBC and the publicity-savvy Bernard Kouchner, only appear half way through the story, once the killings had already been going on for weeks. Impossible to understand is why the RTLM radio that influenced the genocide so much was allowed to continue. It urged Hutus to seek out Tutsis; at one time it even encouraged the assassination of Dallaire himself. Dallaire briefly explains how he personally did not have the means to jam or destroy it, but surely its transmissions were being listened to by countries on the UN Security Council, especially France and America. They did nothing until the body count reached 800,000, perhaps more, by which stage even one of the Americans calculatingly hinted that his country might have accepted the loss of 10 of their (absent) peacekeepers' lives. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has since gone to work to nail the direct culprits. Certain key people outside Rwanda decided not to follow through, even though they must have been aware of what was happening. For the sake of the future they should be asked to account for their inaction; making apologies is not enough.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 11 June 2008
I have read a number of books on Rwanda, many of them drawing from Dallaire's experience out there, but this is definitely the most useful at helping you to at least attempt to understand the timeline of events and the machinations behind the scenes that led to the genocide and the genocide itself.
This book gradually draws you in, to the point where I felt Dallaire's frustration, confusion, anger, distress and most of all idealistic faith in the UN even when faced with reality. He makes clear that all the parties involved (the RGF, the interim government, the RPF, the French, the international community and the UN) share responsibility for the failure of the world to first prevent and then stop a genocide where more people were killed per day than in the Holocaust.
One of the parts that stands out for me (amongst others) is when Dallaire has to consciously stop himself from shooting the three leaders of the Interahamwe militia when attending a meeting. Dallaire is a real person, who barely knew where Rwanda was when he first took on this mission. Nevertheless, he proved his strength of character and the depth of his morality when he chose, repeatedly, to remain in Rwanda, even when it became apparent that his mission UNAMIR and himself were little but a token gesture to help world powers absolve their guilt.
This is essential reading for all those interested in world politics and the UN, but also for those who read the biographies and autobiographies of great people. I have now recommended this book to everyone I know, more than once, because I genuinely was moved by this book.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 5 July 2004
"Shake Hands With the Devil" by General Dallaire is a sobering account on how we in the West view sub-Saharan Africans as something less than human - we learn that the US military equals 85,000 Rwandan lives with one American life. With virtually no international support but given the impossible task of resolving the civil war in Rwanda with his limited number of UN soldiers and supplies, General Dallaire cannot prevent the ensuing genocide, even as the world ignores all the deaths. He clearly exposes the fraud in our belief in universal human rights, when he gives the example that the killing of 100 Rwandan mountain gorillas will provoke more outrage in the world than the massacre of 800,000 Africans. General Dallaire poignantly rages at all the horror that occurred: finding corpses that move because they are alive with maggots; sun-bleached bones of women who lie on their backs with their leg bones still bent and spread apart after being raped to death; European governments selling arms and harbouring the génocidaires who are responsible for the killings; soldiers of military forces from developed nations who openly denigrate the people whom they are supposed to be aiding, and who vandalize the minimal infrastructure that exists. If nothing else, this book should evoke shame and anger in us all for our common hypocrisy.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 10 November 2008
14 years ago, in a small, insignificant Central African republic a war was fought. A war that was totaly ignored by the world. For years The UN would not use the term "genocide" for what happened there...it would not stand to account for its failings. However there were brave men who fought to stop the carnage, to the genocide and the total failue of humanity and this is their story.
I loved this book, it was well written and informative but sometimes it felt as if it was written in "Soldier speak". A part from that small quibble I learnt a lot from it. It is a stunning and lyrical damnation of the politics that keep people from doing the right thing, of an insitution (The UN) who set such high goals for humanity and proceeded to ignore a terrifyingly bleak situation and write it off as a continuation of a civil war to suit their agenda. A strangely up lifting book that makes you thankful someone, somewhere cares enough to make a stand for thoes who can't stand themselves