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on 2 February 2018
I read this book following a trip to Rwanda, and having met some old friends there who both lost relatives in the genocide. I realised that I knew very little about it.
This is a harrowing but gripping read. To be honest, I began to wonder whether General Dallaire was as right all the time as he makes out, but I guess he was. The United Nations is presented for what it is: a bumbling collection of national self-interests, with some well-meaning personalities whose best intentions are thwarted by bureaucracy and by those national self-interests.Only Belgium and France were willing to take any responsibility, for motives of their own. Canada was willing but impotent. Britain did what it does best - guard its own interests and remain otherwise cynically uncommitted. The USA - well, suffice to say that Dallaire quotes one (unnamed) US diplomat as saying that, for the USA to be able to justify putting lives on the line to stop the carnage, there would have to be a ratio of at least 85,000 Rwandan deaths to one US military casualty. Nice. Rwanda has no natural resources that the major powers want to get their hands on. Of course, when it was all over each country wanted the world to know how its actions had stopped the genocide.
You would hope that the Rwanda experience would prevent such a tragedy happening again. Recent events in Myanmar, Congo, Syria, and so many other places in the world just show that nothing has been learned. Plus ca change.
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on 9 August 2015
I bought the book after watching the DVD of the same name. Dallaire had a continual an uphill struggle throughout his tour of duty in Rwanda, and despite all of the problems he and his UN troops and staff faced, none of it compares to the lack of urgency and responsibility shown by the people who put him in Rwanda in the first place. As an organisation, the UN is a joke. It is filled with political creatures who seem to want the power and money but are not prepared to deal with the worlds so-called problems. The only time that this body has been effective was in Korea in the early 1950's when maybe its ideals were a bit more realistic post WW2. Since then it has demonstrated it's inability to deal with genocidal situations; be it in Africa or in the former Yugoslavia, where the Dutch peacekeeper's were unable to stop the massacre of Muslims in the Srebnica area.
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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.
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on 14 January 2014
There is a lot of literature and films on or about the Rwandan war / genocide and the UN and the international community's response (or lack of appropriate response) but none so detailed (almost a daily journal) and as gripping as Romeo Dallaire's book on the subject.

The complexity, the intricacies and brutality of it all... However, throughout, this narrative though, is also the story of a "few good men and women" who were able to see through the madness, the chaos - to reach out, to help others. People who - often - at great personal risks refused to follow the central narrative and arguments of murderous individuals or groups.

In brief, this book is brilliantly written - a detailed narrative of an explosive, almost impossible situation that Dallaire and his "few good men and women" were confronted with...
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on 5 June 2016
Not because of the subject matter but the use of acronyms and abbreviations. So, so many that it's incredibly confusing. You can tell it's written by a military man.
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on 24 October 2014
I love Rwanda but didn't discover it until many years after the genocide. You can sympathise so much with Dallaire's endless frustration and be incredibly angry with the pathetic performance of the first world nations who either let it happen, or (in the case of the French) colluded with the extremists doing most of the killing. Mostly of course, while reading this book, your heart goes out to the Rwandan victims whose only crime was their tribal background. The book I am currently writing has a strong Rwandan element to it and this work has helped inspire me. I hope that Roger can finally find peace from the mental torture that he must must have suffered.
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on 9 January 2016
An amazing read.......Hands tied (politically), undermanned, stymied by heartless politicians Dallaire had to stand by and watch thousands slaughtered. If you have any leanings towards learning what really happened regarding the Rawandan genocide and what makes a great military leader you really should read this book.
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on 23 April 2017
Another demonstration of how out dated the UN establishment are with dealing with world crisis. Well written book detailing the horrors of civil conflict in African region. Having spent the past 6 years of my life in Africa ( Sierra Leone, Liberia,Eritrea) and seen the poverty these people live in daily, it's humbling to see that these people will invite you to share their last meal with them. Maybe a lesson we could all consider in the western world.
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on 13 November 2013
I have read a lot of books on this topic having developed an interest after some extensive travel across this area of the world and this is by far and away the best of the lot. It not only captures the truly horrific nature of what happened in Rwanda but does so in an incredibly human way. In my opinion Romeo Dallaire received extremely unfair criticism of his performance in Rwanda in a way used only to cover up the shameful actions (or inactions) of the beurocrats in his chain of command. This book is not only a compelling read (I could not put it down) and very well-written but it will give the reader a different (and arguably most useful) perspective for the understanding of what happened in Rwanda.
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on 1 March 2018
An accurate and informative account by an authentic source
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