Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda | Romeo Dallaire

Recommended by: Thomas S. Axworthy

This post is part of the LRC’s 25 year anniversary project. We are asking our readers for the most influential Canadian books published in the last quarter century. For more information, click here.


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Romeo Dallaire’s message about the Rwandan genocide, where 800 000 souls were hacked apart by machetes, is simple and compelling: “Never again,” he writes, should the world turn its face away while unspeakable cruelties are visited upon defenceless people. Commander of the UN mission in Rwanda from 1993 to 1994, Dallaire’s account of how his cry for reinforcements to stop the slaughter was ignored by the UN Security Council and the Western powers is searing in its honesty. “We watched as the devil took control of paradise on earth, and fed on the blood of the people we were supposed to protect.” Written initially as a document for his children to understand why the confident father who left for a routine peacekeeping mission in 1993, was not the same father who returned broken in 1994, the book is a personal, almost daily record of brutality, frustration and disillusionment. No reader is left untouched, not only by the description of what actually happened in Rwanda, but also by what witnessing such atrocities did to one honest Canadian. In 2005, a World Summit responded to the cri de coeur of Daillaire’s “Never Again” by adopting the international norm of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P). But we are a long way from turning that concept into reality. In Syria today, for example, we are seeing a re-run of Daillaire’s narrative: unspeakable horrors, millions on the move, and world governments floundering. The Devil alas, is still loose.

 


Thomas S. Axworthy served as senior policy advisor and Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. He is currently Secretary-General of the InterAction Council and President and CEO of The Gordon Foundation.