Romeo Dallaire

"Are all humans human or some more human than others?" General Romeo Dallaire, commander of the UN Mission in Rwanda

General Romeo Dallaire is another part of Canada's long rich history of peace-keeping. Unlike the United States where military leaders are glorified for the amount of enemy combatants they killed, the Canadian military have historically had higher standards to live up to. Our military is sent primarily as part of peace-keeping forces, our troops often perform major humanitarian tasks and form closer connections with civilians than Americans ever will. Dallaire is a hero of the land of the true north strong and free. He encountered the worst of humanity in Rwanda and was deeply scarred by this experience. He was emotionally devastated and fought back to become a presence again. This time he would use his experiences to show how cruel human beings can be and how we can improve this world.

He was born on June 25, 1946 in Holland. His father was a Canadian serviceman and Romeo joined the Canadian military in 1964. He also was part of the FLQ crisis when the War Measures Act was introduced. In 1989 he was promoted to Brigadier-General. In 1993 he was chosen to lead the UN Mission in Rwanda.

A few years ago, General Dallaire was found drunk curled in the fetal position under a park bench suffering from PTSD. (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) In 1994 he was the leader of the Canadian mission in Rwanda that was not given the authority to defend civilians. He oversaw the murder of 800,000 Tutsis (the worst massacre of the late 20th century); unable to do anything and watch in horror as men, women, and children were killed. Dallaire pleaded for 2000 more troops from the original 3000, and the permission to use aggressive force.

"The impact of the trauma of Rwanda had physically affected my brain and had put me in a state where there was no capability left of any desire for life, any desire to even consider life. I was even debating whether I should exist as I held on my shoulders, and still today, the belief that as commander of the mission in Rwanda I had failed the Rwandans. I had failed in my duty as the UN mission commander to assist the Rwandans to be able to move to a peaceful application of democracy in a rather short period of time."

Why did these killings occur? Shortly before this genocide 10 Belgium peace-keepers were killed. Instead of holding their ground many Europeans wanted to pull-out. The Americans were also hesitant of sending troops in because they feared they would also be killed. An American representative went to see General Dallaire.

"I had one person come in to my headquarters during the genocide asking statistics on how many people were killed last week and how many yesterday and how many do you expect to be killed today and how many weeks of this killing you think is going to go on. And my staff officers brought him to me and I said, "Why these statistics?"

He said, "Oh, you know my country is assessing whether it will come in and the government believes that the people, the public opinion, could handle for every soldier killed or injured an equivalent of 85,000 dead Rwandans."

On January 11th, 1994 he wanted to launch a pre-emptive strike against the killers. Included was a personal plea in French to Canadian Gen. Maurice Baril, top military advisor at UN headquarters. "Where there's a will, there's a way. Let's go." Dallaire's request was denied which paved the way for the genocide. Dallaire could have quit in protest but decided to stay and prevent some of the carnage.

"And I mean I had people come on the ground and tell me that they were doing an estimate, because under their parameters, it would take about 85,000 dead Rwandans to risk one white or black Western soldier's life. I mean some of them actually had mathematics in this stuff. So when I'm asked, you know, why did you stay; why didn't you pack it in? I said if we can save one Rwandan, at least morally, we've attempted to stymie the debacle that was going on."

General Roméo Dallaire had to live with these memories. He was a trained soldier who learned how to fight and defend those who couldn't defend themselves. But due to many countries wavering he was forced to be a spectator in the most gruesome genocide of the 1990's. This experience nearly killed Dallaire as he reverted to drinking and attempted suicide twice. But, after the public found the broken General underneath a park bench it appeared that he would never recover.

"Your mind with time, in fact, doesn't erase things that are traumas. It makes them clearer."

Dallaire was able to regain his composure. He was able to reflect on the horror and use his own experiences to try to fix what is wrong in the world. He is an icon of Canada's pursuit of a human security agenda, and his philosophy is geared to fully utilizing Canada's strengths for the betterment of humankind.

"The timeframe I work in is decades and centuries with people joining the forces of humanity. We will come to a time when people respect each other. We will eliminate conflict. As a middle power, Canada has all sorts of opportunities to lead in this era."

General Romeo Dallaire is now a Senator for the Liberal Party in Canada.

"The global village is deteriorating at a rapid pace , and in the children of the world the result is rage. It is the rage I saw in the eyes of the teenage Interahamwe militiamen in Rwanda, it is the rage I felt in crowds of ordinary civilians in Rwanda, and it is the rage that resulted in September 11. Human beings who have no rights, no security, no future, no Hope and no no means to survive are a desperate group who will do deperate things to take what they believe they need and deserve.

If September 11 taught us that we have to fight and win the 'war on terrorism,' it should also have taught us that if we do not immediately address the underlying (even if misguided) causes of those young terrorists' rage, we will not win the war. For every al-Qaeda bomber that we kill there will be a thousand more volunteers from all over the earth to take his place. In the next decade, terrorists will acquire weapons of mass destruction. It is only a matter of time until a brillant young chemist or smuggler obtains a nuclear, biological or chemical weapon and uses it to satisfy his very personal rage against us."
(Excerpt From Romeo Dallaire's "Shake Hands Wuth The Devil: The Failure of humanity in Rwanda"

Related Links:

Greatest Canadians

What's Done Is Done

Human Rights and 9/11

External Links:

Rwanda Genocide

CBC News Indepth: Romeo Dallaire

Senator Romeo Dallaire

Romeo Dallaire Foundation Feedback:

Comments: yo i like romeo dellaire he is my hero i think he should be president of canada
Posted by Killion on Sep-21-2007 11:39:25

Comments: Romeo Dallaire is a hero
Posted by James on Sep-21-2007 11:06:41

Comments: I'm definately ashamed of my country (U.S.) for turning a blind eye to the genacide that took place in Rwanda. Unfortunately my government must always have a clear vested interest in who we save in this world from theses horrors. Romeo Dallaire is without question a brave soul and without question my hero. Thank god the Bush regime is almost over
Posted by Rick on Oct-26-2006 04:31:41

Comments: hello, i just wantde to write and say that i think what Romoe Dallaire did in Rwanda was an amazing act of courage and many people say one man can't change the world, however by the actions the Romeo Dallaire had put forth was on the way. i just don\'t understand how the government could see how much trouble Rwanda was in and not have done anything! i'm extremely proud of Romeo Dallaire for his actions. thanks
Posted by Kate on May-15-2006 03:14:07

Comments: With an impending Conservative minority winning the election tomorrow (January 23, 2006) it is now finally time for the Liberal Party Of Canada to transform itself from a scandal ridden party of entitlement to a real political force whose members actually care about the country. There is one man I can think of to lead such a party - ROMEO DALLAIRE. Think about how proud so many Canadians would be to vote for a man with such integrity and honour. I beleive someone should begin to explore the possibility of Mr. Dallaire running for the leadership of the Liberal party. It should be done immediatley after tomorrow's election and if he is willing, announced this summer. I would volunteer all of my free time to see something like this happen as would thousands of Canadians of ALL walks of life. This could be the best thing for this country in a long long time - if ever. Think about it. Talk about it. Do something about it.
Posted by Harry on Jan-22-2006 11:24:34

Updated: January 20, 2011 Creations

Copyright 2003-2011