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5/18/04


Home______Rwanda, The Forgotten Holocaust, & One Man's Courage

How could it happen that America and the West stood aside and did nothing to stop the slaughter of 800,000 human beings, mainly Tutsis, over 100 days by Hutu extremists? On the tenth anniversary of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, we have a history of those who participated in the world's failure to act, those who stood up and tried to save lives, and all who are still deeply haunted by what they did.

  • " Why is it that black Africans, sitting there, being slaughtered by the thousands, get nothing? Why is it when a bunch of white Europeans get slaughtered in Yugoslavia you can't put enough capability in there?" Romeo Dallaire, Lieutenant General, Canadian Armed Forces, Retired.

    A refugee camp swelled with over 20,000 desperate refugees, and was growing. In charge of UN forces, Canadian General Romeo Dallaire was ordered by the UN to withdraw and leave the refugees. He said, "No way, I refuse to abandon the mission and turn tail and run while the bodies are piling up all over the god damn place."

    He knew that rebel forces were aware of Mogadishu, Black Hawk Down, and so he made clear that he was staying, with ultimately only 270 troops left to defend the camps against an enemy in the tens of thousands. He had been identified for assassination as the white man in the mustache. As several of his officers also wore mustaches, they, too, were shot at. He ordered them out of Rwanda, but he did not leave and refused to shave his own mustache. His troops' radio transmitters were shot up by the Hutu so they lost all contact with the outside world.

    The horror of that experience eventually took its toll on him. Four years later, about to appear at an African war crimes tribunal, he found that he suddenly had to take vacation and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Those 100 days in Rwanda left him with the absolute conviction that he had stared evil in the face, and could not back away. He has written a book about that evil, Shake Hands With The Devil, and has been interviewed. In this interview, he chronicles his time there--from the "gloom that came in" soon after arriving and sensing trouble coming, to the sudden collapse of his mission once the killing began, to the moral burden of the life and death choices he confronted trying to save lives with a few ill-equipped troops.

    Dallaire describes how Rwanda will never leave him. "My soul is in those hills, my spirit with the spirits of all those people who were slaughtered. … Lots of those eyes still haunt me, angry eyes, or innocent eyes. But the worst eyes that haunt me are the eyes of those people who were totally bewildered. They're looking at me with my blue beret and saying, ' What in the hell happened? ' " More

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