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on November 5, 2003
This is an excellent, front line account of the events of, and leading to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. It has been written from the perspective of the Canadian Lt.General Romeo Dallaire, the then Force Commander of the United Nations mission to Rwanda.
Gen. Dallaire recounts the horrors, tragedies, and ineptness of the United nations during one of the worlds darkest hours. His peacekeeping force was reduced to being bystanders in the slaughter that occured; 800 000 plus people were slaughtered systematically over a 100 day period.
It would be helpful for the reader to have a background in the ethnic divide in Rwanda during the last century, although the subject is described in it's simplest terms in this book.
This is a story of the struggle of humanity vs. politics, and how the former takes a backseat to the worlds dealings.
It is painful to read how the lives of individuals are reduced to dollar value in the united nations, but I think this is a work that everyone should read.
Genocide occurs in this modern world, and its clearly shown by General Dallaire that very few organizations and individuals are equipped, or care enough to deal with it.
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on February 4, 2009
The international community's response to the genocide in Rwanda was negligent, disturbing and heartbreaking. There are many within the U.N. that should be held accountable for the over 800,000 slaughtered innocents. Here is a clear account of what went on in those 100 days and the days leading up to it. Merci General.
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on September 17, 2010
A very thorough and moving glimpse into the Rwandan genocide. I met Mr Dallaire at UBC in Vancouver once and he signed my copy, he seems likes a very warm man but is obviously deeply scarred by his experience in that tiny African country.
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on February 28, 2004
I must admit...I only bought this book because it was rated a Bestseller up here in Canada. Before I read it, I had no idea there was a genocide in Rwanda. Goes to show you how little the news media bothered to play up what was REALLY going on. Makes you wonder just HOW MUCH control the governments of the western world really have over the media.
After I had finished reading the Introduction, I was captured and read the book within 4 days. Gives an excellent account as to not only what was going on politically within the country leading up to and during the genocide..but also the back and forth banter that this UN Force Commander had to endure from the governments of the world who could have at any time stopped this tragedy from happening.
My heart goes out to Mr.Dallaire and everyone who had to witness the genocide of 1994. What courageous and determined human beings they are. Not only is this book an eye opener about the problems humanity faces, it also stands to remind you that there are still people in this world, willing to stand up for what they believe in and try to make a difference, no matter how small.
This is a must read!!!
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on October 29, 2004
"Shake Hands with the Devil" is a simply amazing book. I first read it having no previous knowlage of what happened in Rwanda. I must admit I didn't even realize there WAS a genocide. I bought this book specifically to find out what happened and I was not disapointed. It gives a detailed account of the entire war, including events leading up to it so the reader can better understand the motives behind the destruction. At times this book can be extremly hard to read (in my opinion at least). There are very graphic descriptions of people being tortured, raped and killed, but it only manages to further illustrate the point that the world messed up the whole situation beyond belief. I would definitly recommend this book to anyone interested in Rwanda. Your money will not be misplaced I promise you.
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on December 22, 2015
Pharaohs of the Sky
In 1994, two major events happened, at least as I recall: first, Kurt Cobain shot himself; then OJ Simpson went on a strange highway getaway and was charged with murder. It's odd that Rwanda was such a minor part of my life. When one reads Romeo Dallaire's chilling account of the Rwandan genocide, it doesn't take long to figure out why that was: Rwanda is in central Africa, an insignificant dot on a map; there's no oil, and therefore, the horrific atrocities perpetrated by the Hutus on the Tutsis went largely unnoticed.

What I found so interesting about the book--apart from the history of the genocide and the people involved--was the personal toll the event had on the life of Dallaire. Post-traumatic stress, suicide attempts, and severe depression were what awaited the man who tried numerous times to warn the UN of the impending danger in Rwanda.

One thing I can say: Hollywood's version of the event, entitled "Hotel Rwanda" is an embarrassment. Dallaire wasn't even recruited for the film as a consultant. But when one reads "Shake Hands With the Devil," they can put that Hollywood dribble out of their minds. Here is the true story.
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on April 19, 2004
A most powerful book that will leave you speechless - at the horror, at the incomprehensibility of the Rwandan genocide, as well as at the travails and struggles of Dallaire's UN mission under tremendous odds. The author involves you by his day to day observations, you feel the daily grind of his army life as well as the unique frustrations placed on him by his UN superiors. Yes the Rwandan genocide could have been stopped had he had the manpower and means - how efficiently we will never know. But to have to stand by while people who expected help were butchered, while endless paperwork had to be filed, while the "genocidaires" went freely about their business thumbing their noses at UNAMIR - it becomes clear why many like Dallaire suffered intensely of PTSD - how can one erase the images? They wrench the soul.
Living in Rwanda and being able to associate places and names, listening to people - all of whom were touched by "la guerre" and who lost family - brings the genocide even closer , although there are no more answers now than when Dallaire was there. I do not know how Rwandans can cope, living next door to returned killers whom they perhaps know personally. I do not know how they can look at the bones of those slaughtered and go on tilling the fields, doing their chores, smiling and hugging... But as one Rwandan said to me, what choice do we have but to forgive, we cannot hate for the rest of our lives (he lost his brother and family while he himself hid for three months and so managed to survive). Instead, he has turned his brother's property into a restaurant, where there is music and dancing - he thought his brother would like such a memorial.
When Dallaire came to Rwanda for the ten year memorial celebration, he saw hope among the people again - may he be right. Plus jamais.
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on April 3, 2004
On Thursday 4/1/04 I watched a PBS Frontline presentation called "Ghosts of Rwanda".
1] It was a fine show; technically, artistically, ethically, and as history. It was balanced and fair, but appropriately damning to those who "knew but didn't act".
2] It should serve as a chilling reminder of what happens when deliberative bodies (UN, US, Belgium, etc) puff up in rhetorical diplomatic speech, but then cut-and-run. Whithin the US, much of both the Left and the Right seemed uninterested in Rwanda. Though Ghanan and Canadian (Dallaire) UN commanders, and their few personnel, demonstrated superhuman bravery on the ground...I sure as hell would not want to count on the suits at UN headquarters to pull my bacon out of the fire! The UN is no different (and in many ways is worse) than many nation-states. It will be some time before an organization truely exists that reprsents world justice and order. Until then, I'm afraid that individual nations will need to retain sovereignty, if only to ensure justice and order for their own citizens. [DISCLOSURE: I support current US and Israeli actions in Western Asia].
Some of the heros and villains are listed below.
Not listed on the website, but discussed in the show, is an interesting reference made by Madeleine Albright. She claims to have argued for voting to retain some minimal protective UN forces in Rwanda, but was forbidden to so.
The political creature that forbid US support of UN action? The then director of peacekeeping at the NSC, Richard Clark.
800,000 civilans were butchered in 100 days.
No apology required, I suppose.
Watch this show if you can:
Heros and villains:
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on March 12, 2004
As many of the reviews describe, General Dallaire's well-written account of the Rwandan genocide is detailed, devastating and thought provoking on many levels. I highly recommend it for anyone. Period.
In addition to all of the information related to the genocide, there is another layer to his discussions that added even more interest for me. As someone who has never been in the military, I never gave much thought to what it really means to be a soldier. General Dallaire is a career soldier who comes from a family with a military tradition. He is also a very intelligent and thoughtful man who has taken a lot of time to study not only the technical aspects of war but also its philosophical implications. He speaks eloquently about the moral and ethical decisions that are implicit in this profession, and about what it really means to be a soldier. His thoughts have sparked a new interest in me.
I can, in addition, recommend an excellent documentary about his involvement in Rwanda, which is entitled "The Last Just Man". If you liked this book, and I can't see how you wouldn't, try to see the film (it has been broadcast on television).
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on February 25, 2004
This book was released in Canada several months and I ordered it from Amazon's sister site there (you can get it from them much cheaper and faster, by the way)
Dallaire was Force Commander during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and, as such, is able to provide the first insiders view of the collapse of the Arusha Accord, the subsequent resumption of hostilities between the RPF and the RGF and the rapidly unfolding genocide.
General Dallaire spends much of his book discussing his attempts to implement the Arusha Accords and, when that failed, to secure a cease-fire and protect innocent civilians. He also chronicles his frustrations with some of the troops sent to assist in the peacekeeping mission and the trouble he had getting money, supplies or even an effective mandate from the UN.
Dallaire's coverage of some important issues such as the historic Hutu-Tutsi rivalry, the role of the Interhamwe in the genocide or the US role in preventing more forceful action are cursory but, in fairness, they were not intended to be the focus of this book.
Dallaire has done the world a great service by chronicling his experience nearly a decade after his life was upended, and 800,000 Rwandan lives were lost, in one of the most horrific humanitarian tragedies in history. And while this book is a great value to those who have a relatively deep understanding of the genocide, it might not be the best introduction for those who know little or nothing about it. Dallaire provides a great amount of detail, but not necessarily the elementary background and big picture views required to understand just who was involved and what was transpiring during this chaotic 100 days.

In the end, Dallaire is a hero, as are Brent Beardsley and so many others who risked their lives to save the lives of others. And we are fortunate that General Dallaire has agreed to share his story. Perhaps with this book, the international community finally begin to take its obligations seriously. Anguished cries of "Never Again!" followed by inaction will never save the lives of innocent victims.
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