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Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda Paperback – December 21, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
As former head of the late 1993 U.N. peacekeeping mission in Rwanda, Canadian general Dallaire's initial proposal called for 5,000 soldiers to permit orderly elections and the return of the refugees. Nothing like this number was supplied, and the result was an outright attempt at genocide against the Tutsis that nearly succeeded, with 800,000 dead over three months. The failure of the U.N.'s wealthier members to act as the tragedy unfolded obliged the author to leave military service to recover from PTSD (as well as the near breakdown of his family). While much of the account is a thickly described I-went-here, I went-there, I-met-X, I-said-this, one learns much more about the author's emotional states when making decisions than in a conventional military history, making this an important document of service—one that has been awarded Canada's Governor General's Award. And his descriptions of Rwanda's unraveling are disturbing, to say the least ("I then noticed large piles of blue-black bodies heaped on the creek banks"). Dallaire's argument that Rwanda-like situations are fires that can be put out with a small force if caught early enough will certainly draw debate, but the book documents in horrifying detail what happens when no serious effort is made.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* On June 27, 1993, Dallaire--a career man in the Canadian military--was informed that he might be asked to lead a UN peacekeeping mission in Rwanda, to which he replied excitedly, "Rwanda, that's somewhere in Africa, isn't it?" Fourteen months later, he would return from his service there a nearly broken man, having failed to prevent the unfathomable massacre of 800,000 Tutsis and Hutus, which took place over a mere 100 days. From meticulous diary entries he wrote during his service there, Dallaire pieces together the inside story of what went wrong. He puts unsparing blame on the circular failure of the UN: lack of support from member countries, especially the U.S and the Security Council, which led to lack of respect for the UN, which then led to lack of support from member countries. He blames the warring sides, especially extremist Hutus, for planning the genocide during peace talks, knowing the UN would not have the courage to enforce the peace: "They knew us better than we knew ourselves." And he blames himself for his political naivete and his inability to convince the UN of the gravity of the situation, which has now spread to neighboring Congo. For those who would understand the inexorable but entirely preventable unfolding of the Rwandan holocaust, this account, told from the eye of the storm, is indispensable. Alan Moores
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
The book unravels into day-to-day accounts of everything that happened in Rawanda. I suspect many people will find this type of storytelling, boring and repedative. It can definately be these things at times but this book was not written to sensationalize what happened, it's written to tell you what happened.
Dallaire describes the brutality he sees with an eerie calmness, you can definately understand how one could become desensitized to the carnage given the frequency of it.
It's not the easiest of reads, there are many names and factions at play throughout the book and it's easy to forget who is who. The book is we'll worth the read.
If you're struggling to finish, READ THROUGH THE END. The conclusion is a searing summary of why the genocide occurred and does not mince words when placing blame. They are some of the best pages I have read in any book. They lay out exactly why we are doomed as a species, to repeat the same atrocities over and over again.
It is hard to read, but it is worth it. Dallaire and the people who helped him write this book have somehow managed to convey some of the horror and despair of trying to do something in an impossible situation, but Dallaire and his fellow UN people's determination to do what they could gives some hope. I really hope that some lessons have been learnt. Dallaire is extremely honest about where he feels he has failed. I don't think I could have done a fraction of what he did.
Unfortunately, at the very end of the book, there seems to be a mix up between the acronyms RPF and RGF, which makes things very confusing.
The book includes a helpful glossary.
This was/is an amazing book that goes into substantial detail of how and why this horrific incident happened. As is the case with most nonfiction books there is a bit of history on the author and where they came from, etc. This is kept fairly short in this book and is also relevant to the story and interesting. When Dillaire starts the story of what happened in Rwanda you can tell its not going to end well and he does not hide the bitterness and pain that his 1 yr experience in living hell left him with. Be forewarned this book is very graphic and pulls no punches. The detail in which the actual genocide is detailed and how some of the acts were perpetrated is not for the faint of heart, no pictures are needed and thankfully not included. To be honest there were a few times that some of the details in this book kept me up at night and brought a sense how we "civilized" Nations could have just sat back and 800,000 people be slaughter in 100 days. The detail in this book is not written simply to shock the reader, but rather to inform you (the reader) of the brutality and complete hatred that was so prevalent during this event. This book also does a phenomenal job of also describing the excruciating effects on the UN Peacekeepers and Dillaire that witnessing so much death and destruction had on them. I walked away from reading this book mad that the UN and the "leader" nations of the world didn't give a damn about Rwanda and as is continually demonstrated the African continent. If you decide to buy this book, and I highly recommend that you do, you will understand why I made that last statement. I enjoyed this book immensely and also came away better understanding the sense of abandonment that so many developing countries feel from Western culture and nations, and the continual issues that past colonialism in Africa is still causing today.
The self centeredness and complete ambivalence of the World community is disappointingly affirmation of what many already suspect. To sacrifice 800 000 lives at the alter of self interest is true evil. This is a story that is not easy to read as it is very uncomfortable and confronting but is well written. This is story that should be told in Schools.
Mr Dallaire tells the story with dignity and respect. The story is not full of the details of the genocide although enough of those, unavoidably, reveal them selves - it is troubling enough even so.
A must read for anyone with a conscience and real interest in how the World truly functions. A well balanced fascinating insight into how the UN works (or probably most accurately doesn't work). This is not a poor me story but one of incredible courage with the acceptance of his own role. He, unjustifiably in my view, accepts his fair share of responsibility for the events.
He learns of Gods existence as he shook hands with the Devil (his words) , truly a visual phrase.
I would love to shake his hand and thank him for his contribution to humanity, much respect to a tourtured soul. I learned alot about leadership from this.