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Dallaire book slams U.S., UN, on Rwanda Add to ...

France and the United States stood by and let 800,000 people be murdered in Rwanda in April, 1994, retired Canadian peacekeeper Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire writes in a powerful new book to be published this autumn.

The account also indicts the United Nations for its failure to respond adequately to the genocide.

"Ultimately, led by the United States, France and the United Kingdom, this world body [the UN]aided and abetted genocide in Rwanda," Gen. Dallaire writes in the book. "No amount of its cash and aid will ever wash its hands clean of Rwandan blood."

Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda is Gen. Dallaire's account of his tenure as head of the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR), a story that has taken him almost a decade to tell. It goes on sale in November; an advance copy was obtained by The Globe and Mail.

"The UN and the secretariat are small-time culpable compared to the U.S. and France and their actions and inactions," Gen. Dallaire said in an interview yesterday. "The UN mostly in its ability to handle so many very complex problems. France and the U.S. were dominated by self-interest and the psychology of still having imperial, colonial traits."

Using the detailed daily notes that were taken by his assistant in the field, Gen. Dallaire painstakingly recreated the events leading up to the genocide and provides a minute-by-minute account of the eruption of bloodshed in April, 1994, as his pleas for reinforcements to UN headquarters in New York were ignored.

"The Security Council and the office of the secretary-general were obviously at a loss as to what to do," he writes. "I continued to receive demands to supply them with more information before they would take any concrete action. What more could I possibly tell them that I hadn't already described in horrific detail? The odour of death in the hot sun; the flies, maggots, rats and dogs that swarmed to feast on the dead. At times it seemed the smell had entered the pores of my skin . . . We had sent a deluge of paper and received nothing in return; no supplies, no reinforcements, no decisions."

The book describes how the United States sent a tip one night based on detailed intelligence information that Gen. Dallaire was targeted for assassination by a Rwandan militia. Yet at the same time, U.S. officials claimed to have so little information about what was going in Rwanda that they could not intervene.

Gen. Dallaire also describes watching the departure of a Belgian peacekeeping unit, withdrawn just as the killing reached its height: "I gave myself over to hate of a nation that had not only lost its nerve to stay in the fight but that was prepared to sacrifice the names and reputations of its own soldiers to soothe its own conscience."

The book chronicles horrifying scenes from the genocide, when the Hutu majority, led by a band of Western-educated extremists, launched a savage attack on Tutsis and Hutu moderates. Gen. Dallaire describes picking his way over stacks of bodies clogging a creek; driving between piles of them along roadsides, bones jutting through flesh and starting to whiten in the sun, and walking in front of his vehicle to move pieces of bodies out of the way.

"What's in the book is what we felt people could bear," said Anne Collins, his editor at Random House Canada, which will publish the English edition. "But Gen. Dallaire had to remember all of it. We only put in the minimum -- he wanted to show what it was like, to walk through a slurry of blood and mud up to your knees. But he did not want to make a document that you could not bear to read."

Gen. Dallaire also provides a frank account of his own struggle to live with what he has seen, which has led to his sometimes public struggle with posttraumatic stress disorder.

"People thought maybe writing it was going to be therapeutic, but I don't think it really was," he said yesterday. "The only positive aspect is that I don't have it all in my head any more. The book is 600 pages, but I wrote a couple of thousand pages, and a lot of the weight in having it all in memory -- it's taken away a lot of pressure."

Ms. Collins spoke of the immense effort it took Gen. Dallaire to tell the story. "He had so many things to wrestle with including his extraordinary sense of responsibility to the people of Rwanda and the soldiers he lost," she said.

 

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