Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda is the memoir of Roméo Dallaire, the United Nations force commander in Rwanda during the genocide of 1994. A Canadian lieutenant general, Dallaire and his tiny contingent of blue berets created havens in hotels and churches and saved the lives of as many as 25,000 people during the one hundred days of the killings. But in a disaster that nearly beggars belief, Dallaire’s United Nations Assistance Mission to Rwanda (UNAMIR) was forced to stand helplessly aside as innocent Tutsi trapped inside the country were set upon by Hutu extremists.1 Shake Hands with the Devil, published a decade after the genocide and a number-one best seller last year in Canada, in both English- and French-language editions, is the testimony of a soldier still burning with fury at what he watched unfold before his eyes.
What Dallaire did in Rwanda during the genocide and after has made him a hero to many—but a hero, he has said, succeeds in his mission. Since Rwanda, Dallaire has himself become a victim of the genocide, suffering from a severe case of post-traumatic stress disorder that led to his nervous collapse and attempts at suicide. In her touching introduction Samantha Power writes that it is not a paradox that the man who did the most to save the innocent feels the worst: “He is one of the very few among us who allowed himself to absorb the full gravity of what we allowed to occur in Rwanda.”
Over the years Dallaire has helped many writers with their accounts of Rwanda, including Power herself, Philip Gourevitch (We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories from Rwanda2), and Alison Des Forges of Human Rights Watch (Leave None to Tell the Story: Genocide in Rwanda3). But he believes that no one has captured the story as he lived it.
Dallaire’s gritty and detailed account is filled with the realities of violence, related in an often blunt and brutal prose. At its best (and worst) Shake Hands with the Devil has a claustrophobic and dread-filled first-person urgency that suggests Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Sent on a terrifying mission meant to bring the light and reason of the civilized world to the dark continent, Dallaire is the foreigner returned with a tale of horror. But he is also an insider, himself a participant in the horror.
But Dallaire hasn’t written a book about his personal tragedy. In fact, Shake Hands with the Devil ends on the day he left Rwanda, just after the genocide ended. His aim, instead, is to document precisely how the genocide came to pass. It is an account that challenges many of the accepted historical interpretations of the genocide so far.
The narrative of the mass murder, as widely known, can be stated briefly. Nearly 90 percent of Rwanda’s population are Hutu, and the minority are Tutsi. After centuries of rule by great European powers, which set Hutu and Tutsi against each other, the genocide has been seen partly as the wages of racism and colonialism. The clash between the Hutu-dominated Rwandan Government Forces (RGF) and the Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) of the early Nineties was the culmination of many years of hostilities between the two groups. The killing was, in Gourevitch’s telling, a tale of good and evil—a latter-day Holocaust of the Tutsi by the Hutu. It was also proof, such observers as David Rieff have said, of the risks of leaving the moral decision of when to use force to the United Nations. Above all else, as Power argued in “A Problem from Hell”,4 Rwanda has come to be remembered as a genocide that might have been avoided if the UN and the United States had taken action to protect the innocent. Rwanda, in this way, has become a symbol of the cost of an indecisive defense of human rights. But in his book Dallaire offers evidence that complicates the received view.
When Dallaire was selected as force commander of the UN peacekeeping mission in Rwanda in the summer of 1993 he knew next to nothing about the conflict or its history. Dallaire was the son of a soldier in the Canadian army, a promising artillery officer with a dashing military manner and an old-school martial mustache that went with it, but he had never before led an international peacekeeping mission. At the time, the Tutsi people were divided into two large groups. There were those who had stayed in Rwanda after independence in the 1960s, when the majority Hutu had taken control of the government for the first time. Other Tutsi had fled into exile, largely to Uganda, including a young officer named Paul Kagame. In October 1990, while Kagame was in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, receiving military training, these exiles, mobilized into the Rwandan Patriotic Front, attacked the forces of the Rwandan government and quickly proved to be a formidable force. The Arusha Accord signed in 1992 marked the end of the conflict between the two sides, it was believed: the combatants were to disarm and a new broad-based government made up of both Hutu and Tutsi would be sworn in. Dallaire’s mission was relatively straightforward, so it was thought.
The UN needed someone to maintain the peace that was to result, and Dallaire seemed the ideal choice. He was bilingual, an essential skill in the war between the French-speaking RGF and the mostly English-speaking RPF. Equally important, he wasn’t a national of Belgium or France, the two foreign powers most entangled in Rwandan affairs. He was thrilled with his new assignment but entirely ignorant of what might lie ahead. “Rwanda, that’s in Africa isn’t it?” he asked his superiors.
At the time there was little appreciation of the radical change in the role of peacekeepers since the end of the cold war. Dallaire was, as authorized under Chapter 6 of the UN Charter, to keep the peace. His mission was not, however, to enforce the peace, as contemplated by Chapter 7 of the Charter, as with the Somalia engagement which had just ended in disaster. But somewhere between these two—“chapter six and a half,” as it has come to be called—was a new task, the task of conflict resolution, which was aimed at making peace, and which Dallaire was to be pioneering.
In New York, with one aide-de-camp to help him draw up the guidelines for UNAMIR, Dallaire drafted what has come to be known as “paragraph seventeen” of the rules of engagement, granting his men the power to use deadly force to prevent “crimes against humanity.” Dallaire was hoping for a strong peacekeeping presence and support from nations willing to make an effort to prevent further violence, with well-trained and -equipped men willing to use force. But a Black Hawk helicopter had just been downed in Mogadishu, and the corpses of American soldiers had been dragged through the streets, and there was no stomach at the UN in New York or at the Clinton White House for risking lives—at least not American lives. The general’s naiveté—or, to put it another way, lack of cynicism—prevented him from suspecting what was to come. “Situate the estimate,” Dallaire was told by a senior official in the UN’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), headed by Kofi Annan; this was military-speak, Dallaire writes, for making “the mission…fit available resources rather than…respond to the actual demands of the situation.”
When Dallaire first arrived in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, in October 1992, he felt he had come to the garden of Eden, such was the beauty of a country known as the “land of a thousand hills.” His account of the historical roots of the conflict between Hutu and Tutsi, just over a page long, views the causes as primarily the divide-and-rule policy of colonialism. “When the Belgians chased Germans out of the territory in 1916,” Dallaire writes, “they discovered that two groups of people shared the land. The Tutsis, who were tall and quite light-skinned, herded cattle; the shorter, darker Hutus farmed vegetable plots.” As Philip Gourevitch suggested in We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families, in the beginning the Belgians played God, favoring the Tutsi herders over the Hutu farmers. But when independence came in 1959, with impending majority rule the Belgians allied themselves with the Hutu, who would be taking power. It was in the early Sixties, when fighting broke out between Hutu and Tutsi, that many Tutsi left the country. The longing of this large diaspora to return home became a destabilizing threat to the Hutu-led government, although only in the early 1990s did the situation take a truly serious turn. It was then that the RPF, led by Paul Kagame and other Tutsi officers trained in the Ugandan army and battle-hardened by that nation’s own struggles, began their campaign to overrun Rwanda and free it from Hutu rule.5
When he arrived in Kigali Dallaire sensed the hatred and potential for disaster under the surface, but only dimly:
I was in uncharted waters—the geography, the culture, the politics, the brutality, the extremism, the depths of deception practised almost as a Rwandan art form—all were new to me.
With his first public display of authority, as an act of brinkmanship meant to convince both sides that in Rwanda the UN was serious, Dallaire staged a flag-raising ceremony. It was part of his flair, he writes, for “the Cecil B. DeMille productions of military life, showcase occasions put on to influence and impress people and bring home the symbolism of events.”
It is hard to imagine a more benighted mission than UNAMIR from its conception on. Dallaire’s first task was to try to create a demilitarized zone between the RGF and the RPF, but he quickly learned that he wouldn’t be given the brigade-sized force made up of well-trained troops that he had expected. He would start with fifty-five unarmed observers and sixty lightly armed Tunisian soldiers, along with an acute shortage of basic supplies and equipment. Later, promised twenty armed personnel carriers by his superiors in the DPKO in New York, he got eight, and only five of them were in working order. The hundred SUVs that UNAMIR was supposed to get were shipped to Dar es Salaam, on the coast of Tanzania, where they were vandalized. The artillery and other weapons that might have convinced the locals that the UN expected to succeed never turned up. The UN had arranged for an eight-hundred-man motorized infantry battalion from Belgium to be sent to Rwanda, but it was reduced to 450 paracommandos with small arms and few vehicles.
The Belgians were meant to be Dallaire’s elite force but they were routinely caught by his staff going to night clubs and boasting that they “knew how to kick ‘nigger’ ass in Africa.” In the end, Dallaire made up the balance of his battalion with four hundred men from Bangladesh, who instead of arriving in Rwanda properly equipped turned up with nothing but their personal weapons and kits, and demanded a share of his scarce resources from their first meal onward.
The political side of the mission was supposed to be under the control of an experienced diplomat. Instead, Dallaire tells us, then–Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali named Jacques-Roger Booh-Booh, a former Cameroonian diplomat and banana plantation owner whom Dallaire found spectacularly incompetent.6 Then, too, Dallaire’s ability to communicate his plans in confidence with New York was compromised. By chance Rwanda had a rotating seat on the Security Council so that its ambassador to the UN had access to the communiqués from UNAMIR, including reports on its vulnerabilities and its needs which Dallaire regularly sent—intelligence that needed to be kept from both parties.
When Dallaire sent the UN a request for the authority to seize the guns and grenades widely available in Rwanda, he received a response from New York, signed by Kofi Annan, specifically instructing him not to do so; UNAMIR was to remain scrupulously neutral and passive while the belligerents implemented the peace agreement. Dallaire could work on a plan to seize illegal weapons—supposedly with the cooperation of the very people amassing them, as it later turned out—but UNAMIR “cannot, repeat, cannot take an active role in [its] execution,” Annan wrote.
In January 1993, Dallaire tells us, a Hutu informant code-named Jean-Pierre came forward with the news that Hutu extremists were forming death squads and secretly collecting enough weapons to kill a thousand Tutsi within an hour of receiving the order. These death squads, a group of irregulars called the Interahamwe—“we attack together,” or “we stand together,” depending on the source of translation from the Kinyarwandan—had machetes and spears, but they also had arms caches in the supposedly demilitarized zone of the capital called for in the accords. They were drawing up lists and planned to start the slaughter by first killing a dozen European peacekeepers, Jean-Pierre said. They believed outsiders, particularly the white soldiers from Belgium, would be scared away. “[Jean-Pierre] has been ordered to register all Tutsi in Kigali,” Dallaire told the DPKO. “He suspects it is for their extermination.”
Dallaire’s message to the DPKO about Jean-Pierre’s allegations was first reported by Philip Gourevitch in The New Yorker in 1997 and has come to be known as the “genocide fax.” In his coded cable Dallaire suggested that UNAMIR take “the offensive” and raid the weapons caches Jean-Pierre had described—a relatively simple operation, he believed. But the DPKO wanted certainty about the weapons, or collaboration, a perfectly understandable reaction to imperfect intelligence if the circumstances hadn’t been so dire. Dallaire was ordered not to raid the caches until the threat was confirmed.
Almost from the moment Dallaire arrived in Rwanda, he tells us, he worried that he was failing to convey the special kind of knowledge—the feel of a situation, whom to believe, what seems likely to happen—that comes from firsthand experience in a con-flict. Indeed, Boutros Boutros-Ghali later said that “alarming reports from the field” are not uncommon during UN peacekeeping missions, and Kofi Annan’s deputy, Iqbal Riza, explained that in the heat of operations “we get hyperbole in many reports.” Lewis McKenzie, another Canadian general who at the time was leading the UN mission in Bosnia, has said that Dallaire shouldn’t have requested the authority—he simply should have taken the initiative and raided the caches.7 Such doubts also disturb Dallaire, and to this day he wonders if using the word “offensive” to describe his suggested course of action made his superiors think he was overreacting. In the end, everything Jean-Pierre predicted came true. On the night of April 6, the plane of Major General Juvénel Habyarimana, the Hutu president, was shot down over Kigali. European soldiers were killed to scare foreigners off. And so came the beginning of the end for Rwanda.
The most powerful section of Dallaire’s book, running to more than forty pages, is his account of the night of April 6 and 7, when many of the political moderates in Kigali—Tutsi and Hutu who believed in coexistence—were slaughtered by Hutu extremists. It was during this seemingly endless night that officers in the Hutu RGF were transformed into “devils” before his eyes while the plan for genocide was executed in the streets and churches and villages of Rwanda. It was also that night, after the plane crash that killed the Hutu president, that Dallaire received desperate calls from politicians seeking protection from the mobs of killers. Hoping to ease the situation, he sent a detail of ten Belgian paratroopers to the house of Prime Minister Agathe, the President’s successor, to accompany her to a radio station to broadcast a calming message to the nation after the death of the President. But the attempt failed: the Belgian soldiers were captured by Hutu killers and the prime minister was murdered in her yard.
What happened to the Belgian paratroopers, and why Dallaire did not send a search party out for them when they first went missing that night, remain in bitter dispute, particularly among Belgians, and he has been accused of indifference or negligence. Dallaire writes that he demanded the return of his soldiers that night in a meeting with representatives of both the RPF and the RGF that he had convened in an effort to avoid war. It was only during the meeting that he was told that the Belgians were at a nearby hospital. When he got there, he found their mangled bodies in a courtyard. “I wanted to take justice into my hands, an eye for an eye—the first time I had ever felt the toxic pull of retribution,” he writes.
In his preface to the book, Dallaire says he suspects that the fury aroused against him in Belgium was not so much that he didn’t do more to find the soldiers as that it was unaccept- able to allow the death of Europeans while protecting Africans. Then, too, “the Belgian soldiers were being deliberately targeted by extremists to create fear.” The aim of the killers was to secure first a Belgian, then a UN withdrawal. “They knew that Western nations do not have the stomach or the will to sustain casualties in peace support operations.” Ordered to evacuate the foreigner population in Rwanda, Dallaire oversaw the safe departure of virtually every white person in the country. But this reaction, Dallaire writes, helped to create a sense of impunity. “It was the signal for the génocidaires to move toward the apocalypse.”
The native language in Rwanda is Kinyarwanda but the common second language, for both Hutu and Tutsi living in the country, is French. Despite this fact, and the further fact that there was only one native English speaker out of more than 2,500 military personnel under Dallaire’s command, the official language of the mission was English. This contributed to dangerous confusion.
At a meeting with the leaders of the Hutu-dominated RGF and the Tutsi leader Paul Kagame, Dallaire resorted to simultaneous translation because Kagame spoke no French and the Hutu representative of the RGF spoke no English. UN peacekeepers and foreign journalists in Rwanda spoke little, if any, Kinyarwanda. As a result they couldn’t know that there were two versions of broadcasts on the ubiquitous Hutu-run radio, the main means of communication in Rwanda. One script, in French, was harmless and even peace-loving. But other broadcasts, in Kinyarwanda, called upon the Hutu majority to murder their Tutsi neighbors and included exhortations to get the UN general with the “white mustache.” Without being understood by outsiders, this was “Hutu hate radio” created by Rwandan journalists acting as génocidaires.8
In “A Problem from Hell”, Samantha Power recounts how Dallaire came to use the “G-word”: he simply looked up “genocide” in an international law book and compared it with what was unfolding before his eyes. But as the slaughter continued, the Clinton White House avoided the word, for using it would require intervention under the terms of the genocide convention of 1948. “They also believed, rightly, that it would harm US credibility to name the crime and then do nothing to stop it,” Power writes. At the insistence of the United States and Britain, the word “genocide” was removed from a Security Council statement, and a semantic distinction was drawn by the State Department between “genocide” and “acts of genocide.” Clinton never brought his foreign policy advisers together to discuss Rwanda, which received less attention than Somalia and Haiti and, particularly, Bosnia. Moreover, once the Belgians were gone and the Americans evacuated, only a “small, skeletal” UNAMIR operation, in Madeleine Albright’s words, was approved by the UN.
This is the familiar version of events. But Dallaire makes it clear that two wars were being fought in Rwanda. In the conventional civil war, the Tutsi forces of the RPF were determined to seize control of the nation, and from a military point of view the campaign was brilliantly pursued by Kagame. But at the same time, a far more lethal war was being waged against civilian Tutsi by Hutu extremists—a massacre of civilians in revenge for generations of domination and injustice, real and imagined. The methodical advance of the RPF, a longstanding and dreaded threat for the Hutu, may have had the perverse effect of encouraging the genocide. By being threatened, the extremists, instead of fighting the RPF, turned on the Tutsi living among them and attacked, in a campaign conducted with terrible efficiency. As the Tutsi army methodically marched forward, meeting little resistance, the Tutsi civilians caught inside the Hutu-controlled parts of Rwanda became the victims of a genocide.
In Philip Gourevitch’s We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families the insurgent RPF is portrayed as a force for good:
Heroes, saviours, heralds of a new order, the RPF set out to lay the foundations of a new Rwandan state, and to create a national narrative that could simultaneously confront the genocide and offer a way to move on from it.
Paul Kagame was “a man of rare scope—a man of action with an acute human and political intelligence.” As a soldier himself dealing directly with senior officers in the RPF during the genocide, Dallaire admired the tactics of the American-trained Kagame. But his account raises questions about Gourevitch’s portrait. Kagame was described in the press as “the Napoleon of Africa,” and Dallaire writes that his attack on the RGF was one of the great military campaigns of the last century. But he also sees the RPF and Kagame as part of the disaster. In the fighting a year before the genocide, Kagame had been close to victory but was stopped by international pressure, and the Arusha Accord followed. Under the accord, although many concessions were made to Kagame and the expatriate Tutsi, the Hutu retained a good deal of power in Rwanda. Dallaire writes that when the genocide began, he pressed Kagame to agree to a cease-fire to allow the parties to negotiate a settlement. Kagame refused. He wanted complete triumph.
In Paul Kagame and Rwanda, Colin Waugh writes that the “RPF swept with lightning force across the countryside.” But he also describes how Kagame consolidated his positions and conserved his forces, avoiding the risk of major losses at the beginning of war—the same time as the onset of genocide. “Whatever the balance of the argument, from the purely military point of view, the early RPF strategy worked well in securing a large swathe of the country in a matter of weeks.”9
Dallaire has a far more blunt and brutal assessment. He writes that he begged Kagame to hasten his campaign, in order to cut short the murderous war that was being waged against the Tutsi civilians trapped among the Hutu. Again Kagame refused. With a large part of the RGF and Hutu civilians occupied with killing Tutsi civilians instead of resisting the RPF, Dallaire’s view that Kagame could have overrun the country more quickly seems plausible. Dallaire describes his exchange with the rebel leader over a group of refugees held at a hotel in Kigali:
Kagame was pragmatic, the complete portrait of the cool warrior: “They [the Hutus] are practicing their age-old blackmail methods and it will not work anymore. There will be many sacrifices in this war. If the [Tutsi] refugees have to be killed for the cause, they will be considered as having been part of the sacrifice.”
Here it is important to distinguish between an intervention by UNAMIR to stop the slaughter of civilians inside the country and a cease-fire between the RGF and the RPF. Kagame told Dallaire that a cease-fire proposing a return to positions before the killings started would only serve to protect the criminals in power and would also force him to forfeit territory the RPF had already taken. Moreover, the UN had failed Rwanda and the Tutsi minority before, and he had good reason to think any cease-fire agreement with Hutu extremists following a peacemaking effort by UNAMIR would not last.
Rwanda: The Preventable Genocide, a report of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), supports Kagame’s view that a cease-fire would have coincided with the aims of the Hutu génocidaires:
The annihilation of the Tutsi would have continued, while the war between the armies paused, and negotiators wrangled…. We count Rwanda fortunate that a military truce—the single consistent initiative pursued by the international community—was never reached.10
But, on the other hand, had the peacekeepers been able to intervene in the killings of Tutsi civilians with force, they might have stopped the slaughter while also separating the belligerents. In other words, if he had been given the authority and troops he had requested, Dallaire might well have prevented Kagame from continuing the war. “The UN is looking at sending an intervention force on humanitarian grounds, but for what reasons?” Dallaire quotes Kagame as saying. “Those that were to die are already dead. If an intervention force is sent to Rwanda, we will fight it. Let us solve the problem of the Rwandans.”
Given both the war between the RPF and the RGF and the massacres of civilians behind Hutu lines, the question remains of the amount of force that would have been required, and when it was to be used to stop the killing. The number Dallaire repeatedly requested was five thousand well-equipped and well-trained and motivated troops—the precise size of his command in Canada before he was sent to Rwanda. Dallaire believed in the psychological effect of an earnest display of will by the UN. It is highly likely that the drunken killers and blustering officers in the RGF would have been cowed by the threat of real resistance from UN forces, Dallaire contends, even if it was only a bluff. When one considers the ragtag RGF and the machete-wielding génocidaires, this seems plausible. But the RPF was an entirely different matter. Nothing that we know about Kagame suggests that he or his men would have given in to the pressure.
In My Life, Bill Clinton writes,
With a few thousand troops and help from our allies, even making allowances for the time it would have taken to deploy them, we could have saved lives.
A study by the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict,11 conducted by thirteen senior military officials and written by Colonel Scott Feil of the US Army, considered the practical questions that would have confronted UNAMIR if Dallaire had had his way. With the benefit of hindsight, but also with the weight of responsibility for so many lost souls, they agreed:
Forces appropriately trained, equipped and commanded, and introduced in a timely manner, could have stemmed the violence in and around the capital, prevented its spread to the countryside, and created conditions conducive to the cessation of civil war between the RPF and RGF.
Blame for the genocide lies first and always with génocidaires, some of whom are now on trial in Arusha, and the countless Interahamwe and ordinary Hutu citizens who set upon innocents with machetes. But others share the blame. The role of outside nations is detailed in the damning report by the Organization of African Unity—which includes a section devoted to its own complicity. The Belgians fled the country at the first danger, exactly as the Hutu extremists anticipated. According to Conspiracy to Murder: The Rwandan Genocide,12 a recent book by the British writer Linda Melvern, the French government of François Mitterrand had helped to arm the Hutu regime and provided soldiers and expertise while mass murder was being planned. “France was Rwanda’s one great ally and the French must have known of the activities of the extremists—certainly in the [RGF],” she wrote in The Guardian earlier this year. “It is not the case that foreign powers were absent, but rather that their involvement was entirely limited to serving their own ends.”
Critics believe that the Clinton administration simply lacked the will to intervene. It is an impression given credence, in a somewhat sly and self-justifying way, by Clinton himself in his memoirs, where in the few paragraphs devoted to the genocide in Rwanda he writes,
We were so preoccupied with Bosnia, with the memory of Somalia just six months old, and with opposition in Congress to military deployments in faraway places not vital to our national interest that neither I nor anyone on my foreign policy team adequately focused on sending troops to stop the slaughter.
But Dallaire’s memoir suggests another explanation. James Woods, an African specialist in the Pentagon at the time, told PBS Frontline in 1999 that the US government knew very quickly what was happening in Rwanda.13 It was not a lack of focus, but a policy decision not to face the problem of Rwanda, he said. The great powers
did not want to admit what was going on or that they knew what was going on because they did not want to bear the onus of mounting a humanitarian intervention—probably dangerous—against a genocide… I think that much of this [pretense about whether or not it was genocide] was simply a smokescreen for the policy determination in advance: “We’re not going to intervene in this mess, let the Africans sort themselves out.”
Dallaire has strong suspicions about American duplicity—a contention that seems both speculative and understandable. The American agencies shared intelligence with UNAMIR “once in a blue moon,” he writes, and he is convinced that the US mission to the UN had been informed of Dallaire’s report and that the RGF was buying arms during the killing. In the middle of the genocide, he was told that the US had learned of plans for his assassination. “I guess I should have been grateful for the tip,” he writes, “but my larger reaction was that if delicate intelligence like this could be gathered by surveillance, how could the United States not be recording evidence of the genocide occurring in Rwanda?” America didn’t just not intervene, Dallaire believes. It conspired to ensure that nothing was done. “At every stage…UN Ambassador Madeleine Albright could be found tossing up roadblocks to speedy decisions for effective action,” according to the OAU report. Promising to lease fifty armored personnel carriers, the Pentagon asked for payment in full, at a high price, and then dragged its feet.
Testifying before the OAU panel, Dallaire drew a sharp distinction between the Security Council and its member states:
There is something above the Security Council. There is a meeting of like-minded powers, who do decide before anything gets to the Security Council. Those same countries had more intelligence information than I ever had on the ground; and they knew exactly what was going on.
If Dallaire is right, it needs to be asked if it is credible that the American government was not in contact with their current ally, the American-trained Paul Kagame.
The killing of innocent Tutsi, Kagame had said, proved that the Hutu leaders couldn’t be partners in peace, thus it had become necessary to prosecute the war to its conclusion. Did the US believe Kagame’s threat that the RPF would attack an armed UN force if it tried to prevent it? Would the real danger facing a US or UN force have been an attack by Kagame and a well-trained and highly motivated RPF?
Dallaire does not draw conclusions. Instead, he describes the dignified Paul Kagame at the end of the war as he was being sworn in as vice-president—a rank he soon surpassed to become president. “Was he haunted by the human cost of his victory?” Dallaire asks. Shaken by the failure of his mission, Dallaire leaves us with a question that sounds highly speculative, even paranoid, but should not be dismissed. What were the French and Americans and the Security Council really doing in Rwanda? Was the divide-and-rule politics of the colonial powers, favoring one tribe over another, returning?
I found myself thinking such thoughts as whether the campaign and the genocide had been orchestrated to clear the way for Rwanda’s return to the pre-1950 status quo and the empowerment of the Tutsis. Had the Hutu extremists been bigger dupes than I?
More than a decade after the genocide, Rwanda is still too easily and too often reduced to a tale of good versus evil, or as a simple failure of will of America and the UN. This year the human suffering in the catastrophe has been given needed attention in the film Hotel Rwanda, and a growing literature continues to examine new and important aspects of the killing. But as events in Darfur show once again, mass murder can take place in our time with apparent impunity. Dallaire, in this important new testimony, asks questions of the great powers that demand answers—even as he shows how little we know about what truly went on in offices in many distant capitals.
May 26, 2005
The character in the movie Hotel Rwanda based on Dallaire and played by Nick Nolte alternates between despair and rage at the racist indifference of the so-called world community—even as he does all he can to spare lives. ↩
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998. ↩
Human Rights Watch, 1999. ↩
Colin Waugh reports in his recent Paul Kagame and Rwanda: Power, Genocide and the Rwandan Patriotic Front (McFarland, 2004) that Kagame was in training in America with Uganda forces until 1990, when he left to join the assault on Rwanda which culminated in the war of 1994. According to Waugh, the DIA and British MI6 were operating in Uganda at the time, in support of President Museveni, “although explicit planning and assistance in an RPF offensive,” he writes, would be difficult to substantiate. ↩
Booh Booh recently published, in France and soon to appear in Canada, his own memoir, Le Patron de Dallaire Parle (“Dallaire’s Boss Speaks”). According to press reports, he was enraged by Dallaire’s portrait and now claims he was not kept sufficiently informed of events and that his force commander did not want to take orders from an African—charges Dallaire disputes. ↩
Interview with the author, March 2004. ↩
Last year they were tried and convicted in the “media trials” in the Rwandan war crimes tribunal in Arusha, Tanzania. ↩
Waugh, Paul Kagame and Rwanda, pp. 68–69. ↩
The report is available at www.visiontv.ca/RememberRwanda/Report.pdf. ↩
Scott Feil, Preventing Genocide: How the Early Use of Force Might Have Succeeded in Rwanda (Carnegie Commission, 1998). ↩
Verso, 2004. ↩
In The Limits of Humanitarian Intervention: Genocide in Rwanda (Brookings Institution, 2001), Alan J. Kuperman of Johns Hopkins University outlines the satellite imagery and other intelligence gathered by the CIA at the time, and notes that the American Defense Intelligence Agency was known to be close to the RPF: “US officials did know, within two days after the Rwandan president’s plane was shot down, about the bloody coup, the large-scale violence in the capital, and the renewed civil war. But they also expected the Tutsi rebels to win quickly.” ↩