Shake Hands with the Devil – Romeo Dallaire

My knowledge of the Rwandan genocide going into this book was limited to the very opinionated and biased novel A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali by Gil Courtemanche. Courtemanche painted a very ugly picture of Romeo Dallaire making him out to be someone who didn’t care about the dying people and was doing nothing about it. After reading the first few chapters in this book I realized how wrong Courtemanche was. Dallaire did everything in his power to try and stop the genocide and protect the people of Rwanda only to have the UN and other world powers consistently put road blocks in his way.

Shake Hands with the Devil is written in first person narrative and documents the entire stay of Romeo Dallaire the UN Force Commander in Rwanda. This book is highly detailed and really gives you a full picture of what Dallaire was thinking and feeling throughout his entire time. It also gives you an excellent insight into the way the UN reacted (or failed to react) to the events that were going on despite the continuous efforts of Dallaire.

This book really made me see the failures of the world and the UN in doing nothing to stop the genocide. All the writings were on the wall that a genocide was about to happen yet nobody wanted to risk the lives of their troops to help prevent it. Dallaire presents his proposal he gave to the UN before the genocide started of what he would need to ensure the peace and the protection of Rwandans before the genocide started, many expects have gone over this proposal and said that it would have worked. All Dallaire asked for was a minimum of 5500 well armed troops. What did he get? He got his troops cut back from the 2000 or so he started with. This book was real eye opener into the world of the UN who I used to hold in high regard.

What happened in Rwanda was an atrocity and could have been stopped. As world powers go around tooting their horns about spreading democracy, giving people freedom, protection, and peace, just remember these are the same people who said that 800,000 Rwandans are not worth saving.

Shake Hands with the Devil is a must read, and I suggest everyone read it for a very thorough and detailed account of what happened in Rwanda. The book is shocking and a bit disturbing at times, but it really puts things into perspective about our global community and the need for us to take action when such events happen.

I dog eared pages in this book whenever I came across a good quote, now having finished the book I realize IU have probably 30-40 odd pages dog eared. The following is a list of quotes I found exceptionally telling on second reading:

“What I have come to realize as the root of it all, however, is the fundamental indifference of the world community to the plight of seven to eight million black Africans in a tiny country that had no strategic or resource value to any world power. An overpopulated little country that turned in on itself and destroyed its own people, as the world watched and yet could not manage to find the political will to intervene. Engraved still in my brain is the judgment of a small group of bureaucrats who came to “asses” the situation in the first weeks of the genocide: “We will recommend to our governments not to intervene as the risks are high and all that is here are humans.””

“You know, soldiers are very unusual people. On the outside, they are the hardest, most demanding people, but underneath that, they are the most human, the most feeling, the most emotionally attached people who exist.” – Dallaires father

“In Canada, ‘French’ and ‘English’ are our first names. Our surname is ‘Canadian’. We must be true to our heritage, but we must also be true to our first name as it is our individuality, our soul, and we must not have any inferiority or superiority complex.” – Jean Lesage

“Nights in Kigali and in central Africa are usually extremely dark. The city usually shuts down at last light. I found African nights a startling contrast between peace and quiet, darkness and danger.”

“I remember that I settled back in my seat with some satisfaction as our plane left Africa. AI felt that I had worked very hard and had come up with a mission plan that could work. I had taken into account all the major political feedback from all the major players of the Arusha process. Real peace and contentment washed over me. I truly not realize that the devil was already afoot.”

“The future of UNAMIR’s participation in implementing the Arusha Peace Agreement was being decided by fifteen men sitting in a backroom beside the Security Council hall in New York, one of whom was a hardline Rwandan extremist. He found himself allied with the Americans, Russians and Chinese, who all wanted the mission to end. On the morning of April 6, we received the Security Council’s Resolution 909, which extended our mandate for six weeks… The report sent the wrong message, and the consequences were truly devastating. It confirmed for all Rwandans-the moderates attempting to hang on to hope and the extremists plotting extermination-that the world didn’t give a damn about Rwanda.”

“It was the end of the first day of a hundred-day civil war and a genocide that would engulf all of us in unimaginable carnage.”

“I passed by an assembly point where French soldiers were loading expatriates into vehicles. Hundreds of Rwandans had gathered to watch all these white entrepreneurs, NGO staff and their families making their fearful exits, and as I wended my way through the crowd, I saw how aggressively the French were pushing black Rwandans seeking asylum out of the way. A sense of shame overcame me. The whites, who had made their money in Rwanda and who had hired so many Rwandans to be their servants and labourers, were now abandoning them. Self-interest and self-preservation ruled.”

“In Gisenyi, a tourist town on Lake Kivu, an Austrian MILOB reported a festive spirit on the part of the killers, who seemed oblivious to the sheer horror and pandemonium as they cut down men, women and children in the streets. In Kobungo, government soldiers were running a scorched earth policy against Tutsis and Hutu moderates. In parts of Kigali, bulldozers had been broght in to dig deeper trenches at the roadblocks to reduce the piles of bodies. Prisoners in their pink jail uniforms were picking up corpses and throwing them into dump trucks to be hauled away. Think of that for a moment:there were so many dead that they had to be laded into dump trucks.”

“I can’t tell you how disgusting daily life could be; the corpse-eating dogs that we shot on sight now had no qualms about attacking the living.”

“After I got home from Rwanda, and the years slowly revealed to me the extent of the cynical maneuvering by France, Belgium, the United States, and the RPF and the RGF, among others, I couldn’t help but feel that we were a sort of diversion, even sacrificial lambs, that permitted statesmen to say that the world was doing something to stop the killing. In fact we were nothing more than camouflage.”

“To my mind, their crimes had made them inhuman, turned them into machines made of flesh that imitated the motions of being human.”

“The Interahamwe made a habit of killing young Tutsi children, in front of their parents, by first cutting off one arm, then the other. They would then gash the neck with a machete to bleed the child slowly to death but, while they were still alive, they would cut off the private parts and throw them at the faces of the terrified parents, who would then be murdered with slightly greater dispatch.” –Shaharyar Khan taken from The Shallow Graves of Rwanda

And so for the last weeks of my command the Americans, with all their resources, sat inside the perimeter of the Kigali airport, and though they helped us bring our troops in and out, they did little else.”

“…during those last weeks we received a shocking call from an American staffer…He told me that his estimates indicated that it would take the deaths of 85,000 Rwandans to justify the risking of the life of one American soldier. It was a macabre, to say the least.”

“Let there be no doubt: the Rwandan genocide was the ultimate responsibility of those Rwandans who planned, ordered, supervised and eventually conducted it. Their extremism was the seemingly indestructible and ugly harvest of years of power struggles and insecurity that had been deftly played upon by their former colonial rules.”

“Still, at its heart the Rwandan story is the story of the failure of humanity to heed a call for help from an endangered people.
The international community, of which the UN is only a symbol, failed to move beyond self-interest for the sake of Rwanda. While most nations agreed that something should be done they all had an excuses why they should not be the ones to do it. As a result, the UN was denied the political will and material mean to prevent the tragedy.”

“How do we pick and choose where to get involved? Canada and other peacekeeping nations have become accustomed to acting if, and only if, international public opinion will support them – a dangerous path that leads to a moral relativism in which a country risks losing sight of the difference between good and evil, a concept that some players on the international stage view as outmoded.”

“What is the reason for this marche seul by the developed nations? IN the last decades of the twentieth century, self-interest, sovereignty and taking care of number one became the primary criteria for any serious provision of support or resources to the globe’s trouble spots. If the country in question is of any possible strategic value to the world powers, then it seems that everything from covert operations to the outright use of overwhelming force is fair game. If it is not, indifference is the order of the day.”

“But many signs point to the fact that the youth of the Third World will no longer tolerate living in circumstances that give them no hope for the future. From the young boys I met in the demobilization camps in Sierra Leone to the suicide bombers of Palestine and Chechnya, to the young terrorists who fly planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, we can no longer afford to ignore them. We have to take concrete steps to remove the causes of their rage, or we have to be prepared to suffer the consequences.”

Written by stefan klopp



Having read this book some time ago now I must say that reading through some of the quotes you took out is a powerful reminder of the pain and rage I had at the time. I think that this is an important story in showing the true intent of those world powers that make up the U.N. think you might have misunderstood what happened with the U.N. or at least misrepresented it here. The U.N. as a body was as effective as it could have been and those without ties to other goverments did all they could to make this mission move forward. What didn’t happen and in the end handicapped any effort to move foward was any major power putting forward the forces to do the job. The U.N. is not at fault here, it is merely a symbol of the collective will of the world powers. Questions should be asked of the foreign affairs departments of the major nations, the U.S., U.K., France, Belgium and others. These nations while claiming to be supporters of peace and democracy had the means and the money to do something and did nothing.


Dallaire was a weakling, the belligerants spotted it right away and that was why the genocide happened. One of the belligerants even gave Dallaire the advice: Stand up to a bully and he will back off. Several people from NGOs demonstrated it too, but Dallaire just never found the moral courage to stand up to anyone, either his own masters or the belligerants. That’s why the genocide. The book is a whining, snivveling account of “How they made me fail” One could pity him as a bureaucrat out of his depth, but then he bad-mouths everybody who served with him (except for the Canadians, bien sûr). On every page I want to slap the man’s face: you ask a bureaucrat for permission? Of course he’s going to say “non”: he’s covering his backside; just as you’re covering your backside by asking for permission and directives and clarifications endlessly. The most sickening of all was when Dallaire asked “for clarification of my authority to shelter these people” (who sought refuge in the UN compound). So what if he had no authority to do so? Any half-decent human being would go ahead and do the right thing. And if he did endanger his career by this reckless action: was his career more important than the lives of those people? He whines about the world’s indifference, but he thwarted the efforts of NGOs and other nations. The war only stopped once the France marched in over his objections. People under his command died as a result of his weak leadership, and seeing this, other nations pulled their troops out from under him. It is sickening that the world now fêtes this man as a hero. Read the book again, but instead of being blinded by the glamour of the general at war that he tries to present, spot the blame-shifting, the excuses, the manoeuvrings to protect his career and ego, even when that cost people’s lives. All I know about Dallaire is what I read in his own book. And though at first I pitied him, I was soon just enraged by his feebleness and non-existent leadership.


I can’t help but be outraged by the previous post. Either Anna was simply trying to make people (like me) angry, or else she didn’t read past the title of the book.

I do not claim to be an expert on what happened in Rwanda, but it is clear to me that the genocide that took place was the result of long-standing tensions between the Tutsis and Hutus, exacerbated by Belgian colonial rule, pushed to demented extremes by a violent faction. Suggesting that “Dallaire was a weakling, the belligerants spotted it right away and that was why the genocide happened” is obviously false.

To clarify to anyone who hasn’t read the book, Dallaire does not “bad-mouths everybody who served with him”. He criticized the work of some, and praised the work of others. How useless would this account have been if he didn’t mention what others did?

It is also clear from the book that Dallaire’s actions were not about “covering your backside by asking for permission and directives and clarifications endlessly”. He was carrying out a mission given to him by his superiors. If he hadn’t asked for permission and directives, he would have been removed from his post very quickly and would not only have accomplished less, not only wasted time by forcing the UN to find and send a replacement, but also opened the door to a less competent or less caring individual.

I am not saying Dallaire was a hero, and I don’t think he would describe himself that way either. But he did do what he could under the utterly impossible circumstances he was faced with, and that’s alot more than can be said for the majority of humanity.


Well, Anna who posted on Sept.14th. I think that your a grose example of a human being. I didn’t see you going into the country itself to help out. I was personally offended by your remarks. I hope to god you’r NOT Canadian. It is people like Romeo Dallaire that help this world out. I think that your comments are discusting and you should be ashamed. Why don’t YOU do something about the genocide problems happening today, such as Darfur, or are you just going to wait until it’s done and over with, with millions of people dead and read about it, then complain about how nobody did anything great. Grow up and do something with your negitive, pathetic life insted of bashing people like Romeo Dallaire who actually tried to do something in a country like Rwanda while surrounded by dead and bleading bodies of women and children, cut up and rotting. Actually go their yourself, then criticize.


Having listened to Dallaire speak of Rwanda, and other similar events, he has never thought of himself as a ‘hero’ but as a soldier that was sent to do a mission. Yes, he does lay blame on people and countries that could easily have stopped the genocide, but chose to do nothing since as it has been pointed out, Rwanda is of no political or strategic value. (It would be interesting to see how fast military support would have been sent if they had oil)
Yes, he could have done more to provide aid and shelter, though with the resources that he did have available to him, this would have put his people at even greater risk, and most likely would have seen the end of his command, being replaced by someone that would “follow the rules” and do even less.
Dallaire did what he was able given the rules of engagement that were given (speak to any soldier, you do not violate the ROE) and the support provided. He tried on numerous occasions, even prior to arriving in Rwanda to bolster support of the forces there to stop the pending genocide from happening, and was denied.
Yes, I, and many others view this as a complete failing of the west to stop something that could “easily” have been prevented, and I don’t think that anyone that has actually read Dallaire’s book, the articles that he has written since, or listened to him speak would consider him a ‘hero.’ I know Dallaire wouldn’t.

André Charriere

André, book must read! Nothing has changed since WWII.

Only self interest,sorry mate. Horst

Anna S

I am finishing the book. Romeo Dallaire is more than a human being. He possesses an unimaginable strength, courage and humanitarianism that goes beyond words. Truly a hero. Unfortunately the rest of the world just didn’t care about a poor African country that had no oil, no… I think you get the picture…
An amazing person beyond description. He has made me proud to be a Canadian.

Jordan Nash

I am a 17 year old high school student, and although I have not read the book (I merely utilized the quotations exhibited on the page), I have undertaken fairly extensive research on the topic of the Rwandan genocide for a historical investigation. Anna’s belligerent comments about Dallaire aside, the statement that offended me was her blatantly ignorant remark that the war was subdued by the efforts of the French government. Clearly she has no grasping of the historical background of the genocide. Though I have not read this book, I have read another book entitled “Conspiracy To Murder”, which uses extensive investigation and historical evidence to suggest that the French not only harbored genocidaires both during and after the events of the genocide, but also helped train and arm the Interhamwe militia. I refuse to see them accredited for subduing a conflict that they helped initiate

Si Rose

Agree with the review… All of the historical texts I’ve gone through… notably Prunier & Melvern, concur that the UN stifled Dallaire in his attempts to deal with the tragedy unfolding in Rwanda. Gil Courtmanche’s novel is very single minded, much like, for different reasons, Steven Kinzer’s ‘A Thousand Hills’.
– I am in equal agreement with Jordan, for the French still protect Genocide perpetrators in their country now, making the anger directed at the French by the Rwandan Government understandable. Good relations have only recently been restored, but Kagame’s move to change the national language from French to English can be seen as much as a consequence of France’s conspiracies in the Genocide, as it is to make Rwanda more ‘globally friendly’ and accessible.
If we are looking for people to blame Anna, rather than the collective institutions- namely the UN and French Government- then Madeleine Albright, former US Secretary of State, would be a better person to point the finger at.


I am 17 years old I recently did a research paper in school that needed to be atleast 9 pages. I did mine on the Rwanda Genocide and it was over 28 pages. We also made a poster and presented information to our classmates. After everyone’s speeches I heard another kid talking about my topic and he stated, “The Rwanda Genocide is stupid it was never even deemed a genocide.” I have never been so angry at anyone in my entire life! I could not believe what I was hearing!@ I was fighting back tears and literally would have punched him if I got the chance. How dare he say anything like that! I could not believe he would say that when millions of people lost loved ones! If not for Romeo Dallaire I honestly believe there would be no more Rwanda today. He is my hero.


unfortunately, to me,…. what he did was useless, as it will be again for the next genocide.somewhere else.
the point is to prevent, avoid or finaly get rid of genocides ,( not try to save lives when genocides occur),)and i m afraid that won t happen , not in this world.


If anyone has watched the movie, ” Tears of the Sun”, you are familiar with this Quote – The only way for evil to succeed is if good men do nothing- This is the problem with the entire world, not enough good people willing to do something. I am about to begin my Canadian military career with the understanding that the greatest thing I can do, is to put my life on the line to save others. I can only hope to be as good a soldier as Gen. Dallaire. He is a hero, he and his men stood alone against a monster with no intention other then to save lives. It is our North American attitude that we only do something if we get something in return. Its wrong and we should all be ashamed.


I am writing a thesis about that book and I need to know what page is that quote from:
“What I have come to realize as the root of it all, however, is the fundamental indifference of the world community to the plight of seven to eight million black Africans in a tiny country that had no strategic or resource value to any world power. An overpopulated little country that turned in on itself and destroyed its own people, as the world watched and yet could not manage to find the political will to intervene. Engraved still in my brain is the judgment of a small group of bureaucrats who came to “asses” the situation in the first weeks of the genocide: “We will recommend to our governments not to intervene as the risks are high and all that is here are humans.””



Hi Dean. That quote was actually taken from the introduction on page 6 of my book. I have the soft cover Canadian version published by Vintage Canada, which I think might be Random House. Hope that helps!

Alex and i am a proud canadian and human

Romeo Dallaire is a man who was given an impossible mandate and suceeded where all else would fail. He fought for everyone he could and as far as i am concerned the majority of the comments above were written from the perspective of “Developed Country Citizens” who are far far away from such extreem circumstances and who will never experiance what Dallaire and the entire UN force. His and the actions of men under his command have resulted in a new modern and vastly more mobile diplomacy effort in the nation, which i doubt very much many people have looked into. In short the comments such as “being usless” I havnt even read fully because they were written by narrow people who have little knowledge or understanding. But hey at least were I am sitting now there is free speech… but that also comes with a healthy side of Judgment.


What page is the last quote from? I have Dallaire’s book here..


to Anna: You criticize what you do not know. You must be a idiot. Romeo Dallaire wanted to raid an arms cash before the genocide started and it was the French and the UN that opposed it. The French because they did not want people finding out it was their weapons that were supplying the rebel forces. The UN are wimps…if there would have been oil in Rwanda they would have sent thousands of troupes in there. Romeo Dallaire stayed long after he was commanded to leave and it was Him that was credited for saving over 32ooo lives. He is a Hero that had to witness atrocities that no man should.


Hey Stefan Klopp have you read the new book by Romeo Dallaire called, ” They Fight like Soldiers, They Die like Children.” Very awesome insight to the history of Child Soldiers. And what people like Romeo Dallaire are doing to curb the use of children as weapons of war.


Trevor, I have not read his new book but will be sure to pick it up.


Trevor, You are calling others idiots. But you are talking nonsense here. I am Rwandan and I know what I am talking about. The French NEVER supported the then rebel army, the Rwanda Patriotic Army. The French were on the side of the Government that organized and committed the Genocide. They trained them, armed them and helped them in every way possible. When their proteges were about to lose the war, they came in under the guise of a humanitarian mission but despite all the help, the Government side still lost the war and the French pulled out of Rwanda. Even today France still harbor and protect Genocide suspects on its territory. By the way, the Genocide was stopped not by the UN or Dallaire or any power ( who would expect it from them anyway, there is no oil, remember ?) but by the rebel army, the Rwanda Patriotic Army. I am surprised even those who said they read the book did not mention this because IT IS THERE IN THE BOOK. By the way and just For Your Information, the Tutsi who were being exterminated by entire families were sisters, brothers and parents to the very rebels I am talking about here. Get your facts right.

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