A GOOD MAN IN HELL, ROMEO DALLAIRE AND THE RWANDA GENOCIDE, by Jerry Fowler, Staff director at the Holocaust Memorial Museum.
“Please join me in welcoming General Roméo Dallaire and Ted Koppel.
Ted Koppel: We are not going to spend this evening talking about General Dallaire. He would not have it that way. We are going to spend this evening talking about events that he observed, that he tried to prevent, that he was unsuccessful in preventing. But I want to begin this evening by focusing on a day in his life that I’m sure he remembers well. I don’t know the date or the time but basically I remember the setting: winter, park bench, and you were drunk.
Roméo Dallaire Yes.
Ted Koppel: Passed out in fact.
Roméo Dallaire: Yes, on very bad scotch.
Ted Koppel: I thought perhaps we should begin with that moment in time and with that event because there was a reason for it. Before you tell us the reason, tell us just how bad things were for you.
Roméo Dallaire: The impact of the trauma of Rwanda had physically affected my brain and had put me in a state where there was no capability left of any desire for life, any desire to even consider life. I was even debating whether I should exist as I held on my shoulders, and still today, the belief that as commander of the mission in Rwanda I had failed the Rwandans. I had failed in my duty as the UN mission commander to assist the Rwandans to be able to move to a peaceful application of democracy in a rather short period of time.
And so I entered a state that got worse with time, not better. When I did come back originally I was deputy commander of the army, and I was told don’t worry about that stuff. With time and hard work it will all dissipate and those scenes of children who were chopped up just like pieces of salami, women opened up with the fetuses laying there, elderly people dying in your arms in a mass movement of 50,000, 60,000 people in the rain in the mountains looking in your eyes and saying, “What happened? Weren’t you there? How did we end up like this?”
Falling into scenes where in a church, where we finally were able to enter—the militia had convinced the people over an extremist radio station to go there, if they felt unsafe go to the church and you will be safe by conventions of Geneva and the like—only to find out that once the place was packed, and in fact one of the churches is smaller than this and there were over 2,000 people in there, they had opened up the roof, threw a couple of grenades in, and then walked in and hacked and slashed.
Now, killing people with a machete is not efficient and it is also very tiring. So one or two hits to the majority of the people and then they would let them fester and die over two or three days.
2,000 people, including priests and nuns, were slaughtered in just one of many of the missions and churches in Rwanda.
Walking literally into a pile of bodies because there’s no way around it and feeling the cold. The cold of a dead body is not a temperature. It’s a state. And all that and the continued killing and our inability to prevent it, just to watch it. My inability to convince the international community that it should stop this incredible crime against humanity simply accumulated and with time became clearer.
Your mind with time, in fact, doesn’t erase things that are traumas. It makes them clearer. They become digitally clearer and then you are able to sit back and all of a sudden have every individual scene come to you instead of the massive blur of many scenes I saw every day.
The accumulation of the spirits that would come to you at night in the form of eyes, thousands of eyes, some mad, some simply there, and others bewildered, innocent children and adults, all that accumulated to the fact that I simply totally broke down.
The Canadian forces could not use me as a three-star general any more, as I could not command troops in operations for I was unable to handle any of the strains and responsibilities of that. So what you do with a three-star general who can’t command troops and that’s all he knows how to do, is you retire him medically. That event happened a couple months after my retirement.”
I chose to speak about my country Rwanda, because back in April this year, 2014, we did mention in the Tuesday Program in the Chapel, the remembering, the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Genocide of Tutsi.
Whenever you hear about Rwanda, it’s all horrible and memories of what the media, movies said about it.
I have to mention that, I was born in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) because my parents had to leave the country earlier in 1960s following political and ethnic belongs issues in Rwanda.
After the 1994 Genocide of Tutsi in Rwanda, almost 1 million people were killed and many more millions flew out of the country and most of them went to Zaire, where I was, myself and many other were the next victims, only because we’re Tutsis, or just because we look like…. It became very dangerous for us,
There was a need to help this “new Rwanda” to rebuild, then I moved to Rwanda.
Last week at MIT, we had a 15 min of All Doors Open
This morning I don’t really want to talk about death,
I want to talk about some positive fact that We, Rwandan, have made.
· According to Forbes magazine, Rwanda is #49 Best Countries for Business
· Looking ahead, the macroeconomic outlook points to pick-up in growth in the second half of this year as domestic demand recovers with the resumption of aid flows. For the year as a whole, economic growth is projected at 6.6 percent and 7.5 percent.
· In 2008, Rwanda achieved a monumental milestone: the first country in the world to have a female majority in Parliament. (Women make up 18 percent of the US congress). Currently, Rwandan women hold over 55 percent of the positions in government. There ae few jobs or professions in which a woman cannot be found.
· Donald Kaberuka, the president of the African Development Bank, is a Rwandan Citizen
· The Rwandan Defense Forces are the elite being part of the United Nations peacekeeping, like in Haiti, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, Liberia, Sudan… discipline and experience. Right now, they were chosen to guard the interim President of the Central African Republic.
To end my talk,
President Clinton has called the failure to intervene in Rwanda one of his biggest regrets.
And Romeo Dallaire: “Rwanda will never leave me, it’s in the pores of my body. My soul is in those hills, my spirit is with the spirits of all those people who were slaughtered and killed.
Thank you and I invite you to visit Rwanda.
~ Speaker, Claude Muhinda, Office of the Dean for Student Life ~
I know there’s a GOD because in Rwanda I shook hands with the devil. I have seen him, I have smelled him and I have touched him. I know the devil exists and therefore I know there’s a God.
General Romeo Dallaire
In all my travels, I’ve never seen a country’s population more determined to forgive, and to build and succeeds than in Rwanda.
We appreciate the true leadership that we have been blessed with in President Kagame. Thank you for your vision and most of all for peace in Rwanda. Rwanda is one of the few countries where I could live happily, invest, raise my children and enjoy…
Ambassador Andrew Young