Shake Hands With The Devil: The Failure Of Humanity In Rwanda by Romeo DallaireShake Hands With The Devil: The Failure Of Humanity In Rwanda by Romeo Dallaire

Shake Hands With The Devil: The Failure Of Humanity In Rwanda

byRomeo Dallaire

Paperback | October 12, 2004

Pricing and Purchase Info


Earn 125 plum® points

Prices and offers may vary in store


In stock online

Ships free on orders over $25

Available in stores


On the tenth anniversary of the date that UN peacekeepers landed in Rwanda, Random House Canada is proud to publish the unforgettable first-hand account of the genocide by the man who led the UN mission. Digging deep into shattering memories, General Dallaire has written a powerful story of betrayal, naïveté, racism and international politics. His message is simple and undeniable: “Never again.”

When Lt-Gen. Roméo Dallaire received the call to serve as force commander of the UN intervention in Rwanda in 1993, he thought he was heading off on a modest and straightforward peacekeeping mission. Thirteen months later he flew home from Africa, broken, disillusioned and suicidal, having witnessed the slaughter of 800,000 Rwandans in only a hundred days. In Shake Hands with the Devil, he takes the reader with him on a return voyage into the hell of Rwanda, vividly recreating the events the international community turned its back on. This book is an unsparing eyewitness account of the failure by humanity to stop the genocide, despite timely warnings.

Woven through the story of this disastrous mission is Dallaire’s own journey from confident Cold Warrior, to devastated UN commander, to retired general engaged in a painful struggle to find a measure of peace, reconciliation and hope. This book is General Dallaire’s personal account of his conversion from a man certain of his worth and secure in his assumptions to a man conscious of his own weaknesses and failures and critical of the institutions he’d relied on. It might not sit easily with standard ideas of military leadership, but understanding what happened to General Dallaire and his mission to Rwanda is crucial to understanding the moral minefields our peacekeepers are forced to negotiate when we ask them to step into the world’s dirty wars.

Excerpt from Shake Hands with the Devil
My story is not a strictly military account nor a clinical, academic study of the breakdown of Rwanda. It is not a simplistic indictment of the many failures of the UN as a force for peace in the world. It is not a story of heroes and villains, although such a work could easily be written. This book is a cri de coeur for the slaughtered thousands, a tribute to the souls hacked apart by machetes because of their supposed difference from those who sought to hang on to power. . . . This book is the account of a few humans who were entrusted with the role of helping others taste the fruits of peace. Instead, we watched as the devil took control of paradise on earth and fed on the blood of the people we were supposed to protect.

From the Hardcover edition.
Lt.-Gen. Roméo Dallaire joined the Canadian army in 1964. Upon his return from serving as Force Commander of the UN mission to Rwanda, he served as Commander of the 1st Canadian Division and Deputy-Commander of the Canadian Army. Promoted to Three-Star General, he was appointed to various senior positions including Assistant Deputy Min...
Title:Shake Hands With The Devil: The Failure Of Humanity In RwandaFormat:PaperbackDimensions:592 pages, 8.97 × 6 × 1.29 inPublished:October 12, 2004Publisher:Random House of CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0679311726

ISBN - 13:9780679311720

Look for similar items by category:


Rated 5 out of 5 by from Heartbreaking It was difficult to read this but worth it. Dallaire is brutally honest and tells the story as it is - not how people want to hear it.
Date published: 2017-12-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Raw and necessary reading 'Never again' is a useless catch phrase, a man-made concoction to satisfy those in power within the First World. In what should be compulsory reading for all history students, you will finish the book wanting to strangle the UN, Boutros-Ghali, Annan, the US and France, all who gutted several resolutions that would have stopped the killing of 800,000 Rwandans in 100 days far sooner. All have blood on their hands, Rwandans, Kagame, MSF, Red Cross, media, the blame fails to escape even the author. Despite having visited the Milles Collines and the Kigali Genocide Museum, I remain complicit if I do not realise that a lost soul is equal to one standing on its grave.
Date published: 2017-12-09
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Disappointing I had been looking forward to reading this book for years, and when I finally got the chance I was quite disappointed. It seems that a lot of the book focus on military specifics, which is fine for those who want to learn about that, but that isn't what was advertised. And I felt there was a lot of shaming certain officials.
Date published: 2017-11-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from He tells a good and graphic story This book was fine with the exception of the chapters dealing with DND/UN finances and politics.
Date published: 2017-11-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Eye opening Romeo Dallaire's story of his experiences of the 1994 Rwandan genocide are truly eye opening. It is amazing and devastating to see how the world chose to ignore this horrific act. Readers begin by following his life before he was sent to Rwanda and his journey through the military to seeing the daily struggles he and his team faced trying to get resources to prevent and then stop this genocide. It is an amazing read.
Date published: 2017-11-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Take Your Time Raw, detailed, emotional - LGen. Dallaire takes you through what it's like to bear witness to genocide. Long chapters that provoke deep thought, definitely a book to take your time with.
Date published: 2017-10-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A must read An amazing book written by an even more amazing man. Everyone should read this book.
Date published: 2017-07-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Powerful read Excellent book. A real eye opener. All should read .
Date published: 2017-07-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent This is a fantastic book about one of the bright chapters in an otherwise dark story. dalliance is truly a great hero
Date published: 2017-06-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Necessary I first read this years ago. It us very well put together and very informative of the tragedy of the Rwandan Genocide.
Date published: 2017-06-20
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Excellent lesson in history A classic, true Canadian hero's observation of a shameful moment in history. This book should be part of the grade 10-11 social studies curriculum.
Date published: 2017-06-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Powerful book This book is a real eye opener in terms of international assistance and Canada's role in peacekeeping missions. Romeo Dallaire is an amazing individual. The events that unfolded in Rawanda are atrocious and hopefully we will learn from them.#plumrewards
Date published: 2017-05-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Worth every bucks Sad and shocking story so well written. A must read.
Date published: 2017-05-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Heartbreaking Absolutely eye opening and heart breaking. Thank god for Romeo Dallaire.
Date published: 2017-05-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Intriguing Gripping and intriguing. I am not usually a fan of non-fiction but this one drew me in. Dallaire described the tragedy in Rwanda like no other perspective. The failing of the U.N. (and humanity) were so apparent to the general public in this novel.
Date published: 2017-05-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great book! So intense and real! tough read.
Date published: 2017-05-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Frightening The UN was really exposed in this book as am indifferent, corrupt and incompetent body that has no ability to really solve any issues. The atrocities documented in this book are horrifying. Still this book was informative as well as disturbing.
Date published: 2017-03-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from At times horrifying This book was definitely hard to read at times (mostly because of the subject matter) but it is an excellent book, and an important story for Dallaire to tell. Recommend.
Date published: 2017-01-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Whirlwind of emotions Sad to see the depths that humanity can sink to. Yet also inspiring seeing the amazing kindness we can show towards each other.
Date published: 2017-01-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Compelling! Couldn't take my eyes off the page
Date published: 2017-01-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Compelling I read this book after Waiting For First Light. Both books are hard to put down as the graphic images and compelling stories make the content come to life. It provides excellent information on his career, but more importantly the genocide in Rwanda and his thoughts on how to fix it.
Date published: 2017-01-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Powerful This account of the event s during the genocide in Rwanda is powerful. Dalaire doesn't pull any punches as he chronicles the daily happenings, the requests for assistance from the United Nations and the international community, and the results of the inaction by the global community. The horrors he witnessed, the challenges his team faced, and the lives they did save all are documented. This book should be on everyone's list.
Date published: 2015-10-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Powerful An amazing read. The reader is taken to where the writer wants us to go and it is a very moving first-hand account of the genocide. It makes me realize just how fortunate we are in Australia. I would thoroughly recommend this book.
Date published: 2014-01-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Read about a terrible time Read this in paper form a few years ago. A fantastic read about a terrible event. A must read in my opinion
Date published: 2014-01-08
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Bewildering and shocking It sometimes takes photographs to put into words what occurred in Rwanda in 1994. Especially for a Canadian like myself who's never been to Africa. Many photographs of the victims of the massacre are available on the Internet today. Looking at these helps to create images that you will see in your mind as you read this book. I don't agree with everything Mr Dallaire says. He seems good-hearted albeit angry and sometimes even left-wing, strangely for a military man. He does make a good case for our military, which I like, but in the book he discusses "human rights" and mentions "humanism", an ideology I disagree with. Throughout the book one gets the feeling that people are sucking up to him as they try to help him. But you also feel his frustration with the UN for its lack of will to properly build up the UNAMIR mission in Rwanda. A lot of the book was about diplomats, politicians, military figures, and a fair portion of the pages were dedicated records of Dallaire's meeting with Rwandan political and military figures, and he recalls what he was trying to decide about these people. Although it is non-fiction (tragically), the book is really layed out like a mystery novel; Dallaire often debates with himself about the possible connections between the former Rwandan government and military and power figures in surrounding countries and how the puzzle fits together, all while being understaffed and underpowered to properly carry out his mission. I watched the movie this book was based off of and it helps you to understand the book, although a huge portion of the book, namely the behind-closed-door scenes, were not filmed. It is hard to rate this book. Who "really likes" a book about a brutal end to an already brutal civil war in a small central African country? I bought it out of intrigue, wanting to read about what was happening in Africa at a time when I was watching 'The Lion King'. It is not an uninteresting book, but if you are not used to reading mystery novels or long books, it can take a while to finish. If you are willing to tolerate Dallaire's bitterness and tragic depressing storytelling, it is interesting enough.
Date published: 2012-03-20
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Eight Bookcases Check out my review of Dallaire's work on my blog at:
Date published: 2011-11-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Complete eye opener! Canadian force commander Romeo Dallaire tells his account of triumphs and failures of his time in charge of the United Nations peacekeeping mission during the Rwandan genocide. Human life was snuffed out at an alarming rate in a vile killing spree. The RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front) consisted of two rebel groups, the Interhamwe and the Impuzamugambi. These two groups were comprised of a large Hutu population that was responsible for the barbarous slaughter of the Tutsi and pro-Tutsi Hutus. Within one hundred days between April and July, 1994 approximately 800,000 Tutsis were obliterated. I commend all the peacekeepers during this extremely difficult time when the world media and governing bodies ignored all their pleas for aide. It would have been just as easy for Romeo Dallaire to just give up and return to Canada but he felt that he and his fellow peacekeepers could not stand idly by. I bought this book without knowing too much of the atrocities that were in Rwanda but I knew enough that it would be a very difficult read. There are extremely graphic descriptions within the confines of this book dealing with rape and torture and the subject matter is not for the faint of heart. It is a must read for anyone in the political science field but I highly recommend it to anyone with a conscience. "We have lived through centuries of enlightenment, reason, revolution, industrialization, and globalization. No matter how idealistic the aim sounds, this new century must become the Century of Humanity, when we as human beings rise above race, creed, colour, religion and national self-interest and put the good of humanity above the good of our own tribe. For the sake of our children and of our future."
Date published: 2010-07-28
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Required Reading A very important read. Required reading for an Globalization and International Affairs majors.
Date published: 2010-03-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting and frustrating Dallaire was a Canadian peacekeeper sent by the UN as commander of the peacekeeping effort in Rwanda a few months before the genocide in 1994. It was very interesting (and extremely frustrating at times) to read about what happened from this perspective. It was the perspective of the people on the ground who were trying with what (very) little resources they had (not nearly enough) to find peace in the country before the genocide and civil war broke out.
Date published: 2009-11-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Tragic case of buck-passing by the UN Big shots. Lt. General Romeo Dallaire and his contingent of Officers are truly Canadian International heros. The UN abused him and all Canadians; they used him as a scapegoat by ignoring his pleas for troops, material and intelligence. He may not have completely averted all of the tragedies that took place..., - (until the ruling despots were permanently illiminated from the scene)..., - but certainly his successful interventions would have shown the UN that he and his Officers were more than merely insignifantl presences sent to the area only to showcase the presence of the UN. HOW MANY LIVES COULD HE HAVE SAVED ? How many lives would he and his Contingents have been credited of saving, had he been listened to and granted the respect of his analysis of the entire situation? The prime of the life of a great Canadian Officer was wasted on the un-caring prima-donnas of the UN. And to ad insult to injury, at the end of his mission, completely demoralized, yet unbeaten, he had to endure and live through a depression that bordered on insanity... thank God he recovered sufficiently intact to write this book. A TRUE CANADIAN HERO OF OUR TIMES.
Date published: 2009-08-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A book that every Canadian should read! I bought this book a few days after it was released and read it within a week. It is an extremely compelling account of the horrific Rwandan genocide from one of the few people who tried so hard to stop it. Dallaire pleaded with the UN and the powerful nations of the world to send him a few thousand troops, so that he could save hundreds of thousands of innocent lives. In the end, it seemed that ignoring what was happening in a tiny African country was more important to those nations than the lives of almost a million Africans.
Date published: 2009-04-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Touching Horrifice True Story I found this book difficult to follow but it was well worth the effort. The story is written by a Canadian Lt. General Romeo Dallaire during the Rwandian genocides in 1994. Dallaire went to Rwanda under the UN banner truly believing that the UN was going to make a difference in lives of the Rwandian people and bring peace and stability to this region. Instead, Hutu extremists slaughtered over 800,000 Rwandians with the majority being Tutsi. Dallaire does a good job in going beyond the "military" aspects of the events and actually dealing with the emotional effects of the events. It's what kept me reading. This event leaves Dallaire scared after seeing the gruesome events that he was unable to intervene in. His hands were tied by a number of different agencies and departments. When Dallaire goes home he has trouble coming to terms with the events in Rwanda and he tries to commit suicide and later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. He got a medical release from the military. A fantastic book and well worth the time it takes to read.
Date published: 2008-09-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Shocking and Brilliant! Dallaire gives us one of the best accounts on the genocide in Rwanda, not only the historical background of the violence between the Hutu's and the Tutsi, but also make interesting parallels with Canada and its own difficulties between the anglo and franco phones. This raises many questions about not only the UN and it's matra of peacekeeping, but also of Canada's and its image of the helpful comrade. No one cared about Rwanda, it is landlocked and of no political or economic importance; but in this breathtaking retelling Dallaire shows that there was some people who really wanted to help Rwanda. He named the mission: United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda, for a reason. They were there for the people, and in many ways Dallaire has served the people of Rwanda and refuses to let this genocide be forgotten by the easily amused masses, popular culture and even the Canadian Government.
Date published: 2008-08-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from "Mind blowing and disturbing" This book just reveals how horendous the events in Rwanda really were, and how nobody but the people there cared!
Date published: 2008-05-27
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Good I found the idea of the book great, but the writing poor. The book was hard to follow in my opinion
Date published: 2008-04-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Disturbing... Another writing documenting Man's continuing Inhumanity to Man.....While reading you unknowingly place yourself in Dallaire's mind and soul and the reading becomes painful at times but you continue must....or 'your' world self-destructs. A must-read for the history-of-life reader....
Date published: 2008-01-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Powerful This is a powerful and compelling story of a man that cared deeply about every human life and who was repeatedly denied the necessary support from those that could have helped, it was as if no one listened and no one cared. The Peacekeepers that gave their heart and souls and in some cases their lives to save total strangers were abandoned. The reader will be touched and will understand what genocide means and appreciate the immense sacrifice Peacekeepers give.
Date published: 2007-11-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Anna's Review Comment Too long to fit in a regular comment to Anna's review but I felt compelled to post regardless: Like many other words, a hero is open to interpretation. Anna's review is fair and justified, but it seems to suffer from a lack of insight into the military ethos. Lt. Gen. Dallaire's leadership may be questionable, but it should be noted that dedication to duty, loyalty, and integrity are the foundations of an exemplary soldier. An Officer's actions are meant to lead and set an example - the mission retains priority; not courage, not morality, not your justice. Sound frustrating? You bet. Having said that, to earn the rank of Lt. Gen. and to be chosen to represent the United Nations mission in Rwanda implies, to myself at any rate, that both Canada and the international community had faith in his moral capacity and the strict discipline required to contain the intolerable temptation to act on said capacity with every breath taken as witness to the Rwandan genocide.
Date published: 2007-09-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Powerful Dallaire has written a book that will force us never to forget the reoccuring apathy that world powers hold during genocides. His book is more than just powerful and meticulous in detail, his book serves to educate and inform, which is vital to forcing world powers to pay attention and act. His account is so honest in admitting and condemning the inaction of the international community and the inability of the UN to work efficiently. It is 500 pages long but so brutally honest and powerful that it is important to read. As Canadians, we often get too nationalistic about our invention of peacekeeping and we must realize that reforms in peacekeepings are neccesary to solve new conflicts. Very informative and powerful.
Date published: 2007-06-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Read it and be inspired Shake Hands With The Devil left me awed, and ready to look at the world in a totally different way. I will never underestimate the power of freedom and humanity again. It was fast, action-packed, and emotional. Though the plot was overly painful, reading the book was not. Overall it was a very informative read and one that I definitely recommend to teens who want to pick up an intriguing, but more challenging read. Any Canadian adult will be sure to take away a lot from the tale as well.
Date published: 2006-12-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Most Highly Recommended This book shows how the United Nations has a history of failing it's peace keeping missions in extrordinary ways. In this case they left a highly respected Canadian army general in charge of a mission which the New York clique would not support. He had to witness cowardly acts by other nations peace keepers, apathy by European and North American nations, and daily genocide. By reading this book, the reader will understand why the UN is ignoring the present genocide in Sudan which is reaching over now into it's neighbouring countries. A nation which does not hold resources like gold or oil poses no interest to "developed" nations. All the Canadian Liberal government did was award the general with a senate position to placate him. This has done little to erase the general's horrible memories and the discrace he felt as a "peace keeper". It is one of the darkest moments in the history of the UN and of the Canadian Forces, who were not allowed to support one of their finest leaders.
Date published: 2006-11-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Read it and be inspired. Shake Hands With The Devil left me awed, and ready to look at the world in a totally different way. I will never underestimate the power of freedom and humanity again. It was fast, action-packed, and emotional. Though the plot was overly painful, reading the book was not. Overall it was a very informative read and one that I definitely recommend to teens who want to pick up an intriguing, but more challenging read. Any Canadian adult will be sure to take away a lot from the tale as well.
Date published: 2006-11-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from excellent disturbing, compelling, fascinating, one of the best books i have ever read.
Date published: 2006-09-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Do Something About it Read the book, and resolve to do something to make a difference. Research Ploughshares, or investigate what's happening in the community working to limit small arms sales and distribution. It seems petty to debate how Dallaire could have made different choices - in light of the undisputed genocide and Dallaire's subsequent struggle to come to grips with having been deserted by the UN. The UN Association in Canada could use your support to further the cause.
Date published: 2006-07-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great book! This book is so realistic and literal that you may think you are in the middle of the crisis. The book made me realize the brutal truth of what people can do to fulfill their desire and how greed drives people insane. It may make some people uncomfortable because some of the expression for the scene of the war can be a little overwhelming.
Date published: 2006-07-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Shocking This book opened up my eyes to the greed in this world. We all live in this little bubble where we cry because we can't get a certain item at the shopping mall. The genocide of the Rawandan people is heart breaking, but a story that had to be told. Wake up people to the things that are going on around you.
Date published: 2006-07-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A absolute must read! Romeo Dallaire's account of the events during his mission in Rwanda are written with such passion. The genocide that occurred in Rwanda in 1994 is something that must not ever happen again. Dallaire is an inspiration for every Canadian.
Date published: 2006-06-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Seek Truth General Dallaire takes you back to his sad and dangerous experience in Rwanda (1993) as a UN Force Commander. As you read this book, you will be overwhelmed with emotion. How could this happen? Today, as we sit and watch our would hope humanity will learn from their past. This is a must read for anyone who wants raw honesty of what happened in Rwanda... as the world sat and simply did nothing.
Date published: 2006-06-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Haunting Wakeup Call With methodical thoroughness, General Dallaire recounts his terrible experiences in Rwanda. In shocking clarity he reveals the difficulties of UN peace missions, the bureaucracy and the importance of providing our women and men with the proper tools to accomplish goals for which traditional armies are frequently ill-equipped.
Date published: 2006-06-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Frightening and Shameful Truth This book is great in its blatant honesty. It takes you on a long, difficult, sad journey. The sadness not only lies in the atrocities, but with our ignorance. Over and over, we say that it'll bever happen again, and over and over, it happens again and again. Dallaire writes with so much detail that you feel that you are actually there, and on the other hand, so thankful, you'.re not. Be warnes, its a long and very heavy read -- but so worth it.
Date published: 2006-06-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from No wonder he went for a swim After reading the book I understood how he lost his mind upon his return to Canada. The sheer horror of what happenned is only begun to be understood after reading Romeo's recollections.
Date published: 2006-06-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Dallaire says what can be said with words. You need to read this account. There are lesser evils, and then there are choices that lead to great evil. When these choices are made by the men and women who run our countries, we must hope that they are weighed through humanity and not human nature. The events here are too great to involve only the people of Rwanda. It was for this very eventuality that the United Nations was created; to protect human citizens. We need to learn from history and prevent this from happening again.
Date published: 2006-04-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanit It’s almost fitting that the task of reviewing, and therefore reading, Shake Hands with the Devil, Roméo Dallaire’s wrenching first-hand account of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, was a task studiously avoided by many of us around the offices of ascent. Fitting, as it mirrors in a microcosm how Dallaire’s cries for help were also largely ignored at the time by the West. Shake Hands with the Devil is a haunted survivor’s attempt to assess responsibility in “the failure of humanity in Rwanda,” wherein 800,000 people were massacred over a period of 100 days. Dallaire’s point is not merely to point fingers, but rather to learn where mistakes were made so that future interventions by the world community into conflicts might render these intercessions more facile. While highly emotional, this book is also fair and balanced in its criticism, never confusing true emotion with sentimentality. One example is Dallaire’s criticism of the Belgian government, which has a long and shameful colonial history in Rwanda. Although the Belgians lost ten soldiers in a massacre, Dallaire doesn’t allow that tragedy to temper his disapproval of their behaviour during the genocide. In fact, no one escapes Dallaire’s just criticism, from United Nations and world leaders arguing semantics over UN decrees while hundreds of thousands of people were being slaughtered, to US army assessors’ macabre accounting that the life of one US soldier was valued equal to the lives of 80,000 Rwandans, and of course, the perpetrators of the genocide themselves – the normal people who just woke up one morning and joined in the killing of their former neighbours. Shake Hands with the Devil is a great guttural wail of humanity coming from one who has witnessed its worst possible behaviour. It is telling that while Dallaire paints his account of the atrocities in broad strokes, he reserves more detailed accounts to quoting other observers: his second-in-command, UNHCR commanders and other NGO workers. It is as if he himself cannot find a voice to speak of things that no one should ever see. Ultimately, this book stands as Roméo Dallaire’s confession and self-indictment. This seeming paradox of a man – a career soldier who is a gentle, eloquent spokesman for peace – still cannot forgive himself for what he sees as his failure in being unable to stop the killing a decade ago. The horrors witnessed in Rwanda, coupled with the impotence of his UN mandate and scarce resources of an ill-equipped force of only 500, have left this brave man scarred, prematurely aged, forced into early retirement from post-traumatic stress syndrome, and a survivor of multiple suicide attempts. This book filled me with an overpowering moral outrage, but ultimately it allows a small glimpse of hope. The survivors of the Rwandan genocide have attempted to rebuild their country with a non-partisan government not based upon ethnic lines. Roméo Dallaire came back from the edge of hell with hope that the new century will be what he calls the “century of humanity.” Where human beings will rise above violence, while recognizing that the poverty that leaves much of the world without hope is the source of most violent conflict and therefore must be eliminated to help bring peace. Dallaire believes that we can rise above notions of race that led Hutu to kill Tutsi – notions that raise the question of whether Western nations would have stood by while a nation of non-Africans were slaughtered en masse. In all this uncertainty, Roméo Dallaire is still able to entertain these hopes, and the fact that a hardened, former high-level military leader who has witnessed the ultimate savage potential of human beings can still have faith in mankind helped restore my own hope for humanity, flawed as we are.
Date published: 2005-12-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The epitomy of what sublime non-fiction should be By far the most important book I have ever read in my life, Shake Hands with the Devil basically is the embodiment of what a sublime work of non-fiction should be. Dallaire's brutally descriptive prose seeks to leave no details out in the description of the Rwandan genocide. The preface alone is enough to break your heart (by the way, it can be fully read on this site via the read from this book preview button at the top so go see for yourself). But alas this book is not solely about the horrors he saw; at least, not just about the horrors of the massacre. Dallaire tries to account for how so much could go so horribly wrong in such a short amount of time. From the various factions, key figures, and the local/political/global sentiment, no stone is left un turned in the MajorGeneral's account for his actions before, during, and after the genocide. Those who seek to criticize Dallaire for lacking 'backbone' in such a crisis when faced with lack of cooperation from both the factions within Rwanda and the Global Community simply do not understand the fundamental premises of soldiering. The mandate for the UN mission was never to stop the impending genocide. That responsibility, according to Dallaire, fell upon the Security Council, more specifically those countries holding permanent positions on it. A must read for anyone with half a mind to understand truths greater than those pumped out of CNN. The erasure of 800,000 lives is not something that should be overlooked and it is a shame that so few even know of the Rwandan genocide, let alone humanity's failure to act upon it: bitter medicine, indeed, for any idealist.
Date published: 2005-10-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A courageous effort by many men...who lost... Outright, this is THE most depressing book you will ever read. I read it after one of my friends gave good reviews on it - and read it time and time again to reflect how one man was fighting to prevent something evil that was to come, but no one helped him. Not a single person with the power to help him took him seriously and after the genocide took place, they tried to pin the blame on him when they should have reflected on themselves. I don't know how a man like Romeo could have written this book, but I salute him.
Date published: 2005-09-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Shake Hands with the Devil I’m going to throw the cat among the pigeons and ask: How can this man be regarded as a hero? I don't think it was his intention with the book, to make himself out the hero. This hero-worship must have surprised him as much as it surprises me! Perhaps I’m just the only reader of this book looking at Africa from the inside out. Dallaire was a weakling, the belligerents spotted it right away and that could have helped precipitate the genocide. One of the belligerents 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 UN masters or the belligerents. He not only shook hands with the devil, he flattered the genocidaires. Has the man not a single moral fibre in him? The book is a whining, snivveling account of “How they made me fail” The whole world gets the blame. One could pity him as a bureaucrat out of his depth, but then he does himself no credit by bad-mouthing everybody who served with him (except for the Canadians, bien sûr, the bigot). On every page I want to grab the man’s throat: 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. One of the more bizarre and sickening of his communications with the UN 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 protect them? And if he did endanger his career by this (and other)‘reckless’action: was his career more important than the lives of all those people? He whines about the world’s indifference, but he thwarted the efforts of NGOs and other nations, it seems only because they showed up his inaction. The war only stopped once the French 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. His book is liberally sprinkled with hate-speech against the French, the Belgians and the Bangladeshis, inter alia. A fine man to be sending as a peace-keeper or to be talking about racism or ethnic hatred, or all humans being human! Read the book again, but instead of being blinded by the glamour of the general at war that he presents, 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 disgusted by the way he badmouths the men under his command, even to the extent of slandering those who were killed in action – as if making them look bad would make him look better for dithering and consorting with their killers while they were being beaten up in the same compound (his feeble excuse being that he was looking for the right moment to say something). Sure, I would not have acted with more courage, but then I’m not a general and I’m not putting myself out on the speakers’ circuit as a war hero.
Date published: 2005-09-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dallaire is modern tragic hero... This book has the same magnetic attraction as a train wreck... you really don't want to continue to read about humanity at its worst, but your curiosity compells you to keep turning pages. Dallaire's tragic flaw, as he openly admits in his own words, is that he trusted the world community, via the UN, to provide him with the minimal resources he would have required to make a huge impact and save 100'000's of lives. Instead, Dallaire tells of the horrors he witnessed and candidly names the names of those responsible both directly and indirectly. If his account does not make you angry, I don't know what will.
Date published: 2005-05-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Life Changing This book as an absolute must read for everyone. It is a life changing, perspective shifting book about the absurdities of our world and it's leaders. I found it to be an eye opening look into the troubled world of humanitarian relief. Romeo Dallaire is a man of great strength both for his mission and his courage to have written this book about his horrific experiences. Everyone should read it.
Date published: 2005-03-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A glimpse of raw hatred How do you compliment a book who's subject is the utter indifference of the world to the plight of a million people exterminated at the hands of hatred? I am not the world's most active reader, but I couldn't put the book down. Lt. Gen. Dallaire has written a captivating account of he events and times of the genocide in Rawanda. The book provides a rare glimspe inside the UN, and how the world views countries with little to no resources to be had. I cannot recommend this book more highly.
Date published: 2005-01-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Insightful, Informative, and Scathing Romeo Daillaires acount of the Rwandan genocide is a very informative account of the United Nations peacekeeping force in Rwandan...The book does a good job of telling a story without relying on shock value. The Idea of Genocide is enough in itself to turn many stomachs...Daillaire does not rely on describing as many individual atrocities as the book can hold, instead he gives a few pointed accounts to create the atmosphere then leaves it up to the reader to take it for granted that the situation was gruesome. This book is almost like a day to day journal of Daillaires meetings with the leaders of the belligerents, his contact and struggle with United Nations headquarters, and his relationship with his troops. Shake Hands With The Devil also calls on the international community to take responsibility for turning their backs on a people who needed them desperatly. This book is a must read for anyone interested in international politics or Human rights...but more importantly it is a book everyone should read if only for the fact that it puts the reality of genocide in your face to a point which cant be ignored.
Date published: 2004-12-24

Read from the Book

IntroductionIt was an absolutely magnificent day in May 1994. The blue sky was cloudless, and there was a whiff of breeze stirring the trees. It was hard to believe that in the past weeks an unimaginable evil had turned Rwanda’s gentle green valleys and mist-capped hills into a stinking nightmare of rotting corpses. A nightmare we all had to negotiate every day. A nightmare that, as commander of the UN peacekeeping force in Rwanda, I could not help but feel deeply responsible for.In relative terms, that day had been a good one. Under the protection of a limited and fragile ceasefire, my troops had successfully escorted about two hundred civilians -- a few of the thousands who had sought refuge with us in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda -- through many government- and militia-manned checkpoints to reach safety behind the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) lines. We were seven weeks into the genocide, and the RPF, the disciplined rebel army (composed largely of the sons of Rwandan refugees who had lived over the border in camps in Uganda since being forced out of their homeland at independence), was making a curved sweep toward Kigali from the north, adding civil war to the chaos and butchery in the country.Having delivered our precious cargo of innocent souls, we were headed back to Kigali in a white UN Land Cruiser with my force commander pennant on the front hood and the blue UN flag on a staff attached to the right rear. My Ghanaian sharpshooter, armed with a new Canadian C-7 rifle, rode behind me, and my new Senegalese aide-de-camp, Captain Ndiaye, sat to my right. We were driving a particularly dangerous stretch of road, open to sniper fire. Most of the people in the surrounding villages had been slaughtered, the few survivors escaping with little more than the clothes on their backs. In a few short weeks, it had become a lonely and forlorn place.Suddenly up ahead we saw a child wandering across the road. I stopped the vehicle close to the little boy, worried about scaring him off, but he was quite unfazed. He was about three years old, dressed in a filthy, torn T-shirt, the ragged remnants of underwear, little more than a loincloth, drooping from under his distended belly. He was caked in dirt, his hair white and matted with dust, and he was enveloped in a cloud of flies, which were greedily attacking the open sores that covered him. He stared at us silently, sucking on what I realized was a high-protein biscuit. Where had the boy found food in this wasteland?I got out of the vehicle and walked toward him. Maybe it was the condition I was in, but to me this child had the face of an angel and eyes of pure innocence. I had seen so many children hacked to pieces that this small, whole, bewildered boy was a vision of hope. Surely he could not have survived all on his own? I motioned for my aide-de-camp to honk the horn, hoping to summon up his parents, but the sound echoed over the empty landscape, startling a few birds and little else. The boy remained transfixed. He did not speak or cry, just stood sucking on his biscuit and staring up at us with his huge, solemn eyes. Still hoping that he wasn’t all alone, I sent my aide-de-camp and the sharpshooter to look for signs of life.We were in a ravine lush with banana trees and bamboo shoots, which created a dense canopy of foliage. A long straggle of deserted huts stood on either side of the road. As I stood alone with the boy, I felt an anxious knot in my stomach: this would be a perfect place to stage an ambush. My colleagues returned, having found no one. Then a rustling in the undergrowth made us jump. I grabbed the boy and held him firmly to my side as we instinctively took up defensive positions around the vehicle and in the ditch. The bushes parted to reveal a well-armed RPF soldier about fifteen years old. He recognized my uniform and gave me a smart salute and introduced himself. He was part of an advance observation post in the nearby hills. I asked him who the boy was and whether there was anyone left alive in the village who could take care of him. The soldier answered that the boy had no name and no family but that he and his buddies were looking after him. That explained the biscuit but did nothing to allay my concerns over the security and health of the boy. I protested that the child needed proper care and that I could give it to him: we were protecting and supporting orphanages in Kigali where he would be much better off. The soldier quietly insisted that the boy stay where he was, among his own people.I continued to argue, but this child soldier was in no mood to discuss the situation and with haughty finality stated that his unit would care and provide for the child. I could feel my face flush with anger and frustration, but then noticed that the boy himself had slipped away while we had been arguing over him, and God only knew where he had gone. My aide-de-camp spotted him at the entrance to a hut a short distance away, clambering over a log that had fallen across the doorway. I ran after him, closely followed by my aide-de-camp and the RPF child soldier. By the time I had caught up to the boy, he had disappeared inside. The log in the doorway turned out to be the body of a man, obviously dead for some weeks, his flesh rotten with maggots and beginning to fall away from the bones.As I stumbled over the body and into the hut, a swarm of flies invaded my nose and mouth. It was so dark inside that at first I smelled rather than saw the horror that lay before me. The hut was a two-room affair, one room serving as a kitchen and living room and the other as a communal bedroom; two rough windows had been cut into the mud-and-stick wall. Very little light penetrated the gloom, but as my eyes became accustomed to the dark, I saw strewn around the living room in a rough circle the decayed bodies of a man, a woman and two children, stark white bone poking through the desiccated, leather-like covering that had once been skin. The little boy was crouched beside what was left of his mother, still sucking on his biscuit. I made my way over to him as slowly and quietly as I could and, lifting him into my arms, carried him out of the hut.The warmth of his tiny body snuggled against mine filled me with a peace and serenity that elevated me above the chaos. This child was alive yet terribly hungry, beautiful but covered in dirt, bewildered but not fearful. I made up my mind: this boy would be the fourth child in the Dallaire family. I couldn’t save Rwanda, but I could save this child.Before I had held this boy, I had agreed with the aid workers and representatives of both the warring armies that I would not permit any exporting of Rwandan orphans to foreign places. When confronted by such requests from humanitarian organizations, I would argue that the money to move a hundred kids by plane to France or Belgium could help build, staff and sustain Rwandan orphanages that could house three thousand children. This one boy eradicated all my arguments. I could see myself arriving at the terminal in Montreal like a latter-day St. Christopher with the boy cradled in my arms, and my wife, Beth, there ready to embrace him.That dream was abruptly destroyed when the young soldier, fast as a wolf, yanked the child from my arms and carried him directly into the bush. Not knowing how many members of his unit might already have their gunsights on us, we reluctantly climbed back into the Land Cruiser. As I slowly drove away, I had much on my mind.By withdrawing, I had undoubtedly done the wise thing: I had avoided risking the lives of my two soldiers in what would have been a fruitless struggle over one small boy. But in that moment, it seemed to me that I had backed away from a fight for what was right, that this failure stood for all our failures in Rwanda.Whatever happened to that beautiful child? Did he make it to an orphanage deep behind the RPF lines? Did he survive the following battles? Is he dead or is he now a child soldier himself, caught in the seemingly endless conflict that plagues his homeland?That moment, when the boy, in the arms of a soldier young enough to be his brother, was swallowed whole by the forest, haunts me. It’s a memory that never lets me forget how ineffective and irresponsible we were when we promised the Rwandans that we would establish an atmosphere of security that would allow them to achieve a lasting peace. It has been almost nine years since I left Rwanda, but as I write this, the sounds, smells and colours come flooding back in digital clarity. It’s as if someone has sliced into my brain and grafted this horror called Rwanda frame by blood-soaked frame directly on my cortex. I could not forget even if I wanted to. For many of these years, I have yearned to return to Rwanda and disappear into the blue-green hills with my ghosts. A simple pilgrim seeking forgiveness and pardon. But as I slowly begin to piece my life back together, I know the time has come for me to make a more difficult pilgrimage: to travel back through all those terrible memories and retrieve my soul.I did try to write this story soon after I came back from Rwanda in September 1994, hoping to find some respite for myself in sorting out how my own role as Force Commander of UNAMIR interconnected with the international apathy, the complex political manoeuvres, the deep well of hatred and barbarity that resulted in a genocide in which over 800,000 people lost their lives. Instead, I plunged into a disastrous mental health spiral that led me to suicide attempts, a medical release from the Armed Forces, the diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, and dozens upon dozens of therapy sessions and extensive medication, which still have a place in my daily life.It took me seven years to finally have the desire, the willpower and the stamina to begin to describe in detail the events of that year in Rwanda. To recount, from my insider’s point of view, how a country moved from the promise of a certain peace to intrigue, the fomenting of racial hatred, assassinations, civil war and genocide. And how the international community, through an inept UN mandate and what can only be described as indifference, self-interest and racism, aided and abetted these crimes against humanity -- how we all helped create the mess that has murdered and displaced millions and destabilized the whole central African region.A growing library of books and articles is exploring the tragic events in Rwanda from many angles: eyewitness accounts, media analyses, assaults on the actions of the American administration at the time, condemnations of the UN’s apparent ineptitude. But even in the international and national inquiries launched in the wake of the genocide, the blame somehow slides away from the individual member nations of the un, and in particular those influential countries with permanent representatives on the Security Council, such as the United States, France and the United Kingdom, who sat back and watched it all happen, who pulled their troops or didn’t offer any troops in the first place. A few Belgian officers were brought to court to pay for the sins of Rwanda. When my sector commander in Kigali, Colonel Luc Marchal, was courtmartialled in Brussels, the charges against him were clearly designed to deflect any responsibility away from the Belgian government for the deaths of the ten Belgian peacekeepers under my command. The judge eventually threw out all the charges, accepting the fact that Marchal had performed his duties magnificently in a near-impossible situation. But the spotlight never turned to the reasons why he and the rest of the UNAMIR force were in such a dangerous situation in the first place.It is time that I tell the story from where I stood -- literally in the middle of the slaughter for weeks on end. A public account of my actions, my decisions and my failings during that most terrible year may be a crucial missing link for those attempting to understand the tragedy both intellectually and in their hearts. I know that I will never end my mourning for all those Rwandans who placed their faith in us, who thought the UN peacekeeping force was there to stop extremism, to stop the killings and help them through the perilous journey to a lasting peace. That mission, UNAMIR, failed. I know intimately the cost in human lives of the inflexible UN Security Council mandate, the penny-pinching financial management of the mission, the UN red tape, the political manipulations and my own personal limitations. 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 “assess” the situation in the first weeks of the genocide: “We will recommend to our government not to intervene as the risks are high and all that is here are humans.”My story is not a strictly military account nor a clinical, academic study of the breakdown of Rwanda. It is not a simplistic indictment of the many failures of the UN as a force for peace in the world. It is not a story of heroes and villains, although such a work could easily be written. This book is a cri de coeur for the slaughtered thousands, a tribute to the souls hacked apart by machetes because of their supposed difference from those who sought to hang on to power. It is the story of a commander who, faced with a challenge that didn’t fit the classic Cold War-era peacekeeper’s rule book, failed to find an effective solution and witnessed, as if in punishment, the loss of some of his own troops, the attempted annihilation of an ethnicity, the butchery of children barely out of the womb, the stacking of severed limbs like cordwood, the mounds of decomposing bodies being eaten by the sun.This book is nothing more nor less than the account of a few humans who were entrusted with the role of helping others taste the fruits of peace. Instead, we watched as the devil took control of paradise on earth and fed on the blood of the people we were supposed to protect.From the Hardcover edition.

Table of Contents


1 -- My Father Told Me Three Things
2 -- “Rwanda, that’s in Africa isn’t it?”
3 -- “Check out Rwanda and you’re in charge”
4 -- Enemies Holding Hands
5 -- The Clock Is Ticking
6 -- The First Milestones
7 -- The Shadow Force
8 -- Assassination and Ambush
9 -- Easter Without a Resurrection of Hope
10 -- An Explosion at Kigali Airport
11 -- To Go or To Stay?
12 -- Lack of Resolution
13 -- Accountants of the Slaughter
14 -- The Turquoise Invasion
15 -- Too Much, Too Late

Glossary of Names, Places and Terms
Recommended Reading

From the Hardcover edition.

From Our Editors

Canadian Gen. Romaeo Dallaire, force commander of the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda, recreates the history of the most barbarous and chaotic civil war and genocide--which transformed him from confident Cold Warrior to devastated UN commander, and finally to retired general struggling painfully, and publicly, to overcome post-traumatic stress disorder.

Editorial Reviews

“One of the year’s, if not the decade’s, most important events in Canadian publishing.”—The Vancouver Sun“Almost certainly the most important book published in Canada this year.”—The Globe and Mail“A book of astonishing power.... Here was a man who screamed into the void. No one listened, no one cared, no one heard. But he never stopped screaming. He valued every human life. He wept for every human loss. He never gave up.”—Stephen Lewis, The Walrus“This is a book to read — to understand what genocide means, to reflect on the failure of ‘humanity,’ and to be inspired by the courage of the few in the face of genocidal horror and international indifference.”—Alison Des Forges, The Gazette (Montreal)“On the enormously important issue of Third World development and the obligation of the Western world to assist the dispossessed, [the book] is a powerful cri de coeur for the powerless.”—Toronto Star“Read this book and rediscover, if you have lost it, your capacity for moral outrage.”—Winnipeg Free Press