This is the personal account of Lieutenant General Romeo Dallaire’s time in Rwanda before, and during the genocide in 1993 to 1994. He talks about his family and military history and how he came to be in command of the UN Peacekeeping mission in Rwanda. The frustrations he had in getting the support he needed for a successful mission. His own self-doubts, his naivety, as well as his helplessness and in the end struggles with just going on with the day.
It was awful. I knew it would be before I read the book. And it was as awful as I thought it would be. How can a personal account about the Rwandan genocide be anything but awful?
The book is well-written, and brutally honest. Dallaire doesn’t hold back on his thoughts and opinions about certain people involved who could have affected the way things went but didn’t. But at the same time he was equally complimentary of the anyone he thought deserved it.
In particular it really opened my eyes around what it took to even get the mission on the ground in Rwanda to begin with, let alone the political workings to continue to fund it and provide what was desperately needed – I’m talking even just something basic like water!
Most of the book was about what Dallaire did to keep the mission going, how he talked to both parties, the RPF and the RGF and others, to try and help facilitate the peace process by getting all belligerents to put down their arms. There were times when Dallaire would talk about being fired at, grenades exploding and bombs, plus death threats, but not a lot of gruesome descriptions about what happened to the Rwandan peoples. The couple of parts that did have that I couldn’t help but cry. What those people must have gone through, the pain, the torture… I can’t understand how someone could do that to their fellow human being. It was just awful.
I was a small child when the genocide happened and so I don’t remember much news about it. When I visited Rwanda earlier this year and heard about it and visited the Genocide Museum, that was when I bought this book. Having seen the people and talked to some of them, and seeing where they are now… The progress, the healing, they’ve made in twenty or so years is incredible. All of us could learn something from the Rwandans.