Lieutenant-General Roméo Antonius Dallaire, OC, CMM, GOQ, MSC, CD (born June 25, 1946 in Denekamp, The Netherlands) is a Canadian senator, humanitarian, author and retired general. Dallaire is widely known for having served as Force Commander of UNAMIR, the ill-fated United Nations peacekeeping force for Rwanda between 1993 and 1994, and for trying to stop the genocide that was being waged by Hutu extremists against Tutsis and Hutu moderates.
Dallaire was born in Denekamp, The Netherlands to Staff-Sergeant Roméo Louis Dallaire, a Canadian non-commissioned officer, and Catherine Vermaesen, a Dutch nurse. Dallaire came to Canada with his mother as a six month-old baby on the Empire Brent, landing in Halifax on December 13, 1946. He spent his childhood in Montreal.
He enrolled in the Canadian Army in 1964, as a cadet at Le Collège militaire royal de Saint-Jean. In 1969 he graduated from the Royal Military College of Canada with a Bachelor of Science degree and was commissioned into The Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery.
In 1972, Dallaire applied for a Canadian passport to travel overseas with his troops and was surprised to discover that his birth in the Netherlands as the son of a Canadian soldier did not automatically make him a Canadian citizen. He has subsequently become a Canadian citizen.
Dallaire has also attended the Canadian Land Force Command and Staff College, the United States Marine Corps Command and Staff College in Quantico, VA, and the British Higher Command and Staff Course.
He commanded the 5e Régiment d’Artillerie Légère du Canada On July 3 1989 he was promoted to the rank of brigadier-general. He then commanded the 5th Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group He was also the commandant of Collège militaire royal de Saint-Jean from 1990 to 1993.
In late 1993, Dallaire received his commission as the Force Commander of UNAMIR, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda. Rwanda had just emerged from civil war between the extremist Hutu government and a small Tutsi rebel faction operating from neighbouring Uganda -- with the signing of the Arusha Accords. In fact, UNAMIR's goal was to assist in the implementation of the Arusha Accords. The Hutus worked through the Rwandan army and then-president of Rwanda, Juvénal Habyarimana, and the Tutsis through the rebel commander Paul Kagame, who is the president of Rwanda today. The conflict became a civil war when extremist Hutus began murdering Tutsis found inside Rwanda's borders, as well as moderate Hutus who sympathized with the Tutsis. When Dallaire arrived in Rwanda, his mandate was to supervise the implementation of the Accords during a transitional period in which Tutsis were supposed to be given positions of power within the Hutu government.
There were early signs that something was amiss when, on January 22, 1994, a French DC-8 aircraft landed in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, loaded with ammunition and weapons for the Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR). (FAR was the Hutu army under Habyarimana's control.) Dallaire was unable to seize the weapons as it violated his UN mandate. The Chief of Staff of the Rwandan Army told Dallaire that since the munitions were ordered before Arusha, the UN was not allowed to detain the shipment, and displayed paperwork showing that the weapons had been sent by Israel, Belgium, France, Britain, the Netherlands, and Egypt. In addition to the arms deliveries, troops from the Rwandan government began checking identity cards which identified individuals as Hutus or Tutsis. These cards would later allow Hutu militias to identify their victims with accuracy.
The ten UN ParaCommandos had been intercepted by the Hutu militia Interahamwe, taken to a military camp as hostages, and murdered there. In a later trial, the Rwandan camp commander testified that he had warned Gen. Dallaire that they were going to be killed, and that Dallaire had promised to send help. Storming Camp Kigali was beyond the means of his meagre force, however, and instead, he forbade the other Belgian troops to take action. Colonel Luc Marchal, commander of UNAMIR forces in the Kigali sector, has defended this decision on the grounds that to attack would have put the ill-equipped UNAMIR forces in an adversarial role against the Rwandan military, escalated the situation, and endangered their lives and those of the 331 unarmed UN observers. Passing the entrance of the camp on his way to a meeting, Gen. Dallaire later saw some of the dead on the ground. In the 2007 trial of the Rwandan officer Bernard Ntuyahaga on charges of allowing the massacre to take place, Investigating judge Damien VanderMeersch cited among other "obstacles to his work, the refusal of the United Nations to allow him to hear from General Romeo Dallaire.
Seeing the situation in Rwanda deteriorating rapidly, Dallaire pleaded for logistical support and reinforcements of 2,000 soldiers for UNAMIR; he estimated that a total of 4,000 well-equipped troops would give the UN enough leverage to put an end to the killings. The UN Security Council refused, partly due to US opposition. US policy on interventions had become skeptical following the death of several U.S. soldiers in Mogadishu, Somalia the year before; this new policy was outlined in Presidential Decision Directive 25 by President Clinton. The Security Council voted to reduce UNAMIR further to 260 troops. Since the UN mandate had not changed, the Belgian troops started evacuating, and the Europeans withdrew. (Sources : see Belgian press articles)
Following the withdrawal of Belgian forces, whom Dallaire considered his best-trained and best-equipped, Dallaire consolidated his contingent of Pakistani, Canadian, Ghanaian, Tunisian, and Bangladeshi soldiers in urban areas and focused on providing areas of "safe control" in and around Kigali. Most of Dallaire's efforts were to defend specific areas where he knew Tutsis to be hiding. Dallaire's staff—including the U.N.'s unarmed observers—often relied on its U.N. credentials to save Tutsis, heading off Interahamwe attacks even while being outnumbered and outgunned. Dallaire's actions are credited with directly saving the lives of 20,000 Tutsis and Hutus.
As the massacre progressed and press accounts of the genocide grew, the U.N. Security Council backtracked on its position and voted to establish UNAMIR II, with a strength of 5,500 men in response to the French plan to occupy portions of the country. (The so-called Operation Turquoise, the presence of French troops, was initially opposed by Dallaire because the French had a history of backing the Hutus and the Rwandan Armed Forces, and thus their presence would be opposed by Kagame and the rebel RPF.) It was not until early July, when RPF troops under Kagame swept into Kigali that the genocide ended. By August, the French had handed their portion of the country to the RPF, giving Kagame effective control of all of Rwanda.
As revealed through testimony at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the genocide was brutally efficient, lasting for a total of 100 days and leading to the murder of between 800,000 and 1,171,000 Tutsi and Hutu moderates. Over two million people were displaced internally or in neighbouring countries. The Genocide ended when the Rwandan Patriotic Front gained control of Rwanda on July 18, 1994, though recrimination, retribution, and criminal prosecutions continue to the present day.
Upon his return to Canada from UNOMUR and UNAMIR, Dallaire was appointed to two simultaneous commands in September 1994: Deputy Commander of Land Force Command (LFC) in Saint-Hubert, Quebec and Commander of 1 Canadian Division. In October 1995, Dallaire assumed command of Land Force Quebec Area.
In 1996, Dallaire was promoted to Chief of Staff and to the Assistant Deputy Minister (Personnel) Group at NDHQ. In 1998 he was assigned to Assistant Deputy Minister (Human Resources - Military) and in 1999 was appointed Special Advisor to the Chief of the Defence Staff on Officer Professional Development.
At the time of his retirement he held the rank of lieutenant-general. Blaming himself for the failures of the mission, he began a spiral into a depression, culminating on June 20, 2000, when he was rushed to hospital after being found under a park bench in Ottawa. He was intoxicated and suffering from the reaction of alcohol and his prescription anti-depressants, the mixture of which almost put him into a coma. The story gained national headlines and sparked a fierce debate over the rules of engagement forced upon UN peacekeepers.
After the "park-bench" incident, Dallaire began writing about his experiences, started lecturing on his experiences, and was well on the road to recovery. He has since stated that during this bleak period, he considered suicide and attempted it on several occasions. Despite his personal turmoil, the months he spent in Rwanda were eventually chronicled in his 2003 book Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda, written in collaboration with his aide, Major Brent Beardsley. This book won the Shaughnessy Cohen Award for Political Writing in 2003 and the 2004 Governor General's Award for non-fiction.
In January 2004, Dallaire appeared at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to testify against Colonel Théoneste Bagosora. He later worked as a Special Advisor to the Canadian Government on War Affected Children and the Prohibition of Small Arms Distribution, as well as with international agencies with the same focus, including child labour. He is a great proponent of the concept of Institutionalism, and, in 2004-2005, he served as a fellow at the Carr Center For Human Rights Policy at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. He endorses the Genocide Intervention Network.
Dallaire was appointed to the Canadian Senate by Prime Minister Paul Martin on March 25, 2005. He sits as a Liberal, representing the province of Quebec. Dallaire noted that his family has supported both the Liberal Party of Canada and the Quebec Liberal Party since 1958. He was a strong supporter of Michael Ignatieff's unsuccessful 2006 bid for the leadership of the federal Liberal Party.
In 2007, Dallaire called for the reopening of Collège militaire royal de Saint-Jean, saying "The possibility of starting a new program at the college — a military Cegep that would allow all officer cadets to spend two years in Saint-Jean before going to Kingston, instead of studying only in Kingston — is being considered. In the spirit of progress, would it be possible to support a principle as basic as the freedom of francophones in the Canadian Armed Forces by establishing a Cegep-style francophone bilingual military college."
Concordia University announced on September 8, 2006, that Dallaire would sit as Senior Fellow at the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS), a research centre based at the university’s Faculty of Arts & Science. Later that month, on September 29, 2006, he issued a statement urging the international community to be prepared to defend Bahá'ís in Iran from possible atrocities.
Dallaire and his wife, Elizabeth, have three children: Willem, Catherine and Guy.
Senator Dallaire is active in humanitarian fund raising and promoting awareness. He will be on stage at the University of Victoria with song writer-singer Bruce Cockburn, another humanitarian. The Oct.4, 2008 concert is to aid child soldiers (Victoria Times Colonist, April 17, 2008).
In October 2002, the documentary The Last Just Man was released, which chronicles the Rwandan genocide and features interviews with Dallaire, Beardsley, and others involved in the events that happened in Rwanda. It was directed by Steven Silver.
A documentary film, entitled Shake Hands With the Devil: The Journey of Roméo Dallaire, which was inspired by the book and shows Gen Dallaire's return to Rwanda after ten years, was produced by the CBC, SRC and White Pine Pictures, and released in 2004. The film was nominated for two Sundance Film Festival Awards, winning the 2004 Sundance Film Festival Audience Award for World Cinema - Documentary (Peter Raymont) and a nomination for Grand Jury Prize for World Cinema - Documentary (Peter Raymont). The film aired on CBC on January 31, 2005.
In 2004, PBS Frontline featured a documentary named The Ghosts of Rwanda. In an interview conducted for the documentary and recorded over the course of four days in October 2003, LGen Dallaire has said: "Rwanda will never ever 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 that I know of, and many that I didn't know...."
The 2004 film Hotel Rwanda featured a UN colonel based on Dallaire, played by Nick Nolte. Dallaire is quoted as saying that neither the producer, nor Nolte himself, consulted with him before shooting the film. He said further that he did not agree with Nolte's portrayal, but did think that the film was "okay. Dallaire has been otherwise reticent to say anything more about Hotel Rwanda.
In a 2004 editorial published by the New York Times, Dallaire called upon NATO to intervene militarily alongside African Union troops to abort the genocide in Darfur. He concluded that, "having called what is happening in Darfur genocide and having vowed to stop it, it is time for the West to keep its word as well."
A Canadian dramatic feature film Shake Hands with the Devil adapted from Roméo Dallaire's 2003 book and starring Roy Dupuis as Lieutenant-General Dallaire, started production in mid-June 2006, and was released on the 28th of September 2007. Dallaire participated in a press conference about the film held on June 2, 2006, in Montreal, a film for which he is being consulted, as opposed to Hotel Rwanda. In September 2007, Shake Hands With The Devil won the Emmy award for Outstanding Documentary with The Documentary Channel, who presented it on their channel.
In Samantha Power's landmark work on genocide in the 20th century, A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, Sen. Dallaire's features largely in the recounting of the Rwanda Genocide. Ms. Power also wrote the foreword to Dallaire's book, Shake Hands with the Devil.
Sen. Dallaire is the inspiration for the song Kigali by Canadian singer-songwriter, Jon Brooks. The song appears on his album Ours And The Shepherds, which is about Canadian war stories and the problems faced by returning soldiers. His first verse is taken directly from Dallaire's book.
Canadian Alternative Rock band Defined By What We Steal's song "Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire" was inspired by his activism.
In 1996, Dallaire was made an Officer of the Legion of Merit of the United States, the highest military decoration available for award to foreigners, for his service in Rwanda. Dallaire was also awarded the inaugural Aegis Trust Award in 2002, and on October 10 of the same year, he was inducted as an Officer in the Order of Canada.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's The Greatest Canadian program saw Dallaire voted, in 16th place, as the highest rated military figure. Several months after the broadcast, on March 9, 2005, Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson awarded Dallaire with the 25th Pearson Peace Medal. On October 11, 2006, the Center for Unconventional Security Affairs at the University of California, Irvine awarded Dallaire with the 2006 Human Security Award.
Dallaire has received honorary Doctor of Laws degrees from University of Saskatchewan, St. Thomas University, Boston College, the University of Calgary, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Athabasca University, Trent University, the University of Victoria,the University of Western Ontario, and Simon Fraser University, and an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree from the University of Lethbridge. On June 1, 2006, Romeo Dallaire was awarded a Doctorate of Human Letters by the Queens College of the City University of New York (CUNY) in recognition of his efforts in Rwanda and afterwards to speak out against genocide. He received an ovation from the crowd for his comment that "no human is more human than any other".
Dallaire was a recipient of the Vimy Award, which recognizes a Canadian who has made a significant and outstanding contribution to the defence and security of our nation and the preservation of our democratic values.