Romeo Dallaire

Widely known for having served as Force Commander of UNAMIR, the United Nations peacekeeping force for Rwanda between 1993 and 1994. Dallaire tried desperately to stop the genocide that was being waged by Hutu extremists against Tutsis and Hutu moderates.

Early Life

Romeo Dallaire was born in Denekamp, Netherlands in 1946 . He later immigrated to Canada when he was six month-old and settled down with his mother in Montreal, where he spent his childhood. In 1963, he enrolled in the Canadian Army as a cadet at Le Collège militaire royal de Saint-Jean, and graduated from the Royal Military College of Canada in 1970. He was commissioned into The Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery shortly after, but continued to attend numerous military colleges over the next 2 decades.

Romeo & Rwanda

Dallaire received his commission as the Force Commander of UNAMIR in late 1993 to assist in the implementation of the Arusha Accords. The UN attempted to negotiate with numerous influential people within Rwanda to execute these Accords successfully, and as a result end the three-year Rwandan Civil War. Dallaire was tasked with supervising and helping both sides with the implementation of the agreed-upon Arusha peace accords and then transition to a new government.

While Dallaire came to Rwanda expecting a standard mission, he soon noticed early signs that something was wrong.

On January 22, 1994, a French aircraft landed in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, loaded with ammunition and weapons for the Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR). Dallaire learned through an informant that these weaponry would later be utilized in an attack on the Tutsis and he promptly sent a telegram to the UN. He had requested to seize these shipments, but his request was denied on two main reasons. Firstly, the shipments had been ordered before the Arusha Accord, and as such, the UN was not allowed to attain possession of them. Secondly, the FAR displayed paperwork indicating that the weapons had been sent by several countries (Belgium, France, United Kingdom) in which the UN believed had good intentions. In the end, these weaponry were not seized and were later used to massacre countless Tutsis.

Also at this time, troops from the Rwandan government began checking identity cards of the citizens, which identified individuals as either Hutus or Tutsis. This tactic of utilizing identity cards would later allow Hutu militias to quickly and easily pinpoint their victims with precision during the Genocide.

Genocide

On April 6, 1994, the Rwandan president’s plane was shot down. This set in motion the vicious genocide as extremists within the Hutu population began assassinating moderate government officials and ultimately claiming the lives of more than 800,000 Rwandan Tutsis and moderate Hutus within 100 days.

Amid this escalating violence, Dallaire stood his ground and faced a nearly impossible situation. His force shrunk from 2,500 soldiers to merely a few hundreds as nations withdrew their troops in the first days of the slaughter and the UN repeatedly refused to send reinforcements. Dallaire and his remaining forces remained, attempting to save as many people as they could while the massacre continue. Most of his efforts were to defend specific areas where he knew Tutsis would be hiding, resulting in directly saving the lives of 32,000 people of different races throughout the genocide.

As the massacre progressed in Rwanda and press accounts of the genocide grew, the UN Security Council rethought Dallaire’s former request and voted to establish UNAMIR II. It included a strength of 5,500 men which would be sent by the UN. As opposed to UNAMIR, which had a peacekeeping mandate under Chapter VI of the U.N. Charter, UNAMIR II would be authorized under Chapter VII to enforce a peace. It was not until early July in 1994, when RPF troops under Kagame swept into Kigali that the genocide ended.

While the genocide is over, Dallaire witnessed acts so inhuman during his time in Rwanda that he now suffers from severe post-traumatic stress disorder. He attempted suicide in 2000, but now writes about his experiences in Rwanda as a method of dealing with his condition.

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22 thoughts on “Romeo Dallaire

  1. Romero Dallaire, THE COWARD OF THE CENTURY!!??
    Why did he fail Rwandans? He claims that his commanders did not obey his orders. In any military operation, insubordination is a very serious crime. Why did he not take action to discipline these commanders? Kofi Anan, an “African brother” sitting in his UN office collecting his $ 186,000 annual salary, he cared less about what was happening in Rwanda.Incompetents,cowards,irresponsible,indifferent,unconcerned,unqualified leadership, uncommitted, that is how these two are described by their inaction while Rwandans were being slaughtered.Is the UN’s lack of its military missions’ defined roles to blame as some claim? Absolutely not! Look at what Rwandan UN soldiers did in Darfur.They stood their ground, and made their position known. Why couldn’t Dallaire do the same Because he is incompetent and a coward!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • You don’t know what you’re talking about. As a General in the Canadian Armed Forces serving under the UN, Romeo Dallaire did not have that much power. He was no coward he was out there risking his life every day for a hundred days with only 13 Canadian soldiers and 60 Rwandan civilian police and he managed to save 30,000 Rwandans with the limited manpower he had. Dallaire requested 5,000 men and wanted to take more affirmative action to stop the genocide but his COMMMANDERS meaning people who command him not the other way around like you said ORDERED him not to. Romeo Dallaire did everything he could to stop the Genocide but what can one man do against an entire bureaucracy. Do not call him a coward or incompetent. Generals can’t just do whatever they want and for the record he faced down a gunman alone and unarmed. The gunman emerged from the bushes carrying an Ak 47 and saying that he would kill the general Dallaire if he saw him. Dallaire walked up to him shook his hand and gave him a stern look and the gunman slung his rifle over his shoulder and walked away. That is not the work of a coward.

    • You could look at this way as well. He was the only non cowardly man from Canada who tried the best he could while all the other countries ran with their tails between their legs. Or how about this, he could have picked up and said screw it, not Canada’s problem. Just think, instead of 800,000 dead it could have been double. You my friend are also a cowardly little prick.

    • What credentials do you have to say all these things? Were you there during the genocide in Rwanda? Did you experienced everything (or even half) they went through? There are a lot of books out there that you can read about the tragedy in Rwanda so as to clear whatever mud is in your head. You obviously don’t know what you are talking about. I feel sorry for your lack of understanding and your inability to perceive the truth.

  2. He’s a coward , he witnessed Belgium troops under his command being abused after being captured by Rwandian soldiers at a barracks and kept driving to a meeting instead of radioing back to his HQ that the soldiers had been captured and were being brutalized or STOPPING and trying to save his troops he let them be butchered literally . He later received the corpses stacked like potatoes so mutilated he couldn’t do a body count at first . He wasn’t qualified or experienced enough to be given the command in the first place . If he knew the UN’s position was untenable as he claims he should have consolidated the troops for Force Protection . The reason countries pulled their troops out was because they weren’t willing to have them be slaughtered under an incompitant commander lacking integrity and a spine . No one may have been able to stop the genocide but he could have at least tried to keep the soldiers under his command from being mutilated or attempted an offensive action of any kind , as the commander on the ground if the higher up’s in the UN wouldn’t support him from thousands of miles away he should have shown some intestinal fortitude and disregarded an unlawful order with regards to ROE’s . Every one has the right to self defensive and to act with deadly force to protect others right to self defense . Plus he does nothing to speak out on veterans issues since he has gotten personally set up for life . I hope he is haunted every day the rest of his life for his inaction . He has the chance to nip the chaos in the bud with a little offensive action but hid behind his baby blue beret.

    • Johnny – I don’ t understand your hatred. Dallaire was place in an impossible situation without adequate support. It’s easy to sit on the sidelines and say what could or should have been done. The reality is that this man did the best that he could at the time given the circumstances and the lack of support. He behaved bravely, intelligently and with integrity. Perhaps you would have done things differently, but I think your attack on his is unwarranted.

    • So tell me. What would you do if you were him? Would you do what you could to save the lives of 32,000 innocents, or would you leave the war zone like Dallaire was given the option to? I think its safe to say that option #2 would be your choice, as it would be most of ours. Although 32,000 lives may not seem like a lot compared to the roughly 800,000 that died, he did what he could to help, and he showed that he cared by staying. I think the real coward here is you sir, for not realizing the change Dallaire made, and the risk he took while doing it. Romeo is not written down as a coward, but as a hero, and thats what it should be. Put yourself in his shoes before you make comments like this, because not for a second would I think you would risk your life for people you don’t even know the names of.

      • He failed miserably.Why? because he was a coward,incompetent,indifferent, take your pick.If he could not do the job,why didn’t he resign get out of the way and let better qualified do the job? He could not do that because he was in for the money and the news headlines.Look at what Rwandan troops have done in Darfur and now in Central African Republic.Romero Dallaire is not only a coward,but he is a criminal for not doing what he was appointed to do.
        Israel Ntaganzwa

    • One man against thousands and thousands. What planet are you from???? Here’s a thought, get your ass over in Afghan and we will see just how cowardly you are.

    • Okay, so Canada was the only country that actually did something and everybody else is saying how he was cowardly but really because we couldn’t see an actual large contribution since he barley made a dent according to the rest of the. Even if he had only saved 100 he still saved lives. He made a huge success in saving all of those people and did much better than any other country, you should be ashamed of yourself to call him that.

    • A little offensive action?? In case you forgot he was UN. Unless fired at they can’t fire and even if he did have the authority he didn’t have the manpower or supplies to fight the the whole Hutu population… By defending the regions that Tutsi refugees were staying he was able to save the most lives with what he had. Like you said, everyone has a right to self defense and to act with deadly force, but it’s not self defense to go out and kill as many Hutu extremists as possible. He did his job and protected the people he could. He could have let pulled out like he was ordered to but he made the courageous decision to stay and save 30, 000 the 30, 000 civilians he was protecting. I would like to see what you would do if you were in the same situation. It’s easy to say all those things behind the safety of your computer screen. As for being haunted for the rest of his life, the man attempted suicide in 2000 because of the things he saw. He was an alcoholic after as well but he pulled himself together and now gives speaches on what he encountered and preventing genocide in the future. So let’s see who the real coward is here, the man who risked his life to save 30, 000 innocent civilians or the uneducated little shit calling him out for his decisions from behind the safety of his computer screen.

  3. Excuse me? I’m learning about Romeo Dallaire at the moment and I can’t believe all these negative comments. He was a man of trust, compassion, generosity, and I bet you can’t do half the things he did regarding the lack of power he had. He wasn’t given many options, he was ordered to come back from his mission and chose not to, simply to protect the lives that were taking refuge in the UN borders by his commands. He suffered with great depression simply because he thought he didn’t do enough, where he doesn’t realize how much he did do. He is not a coward, he is a HERO!

  4. Why blame outsiders when black people choose to slaughter their own brothers and sisters?. Hutus and Tutsis are black Africans. Let`s get past this damn nonsense of tribe and ethnicity. A foreigner seeing a black person hacking another black person, who is to be blamed? Black men have committed vicious rapes on an industrial scale in Rwanda and currently in the Congo. I just can`t understand why you blame the general for a problem that had been perpetrated by black Africans on other black Africans. It`s time the Hutus take personal responsibility for the genocide in Rwanda.

  5. He is a GREAT GREAT GREAT MAN.brave and honest.This is the idol and best example for every man in life and who says that he is coward he does not underdstand the diference between earth and sky and doesn’t have any level of rational thinking.

    • Honey, do you even know the meaning of the word coward? I don’t call it cowardly when he chooses to stay and do his best while Belgiums and French are running for their planes. Brave? DAMN STRAIGHT. He could have said Fuck YOU guys, I’m outta here as well. Get a dictionary and look up the word coward. You just might learn something you pathetic excuse for a human.

      • They were for Dallaire was a great man, they never called him a coward… I think you may have replied to the wrong comment or misread that.

      • Right on Amy. The cowards were the big shits who tried to control him from the comfort of their armchair in Canada. Had he been allowed to exercise his best judgment without ignorant political interference, fewer people would have died. Who was our PM then? Mulroney I think.

  6. There is one view of Delaire that he was a coward, or incompetent, and didn’t do enough. A lot of that is based on the idea that because the R. genocide ended up so badly, something should have been done.

    An alternative view (which doesn’t really deny the first) is that the overall policy is under control of world leaders, and that it will not always be be possible for good or bad reasons to gain support for every mission. If missions don’t gain political support, for one reason or another, that is tough, but if such failures can’t be accepted then the UN will not even be on the field, whether active in the event, or not.

    One thing a leader might consider under such conditions of failure is to shut up. Not only to help preserve the institutions of world order that are what little we have. But also to not dishonour the soldiers he led, who do not get to gad about the world cashing fat checks, and have the right to hope that their discipline and service will be correctly respected. If you are told to stand down in a situation where your men may just as much suffer the psych injuries that Delaire suffers, they deserve the respect to be seen as soldiers who served, paid a price, and did their duty.

  7. Yes, I am shocked at the ignorance of the world on how the UN Peacekeepers function. I just read “The Devil Came On Horseback” about US Marine Captain Brian Steidle in Darfur. Similar situation. He expresses his frustration upon hearing of raids and killings “going” to happen – but they could not do anything about it. They were never given arms nor permission to fight back. He had to go in “after-the-fact” to find survivors and try to peacefully, no-arms-allowed (on their part) talk to both sides and get the story, then see if they could make peace negotiations. Of course, the violent arabs never agreed to anything nor cooperated with any plan – just kept on with their systematic slaughtering. He was tied by POLITICAL decisions of men who were not there, did not witness the horror, and could care less. He says that even when the politicians came to visit and he would describe first-hand or show pics or even bring them to villages and to meet survivors, they would often turn their backs, or give some meaningless response, followed up with excuses about how they couldn’t give armed aide b/c of some political issue or agreements between the politicians of each country. It is POLITICS here – not justice! Not mercy! I don’t think a politician should be allowed into position without serving in a war – firsthand.

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