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Romeo Dallaire

Lt.-Gen. Roméo A. Dallaire, OC, CMM, MSC, CD, (born June 25, 1946, in Denekamp, The Netherlands) is a retired Canadian general, senator, humanitarian, and author. Dallaire is widely known for having served as Force Commander of UNAMIR, the ill-fated United Nations peacekeeping force in Rwanda between 1993 and 1994, and trying to stop a war of genocide that was being waged by Hutu extremists against Tutsis and Hutu moderates.


Early life and education

Dallaire was born in 1946 in Holland to Staff-Sergeant Roméo Louis Dallaire, a Canadian non-commissioned officer, and Catherine Vermeassen, a Dutch nurse. He spent his childhood in Montréal.

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. He has also attended the Canadian Land Forces Command and Staff College, the United States Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and the British Higher Command and Staff Course.

He commanded an artillery regiment (5e Régiment d'artillerie légère du Canada). On July 3 1989 he was promoted to the rank of brigadier-general. He commanded the 5e Groupe-brigade mécanisé du Canada.


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Gen. Dallaire taking part in a ceremonial march out of his peace-keeping compound as he leaves Rwanda (but will be his last visit until almost a decade later), 1994 [1] (

In late 1993 Dallaire was assigned the position of Force Commander of UNAMIR. Rwanda had just endured several years of bloody civil war which had been concluded with the Arusha Accords, and UNAMIR's mandate was to supervise the peaceful transfer of power to the new Rwandan government.

On the night of 6-7 April, 1994, an airplane carrying Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana was shot down over Kigali Airport. Following the airplane crash, Hutu extremists, with help from the Rwandan government, started executing Tutsis and Hutu moderates as well as the elected officials of the new government. This was the starting point of the Rwandan genocide. Dallaire ordered ten Belgian soldiers (whom he considered his best men) to protect the new prime minister, Agathe Uwilingiyimana. The soldiers were intercepted by Hutu extremists and taken hostage, after which Madame Agathe and her husband were killed. Later that day, the Belgian soldiers were found brutally murdered. Belgium was outraged that Dallaire had put its soldiers in such danger, and promptly withdrew its forces.

Seeing the situation in Rwanda deteriorating rapidly, Dallaire pleaded for logistical support and reinforcements of 2,000 soldiers for UNAMIR. The UN Security Council refused, several journalists laying blame on a gun shy US President Bill Clinton's administration which refused to provide requested material aid after the failed US efforts in Mogadishu, Somalia. The Security Council further voted to reduce UNAMIR down to 260 men.

Following the Belgian withdrawal, Dallaire consolidated his contingent of Canadian, Ghanian, and Dutch soldiers in urban areas and focused on providing areas of 'safe control'. His actions are credited with directly saving the lives of 20,000 Tutsis. There is speculation that Dallaire's forces deliberately sabotaged equipment to slow their UN-mandated withdrawal from the combat zone.

As the massacre progressed, the UN Security Council backtracked on its position and voted to establish UNAMIR II with a strength of 5,500 men. Several French and UNAMIR II contingents started arriving in Rwanda in June 1994.

The genocide, now known to have been brutally and efficiently organized months before, lasted for 100 days, leading to some 936,000 deaths, and over two million people being displaced internally or in neighbouring countries. The genocide ended when Tutsi RPF gained control of Rwanda on July 18, 1994, although retribution continued on a smaller scale for some time after and indeed, continues today.

Life after Rwanda

Dallaire was medically released from the Canadian Armed Forces on April 22, 2000, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. 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 depression, culminating on June 20, 2000, when he was rushed to hospital after being found under a park bench in Hull, Quebec. Intoxicated and suffering from a reaction with his prescription anti-depressants, the mixture 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 his book, 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.

In January 2002, Dallaire was awarded the inaugural Aegis Trust Award and on October 10, 2002, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.

In October 2002, the documentary The Last Just Man [2] ( was released, which chronicles the Rwandan genocide and features interviews with Dallaire, his aide, and other people who were involved with the events that happened in Rwanda. It was directed by Steven Silver.

Dallaire chronicled the eventful months he spent in Rwanda in his 2003 book Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda. 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.

In 2004, PBS Frontline featured a documentary named The Ghosts of Rwanda[3] ( In an interview [4] ( 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...."

In Canada, Dallaire is considered a hero who tried with all his strength to stop the bloodshed of a nation going mad and managed to at least save some lives, despite his difficulties. In 2004, he was 16th on the voted list of The Greatest Canadian, the highest-rated military figure on the list.

Dallaire 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 NGO world, and is currently a fellow at The Carr Center For Human Rights Policy ( at Harvard University's JFK School of Government (

The 2004 film Hotel Rwanda featured a colonel loosely based on LGen Dallaire, played by Nick Nolte. Dallaire is quoted as saying that neither the producer, nor Nolte himself, consulted with him before shooting the film.

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Dallaire recieving the Pearson Peace Medal from Governor General Adrienne Clarkson in a ceremony performed at Rideau Hall on March 9, 2005.

On March 9, 2005, Dallaire received the 25th Pearson Peace Medal from Canadian Governor General Adrienne Clarkson.

On March 25, 2005, Prime Minister Paul Martin appointed Dallaire to the Canadian Senate, representing the province of Quebec. He sits as a Liberal. Soon after his appointment, Dallaire noted that his family has supported both the Liberal Party of Canada and the Quebec Liberal Party since 1958.

On May 25th, 2005, he received an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws from Memorial University of Newfoundland.

On June 9, 2005, he received an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws from Athabasca University.

Preceded by:
UNAMIR created by special order of United Nations on October 5, 1993
Force Commander of UNAMIR
October 5, 1993 - August 15, 1994
Followed by:
Major-General Guy Tousignant (Canada)

External links

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