I am in the midst of reading his biography of the Rwandan Events. And although I feel that he is a forerunner to some of the changes that have taken place in the Canadian Forces, some of which I do not agree are/were for the best (on account we have gone to far the "other way" on some things), I think this might be a good thing. I hope so anyway.

His book, "Shake Hands with the Devil" is proving to be excellent so far.

Romeo Dallaire: soldier, author, survivor, activist, now a senator
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at 17:59 on March 24, 2005, EST. By JOHN WARD

OTTAWA (CP) - As a soldier, Romeo Dallaire followed orders from government. Now, in his incarnation as a senator, he's looking forward to have a say in such orders.

The 58-year-old retired general, who lost his mental equilibrium and eventually his military career to the horrors of the 1993-94 Rwandan genocide, was named to the Senate on Thursday by Prime Minister Paul Martin. Dallaire says he relishes the idea of getting inside government instead of preaching from outside.

"That's one of the fundamental reasons I accepted," he said in an interview. "Now I've been given an opportunity to get into entrails of government in caucus and the like.

"Hopefully, I'll be able to bring a more specific influence into decisions that are being taken."

Child soldiers, human rights and help for the poorest countries are high on his list of priorities.

Dallaire, a decorated soldier and winner of the Governor General's Award for his best-selling memoir, Shake Hands with the Devil, says he wants to emphasize international human rights and development when he speaks in the Liberal caucus and in the upper chamber.

As a soldier who led a doomed United Nations intervention into Rwanda and ended up watching helplessly as hundreds of thousands were slaughter in a paroxysm of tribal hatred, he's going to watch carefully if the government commits soldiers to similar missions in the future.

"I think that Canada has, in fact, learned a lot from that last Rwandan experience," he said. "It's certainly my ambition to continue to work towards Canada's involvement ethically and morally in advancing human rights."

Defence Minister Bill Graham will have a former general with a lot of bitter experience watching him in the Liberal caucus.

"I'm not so sure how the hell that works inside of government," Dallaire said with a laugh. "I'm looking very much forward to have an opportunity to speak to him and other colleagues on these subjects in maybe an even more candid way."

Dallaire, son of a Canadian army sergeant and a Dutch war bride, was raised on military bases and joined up as a matter of course. He graduated from Royal Military College and carved out a career as an above-average young officer.

He was an up-coming artillery general in 1993, when he was tabbed to lead a UN force to oversee a shaky truce in Rwanda.

It seemed a natural assignment. He was a French-speaking soldier going to an area of Africa where French was the second language. Canada carried no colonial baggage to inflame local sensitivities.

But the world collapsed on Dallaire and his small force within months of their arrival. The UN ignored his warnings of coming strife.

After it broke out, major international players rebuffed his pleas for more soldiers, leaving him standing as a helpless observer to genocide.

He came home to medals and promotion, but his spirit was broken and he spiralled into depression and alcohol.

His health suffered. Thin, haggard, with his haunted eyes sunken in his thin face, he was another casualty of Rwanda.

But a decade later, after much psychological help, support from his wife and kids and a book into which he poured his troubled soul, Dallaire has bounced back.

He has filled out, although his eyes keep their deep sadness. But he can joke and laugh and he speaks with pride of his son's entry into the army, a third generation of soldiering Dallaires.

Rwanda will never leave him though, and he'll use his Senate seat to make sure that Canadians will never forget either.


©The Canadian Press, 2005