• James Armstrong

Roméo Dallaire guest author for final edition of Storyfest 2014


The final edition of a highly successful StoryFest 2014 unfolded on Monday afternoon, November 3, with a capacity crowd in Hudson for author Roméo Dallaire.

A capacity crowd, suspended in silence, was held in the grip of the charisma of a seasoned leader as he calmly and intensely outlined for them the bare bones truth of his life. LieutenantGeneral Roméo Dallaire was the guest speaker for the final event of the 13th Annual Storyfest literary festival held at Hudson’s Stephen F. Shaar Community Centre November 3.

Author of two non-fiction books, “They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children” (Random House 2010) and “Shake Hands with the Devil” (Random House, 2004), Dallaire began his talk by outlining how different peacekeeping situations are today from those that developed post World War II and during the ensuing Cold War.

“In this era, there is no conflict anywhere in the world that won’t have an impact on us,” he said, describing the current world. Dallaire reflected on the new world order following the winning of the Cold War as a complex and ambiguous era. “For 25 years, we have been on-the-job training, ad hocing, our way through this era of imploding nations, genocides, mass atrocities…and the destruction of millions of human beings,” he said in reference to peacekeeping efforts since that time.

He pointed out that the increase in immigration and refugee populations worldwide tends to create a growing diaspora of communities with connections to families caught up in the conflict. “All that stuff is here by extension,” he noted with the added caution that, “There is no place in the world that is too far away.” It was a deft introduction to Dallaire’s first work “Shake Hands with the Devil” that describes in detail the role he played in the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Rwanda.

“How is it possible that it happened?” asked the author in reference to the Rwandan genocide. For Dallaire, the subtitle of his book sums it up: the failure of humanity in Rwanda. In the preface he writes, “In just one hundred days, over 800,000 innocent Rwandan men, women, and children were brutally murdered while the developed world, impassive and apparently unperturbed, sat back and watched the unfolding apocalypse or simply changed channels.”

He notes that it happened almost 50 years to the day that his father and father-inlaw helped to liberate Europe, when the concentration camps were uncovered and when the world said, “Never again.” In spite of, or perhaps because of, his personal battle with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, Dallaire published his second book, “They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children” in support of a global eff ort to eradicate the use of child soldiers. “ISIS has recruited over 100,000 young people from the age of 12 and up,” he said.

He also emphasized the deliberate use of rape as a weapon to destroy a society’s ability to sustain itself and influence people with fear. As a champion of human rights, Dallaire founded the Child Soldiers Initiative dedicated to the elimination of the use of child soldiers. “Leadership is not sorting out a crisis. Leadership is anticipating the future and shaping it,” said Dallaire as he outlined possible ways for finding solutions to conflicts around the world.

“We need to go in and prevent the situations from becoming catastrophic,” he said. “We go in knowing we will be there for the next 20 or 30 years.” He placed emphasis on the fact that those who serve in uniform need to be given the tools to do the work, the support to see them through and when they come back, perhaps injured or in a body bag, which they and their families need to be treated with respect and decency.