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Eyewitness Testimony: Gen. Roméo Dallaire


One day, I was coming between the lines and there was a young boy about three years old, on the road, and what the extremists used to do was put children in the middle of the road to stop convoys, and then once the convoy stopped, then they would attack it and kill and steal the stuff.

And so this boy's up ahead and I'm expecting to be in an ambush, and so with a couple of soldiers we stop, jump out, and there's no ambush. And so we go to the huts along the road there and we start looking inside, yelling for people to come and take care of the child.

And in the huts the bodies have been decaying for weeks and half-eaten by rats and dogs. And so we're going through these huts and all of a sudden realize that the child's no more with us.

So we go back and find him in a hut where there are two adults, male, female, and some children who are in advanced decay. And he's sitting there in a corner, as if it's sort of like his home; he's comfortable. And I couldn't figure out how come he had not been killed.

And so I took that child and I brought him to the middle of the road, and I looked at him, and his stomach was bloated and he had scabs and flies and dirt, and rags on.

But then all of a sudden I looked into his eyes, and what I saw in his eyes was exactly what I saw in the eyes of my three-year-old at the time. They're the eyes of a human child. And they were absolutely no different, one from the other. They were both human children. And so are all humans human, or are some more human than others?

Gen. Roméo Dallaire, UN Force, Rwanda

General Roméo Dallaire from Canada was the commander of the United Nations peacekeeping force for Rwanda deployed in late 1993 as part of a peace accord between the Rwandan government and the rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front.

When the violence began in April 1994, the UN Security Council reduced Dallaire's force from 2,600 to just over 450 soldiers. Without international support, Dallaire and his troops had to make wrenching decisions about where they could go and whom they could protect.

Nonetheless, Dallaire and his force saved the lives of an estimated 30,000 people.

In fall 1994, Dallaire returned to Canada, traumatized by his experiences in Rwanda. He eventually began to speak about what he saw, testified at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda against alleged perpetrators, authored a book on the genocide, and became involved in Canadian politics. He has become an advocate on the issues of response to genocide, child soldiers, conflict resolution, and post-traumatic stress disorder.