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Literature / Shake Hands with the Devil

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Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda is a 2003 book by Lieutenant General Romeo Dallaire and Major Brent Beardsley. It is an account of Dallaire's experiences during his stint as force commander in UNAMIR from 1993-1994 and the Rwandan Genocide.

This book won the 2003 Shaughnessy Cohen Award for Political Writing, and 2004 Governor General's Award for nonfiction. It was made into a documentary film called Shake Hands With the Devil: The Journey of Romeo Dallaire in 2004.


This work provides examples of:

  • Badass Baritone: Averted with Dallaire despite what the film shows, he is naturally soft spoken if you watch his interviews.
  • Badass Crew: Dallaire's entire team, save the Bangladeshis. It takes balls to live the way they did.
  • Badass Pacifist: All of UNAMIR. They aren't allowed to fight unless they're attacked first. That doesn't stop them from protecting the refugees.
  • Black and Gray Morality: The RGF is slaughtering and torturing civilians, while the RPF is shelling civilian places and taking away medical aid.
  • Blatant Lies: What the Clinton administration said about what they did to help Rwanda. 'Provided $9 million in relief' my ass.
  • The Chessmaster: Paul Kagame
  • Child Soldiers: The RPF and the RGF both use child soldiers... something Dallaire is violently opposed too.
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  • Doorstopper: Over 500 pages, in most versions.
  • Frameup: Used in one of the most depicable ways possible: it is speculated that the RGF had framed the RPF for the murders and gang-rape of six young children.
  • Friend to All Children: Dallaire. In the Prologue, he almost decides to take an orphaned child back to the UN camp in Kigali. He cares deeply about the youth of Rwanda.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: Dallaire and his team. The RPF could technically count, too, though the hero part is really debatable.
  • Heroic BSoD: Dallaire and troops suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome after all the horrors they've witnessed in genocide.
    • Dallaire himself was seriously suicidal for years after returning to Canada. As he mentioned in the afterword for the book, writing it was his attempt to dispel the demons that haunted him. It was apparently mostly successful, though in speaking engagements and interviews he admits to still having deep-seeded psychological problems.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Being deployed in Rwanda during the genocide can show a darker side of humanity.
  • Last Stand: Dallaire's there to the bitter end.
  • Only Sane Man: Dallaire, sometimes. While the rest of the world refuses to see the scope of the genocide and take action, Dallaire is in the thick of it from start to finish. Especially later on in the book, when Dallaire's two most loyal men, Brent Beardsley and Luc Marchal, are forced to leave UNAMIR.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: After finding out that their family had been slaughtered, some of the RPF soldiers go on this against the Hutus.
  • Self-Harm: Dallaire was known to cut himself after his return.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Romeo Dallaire.
  • Slave to PR: The entire UN, and (surprising no one) the Clinton Administration.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Yes, France, try to to stop the genocide by launching an operation to support the genocidaires.
    • Of course, they were the only foreign combat mission with boots on the ground and succeeded in stopping the Genocide in the territory they deployed in. However, while it also prevented the RPF from pursuing the fleeing Hutus- including the Genocidaires-,the fact that the RPF's response to this was to more or less wage a war in the Eastern Congo, this might be less irresponsible than it seems.
  • Tragic Hero: Dallaire, oh so much.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Just about everybody. The UN, the national heads of state, the genocidaires, the RPF.... everybody. Even Dallaire has been accused of this.
  • Villain Ball: The Genocidaires. Had they not decided to wage genocide, they wouldn't have seen themselves reduced to hated, hunted, and despised escapees fleeing not only from a Rwandan government ruled by their longtime enemy, but also most of the world.


Example of: