Bibliophile: “Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda”

Cover of Dellaire's "Shake Hands with the Devil"by Lieutenant General Roméo Dellaire, with Major Brent Beardsley

Vintage Canada, 2003

“Could we have prevented the resumption of the civil war and the genocide? The short answer is yes.”

-Page 514, paragraph 2

Shake hands with the Devil was written by LGen. Dellaire nearly five years after he returned from Canada from his United Nations posting in Rwanda. Growing up in a military family with strong personal military aspirations, Dellaire describes his past and his formative experiences constructively and vividly. Reaching out, his personality and integrity envelops readers as they are drawn into the dark and murky world of the United Nation humanitarian efforts in Rwanda and the implicit difficulties within. Writing this biographical account, Dellaire had the assistance of several key people who had been involved in the Rwandan crisis in some capacity, whether on the ground or as an international observer. His personal accounts are from the same pages he wrote on during his time in Rwanda and the experiences retold speak of the harrowing nature of his mission and the horror he was a participant in. While many Canadians can still not find Rwanda on a map, the genocide of the mid to late 90’s is well known though not well understood. Dellaire’s actions and choices made in Rwanda still haunt him to this day and a debate continues to rage on whether or not those military figures that were put on the ground from the UN did all they could. Shake Hands with the Devil is a therapy of sorts for Dellaire, but also for those who stood up and supported him against his detractors when he returned to Canada. The dark side of humanitarian efforts, the human side, is one we often don’t see in the news. While this biographical account is riddled with acronyms and at times bogged with bureaucratic detail, the story is told as the events happened. Bureaucratic detail was what failed the mission, and the reader gets lost in the same feelings of helplessness and inefficiency as Dellaire himself felt. The intimate details of the Rwandan genocide are portrayed in here is a manner that pulls at the heart and the mind. A call for action by individuals is given, and after reading Dellaires accounts of the events, one cannot help but be moved and pulled to a greater humanitarian motive.

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