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Lieutenant General Romeo Dallaire (born 1946) was the commander of the United Nations peace-keeping force sent to control the tensions between the ruling Hutu government and rebel Tutsi groups in Rwanda in 1994. A Canadian senator born in the Netherlands, Dallaire was assigned less than 2600 troops, but he considered his assignment--to see that the new Arusha Accords, which ended the recent Rwandan civil war, were implemented fairly--as routine. But when Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana was assassinated (his plane was shot down with the president of Burundi on board), the Hutu government blamed Tutsi extremists for the assassination. Hutus immediately began the systematic extermination of Tutsi followers.
Dallaire had sent 10 Belgian paracommandos to protect the new Rwandan Prime Minister, Madame Agathe Uwilingiyimana, but she and her husband--as well as the 10 Belgian soldiers--were captured by government forces and killed. Dallaire apparently knew where the Belgians were being held, but he refused to send an attack force to free them, fearing that battling the Rwandan government forces would "escalate" the situation. The remaining Belgian troops under his command--Dallaire's best soldiers--immediately evacuated. Dallaire felt betrayed:
"I stood there as the last Hercules left...and I thought that almost exactly fifty years to the day my father and my father-in-law had been fighting in Belgium to free the country from fascism, and there I was, abandoned by Belgian soldiers. So profoundly did I despise them for it...I found it inexcusable."
When Dallaire requested additional troops, he was denied, partly because of United States opposition. Instead, his force was reduced to 270 men. He used his few remaining troops to protect areas known to be populated by Tutsis, preventing
... attacks even while being outnumbered and outgunned. Dallaire's actions are credited with directly saving the lives of 32,000 persons of different races.
Dallaire later testified in an international tribunal concerning the Rwandan genocide in 2004. He has since refused to travel to Belgium, since the Belgian government stated that he would be indicted over the soldiers' deaths. Sufferning from posttraumatic stress, he attempted suicide in 2000. He became a Canadian senator in 2005.
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