People ask us how our European holidays are, and we have to keep explaining that actually, O is not on holidays; he is still working – remotely. He is constantly on the phone during the afternoons and evenings, due to the time difference and we have been trying to adjust the meal times to the Puerto Rican lunch breaks. When we were in Sweden and Brussels I was busy socialising (or being ill!) but in Spain I haven’t had too much to do…
Fortunately I had a very good book to read last week – Shake hands with the devil by Roméo Dallaire. The author was the commander of UNAMIR*, the UN Peace-keeping force in Rwanda during the genocide and he has written a detailed and very critical account of how the world was unable of stopping the slaughter in the small African country in 1993-94. I can highly recommend this book – because I believe that reading is not always about passing time with an entertaining book, I sometimes also want to learn something new. As Emma wrote last Friday about reading (my translation) “All knowledge is good knowledge, and if you don’t know that repulsiveness exists, you can’t do anything to remedy it“.
Shake hands with the devil is a very hard book to read, both because of the gruesome details but also the length of the book but it is so important to read about what happened in order for this kind of human disaster to never happen again. I hope that the more people who read this book, the more will push their countries to support UN-led interventions in these kinds of conflicts and not only when there are big oil interests or possible arms of mass destruction at stake!
Reading the account of the genocide is absolutely shocking in more ways than just the killing of almost one million Rwandans – the blatant racism of the Belgian UN-soldiers, the unwillingness of the United States’ government to intervene (one American civil servant called Roméo Dallaire during the genocide and explained that according to the estimates, it would take the lives of 85,000 Rwandans to justify risking one American soldier’s life!) and the frustration but also courage of the few UN-soldiers who were present in the country during those terrible 100 days in 1994.
I will finish off with Roméo Dallaire’s own words: No matter how idealistic the aim sounds, this new century must become the Century of Humanity, when we as human beings rise above race, creed, colour, religion and national self-interest and put the good of humanity above the good of our own tribe. For the sake of the children and of our future (last paragraph of the book).
Here is a link to a BBC Hard Talk-interview with Roméo Dallaire**
*) UNAMIR = United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda
**) I haven’t been able to see the full clip as the sound for some reason is not working properly on this Linux-laptop (did I mention how frustrating I find using Linux? Sorry all Linux-fans! Maybe it is just a setting that needs to be adjusted by somebody more clever than I!)
***) Photos are not from Rwanda, they are from Wadi Rum in Jordan