Roméo Dallaire will Receive Honorary Doctorate at event which is open to the public
SAN FRANCISCO (Feb. 22, 2016) – Roméo Dallaire, a United Nations Force Commander who disobeyed orders in an attempt to help stop the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, will speak on Mon., March 7 at 7 p.m. at the University of San Francisco’s Presentation Theater, located at 2350 Turk Street in San Francisco.
Dallaire’s talk, “The Courage to Do What is Right: From the Hell of Rwanda to the Plight of Syrian Refugees,” is free and open to the public.
While leading a 1993 United Nations peacekeeping mission in Rwanda, Dellaire became convinced that large-scale ethnic violence was imminent. He warned his superiors and pleaded for additional troops and ammunition, but instead, the U.N. ordered him to withdraw. Dellaire believed that leaving would be immoral, and he stayed in Rwanda with around 500 troops (from the original 2,600) to protect as many people as they could. That decision is credited with saving more than 30,000 lives.
“Roméo Dallaire is a humanitarian hero,” said Aaron Hahn Tapper, director of USF’s Swig Program in Jewish Studies and Social Justice, which is sponsoring the talk. “His courage and leadership have earned him admiration from around the globe. In a world where the challenges sometimes seem insurmountable, Dallaire reminds us that each of us has the capacity to help create a more just and humane world, and that one person can make a genuine difference.”
As feared, Hutu extremists did escalate their war against Tutsis and Hutu moderates. In 1994, some 800,000 Rwandans were slaughtered in little more than three months. A third of those killed were children, and many of the killers were child soldiers.
Dallaire describes his experience in two best-selling books: Shake Hands with the Devil – the Failure of Humanity in Rwanda, which laments the international community’s failure to stop the genocide, and They Fight Like Soldiers; They Die Like Children – the Global Quest to Eradicate the Use of Child Soldiers.
The former United Nations peacekeeper continues to suffer from severe post-traumatic stress disorder, and in 2000, he attempted suicide. Dallaire now spends part of his time raising awareness about the mental health issues faced by many veterans.
He also devotes himself to two organizations he founded: The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative, which works to end the use of child soldiers worldwide, and The Roméo Dallaire Foundation, which helps young people from underprivileged backgrounds develop leadership skills.
After Rwanda, Dallaire served as a Senator in Canada’s national government, representing the province of Quebec from 2005-2014.
For his humanitarian work and public service, Dallaire will be presented with an honorary doctoral degree at the event by USF President Paul J. Fitzgerald, S.J.
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In October 2002, the documentary The Last Just Man was released, which chronicles the Rwandan genocide and features interviews with Dallaire, Brent Beardsley, and others involved in the events that happened in Rwanda. It was directed by Steven Silver.
A documentary film, entitled Shake Hands with the Devil: The Journey of Roméo Dallaire, which was inspired by the book and shows Gen Dallaire’s return to Rwanda after ten years, was produced by the CBC, SRC and White Pine Pictures, and released in 2004. The film was nominated for two Sundance Film Festival Awards, winning the 2004 Sundance Film Festival Audience Award for World Cinema – Documentary and a nomination for Grand Jury Prize for World Cinema – Documentary. The film aired on CBC on January 31, 2005.
In 2004, PBS Frontline featured a documentary named The Ghosts of Rwanda. In an interview conducted for the documentary and recorded over the course of four days in October 2003, Dallaire said: “Rwanda will never ever leave me. It’s in the pores of my body. My soul is in those hills, my spirit is with the spirits of all those people who were slaughtered and killed that I know of, and many that I didn’t know….”
The 2004 film Hotel Rwanda featured a Canadian Forces colonel assigned to UN peacekeeping based on Dallaire, played by Nick Nolte. Dallaire is quoted as saying that neither the producer, nor Nolte himself, consulted with him before shooting the film. He said further that he did not agree with Nolte’s portrayal, but did think that the film was “okay.”
A Canadian dramatic feature film Shake Hands with the Devil adapted from Roméo Dallaire’s 2003 book and starring Roy Dupuis as Lieutenant-General Dallaire, started production in mid-June 2006, and was released on September 28, 2007. Dallaire participated in a press conference about the film held on June 2, 2006, in Montreal, a film for which he was being consulted. The film earned 12 Genie Award nominations and won one in the category Best Achievement in Music – Original Song for the song “Kaya” by Valanga Khoza and David Hirschfelder. In September 2007, Shake Hands With The Devil won the Emmy award for Outstanding Documentary with The Documentary Channel, who presented it on their channel.
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