December 12, 2005
“I know there’s a God, because I actually shook hands with the devil,” said Lieutenant General Romeo Dallaire, who spoke at Lewis & Clark on November 18. He was speaking of a meeting he had with a Hutu extremist leader in Rwanda, but one imagines he could be referring to any number of demons he’s confronted since living through the Rwandan genocide of 1994. Posttraumatic stress disorder. Self-recrimination. Anger.
Dallaire was the commander of the United Nations’ Peacekeeping Mission to Rwanda at the time of the genocide. Thousands of ethnic majority Hutus murdered roughly 800,000 minority Tutsis during a 100-day killing spree—a humanitarian disaster that was largely ignored by the international community. Dallaire describes the nightmare in his book, Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda.
Dallaire’s visit to Lewis & Clark was chiefly due to the efforts of Michael Graham ’05, an international affairs major from Enterprise, Oregon, who is also deeply interested in Rwanda. During the summer of 2004, he traveled to Rwanda to make a documentary about the plight of children during the genocide and the country’s efforts toward reconciliation.
Prior to his trip, Graham sought support from the Associated Students of Lewis & Clark, the Student Academic Affairs Board (which provided funding for his Rwanda travel), the Chapel Office, and the Arts and Ideas series to invite Dallaire to campus.
“I read an interview with Dallaire that touched me, not only because of the scale of the tragedy that was allowed to take place in Rwanda, but because he decided to stay and try to stop it,” says Graham. “He assumed personal responsibility for what was happening while everyone else was trying to justify not doing anything. He failed to stop the genocide, but he knew what was right and acted accordingly.”
At the close of Dallaire’s visit, it was announced that the general had waived his speaker’s fee so that the money could go toward a scholarship to bring a Rwandan student to study at Lewis & Clark. (For more information, e-mail email@example.com.) And Graham received the College’s first award for humanitarian service—aptly named the Dallaire Award.