Roméo Dallaire: The ghosts of Rwanda
With more than 800,000 people slaughtered in 100 days the Rwandan genocide stands as one of the most horrific mass murders of the past century. In the middle of the horror was a Canadian peacekeeper whose efforts to avert the tragedy were thwarted by political apathy and incalculable evil. CBC Digital Archives looks back at this sad chapter in Africa's history and how Lt.-Gen. Roméo Dallaire managed to survive to become Canada's most famous casualty of war.
• The interview with Michael Enright was taped less than two months after his early retirement from the Canadian Army in April for medical reasons. It was also shortly before he was found drunk and nearly comatose in a park in Hull, Que.
• With his 36-year military career having come to an end, Dallaire was telling people that he felt like school was finally out and he was enjoying a much-delayed summer vacation. But behind the scenes he was coping with an array of problems, from violent outbursts brought on by his memories of Rwanda, to several suicide attempts.
• In this interview he opens up about his troubles with PTSD, explaining how he lost his self-control and discipline after returning home.
• He describes obsessively eating junk food and working long hours without sleep.
• "You spend a lot of time just crying, and yelling, and brooding," he says of his syndrome. "It envelopes you."
• He also admits to attempting to suicide at least twice -- adding that the only thing that stopped him from being successful was his own "incompetence." In addition to his attempt to crash his car on a highway he has also admitted to drunkenly trying to slash his wrists with a razorblade.
• To hear Dallaire discuss the ongoing impact of PTSD on himself and his soldiers, listen to this additional clip.
• A heavily medicated Dallaire began the long process of psychiatric therapy in 1997, which helped him deal with the misunderstood condition of PTSD.
• "Shell shock" or "battle fatigue" was first diagnosed by British military doctors in 1914. Some thought it was brain damage caused by artillery shells bursting overhead; others thought it was simply cowardice.
• Today, the same condition is called post-traumatic stress disorder: when a witness or victim of something distressing is mentally or physically affected by their ordeal.
• To learn more about the effects of PTSD, watch this clip, "Veterans and post-traumatic stress."
• A week after this interview Dallaire, haunted by his failure in Rwanda, spiralled into a deep depression. On the night of June 20 he was found partially clothed, drunk and unconscious under a park bench in Hull, Que.
• A man who was walking through Jacques Cartier Park told a reporter that Dallaire was sitting on the bench for a while staring at the river. "You could see his eyes were glazed over, like he was somewhere else."
• Suffering from a reaction between his anti-depressants and the alcohol, Dallaire was rushed to a hospital where he nearly fell into a coma. The incident gained national headlines and generated a debate over PTSD.
• Dallaire said the event convinced him to start writing Shake Hands With The Devil, which marked the first step on his road to recovery.
• The bond between Enright and Dallaire stretches back to the early days of the Rwandan genocide, when the two would talk live on CBC Radio's As It Happens. Dallaire later joked that he made the show's producer read out the latest hockey scores before he would grant his interviews.
• In Shake Hands With The Devil Dallaire wrote "in our conversations, Enright became the voice of home to me."
Program: This Morning Sunday
Broadcast Date: June 11, 2000
Guest(s): Roméo Dallaire
Host: Michael Enright
Last updated: July 6, 2012
Page consulted on September 10, 2014
All Clips from this Topic
Rwandan Canadians question why an alleged member of Rwanda's notorious...
Dallaire gives a first-hand account of the chaos in Rwanda's capital c...
An exploration of the complicated, and often bloody, history of Rwanda...
A look at the bloody fallout in Rwanda as the killings spread into the...
Peter Mansbridge hosts a townhall discussion about the future of Canad...
A shattered Dallaire returns from Rwanda and begins to share his memor...
A documentary look into how early warnings of violence in Rwanda were ...
A discussion of how the western media misinterpreted and misreported t...
An examination of the critical weeks and months leading up to the 1994...
An independent report slams the United Nation's failure to act during ...
A look at Dallaire's life and career before his fateful peacekeeping m...
Dallaire discusses his private struggle with demons, depression and po...
In a revealing letter to CBC Radio, Roméo Dallaire explains the events...
Dallaire describes the devastating effects of his PTSD to a conference...
Toronto artist Gertrude Kearns uses Dallaire's suffering as the basis ...
Dallaire's account of his time in Rwanda becomes a best-seller and hel...
Ten years later a Rwandan woman recalls how she managed to survive the...
Dallaire travels back to Africa to testify against his old foes at a s...
A news report looks at the ceremonies, and the emotions, on hand for t...
George Stroumboulopoulos sits down with Dallaire to talk about his exp...