U.N. Commander Who Tried to Stop Rwanda’s Genocide to Speak at USF

SAN FRANCISCO, CA (February 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 Theatre, 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.

Media interested in covering the March 7 talk, or interviewing Roméo Dallaire, please contact Anne-Marie Devine Tasto, USF’s senior director of Media Relations, at (415) 422.2697, or abdevine@usfca.edu.

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