Shake Hands with the Devil (2007)

 

 

 

Director:     Roger Spottiswoode. 

Starring:     Roy Dupuis (General Romeo Dallaire),  Owen Sejake (Ghanian General Henry Anyidoho),  James Gallanders (Major Brent Beardsley),  Michel Mongeau (Luc Marchal),  Robert Lalonde (Gnral Maurice Baril),  John Sibi-Okumu (Booh-Booh),  Akin Omotoso (Paul Kagame),  Tom McCamus (Phil Lancaster),  John Matshikiza (President Habyarimana),  Jean-Hugues Anglade (Bernard Kouchner),  Strini Pillai (Bangladeshi Commander),  Craig Hourqueble (Willem),  Kenneth Khambula (Major Kamenzi),  Patrice Faye (Colonel Poncet),  Chris Thorne (American Ambassador),  Lena Slachmuijlder (Odette),  Philip Akin (Kofi Annan),  Amanda Alden (CNN Reporter),  Sarah Ashimwe (Angry Woman),  Raymond Awazi (Ghanaian Doctor),  Guy Benoni (Young Boy),  Karim Bineko (Stunt Lieutenant),  David Calderisi (Boutros Boutros-Ghali),  Jacqueline Donovan (Therapist),  Robert Fridjhon (Frank Claeys),  Daniel Janks (Troute),  Stephen Backingam (British Ambassador),  Odile Katesi Gakire (Agathe),  Craig Hourqueie (Willem / Robert),  Alexi Kamanzi (Jean-Pierre),  Intore Masamba (Marcel),  John Matchikiza (Habyarimana),  Remy Nasanga (Maggen),  Michel Ange Nzojibwami (Colonel Bagosora),  Chris Torne (Ambassador Rawson),  Deborah Kara Unger (Emma).

the failure of the west to stop the genocide in Rwanda

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie. 

Rwanda, Africa.  For centuries its ten million citizens viewed themselves as one people.  In 1916 Belgium colonized Rwanda, introducing a system of identity cards separating the majority of Hutus from the minority Tutsis.  The Tutsis were given preference in education, jobs and power.  In 1959, when Rwanda became independent, the Hutus rebelled and took over the government, exiling and killing Tutsis.  In 1990 a Tutsi-led, multi-ethnic rebel force invaded from Uganda.  French troops intervened.  The invasion ended when both sides signed a peace treaty.  In 1993 following the treaty the United Nations (UN) was sent to monitor the peace.  

General Romeo Dallaire is at the office of his psychiatrist talking to her about his mental problems.  (The former general suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD).

Flashback.  United Nations, New York.  Canadian General Dallaire is in charge of the peacekeeping operations in the UN assistance program to Rwanda. 

Rwanda.  November 1, 1993.  Dallaire stops along the road to take in a beautiful Rwandan landscape.  He is very impressed by the view.  On his personal staff in Rwanda is Major Brent Beardsley.  There are a dozen different countries that have troops in Rwanda.  He talks to the officers telling them about Rwanda.  It lies south of Uganda, west of Tanzania, north of Burundi and east of Zaire.  He explains that three years ago the rebel army invaded Rwanda and that army now controls the far northern part of the country.  Between the Rwanda army (mostly Hutus) and the rebels (mostly Tutsis) is a de-militarized zone (DMZ).  Their job is to monitor the situation, especially in the DMZ.  But, he cautions them, their weapons are for show.  They don't even have enough ammunition for target practice.  He adds that being a peace keeper is one of the toughest jobs in the world. 

Dallaire walks in the local open market place and asks a woman about the men wearing very brightly colored wigs.  She won't answer him.  But a young boy says that they are the militia (Interahamwe, a very violent group).  Later the general meets the female Prime Minister Agathe, a Hutu.  Because she is a moderate, she says she is hated by the Hutu hardliners.  Two years ago they tried to kill her.  Dallaire likes her. 

South of the DMZ.  The UN is shown the dead bodies of children.  Dallaire looks at the pictures of the dead bodies.  He asks who did this and the answer is the "rebels"?  They raped and murdered the children.  But the question is why would the Tutsis go all that way just to murder children?  (It's more like the murderers were the Interahamwe.)

North of the DMZ.  Dallaire speaks with the Tutsi leader of the rebel army (RPF), General Kagame, at his headquarters.  He tells Kagame that his troops have been accused of rape and murder.  Kagame denies his men were involved.  Kagame says that the Hutus are committing a lot of cease-fire violations.  They do this in order to stall the rebel army offensive.  He then warns Dallaire that "something terrible's coming."

December 23, 1993.  The government and the RPF negotiate at kilometer 64.  Major Kamenzi is the RPF chief negotiator, while Colonel Bagosora is the government chief negotiator.  The negotiations end and everyone leaves.

The RPF rebel troops arrive at their new headquarters near Kigali. 

Back to the present.  Dallaire complains to the psychiatrist that he keeps experiencing that he is back in Kigali again. 

Flashback.   Dallaire gives a toast to peace.  Colonel Bagosora says that the Tutsis don't want to share power.  Dallaire asks if the Hutu President Habyarimana is killed, is there a method to set up an heir.  News arrives that the Hutu extremists are hiding weapons all over Kigali, including the president's party headquarters.  There will be a slaughter of 1,000 Tutsis every twenty minutes.  To do something about the weapon chaches, Dallaire tells his men that they will raid three caches simultaneously.  And they must make sure that everyone knows about what they have done. 

Dallaire receives the news that his cache mission has been denied.  And more that that, he is required to tell the president about the caches.  Furthermore, they can't offer asylum to the informer that told them about the caches.  So Dallaire shows the pictures of the caches provided to the president.  The president says that this is very disturbing, while another man jumps and says it's all a bunch of lies.  On his way back from the meeting with the president, Dallaire sees a crowd abusing the dead bodies of two people.  He asks a person in the crowd about what is happening and is told that they caught a Tutsi and his wife trying to get out of the country.  (The bodies are probably those  of the UN informer and his wife.)

The plane carrying the Rwandan president as well as the president of Burundi crashes, killing all aboard.  Someone says that the person in charge in Rwanda will now be Prime Minister Agathe.  They laugh at the idea of a woman controlling the terrible situation facing the nation.  The UN tried to secure the crash site, but they were prevented from doing so by the Hutus.  Dallaire has a UN security escort sent to Agathe's house. 

J. R. Booh-Booh, Political head of UNAMIR.  Dallaire says that Madame Agathe is the legitimate head of the government of Rwanda.  But that remains to be seen.  Trucks pull up in a town.  Machete yielding thugs jump out of the truck and start dragging people out of their houses.  Some of the captives are killed, hacked up with machetes. 

The UN sends the message that the UN troops can only fire if fired upon.  In other words, they cannot prevent the slaughter.  Worse news comes that they must disarm immediately.  So the security escort at the Prime Minister's house has to lay down their weapons before the militia.  The disgusted man in charge says:  "You whites.  Who do you think you are?"  The black troops head into the house of the prime minister and kill her and her family.  This is all very distressing to Dallaire.  The militia seems to threaten Dallaire everywhere he goes.  He wants to see Colonel Basogora, but they won't let him pass the check point.  So Dallaire and Beardsley get out of their UN jeep and walk in to the compound to see Basogora.  That was a real act of bravery as the officer in charge constantly tells them to stop.  A jeep stops to pick them up and drive them to Bagosora.  As they pass by the buildings, Dallaire sees some of his men laying down on the ground.  It looks like they are dead.  He demands that the driver stop, but the driver refuses.  Dallaire learns that they are holding five of his men and they are being beaten. 

The false rumor among the Hutus is that the Belgians were the ones who knocked the presidential plane out of the sky.  The Hutus are killing everyone.  The city is in chaos.  Dallaire ties to negotiate with Colonel Basogora and has to do some bluffing because he can't really back it up with force.  Dallaire demands:  "I want to see my men!"   He is told they are at the Kigali hospital.  At the hospital he is told that the bodies are in the back behind the morgue.  He finds 10 bodies piled up so tightly it is hard to get a true body count.  He demands from the Hutus that they wash the bodies and treat them with respect.  Traveling around the hospital area Dallaire sees many dead bodies on the ground.  A local says that the Hutus took the Tutsis out of line and murdered them.  Dallaire is informed that hundreds of observers are missing.   

The UN holds a stadium.  Outside the gate hundreds of Tutsis and others clamor to be let in.  Dallaire tells the guards to let the people in.  They stream in and settle on the playing field.  In the country there are thousands of refugees.  Most of the moderate leaders are dead.  The situation for the UN is getting worse.  They are running low on supplies including water. 

There are a lot of refugees at the Hotel Des Mille Collines.  Outside the militia wait to kill any refugees they can get their hands on.  Dallaire talks to the militia telling them that the hotel and its occupants are under UN protection.  Dallaire tells his staff to get some more troops to the hotel.  For standing up to the murderous militia, one of the UN soldiers says:  "That's one brave son-of-a-bitch."

Dallaire learns that the French will be landing forces, followed by the Belgians.  But all they are going to do is to evacuate expatriates, mostly whites.  And once more it is reiterated that the UN troops can only use force in self-defense. 

Refugees swamp the U.S. Embassy.  The US people are leaving and can't even take their local staff.  The USA is not about to put troops in. 

April 9, 1994.  Dallaire visits the Polish Catholic Mission.  The Hutus forced the man in charge to tell the refugees that they would be safe at the church.  Then they invited the militia in to kill the refugees in the church.  Dallaire sees the church covered with bloody corpses of Tutsis.  Someone tells Dallaire:  "It's extermination, General!"  "Like the Jews" another says.  Dallaire is highly disturbed by the killings.  He muses out loud that "We could stop these killings."  The Belgians are to be withdrawn from Rwanda as soon as possible.  General Marchal comments:  "It's a disgraceful thing to do." 

Back to the present.  Dallaire imagines another UN soldier telling him that he (Dallaire) was court-martialed for the loss of his men.

Flashback.  Dallaire says good-bye to General Marchal.  Soon afterwards, the stadium is bombarded.  The stadium took a direct hit with 12 dead and 100 wounded. A cease-fire is to begin at 10 a.m. New York time.  Dallaire's jeep still gets fired upon.  10 a.m. arrives.  UN Secretary Boutros Boutros-Ghali calls to say that there is no cease-fire.  Dallaire tells the UN people that in Rwanda the UN forces are protecting 30,000 Rwandans.  They will be killed if the UN leaves.  He says do not order me to withdraw our force.  But that is precisely the order that Dallaire is given.  He responds:  "That's an order I will not obey!"

The UN lets Dallaire stay on but with a very reduced force.  And he is warned that there would be no cavalry coming over the hill to save him.  Dallaire lets many of the UN forces under him leave.  He is left behind with a force of less than 500.  They only have four days of supplies.  He says they stay to bear witness to what the rest of the world doesn't want to see. 

The head of the UN mission in Rwanda is packing up.  He is being sent to Nairobi.  All Dallaire can do is watch.  The general gives a ride to a blonde female reporter along with her small crew.  They see dead bodies being stacked upon each other in a truck.  A refugee woman slips on the blood covered road.  Dallaire asks the reporter to stay with them and report what's happening in Rwanda to the world.  The general's aide and friend Major Brent Beardsley is down with cerebral malaria and will have to be replaced. 

Dallaire speaks with the Tutsi general.  He tells him that people are dying in the refugee compounds.  But the general says that his forces have momentum, he can hardly stop that.  Dallaire insists and the general says all right.  They work out an arrangement so those people terribly fearful that they will be killed because they are in the wrong ethnic section can be moved to the other section.  But now Dallaire has to get the three leaders of the dreaded militia to agree.  That is not going to be easy.  Dallaire helps pick up dead bodies.  Later he helps move bodies out of the way of the UN convoy.  

Dallaire meets with the three militia leaders.  The first leader sticks out his hand.  Dallaire hesitates for a while.  He despises these leaders.  But he does shake the man's hand.  Then he shakes the hands of the other two leaders.  The leaders says they will cooperate, which is a big relief to Dallaire.  Outside, the militia people still threaten the UN people. Dallaire proceeds to the Des Mille Collines hotel.  The militia are not letting the refugee convoys through.  Dallaire has to go back and speak with the three militia leaders.  The UN general is disgusted when the leaders say there was some misunderstanding. 

Back to the present.  Dallaire says that he should have shot those three militia leaders:  "How many lives would I have saved if I had done that?"  He cuts his left thigh with several slices using a razor blade.  He says later that it made him feel better:  "It felt good.  It took away the pain."

Flashback.  The refugee convoy gets through.  Dallaire is pleased.  Dallaire asks the UN for reinforcements.  He wants to stop the genocide.  The UN says they will be sending some relief.  Dallaire's headquarters is shelled.  But the relief can't arrive before Monday.  Dallaire says:  "Do they know how many people are going to die before Monday?"  In the shelling almost all the vehicles were lost.  The report is that the rebels were the ones who fired the rounds. 

Dallaire hurries to a nearby hospital.  The report is that the militia has been shooting people running from the hospital being shelled.  A woman asks Dallaire:  "Where are you soldiers?"  Dallaire has to tell her that his soldiers are unarmed.  The woman shouts that he should give them guns.  Dallaire feels so frustrated by the situation that he takes off in one of the UN jeeps.  While driving he has terrible flashbacks of the various atrocities he has seen in Rwanda.  He drives to the beautiful scenic outlook point that he stopped at when he first came to Rwanda.  When he returns to headquarters he brings back three goats.  He tells those who ask that he needs something to stay alive here. 

The woman reporter tells Dallaire that it has been a month and none of the promised troops have arrived.  It's true, nothing has arrived.  The Americans are working overtime to make sure that the situation in Rwanda is not called genocide so that they won't be called upon to send forces.  The UK has been going along with the Americans.  Waiting for a convoy to appear on time, a Hutu militia gunman asks Dallaire if he is one of the Dallaire gang. He says that  if he ever sees Dallaire, he is going to kill him.  Dallaire tells him in French that he is Dallaire.  He holds out his right hand to the man.  The man hesitates, but then shakes hands.  He then walks away.  The convoy of trucks comes through. 

There are negotiations going on in Kagali.  France is considering intervention.  Dr. Bernard Kouchnet, the Emissary of the French government, comes to speak with Dallaire.  Dallaire speaks with the doctor, but he is very cynical about French motives.  He accuses the French of just wanting to hold on to some thread of authority in Rwanda so they can still call themselves the government of the country.  The negotiations take a turn for the worse.  Government troops fired on a Tutsi convoy, so the RPF rebel forces have arrested the entire government delegation.  Dallaire goes out to diffuse the situation. He says:  "This is my compound and I give the orders here."  He tells the Tutsis that nobody's being arrested here.  He then goes around telling the troops to calm down.  Kouchnet leaves telling Dallaire that he still needs his cooperation.  He wants his support when he speaks with Kagame.  Dallaire says:  "He (Kagame) hates the French.  He fought them three times."

Dallaire visits the Tutsi general.  He tells the leader that Dr. Kouchnet wants to talk with him.  O.k.  And he asks that the general not deploy his troops in Kagali.  O.K.  On his way back to his vehicle on the bridge over the stream, Dallaire sees something under the bridge.  He removes some of the boards of the bridge and discovers a great many burned dead bodies floating in the water. 

Back to the present.  Dallaire says:  "I couldn't bear it.  Until then I had been walking around with a protective screen.  I didn't look at it for a long time.  I was afraid it would push me over the edge."  But at the bridge he really saw it.  He really took it in.  He could see the pain and humiliation on the faces of the dead.  And now he sees their faces all the time. 

Flashback.  The rebel forces take Kigali.  This puts an end to the civil war and the genocide.  Aide starts pouring in.  Celebrities promise to give benefit concerts to raise money for Rwanda.  But now Dallaire can't stand the silence.  It is too loud, he says.  When his goats are threatened by marauding dogs he takes out his pistol and unloads it at the dogs.  Everyone looks at him as though he were crazy.  Later he admits that he is not good, not good at all.  He says that he needs to be relieved of his command.  Dallaire remembers back to the woman Prime Minister and her death.  He takes a handful of pills and washes them down with liquor.  He lays down to sleep. 

Back to the present.  A policeman finds Dallaire sleeping on a bench.  At the psychiatrist office Dallaire says:  "I failed.  When you fail it's done."  He remembers walking in a stream with dead bodies floating in front of and behind him.  He shouts to the psychiatrist:  "You have to keep me alive!  That's an order!"

454 UN troops stayed behind in Rwanda.  They helped save 32,000 Rwandans.  In 2005 Dallaire was appointed to the Canadian Senate.  He advocated against the use of child soldiers and for the prevention of genocide.

The film is dedicated to all victims of genocide, to the peace keepers and to those who protect the innocent.   

Paul Kagame now leads a government that is rebuilding Rwanda in a spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation. 

 

Good movie.  Roy Dupuis was really good as General Romeo Dallaire.  He was solid throughout.  The general was put in a very precarious situation.  He was the victim of the unwillingness of the western countries to stop genocide, even though they know the truth of the phrase "never again".  They pretend they are very concerned about worldwide justice and humanity and then they let genocide occur in numerous places: Uganda, Rwanda, Bosnia.  But poor Dallaire had to pay the price for the hypocrisy of the west.   Maybe Dallaire thought that the humanity and justice rhetoric was real and took it too much to heart.  If he had been more of a cynic (or a realist), he would have gone easier on him mentally.  In a sense, he gave a his life (at least his mental life) to the cause of fighting genocide. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.   

 
 

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