Dallaire honoured with humanitarian award from U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
Published Wednesday, April 30, 2014 11:53PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, May 1, 2014 12:17AM EDT
Canadian senator and former UN Lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire was honoured Wednesday by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington for his efforts to save lives during the genocide in Rwanda two decades ago.
Dallaire, now a Canadian Senator, was conferred the museum’s highest honour, the Elie Wiesel Award, at a tribute dinner for “his valiant attempts to warn the world and prevent the 1994 Rwandan genocide,” according to a notice on the museum’s website.
Dallaire served as commander of the ill-fated UN peacekeeping mission to the African country prior to and during the 1994, and watched helplessly as mass killings took place.
“General Dallaire did his utmost to warn the United Nations of the potential outbreak of large-scale ethnic violence,” the museum said. “Even when his warnings went unheeded, he refused to give in to international apathy. He continually called for use of force, and although unable to stop the atrocities, he and his unit nevertheless managed to protect more than 30,000 lives.”
Dallaire has spoken publicly in the past about his struggle with depression and Post-Traumatic Stress disorder upon his return from Rwanda, where 800,000 people were killed over a 100-day period.
In an interview with CTV News' Paul Workman Wednesday, Dallaire called the award an “encouragement” but said collectively, “we failed” the victims of the genocide in Rwanda.
“There’s just no way of saying ‘I did the best I could,’ and carry on,” Dallaire said. “You can’t do that with 800,000 bodies floating around.”
Even with the passing of time, Dallaire said Rwanda still haunts him.
“Because you lived it, you still essentially can relive it,” he said. "There are mornings I wake up and I swear, I’m in the middle of the damn genocide.”
Appointed to the Senate in 2005, Dallaire continues to advocate for genocide prevention and for the eradication of child soldiers.
As a Senator, he has visited the troubled region of Darfur as a member of a special advisory team.
Dallaire was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2002. He has also received the inaugural Aegis Award for Genocide Prevention.
His book, entitled “Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda,” was awarded the Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction in 2004.
Named after a Jewish-American Nobel Peace Prize recipient, the Elie Wiesel Award recognizes prominent individuals who have “advanced the Museum’s vision of a world where people confront hatred, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity,” according to the museum’s website. It was established in 2011.