In this piercing memoir, Roméo Dallaire, retired general and former senator, bestselling author and one of the world's leading humanitarians, delves deep into his life since the Rwandan genocide.
At the heart of Waiting for First Light is a no-holds-barred self-portrait of a top political and military figure whose nights are invaded by despair, but who at first light faces the day with the renewed desire to make a difference in the world.
Roméo Dallaire, traumatized by witnessing genocide on an imponderable scale in Rwanda, reflects in these pages on the nature of PTSD and the impact of that deep wound on his life since 1994, and on how he motivates himself and others to humanitarian work despite his constant struggle. Though he had been a leader in peace and in war at all levels up to deputy commander of the Canadian Army, his PTSD led to his medical dismissal from the Canadian Forces in April 2000, a blow that almost killed him. But he crawled out of the hole he fell into after he had to take off the uniform, and he has been inspiring people to give their all to multiple missions ever since, from ending genocide to eradicating the use of child soldiers to revolutionizing officer training so that our soldiers can better deal with the muddy reality of modern conflict zones and to revolutionizing our thinking about the changing nature of conflict itself.
Compelling and original, Waiting for First Light is an emotional account of suffering, endurance, and the fight for a better world.
ROMÉO DALLAIRE is a retired lieutenant-general, retired Canadian senator, and celebrated humanitarian. In 1993, LGen Dallaire was appointed force commander for UNAMIR, where he bore witness to the Rwandan genocide. His Governor General's Literary Award-winning book, Shake Hands with the Devil, exposed the failures of the international community to stop that genocide. It has been turned into an Emmy Award-winning documentary as well as a feature film; it has also been entered into evidence in war crimes tribunals trying the perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide. Dallaire has received numerous honours and awards, including Officer of the Order of Canada in 2002 and the United Nations Association in Canada's Pearson Peace Medal in 2005. His second book, They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children, was also a national bestseller. Since his retirement, he has become an outspoken advocate for human rights, mental health and war-affected children. He founded the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative, an organization committed to progressively ending the use of child soldiers worldwide through a security sector approach.
JESSICA DEE HUMPHREYS is co-author of the acclaimed bestsellers Child Soldier: How Boys and Girls are Used in War and They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children.
Longlisted for the 2017 RBC Taylor Prize
“[A]n important look at the plight of returning soldiers. . . . Dallaire’s work adds to a growing understanding of the special challenges and traumas faced by peacekeepers. . . . While the average person might not be inclined to read clinical literature, Dallaire offers something more: an honest, firsthand account—and from a general, no less.” —National Post
“Dallaire reveals an intriguing oxymoron: a poetic general; a soulful warrior.” —The Globe and Mail
“[E]xtraordinary book. . . . There is light in Waiting for First Light.” —Carol Off, CBC
“The courage and intensity of [his] revelations are deeply personal and unsettling. . . . But there is much here . . . to inspire and nurture hope. . . . Dallaire’s book is an eloquent cautionary tale about what can happen if PTSD goes unaddressed for too long. . . . This is a valuable and rare look into the soul of one who suffers from PTSD. On this merit alone it will stand as an important read.” —The Globe and Mail
“[B]rutally revealing. . . . Dallaire’s raw and emotionally devastating new book lays bare his own inner torment. . . . He is not a man given easily to spilling his guts. He wonders if his graphic honesty, stripping away veils that have hidden two decades of pain, will inspire contempt for his perceived weakness. . . . But he had a powerful motive to start digging. Service and duty matter more than anything else to Dallaire, and he could see how a description of his post-Africa life—the story of the other hell—could help fellow sufferers. . . . If PTSD has had a face in Canada over the last twenty years, it is Roméo Dallaire’s. His life story, in effect, is a personal history of how Canada, and the modern world in general, has responded to PTSD.” —Maclean’s
“[A]n important petition for a greater understanding of our returning veterans.” —National Post
“A stirring account from a tragic mission that crystallizes the necessity of ensuring invisible injuries are treated with the requisite resources, attention and time as those that are physical in nature. Bravo Zulu, General Dallaire. Canada, and the international community, thanks you for your leadership.” —Scott Maxwell, Executive Director, Wounded Warriors Canada
“I was left reeling by this book, overcome by shock, dismay, amazement. I’ve never read anything about post-traumatic stress quite so stark, honest and graphic. Roméo Dallaire bares his soul to the world . . . it’s an act of stunning courage and a literary tour de force.” —Stephen Lewis
“Roméo Dallaire’s PTSD, stemming from his experiences and peacekeeping responsibilities during the horrific Rwandan genocide, has affected all aspects of his life for the past twenty years. With brutal honesty and characteristically unsparing of himself, he shows the reader how PTSD has caused unshakable guilt, perennial insomnia, persistent distress, complicated family difficulties and spiritual angst. Although this book is about pain, it is not about despair. It is a triumph. His understanding of human suffering at a very personal and intense level has propelled him into his current role as a champion for many important humanitarian causes such as the plight of child soldiers. By looking his demons in the eye and holding that gaze despite institutional ignorance and inaction, General Dallaire has transformed the Canadian military so that servicemen and women with PTSD may now acquire the treatment and support they need. This book is a compelling, evocative, educational and riveting inspiration to all of us.” —Matthew J. Friedman MD, PhD
Senior Adviser (and former Executive Director), National Center for PTSD, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Professor of Psychiatry and Pharmacology/Toxicology, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth
Praise for LGen. the Hon. Roméo Dallaire:
“He’s a great Canadian hero and a great human being recognized all over the world.” —Gurbir Sandhu, executive director of Calgary Centre for Global Community, Calgary Sun
“Roméo Dallaire is passionate about his project: the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldier Initiative. His goal is to end the use and recruitment of child soldiers around the world. He’s so dedicated to the effort, he resigned as a Senator to raise awareness. . . . Horton High students have been coming to hear Dallaire speak since 2010 and he’s having an effect on them. ‘Many of them leave saying this is one of their most memorable moments of high school—to hear such a great humanitarian speak,’ says Renata Verri, a History teacher at Horton High.” —Ray Bradshaw, Global News
“Through all your trials and sorrows, you have come to exemplify the greatest ideals to which we can aspire. You move us to come together and express our common humanity. . . . You have made us all more human, more feeling, more emotionally attached to people and situations half a world away. We know one thing––you will not quit––and this in itself is a reason for all of us to remain hopeful, to keep looking for reasons for optimism.” —Former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson, on the occasion of the presentation of the Pearson Peace Medal to Roméo Dallaire
“[Dallaire] is . . . a Canadian hero, embodying in his humanity, his pragmatism, his complete absence of racism and grandiosity and his passionate, dogged, global civility many of our country’s most cherished values. . . . Dallaire gives us something to believe in. That he has done so with his eyes and heart wide open to the worst our species has to offer is a monumental achievement.” —The Vancouver Sun