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End the Use of Child Soldiers: Lecture by General Dallaire

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General Dallaire speaking to the attendees of his lecture.

General Dallaire speaking to the attendees of his lecture.

General Dallaire speaking to the attendees of his lecture.

Diana Rounaque and Britney Lopez

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On October 16, 2017, a number of sophomores, juniors, and seniors signed up to go on a field trip to Chapman University with Ms. Morris and Ms. Sharpe. The students attended a lecture by General Romeo Dallaire. General Dallaire spoke about his initiative to end the use of child soldiers in wars.

General Romeo Dallaire is a retired Canadian Senator and an Army Lieutenant. He is now a devoted humanitarian and an advocate for human rights. General Dallaire worked for the United Nations (UN) during the time of the genocide in Rwanda. His experience in Rwanda was moving; he painted the picture of himself looking into the eyes of a young child mixed in with the war effort in Rwanda and compared it to the eyes of his own son. He came to the realization that there was no difference, they were both children with eyes of purity and innocence.  General Dallaire now uses his past experiences from the Rwanda genocide to bring attention to the overall fight against the use of children in wars.

The lecture started off with General Dallaire’s background and his time serving during the Rwandan genocide. He failed to convince the United Nations to step in early enough to interfere with the genocide. The United Nations, alongside the rest of the world, neglected the genocide of the Tutsis by the Hutus. General Dallaire acknowledged that most of the killing was done by minors, children were forced into violence. This sparked the question that ran the rest of the lecture: “What makes some humans more human than others?” General Dallaire has made it his mission to campaign and speak against the use of children as weapons in wars. Today, many men in Rwanda walk freely despite their roles as child soldiers. General Dallaire explained that a child is abducted and used for the war effort when they are as young as nine years old, the cycle will continue on and another generation will be used after them. General Dallaire seeks to end this cycle and has begun the effort to do so by helping combat recruiters and building training programs for military and police.

The lecture exposed students to issues we were not fully aware of and put wars and acts of violence in perspective. Junior Summer N. sums up the experience as a “field trip [that] opened up [her] eyes to how people’s experiences stay with them for a long time and become something special for them in the long run.” 

For more information about General Dallaire and the work he has done, there are several award-winning books he has published, including Shake Hands with the Devil and his most recent work Waiting for First Light: My Ongoing Battle with PTSD. For people who prefer visuals over texts, his book, Shake Hands with the Devil, was turned into a film.

Overall, the fieldtrip was insightful and broadened our knowledge when it comes to how acts of violence truly play out. If the opportunity to attend a lecture by General Dallaire is provided again, or any lecture for that manner, we highly recommend attending.

An information slide from General Dallaire’s lecture.

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End the Use of Child Soldiers: Lecture by General Dallaire