Orion Reads
a diary of books etc.

Monday, April 11, 2005

We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families

By Philip Gourevitch, We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families is a collection of stories, interviews, news summaries and commentary about the 1994 Rwandan Genocide and its aftermath. Philip visited Rwanda many times during 1995-1998, and cultivated relationships with a variety of people, including the poor, near-heads of state, and relief workers. The movie Hotel Rwanda is based on a part of this book.


Rwanda contains two ethnicities, Hutus and Tutsis. The Tutsis have historically been the more economically well-off, and number about fifteen or twenty percent of the population. According to Gourevitch, the Hutus and Tutsis lived in harmony until European colonialism (Mainly from the Dutch) asserted its backward ways on the natives, notably subjugating the Hutus to the Tutsis. Thru much confusion since then, Hutu/Tutsi strife ended up in 1994 with the Hutus dominant and supported most notably by the French. In 1994, for reasons which remain unclear to me, the Hutus massacred about 800,000 Tutsis in just a couple months or less. The strange thing is that unlike Nazi Germany, the slaughter was carried out by a large percentage of the Hutu population itself, and was not even remotely secret. So you have perhaps 30% of the population as murderers, and undoubtedly more as abbetters.

Calls for international aide were famously ignored.

Finally the largely Tutsi army which had been training across the border was able to invade Rwanda and win. During this battle the French apparently directly helped the Hutu immensely.

After this war, hundreds of thousands of Hutus fled Rwanda to 'refugee camps' in Zaire and elsewhere. They fled for three reasons.

  1. They were Genocidaires (instrumental in the genocide) and feared Tutsi retribution.
  2. They were innocent Hutus (innocent = did not kill anyone in the genocide) but who feared Tutsi retribution.
  3. They were innocent Hutus directly threatened by the Genocidaires to flee, to provide a human shield and camoflage for the real instigators. (Threatening in this case, means the killing of one's family)
The international aid community unfortunately mangled its handling of these camps and basically behaved as if everyone in the camps were in category two: innocent Hutus. In fact, the camps were highly organized military camps actively importing weapons and continuing to carry out the slaughter of Tutsis and undesirable Hutus across the border in Rwanda. The humanitarian organizations in charge of the camps were aware of this, but continued behaving as if they weren't. The difficulty in closing the camps was that innocent Hutus *would* be killed by the Geonocidaires if they left the camp. The new Rwandan government promised a new, integrated society, and seems to have made as good as possible on that promise, but at the time, innocent Hutus could not know that, especially under the propoganda broadcast by the leaders of the Hutu Power.

Finally the Rwandan government could wait no longer for the international community to stop supporting in essence the continuation of the genocide, and moved militarily to close the camps.

This is where i lose the thread.

The camps were largely closed, but new ones kept being set up and humanitarian aid kept going horribly, horribly awry. Revolution in Zaire was involved, with Zaire emerging with a new government and its old name, The Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Philip Gourevitch: would a timeline have been too much to ask for ? Maybe a timeline with a channel for each of the major players in this story ?

At the close of the book, Rwanda is largely re-integrated, with many people living literally down the street from people whom they saw kill their family. The relative peace present in this situation is largely credited to the far-sightedness of the new Rwandan government.

The overall tone is hopefull for the next generation of Rwandansa and believes that all of Africa is finally shaking free of the lack of autonomy imposed by the old colonialism.

Gourevitch writes fairly well, altho i have to say Analogy and Parable is not quite his forte.
The book is stronger without his soft analysis.

All in all a fine book, highly informative and fairly well composed. I recommend.


Post a Comment

<< Home