Philip Gourevitch. We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families Picador USA. 1998.
|Adam Kinzinger <AKnznger@AOL.COM>||Adam Kinzinger review of Gourevitch's "We Wish To Inform. . ."|
|Melanie Mcgowan <mkmcgow@ILSTU.EDU>||GOUREVITCH REVIEW|
|shelly spencer <sjspenc@ILSTU.EDU>||REVIEW ON GOUREVITCH|
|Ian Garrett <ijgarre@ILSTU.EDU>||Re: Review of "We wish to inform........|
|Laurie Hartzell <ogrb@YAHOO.COM>||We wish to inform you....|
|Laura Pranaitis <laprana@ILSTU.EDU>||Re: We wish to inform you....|
|Sharon Michele Skowron <smskowr@ILSTU.EDU>||Rwanda book review|
|allana michelle hennette <amhenne@ILSTU.EDU>||reply to laurie's rwanda paper|
|Josh Shea <jts_79@YAHOO.COM>||Re: response to sharon's Rwanda book review|
|Laura Pranaitis <laprana@ILSTU.EDU>||Review of|
|allana michelle hennette <amhenne@ILSTU.EDU>||gourevitch review|
|Date:||Mon, 24 Apr 2000 17:07:27 -0400 (EDT)|
|From:||Adam Kinzinger <AKnznger@AOL.COM>|
|Subject:||Adam Kinzinger review of Gourevitch's "We Wish To Inform. . ."|
On April 6, 1994, after the assassination of the centrist dictator in Rwanda, Juvenal Habyarimana, the extremist group known as Hutu Power, whose goal was to exterminate all Tutsis, took control of the government and began a campaign of ethnic cleansing. Friends, neighbors, clergy, and others began indiscriminately killing the nation's Tutsi population. Throughout the next 100 days over 800,000 Tutsi's were killed, mostly by machete, at a rate faster than the extermination of the Jewish populations in Germany under Hitler. What followed was a maze of war, negotiations, and fear that has come to characterize Rwanda. While the international community stood idly by, the future of Central Africa was determined.
Philip Gourevitch, a staff writer for THE NEW YORKER, embarked upon a series of trips to the embattled nation of Rwanda between 1995 and 1998, and interviewed survivors, political players, and implementers involved in the mass genocide of Tutsi's. The result is contained in his overwhelming powerful work: WE WISH TO INFORM YOU THAT TOMORROW WE WILL BE KILLED WITH OUR FAMILIES. This book provides a detailed account of the genocide in Rwanda throughout the early part of 1994, and the politics that played a role both before and after this scar in Africa's history. This writing is not for the faint at heart, early on the reader understands the graphic nature of this book. "(Speaking of the dead). . . skin stuck here and there over the bones, many of which lay scattered away from the bodies, dismembered by the killers, or by scavengers-birds, dogs, bugs." (15). Gourevitch withholds no detail from its pages, as he seeks to inform the uninformed about the tragedies that took place, and the details of the international communities inaction. Gourevitch provides a story through the stories of others, about struggle, healing, and racial politics; relating this situation to people everywhere. When reading about serious political situations, as this tragedy, one scarce expects to read a book that grips by the heartstrings, and keeps one interested in the reading through all hours of the night. It was one such late night reading sessions that it occurred to me that I was reading such a book.
Gourevitch explains that the struggle between Hutu and Tutsi's is not a struggle between two ancient tribal groups, as many would imagine. It was in Rwanda's colonial period that Belgium scientists applied racist Eugenics theories to distinguish between the two groups. Those who possessed smaller facial features were considered to be Tutsi (ancestors of Europeans), while those possessing more traditionally African features were labeled as Hutu. Throughout the past, both groups intermarried, and the distinguishing lines became less apparent. It was government issued identification, however, which shaped your politics, and race politics proceeded to shape the future of the nation. Race identification cards were handed out to members of the various groups, and some members of the Tutsi population bought their Hutu cards to allow for various advantages (including one of the Tutsi-bought-Hutu leaders of the Hutu Power).
Gourevitch is extremely critical of the perceived failures of the international community when dealing with this conflict. First of all, the international community steered clear of the genocide, and in fact even failed to label the genocide as such. With specific labels came specific obligations. Yet when the genocide was over and the Hutu's run from power, the international community was happy to assist in building refugee camps, which provided a community for exiled Hutu power genociders. What arose was guerilla attacks from those camps on the forces of the RPF (the revolutionary group of previous Tutsi refugees that eventually liberated Rwanda-and ultimately took over Zaire), the Tutsi's, or Hutu's favorable to the Tutsi population. Gourevitch seems almost to blame the international community for the survival of the Hutu power, and believes the international community exacerbated the problem by allowing for their reformation at UN sponsored refugee camps. Gourevitch also makes mention of the cable sent to the UN headquarters in New York by the Canadian commander of UNAMIR in Kigali, General Romeo Dallaire, detailing the planned genocide by the Hutu extremists on the Tutsi population. This cable included a request to attack and seize (at minimal causalities) various weapons storehouses. An attack which would have, in all likelihood, prevented the genocide on as large of a scale. The cable was ignored, and when the genocide began the UNAMIR withdrew. Gourevitch made sure to mention that the one responsible for this inaction was none other than the current Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan. Interestingly, the war in this part of Africa received little or no news attention, yet Gourevitch, perhaps correctly, points out that had a war occurred on this scale in Europe, it would have been labeled a world war. Somehow, however, this war escaped the attention of even the smallest news column. Interviewee after interviewee expressed the feelings that the western world simply does not care, because the western world has little strategic interest in the area. Remember though, the western world had no strategic interest in Somalia, and American blood was shed there.
Gourevitch was correct in blaming the international community for its failure to preempt the attack in Rwanda. Yet he seems to blame the international community for failing to get involved during the war. It is the shear confusion of this conflict that made part of this well-written book confusing to me, so it would necessarily follow that military involvement would be just as confusing. Preemptive action most would support, but direct involvement would be far from prudent, and would likely result in an unsuccessful ending (such as happened in Somalia the year previous). Of course, having the benefit of hindsight shows that situations like Rwanda (i.e. Kosovo) provide added evidence that confusing civil conflicts do not work out with clean endings. Gourevitch cannot be blamed for his conclusion on international involvement, but hindsight can criticize.
It is not the blame game that Gourevitch performs best in this book, it is his ability to make the tragedy real and personal to the reader. The otherwise faceless victims now come alive to embody people we know, and the humanity of the situation now becomes ghastly real. The sight, the smell, and the sounds can all be experienced as closely as possible without the actual presence of the reader. He or she also gets a feeling that Gourevitch is a confidant in the upper echelon of command in the armies involved. He has interviewed the presidents, leaders, and other important players, of this genocide and the following violence. The candidness that the interviewees speak with is especially complimentary of Gourevitch's ability to relate to all people, adding credibility to his writing.
One must keep in mind, that Gourevitch is presenting only one side to a complicated story. While there is no reason to believe that the situation is contrary to how Gourevitch presents it (he is quick to criticize all sides) one must be careful to look cautiously at the information presented, especially since his book is consistent of interviews with his interpretation. Any good scientist would test his theories attempting to disprove his conclusions. If however, the facts are as Gourevitch presented them, citizens of all western nations should begin asking their leaders some questions.
Gourevitch's writing style is colorful, and interesting. Almost never did I find myself confused as to what the author was saying, though the complicated nature of the conflict provided some confusion, out of the control of the author. Upon the book's conclusion, the reader feels as if he or she was present with the author during his interviews, and could relate personally to the situations. Sadly, it takes over 350 pages to inform the reader of a situation that should have received the attention of the world press as it happened. Regardless, after reading the book I could not help but feel that the United States and Europe did not live up to its commitment to protect. I could not help but despise the French leadership, who helped the Hutu Power for political and economic advantage. This book should live on the shelves of leaders forever, and should provide a warning to politicians and citizens that early inaction leads to dire consequences. In other words, practice what you preach. ·
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|Date:||Tue, 02 May 2000 11:22:25 -0500|
|From:||Melanie Mcgowan <mkmcgow@ILSTU.EDU>|
Philip Gourevitch takes on the daunting task of trying to understand and explain why the 1994 genocide in Rwanda had occurred. In We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families, Gourevich combines historical facts of previous conflicts between the Hutus and the Tutsis with survivor accounts of the massacre, and direct interviews with those accused of perpetrating the massacre to give a well rounded account of the genocide. The book is extremely well written, with many insights from Gourevich into the dark side of human nature. Gourevich presents a compelling account of the genocide and the political factors that lead up to the genocide, and allowed it go on under the nose of the international community. Gourevich recognizes that one should question why they chose to read this book, as well as question why he chose to write about the genocide. He writes, "The best reason I have come up with for looking closely into Rwanda's stories is that ignoring them makes me even more uncomfortable about existence and my place in it. The horror, as horror, interests me only so far as a precise memory of the offense is necessary to understand its legacy."(Gourevitch p.19). Like the beauty of the writing in contrast to the subject matter, the same can be said of Rwanda itself. Gourevich asks a local if people in Rwanda realize what a beautiful country they have. The man responded, "Beautiful= ?
You think so? After what happened here? The people aren't good. If the people were good, the country might be OK. The country is empty, empty!"(Gourevitch p.20). There is plenty of evidence to support the local's claim. Any beauty in Rwanda is surely only on the surface. The atrocities that occurred in Rwanda, the genocide in 1994, and the previous acts of systematic violence illustrate this point. The history of political violence between the Hutus and the Tutsis began in 1959 after the end of Belgian's colonial rule. Relations between the tribes had long been strained, much of the strain due to the fact that the Belgians favored the Tutsis, and put them in positions of power over the Hutus. After independence, the power shifted, and the Hutus held the political power in Rwanda. This began the periodic systematic violence against the Tutsis, which resulted in thousands of Tutsis being exiled, and eventually to the 1994 genocide. (Gourevitch p.59). The event that is said to have started the genocide was the assassination of Hutu president, Habyarimana, however, for months prior to the assassination, militias had been arming themselves, and newspapers and Radio Des Milles Collines had been spreading propaganda encouraging the extermination of "t= he Tutsi cockroach." The Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), an army of exiled Tutsis living in Uganda had been blamed for the assassination, and this was used as justification for the murders. Evidence, however, points to Hutu extremist as the assassins.(Gourevitch p.113). The massacre that then followed was unimaginable. Gourevich writes, "Take the best estimate: eight hundred thousand killed in a hundred days. That'= s three hundred and thirty three and a third murders an hour-or five and a half-lives terminated every minute. Consider that most of these killings actually occurred in the first three or four weeks, and add to the death toll the uncounted legions who were maimed but did not die of their wounds, and the systematic and serial rape of Tutsi women=85"(Gourevich p.133). What makes the genocide even more shocking was that in many cases, the victims knew their attackers. They were their neighbors, their teachers, and in some cases, their husbands. One of the survivors that Gourevich interviewed, Odette Gisenyi told the story of how her children had been spared by a member of the Interahamwe (the youth militia). The young man recognized the children from their neighborhood and told the other members of the Interahamwe that they were to stop killing children. This was what appeared to be a rare moment of compassion from the Hutu militia, and the children were allowed to pass. Odette felt no compassion for the man who spared her children. His other crimes had been too great. She stated, "Even this Mr. Rutaganda, who saved my children should be hanged in a public place, and I will go there."(Gourevitch p.131). Odette and her family members were fortunate enough to have found refuge in what was one of the only safe places in Rwanda. At the Hotel des Mille Collines. Many Tutsis were kept safe their by the manager of the hotel, Paul Rusesabagina. In exchange for the Hutu leaders leaving the hotel alone, Rusesabagina gave them alcohol. Gourevitch gives the following description of Rusesabagina, "Paul is a mild mannered man, sturdily built and rather ordinary-looking-a bourgeois hotel manager, after all- and that is how he seemed to regard himself as well, as an ordinary person who did nothing extraordinary in refusing to cave in to the insanity that swirled around him."(Gourevich p.127). Although Paul may not have seen what he did as heroic, he still saved many lives. Something that almost everyone else was unable or unwilling to do.
Of those unwilling to do anything, we have the United States, the United Nations, and most of the international community. Among those who did help out, we have France, who helped the perpetrators of the genocide. Gourevitch quotes French Sergeant Major Thierry Prungnaud on Frances' ill-informed assistance of the Hutus, "This is not what we were lead to believe. We were told that Tutsis were killing Hutus. We thought the Hutus were the good guys and the victims." Gourevitch goes on to say, "But individual discomfort aside, the single achievement of Operation Turquoise (Frances rescue mission) was to permit the slaughter of Tutsis to continue for an extra month, and to secure safe passage for the genocidal command to cross, with a lot of it's weaponry, into Zaire. (Gourevitch p.161). But as guilty as France was in their actions, the United States was just as guilty for failure to act. The United States was at first reluctant to call the massacre in Rwanda a genocide. This is because they would have been required by the Geneva Convention to take action. When it became obvious that what had occurred was undisputedly genocide, Washington dodged responsibility by playing with the words. Gourevitch writes, "Clinton's brain trust then produced an inventive new reading of the Geneva Convention. Instead of obliging signatory states to prevent genocide, the White House determined, the Convention merely "enables" such preventative action. This was Rubbish of course, but by neutering the word "genocide" the new spin allowed American officials to use it without anxiety."(Gourevitch p.154). In the years following the genocide, both Madeline Albright and President Clinton have traveled to Rwanda made public apologies to the people for not acting and taking so long in admitting that it was a genocide. While it is unusual for politicians to admit that they had made such serious mistakes, Gourevitch states that the promise of "never again" meant little to the people of Rwanda.
The RPF had installed a new government, as many as sixty thousand Hutus had been imprisoned awaiting trials for crimes against humanity, still the violence continued. Many Hutus fled the country for refugee camps, while thousands of exiled Tutsi returned from other African nations, as well as Europe and the United States. "Nine months after the RPF liberated Kilgali, more than seven hundred and fifty thousand former Tutsi exiles (and almost a million cows) had moved back to Rwanda-nearly a one to one replacement of the dead."(Gourevitch p.230). This has proved to be troublesome to the survivors of the genocide, who have not been taken care of by the new government and feel like outsiders in their own country. They are even accused of being Hutu collaborators based on the fact that they survived. (Gourevitch p.233).
In the aftermath of the genocide, Rwanda remains a very troubled nation, where the potential for another genocide or civil war seems always to be lurking. Gourevitch ends his book with the story of a group of schoolgirls who in 1997, three years after the genocide were told to separate themselves into Tutsis and Hutus. The girls refused, and many of them were beaten or shot. Gourevitch gives the following as the conclusion; "Rwandans have no need-no room in their corpse-crowded imaginations-for more martyrs. None of us does.
But mightn't we all take some courage from the example of those brave Hutu girls who could have chosen to live, but chose instead to call themselves Rwandans?"(Gourevitch p. 353). Gourevitch wrote this book because he said that it was necessary for him to understand humanity and his place in it. The story he uses to close the book leaves a pessimistic view of that humanity. While the little girls are praised as martyrs, they were still little girls murdered in a country that cannot seem to learn from it's past mistakes, in a world that still chooses to look the other way. ·
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|Date:||Mon, 24 Apr 2000 21:08:54 -0500|
|From:||shelly spencer <sjspenc@ILSTU.EDU>|
|Subject:||REVIEW ON GOUREVITCH|
Review on: We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families Stories From Rwanda, by Philip Gourevitch
Review by: Shelly J. Spencer
This book is a well-written history lesson full of vivid accounts of the genocide that occurred in Rwanda just a few short years a go. As you read the different accounts of mass murder; of genocide the air around you becomes stifling. Rwanda=92s population is comprised of 84% Hutu, 15% Tutsis and 1%Twa. Neither the Hutu nor the Tutsis are indigenous people of Rwanda. Both groups speak the same language and had the same religion. They intermarried and intermingled and they did not have territorial distinction. They were ruled under the same Mwami (Chief) who was at time Hutu and at other times Tutsis. The only noticeable difference was Hutu people were typically cultivators and the Tutsis people were typically=20 herdsmen.
Since, cattle are a more valuable commodity then cultivated products the Tutsis gained political and economic power at a greater rate than the majority of the Hutu. Then when the European Countries, mainly Germany and Belgium, colonized in Rwanda they further perpetuated the inequalities between the Hutu and Tutsis by formulating a race theory that suggested the Tutsis had a biblical supremacy since the came from the north. The Tutsis kept their political and economic power during the colonization and the power continued for sometime after decolonization. By the time the balance of power had shifted to the Hutu the Hutu harbored a lot of resentment towards the Tutsis. The Hutu blamed them for their misfortune.
In knowing that the two groups of people identified themselves as the same people until some outsider came in and pointed out superficial differences and caused greater inequalities within the people. We Know how emphasizing those differences caused such a hostile environment. I hope that we, Americans, will now learn no to STOP harboring and maintaining such feelings of animosity towards other people, further accentuate our sameness and promote equality for all.
O.J. Simpson trail, the assassination of President Kennedy, the death of Lady Diana, and the death of Mother Teresa and today the custody of Elian the media was there, the coverage was over whelming. Over the past Easter weekend at any given time you could have found at least 3 to 5 channel=92s on television giving America the play by play of Elian=92s destiny. We have heard statements form the government; we have heard the story of both sides of his family; yet when hundreds of thousands of lives are being taken there is indifference by the media and the government. They did not bombard the American people with the injustice that was happening in Rwanda. I do not think enough people know of the atrocities that occurred in Rwanda and I believe that if the media would have been more informative that there would have been a public out cry to assist the Tutsis in surviving. I hope many people have a chance to read this book because I belive it will stop the indifference when it comes to since less mass killings.
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|Date:||Wed, 26 Apr 2000 20:51:47 -0700|
|From:||Ian Garrett <ijgarre@ILSTU.EDU>|
|Subject:||Re: Review of "We wish to inform........|
It truly is a stunning account that this book shows, with vivid and lifelike detail of the massacre that ocuured in Rwanda a few years back. My issue is not with the Rwanda, but with our lovely "super" power we call the United States. A country that is theoretically based upon the will and voice of the "common person" cannot justify why they do not make stronger attempts to curtail such a problem, or even look into them? That's BS........ We are looked at as that beacon of hope to developing countries that deal with issues such as this every day. Of course, this issue is not just a Rwandan case, nearly all African countries have issues involving civil unrest and political and militarical terror over cultural, linguistic, or religious differences. Damn, that sounds like America doesn't it?
What boggles me is the amount of ignorance the world community has toward Africa as a whole. Aside from colonialist countries as well as us stripping mother Africa of its resources that we all have come to love (oil, coal, diamonds, etc) it is a continent that is being torn apart in every way by such political and cultural issues and the developed countries' lack of citing a national interest to help solve the problem. Our foreign policy system is too damn REactive, instead of PROactive to the numerous genocides that occur worldwide. Human lives, are lives, but we as a whole we seem to tend to ignore it because these are Africans. WE have no problem attacking Eastern European nations in the sake of freedom and justice--(beacuse it's in our national interests---HA) In places that the U.S. feels it should step in, we go after the criminals and push for the most stringent prosecutions the tribunal can hand down, but what about THESE killers----we let them go, we ignore it......
Granted, you can't get everyone, but without trying to create a sense of justice and fairness by prosecting the bad guy no one will ever trust the system.(Good thing they got at least 1--the preacher) We CAN help some of these nations, but we don't try to. Why? It's not in our moral interests either. I get a feeling it never will be....
I try to make as few racially biased comments as possible with relation to color of skin determining the issues and problems of society. Of course it's evident, and of course people are discriminated because of it. I also seem to have trouble understanding why the U.S, as well as other developed nations do not even TRY to make any assembalce of peace negotiations or mediation in these war torn countries in which people of color are constantly fighting each other. Is this our "Let em' die---then go visit" policy? We only care after everyone is dead. Then we can go to the airport, make a quick apology, and get the hell out.
I guess it is difficult to create any kind of order in places where there is almost an irreversible conflict of racial and ethnic problems plaging the people that live there----No wait, that's America........
It's evident that something should be done to help in the betterment of the lives of the people that live in Rwanda and the like. I don't necessarily know what exactly we should do, but we sure as hell CAN do something, because not trying is the same as failing. But that's something we've all gotten real good at over time.
The Man in the Mirror...(IG) ·
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|Date:||Mon, 01 May 2000 14:34:53 -0700|
|From:||Laurie Hartzell <ogrb@YAHOO.COM>|
|Subject:||We wish to inform you....|
Like the unexplainable desire to stare at a tragic automobile accident, Gourevitch plays on the reader’s curiosity of the morbid and deplorable side of human nature. Reading this journalistic account of a political terror, the reader is inevitably consumed by questions regarding the darkness of humanity, mass manipulations of reality, the limits of forgiveness, and the seemingly miraculous survival of human spirit. We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families is a phenomenal and frightening account of the makings of genocide, bringing the heart of the reader deep into the heart of central Africa by introducing the most intimate tales of manipulation, murder, and neglect from the outside world. Through the collage of racial and political history, as well as the riveting tales of ordinary Rwandans, Gourevitch provides an objective and painfully consuming account of the fastest mass murder since the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.
Cradled by the borders of Uganda, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda bears the scars of Colonialism in much the same way as her neighbors. Previous to the rule of Mwamikigeri Rwambugiri, Tutsis and Hutus spoke the same language, followed the same religion, intermarried, and lived among the same social and political cultures. The rule of Rwamburi brought with it a stratification, which deemed the Tutsis as aristocrats, and the Hutus as vassals. While this feudal system did manage to construct differences between the two groups, the distinction between Hutus and Tutsis was far from clear. Upon the arrival of Europeans at the end of the 19th century, “race science” was introduced to Rwanda. John Speke, a man who disturbingly enough refers to himself as an anthropologist, proposed the idea that Tutsis’ taller, sharper features indicated their Ethiopian ancestry and thus descended from the biblical King David. This group was considered to be Caucasoid and thus superior to the Hutus who were assumed descendents of Negroids. This theory, which is referred to as the Hamitic myth, is largely responsible for the personal identities of Rwandans.
Gourevitch states, “Colonialization is violence, and there are many ways to carry out that violence” (p.55). The repercussions of Belgian control and exploitation of Rwanda is most dramatically seen in their intentional construction of two separate races. The Belgians not only assigned “measurements” to the physical differences between these two groups, in 1933-34, they began issuing ethnic identity cards, labeling every Rwandan as either Hutu or Tutsi. Rwanda was granted independence from the treacherous powers of Belgium in 1962. Just prior to this move, Rwanda was declared a Republic with Hutu leaders. Even ignoring the obvious problems of imposed political conversion, and the instability of newly independent nations, the UN commission reported that the revolution simply replaced one type of oppressive regime with another” and that “Someday we will witness violent reactions on the part of the Tutsis” (p.61). Gourevitch is not shy in his condemnation of the Carelessness and destructiveness of the Belgians, and states “Whatever Hutu and Tutsi identity may have stood for in the pre-colonial state no longer mattered; the Belgians had made ‘ethnicity’ the defining feature of Rwandan existence” (p.57). In October of 1990, The Rwandese Patriotic Front invaded Northeastern Rwanda. This army was largely comprised of Tutsi refugees who had fled the country during the last 40 years of Hutu-rule. The invasion, and subsequent threat to the Hutu-power was used as justification for the mass murder that would eventually bleed through the country. Because all Tutsis were considered to be RPF accomplices, the Hutus of Rwanda were instructed to exterminate this opposition. It was not until 1994 that the killing reached such intense speed and ferocity to exterminate entire communities. The tool of media proved powerful in the attempt to persuade the entire Hutu Majority to kill everyone in the Tutsi minority. The newspaper “Wake it Up” featured articles such as “The Hutu ten Commandments” which identified Tutsis as the collective enemy of the Hutu people. The use of public radio and press helped to disseminate the idea that every Hutu was a part of the power, and every Tutsi was an enemy, a “cockroach”, and under no circumstances should they be protected.
Gourevitch builds on this mass perception, saying “Genocide, after all, is an exercise in community building” (p. 95). The Rwandan leaders managed to create an environment where the Tutsis felt not only justified in murdering their Tutsi wives, neighbors and friends, in the name of self-protection, they felt guilty if they did not participate. With this manipulated reality on their side, 800,000 Tutsis were murdered over three months. 800,000 lovers, mothers, brothers, best friends, grade school teachers, grandparents, and neighbors were murdered by civilians, just for being “Tutsi”. An equally troubling factor of the genocide in Rwanda was the complete lack of support from the international community. The Belgium forces that were sent into Rwanda were only allowed to act in self-defense, thus watching hundreds of people slain with machetes in front of their faces, yet incapable of acting on this. The United States and the UN refused to label the situation as”genocide”, because calling it like it is would have actually required military intervention on our part. Instead we referred to the situation as “Ethnic Conflict” or “tribal warfare”. In May of 1994, The UN Security Council did agree to send 6,800 soldiers, yet they were never even sent. A great deal of the humanitarian aid that was sent to refugees served to keep alive the genocidaires themselves, and simply aided their plans of exterminated all Tutsis. Gourevitch was careful to note though “to embrace the idea that the civil war was a free-for all- in which everyone is at once equally legitimate and equally illegitimate- is to ally oneself with Hutu Power’s ideology of genocide as self-defense” (p.183). So we see that the Hutu majority was somehow compelled to kill their fellow Rwandans, based on the simple identity of “Tutsi”. Richard Payne’s Getting Beyond Race calls attention to the fact that race is a social construction. The differences among fellow human beings that we have come to identify, as “Race” is something that does not even exist outside of the realm of constructed perceptions. John Speke set about to measure, and to scientifically identify differences between people that historians once said could not properly be considered separate ethnic groups.
This book tells of construction of Hutu and Tutsi identity. The story makes a very strong argument for the fact that social construction may be nothing more than twisted vision of reality, but that reality is still capable of motivating people to hate, to torture, and to kill fellow human beings. While the story of Rwanda may seem so intense, and even far away from our quaint little lives in central Illinois, let us not forget the realities of our own lives. Not more than 45 minutes from ISU resides a group of very frightening folks called the Church of the Creator, led by none other than the local-icon Matt Hale. Matt and his weak-minded followers may live in a drastically different physical environment than those of Rwanda, but their ideals are not so different. The church of the Creator would love to see the extermination of all Americans who are not white, who are Christian, Jewish, Catholic, even those who have ever dated someone of another race. So while the atrocities that have occurred in Rwanda may seem so distant, Benjamin Smith (a member of Hale’s church who went on a shooting spree this past summer) has proven to all of us that social construction can be a very powerful tool.
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|Date:||Tue, 02 May 2000 17:14:56 -0500|
|From:||Laura Pranaitis <laprana@ILSTU.EDU>|
|Subject:||Re: We wish to inform you....|
Laurie Hartzell does an excellent job of describing and summarizing Gourevitch's "We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families." She paints a very vivid picture of the genocide in Rwanda, explaining the history of the Hutus and Tutsis and what led up to the massacres. She did an excellent job of analyzing the actions of the outside forces who were (or in many cases were not) involved in the genocide, explaining that the Belgian and UN forces sent into Rwanda were basically powerless, not able to do much of anything to stop or prevent the killings.
The best part about the review, however, is the way Laurie localizes the genocide, making it clear that with hate groups and people like Matt Hale roaming around, it is quite possible that something like this could happen in the U.S. It is these groups, like the Church of the Creator, that are threatening society with their messages of hate and separation among the races. It may seem impossible to think of a genocide occurring right here in our own country. But I'm sure the Rwandans weren't expecting one, either. ·
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|Date:||Mon, 24 Apr 2000 18:42:20 -0500|
|From:||Sharon Michele Skowron <smskowr@ILSTU.EDU>|
|Subject:||Rwanda book review|
In April of 1994, one of most significant and unnecessary cases of genocide was committed. The government of Rwanda, ruled by the Hutu majority party called on the entire population to murder the Tutsi minorities who inhabit Rwanda. Approximately 800,000 Tutsi’s were murdered in time period of two months. The analysis of how a country not only allows this to occur, but promotes torture and murder of an entire ethnic population that are also the murders’ neighbors, friends, students, patients, priests, and sometimes families is the most crucial aspect of this horrific tragedy. The questions of how the government is composed and run, the state of the economy, and levels of education in a country that could create a situation for such a successful, for lack of a better word, genocide would seem to be the most apparent to analyze. However, the overall moral or most important area of analysis should actually be of humanity itself. The fact that the majority of the people followed these orders and to the extreme levels that these acts were carried out, is the more important area to study.
Rwanda is approximately the size of Vermont with two cultures that inhabit this small area of land. In 1994, when the genocide was enacted by the government, the Hutus composed 85% of the population. For a variety of illegitimate reasons, the Hutus felt that the land belonged to them and the entire Tutsi population must be eliminated. Both groups had inhabited the land for centuries. However, the Hutus believe that since the origin of the Tutsi’s was from Ethiopia, the land belonged to them. However, it is important to note that, at that time, the two groups lived and coincided in on the land peacefully. The Europeans who had control over Rwanda were actually the group that divided the Hutus and Tutsi’s by what were the most obvious physical differences. To most, there are no obvious physical differences. However, some records show that the Hutus, that were primarily farmers were more round in shape, had wider noses, and courser hair. While the Tutsis seemed thinner, had longer noses, and straight hair. These differences are certainly no more than exist within the same families for some. And, looking to try to understand the history and culture of both these groups might seem like the logical method to understand how a government could enforce such an inhumane act on their own people. Although, many cases of opposing groups co-existing in history have resulted in turmoil or war. The case of Rwanda is different. It cannot be defined as a civil war because two groups are not fighting over an idea or difference of opinion. In fact the Tutsi minority was not fighting at all. The Hutu majority, and this referring to all that belong to this ethnic identity, not specific to a group of militia, followed these orders and carried them out to the most grueling and torturous methods of death on the Tutsi people.
Questions of humanity and how a government can mobilize a group of its people to murder every person in another group seems too animalistic and horrific to be factual. Certainly, the Holocaust is a similar situation. The main differences between them seem to be that Hitler had been an effective ruler and convincing leader to Germany because of the current, poor and unstable condition that the country was in. Germany needed a leader to take control and initially his plans seemed logical to the German people and so he gained support. Soldiers carried out the mass extinction of the Jews. This situation, raises the question, “How did one man mobilize the Germans to comply and commit such crimes?” In the case of Rwanda, there wasn’t even a Hitler! President Habaryimana was not the sole person responsible for “brain washing” the Hutus. This mind-set was the over ruling viewpoint for years and years of most of the Hutus. Torture, beatings, raping, and expelling Tutsi students had been in existence for decades. Soldiers for the government did not carry out these acts. Teachers murdered their students, doctors murdered their patients, neighbors killed neighbors, priests killed and raped, mixed families were instructed to kill their own children or spouses. The state of affairs in Rwanda came to a head in 1994. But, this underlying hatred or lack of morality could not simply evolve overnight.
The issue of lack of attention by the United Nations and neighboring countries is another serious issue for analysis. After World War II, a contract was signed by the United Nations to never let another genocidal situation occur. Where were all of these countries to assist or give aid? How could the French have been supporting the Hutu majority? How could there such cruellness and hatred evolve in a group of people to be capable of committing such crimes? Why weren’t there more Hutus that resisted this insane massacre? Why weren’t the Tutsi’s more resistant to the situation? None of these questions have simple or definite answers. Most of these questions have no answers at all. For most of the outside world, it wasn’t clear to separate a Hutu from a Tutsi. With the Hutus dominating the government and the media system with propaganda, other countries were not receiving an accurate picture of the haunting truth that was occurring for Tutsis.
While reading this book, I was compelled to continue reading searching for reasons or answers to how this atrocity occurred in this modern world. At times, I felt thankful that the U.S is a more civil and economically sound country where most of its citizens have access to an education and our democratic system could not allow such crimes to exist. Then, other times, while reading this book, I realized that the U.S is maybe not any more civilized than Rwanda if we could turn our heads to such senseless, haunting crimes occurring to an entire people. I realize that we, as Americans, cannot be responsible for solving every international problem. Or, are capable of doing so. As a past member of the United States Air Force, I’ll admit to times when I’d wished we would turn our heads. For selfish reasons, I felt like, “Why can’t these countries work it out amongst themselves?” But, that is assuming that the country has an educated population or solid governmental system to manage and control the situation. Unfortunately, many countries in Africa are in a similar poverty-stricken, chaotic state of affairs. As a world power, with the means to give aid, I personally feel the United States should do so whenever possible. It is clear that Clinton and the administration was made aware of the case of Rwanda and turned their heads to it. The scary truth, I believe, definitely revolves around us not having economic interests in Rwanda. Had this occurred in a more industrialized nation, the media would have covered it 24 hours a day and probably forced the United Nations to take action. My concern is what is going to prevent this kind of animalistic behavior from occurring in the future? In this day and age, due to our technological advances and communication systems, I feel that every country needs to look out for one another and realize in proximity how close we all really are. This goes right back to our on-going discussion of race and how biologically we are the same. For that reason, I believe we, as humans need to act, not representing any particular racial or ethnic differences in situations like the one in Rwanda. ·
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|Date:||Mon, 01 May 2000 22:59:04 -0500|
|From:||allana michelle hennette <amhenne@ILSTU.EDU>|
|Subject:||reply to laurie's rwanda paper|
I totally agree with Laurie's response to Philip Gourevitch's book. The book is unbelievable in its portrayal of friend killing friend and husband killing wife. The paper is well written and hits all of the high points of the book without giving away too much of it. I find the tie in w/ Richard Payne's book both informative in regard to race issues and well integrated. Rwandans did not have racial bias and separation until the Belgians came to the country and imposed it upon the native peoples. There they imposed a system of superiority that harbored hatred and eventually led to the mass killings that occurred in 1994, but also several years before that. Payne's theories would have held fast in Rwanda because there was no race identification before the Belgian imposition of it.
I also thought that mentioning Matt Hale and the Church of the Creator was very applicable. This group of hate mongers that live so close to us could learn a lot from this book. This group would love to go on a mass killing spree of any non-white people, but do they know the resulting chaos and destruction it would cause? The killing in Rwanda did nothing to help the country and the relations between the two groups. The goal in this country is to move away from racism and Hale and his followers only harbor it and allow it to grow like an infection. If we can learn from what happened in Rwanda, so should the people in this country who think that killing is the only solution. We can not get along with everyone, but why can't we try? Disliking someone because of the color of their skin is ludicrous, just as disliking someone because of the length of their nose, which is why the Hutus hated the Tutsis. ·
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|Date:||Tue, 25 Apr 2000 10:41:05 -0700|
|From:||Josh Shea <jts_79@YAHOO.COM>|
|Subject:||Re: response to sharon's Rwanda book review|
Her review on the book was good. She brought out all the main questions opf why the genocide occurred and how the U.N. allowed for it to happen. Understanding that this is a completely immoral and horrid act of humanity, why should we always pose the question of asking why the United States did not intervene. There are many other countries that signed the treaty against mass genocide and no else intervened, despite the fact that this act was known. Why wouldn't other world powers do something? Would intervention really helped the problem or created more havoc and static in the situation? I'm not one to say for sure, but it seems like more people would have raised more problems. The country is in a position to iron out its own racial problems. Who intervened during the American civil war? Did the conflict eventually get resolved? The U.S. has been a country for over 200 years and other countries are just starting out. They are where we were hundreds of years ago. The best way is to allow them to resolve their own crises. The media knew what was happening, they simply did not publicize it. The U.S. did not have any interests in Rwanda, therefore they did not want the public to know and start to gain feelings for the genocide. By keeping it quiet they had the opportunity to avoid the crisis.
|Date:||Wed, 26 Apr 2000 06:33:24 -0500|
|From:||Laura Pranaitis <laprana@ILSTU.EDU>|
|From:||Laura Pranaitis <firstname.lastname@example.org>|
Gourevitch, Philip. We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families. New York: Picador, 1998.
"Decimation means the killing of every tenth person in a population, and in the spring and early summer of 1994 a program of massacres decimated the Republic of Rwanda. Although the killing was low-tech -- performed largely by machete -- it was carried out at dazzling speed: of an original population of about seven and a half million, at least eight hundred thousand people were killed in just a hundred days. Rwandans often speak of a million deaths, and they may be right. The dead of Rwanda accumulated at nearly three times the rate of Jewish during the Holocaust. It was the most efficient mass killing since the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki."
The genocide of Rwanda, as described above by Philip Gourevitch, was one of the most devastating, most cruel events ever performed by human beings. Gourevitch paints a haunting picture of what occurred during the months of the genocide when Hutus were massacring Tutsis in Rwanda for no apparent reason, except for their ethnicity.
Rwanda is a small African country that has had a turbulent history, beginning with the Belgians who colonized the small country. The division among the Hutus and Tutsis first began when an English scientist, John Hanning Speke, came to Rwanda and created the Hamitic hypothesis, in which he theorized that all culture and civilization in central Africa had been introduced by the taller, sharper-featured people who he considered to be a "Caucasoid tribe of Ethiopian origin, descended from the biblical King David, and therefore a superior race to the native Negroids." This group of people deemed superior by Speke were the Tutsis.
The Tutsis were put into power by the Belgian colonizers, who dispatched scientists to Rwanda to find which group was really the superior one -- the Tutsis or the Hutus. After measuring the protuberance of Rwandans' noses, weighing them, and measuring their cranial capacities, the scientist found what they had believed all along: "Tutsis had 'nobler,' more 'naturally' aristocratic dimensions than the 'coarse' and 'beastial' Hutus." The scientist determined that the thinner Tutsis with sharper, more pointed noses were superior to the Hutus with their broader noses. This belief was held until the 1950's when the scientists had a change of heart, deciding that the Hutu majority was superior. The Belgians quickly took note of this and put the Hutus in power over the Tutsi minority. It was not long after that Tutsis began to be slaughtered, though not in the extreme fashion that was used in 1994.
In April of 1994, the Rwandan government called on every member of the Hutu majority to kill every Tutsi in the country. There were radio broadcasts all day, every day, demanding that no Tutsi be left alive. There were newspapers filled with nothing but propaganda about killing Tutsis. There was even a publication of "The Hutu Ten Commandments," of which the eighth and most popular commandment stated, "Hutus must stop having mercy on the Tutsis." No Tutsi was to be spared: women, children, the sick, and the elderly were all to be mercilessly killed, usually by hacking chops from a machete or crushing blows to the skull. Bullets in the Rwandan genocide were a luxury and not to be used on any worthless Tutsi. However, the Hutus could sometimes be bribed with money or alcohol into shooting their victims, rather than cutting them to pieces. No Tutsi was to be left alive, and no Hutu was to be sympathetic to the minority. Any Hutu suspected of protecting a Tutsi or refusing to kill would be killed themselves for siding with the enemy. This resulted Hutu men murdering their Tutsi wives, neighbors killing neighbors, former friends slaughtering their new found enemies. Even Hutu religious leaders, the very men who should be protecting the helpless Tutsis, turned into murderers. Gourevitch described one specific massacre that occurred at a church in the town of Mugonero. Many Tutsis had gone to Mugonero seeking refuge in a church there. The pastor of the church, Elizaphan Ntakirutimana, promoted himself as a great protector of the Tutsis and personally instructed them to gather at the church. More than two thousand Tutsis sought refuge at Mugonero, believing that they would be safe with Pastor Ntakirutimana there to protect them. Soon, the water lines to the church were cut and no one was allowed to leave. Militiamen and members of the Presidential Guard had cordoned off the complex, and the pastor was seen driving around the complex with them.
Among the Tutsis at Mugonero were seven Adventist pastors who quickly took on the role of leaders among the refugees. The pastors worked hard to take care of the other Tutsis, and even took up a collection in which they gathered almost four hundred dollars to give to two policemen who said they were there to protect the Tutsis. The policemen soon left their post on April 15, however, and told the pastors that the church was going to be attacked the next morning. The pastors sat down together and wrote a note that was to be sent to Pastor Ntakirutimana, asking him for his help to stop the upcoming attack. A response soon came from the pastor's son who said the church was going to be attacked on the 16th of April at 9:00 in the morning, although it was Pastor Ntakirutimana's response that was truly horrific. "Your problem has already found a solution. You must die. You must be eliminated. God no longer wants you." And the next morning, the refugees at Mugonero were massacred, one by one.
Gourevitch told of many more disturbing attacks on Tutsis, some of which occurred in schools, in churches, and in the streets. He told of Tutsi survivors that, once the genocide was over, came into contact with the person who had killed their family or hacked their arm off. These people had to live next door to the Hutus who had been killing machines just a few months earlier, and who were now back in town, walking the streets with the Tutsis who had miraculously survived their vicious attacks as if nothing had ever happened. Most Hutus denied any killing after the genocide was over, even though 99.9 percent of them were guilty of slaughtering as many Tutsis as they could find.
While the Hutus were killing more and more Tutsis, there was little help coming from the outside world. The UN sent troops in, but did very little to stop the genocide because of bureaucratic red tape that prevented them from intervening. Until the rebel Tutsi army, the RPF, was able to push the Hutu killers into exile in Zaire, there was little other intervention from outside sources, including the United States. The U.S. did get involved eventually. Our wonderful country so graciously sent supplies to the Hutu exiles in Zairian camps, feeding, clothing, and supporting the murderers. It was not until December of 1997 that Secretary of State, Madeline Albright, delivered a speech to the Organization of African Unity in which she apologized for the U.S. not getting involved in protecting the Tutsis sooner and called the acts what they were for the first time -- genocide. President Clinton also made an appearance in Africa soon after Albright, never leaving the airport of Rwanda.
It was surprising that with its gruesome subject, this book was difficult to put down once it was started. While reading it, I often found myself wondering, "How can I be so intrigued with a book about people getting decapitated and people hacking their friends and neighbors to death with machetes?" I finally came to the conclusion that the intense draw of this book, what keeps the reader turning the pages delving deeper and deeper into it, is the need for some kind of understanding as to how something like this could have possibly happened. And how it could have happened only six years ago. Gourevitch seems to be much like his audience in this quest for an explanation, and like his audience, he is unable to find any logical, rational reasoning to the genocide. Gourevitch's true talent is shown when he reveals the same sentiment as his readers of being repulsed at the fact that he was studying and writing about the dead, and yet still drawn to it for some unknown reason.
"The dead at Nyarubuye were, I'm afraid, beautiful. There was no getting around it. The skeleton is a beautiful thing. The randomness of the fallen forms, the strange tranquility of their rude exposure, the skull here, the arm bent in some uninterpretable gesture there -- these things were beautiful and their beauty only added to the affront of the place. I couldn't settle on any meaningful response: revulsion, alarm, sorrow, grief, shame, incomprehension, sure, but nothing truly meaningful. I just looked, and I took photographs, because I wondered whether I could really see what I was seeing while I saw it, and I wanted also an excuse to look a bit more closely."
-- Philip Gourevitch ·
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|Date:||Wed, 26 Apr 2000 22:55:16 -0500|
|From:||allana michelle hennette <amhenne@ILSTU.EDU>|
We Americans live in a country that is rich in diversity. We celebrate it and we emphasize it. We let everyone we know we are Irish or Italian or any number of other ancestries. And we are proud of it. In Rwanda the society was considered homogenized for several years. Hutus and Tutsis living together in peace, until 1994. Between April and July, 800,000 Tutsis were killed for no other reason than they were Tutsis. Friends turned on friends, doctors on patients, teachers on students and they killed. Men, women and children of all ages carried out these senseless acts of violence because they were told they would be over run by the Tutsis if they were not killed. We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families is the story of those months of killing and the months that followed. Philip Gourevitch’s writing style and interviews will paint the picture of Rwanda is if one is actually there. He is able to take his reader into the killing fields of Kigali and Nyarubuye and every other city where massacres occurred. Throughout the book Gourevitch forces us to face difficult questions about humanity, about race and ethnicity, and about our own values as well as those of the international community.
Rwanda lived for several years in relative peace. Until Europeans and their “race science” came to Africa Hutus and Tutsis lived and worked together, played and married together and lived in peace. When they brought in their calipers and their theories they divided the population along ethnical lines, declaring that the Tutsis were superior to the Hutus because their noses were more narrow and longer. Other Europeans came to Rwanda making outlandish claims that Tutsis originated from the lost city of Atlantis or outer space. These claims were totally unfounded and moreover they were ridiculous, but the Rwandans were not educated in the European ways and they had no reason to disbelieve.
Several years later, when Rwanda was under Belgian control a census was conducted so the Hutus and Tutsis could be separated and marked as different through identification cards. Although the two groups continued to live and work and marry a platform of difference had been built, and that platform would be a basis for the 1994 killings. True violence between the Hutus and Tutsis would not begin until 1959, but they have yet to end. Then one year later, the Europeans replaced Tutsis with Hutus and declared Hutus superior and the hatred and killings escalated to epic proportions.
Gourevitch does a wonderful job of taking the reader directly into Rwanda through his interviews with the survivors. He introduces Odette Nyiramilimo and her husband Jean-Baptiste along with their children. They are Tutsis and they are doctors and they survived the killing. Odette tells her very exciting and terrifying story beginning with her childhood, when killings had begun on a much smaller scale. Throughout the book, Gourevitch continues to visit the family and their plight to stay alive. Their harrowing tale includes Odette witnessing the murder of her sister who was a government official. Their children are given money and a piece of paper with the family bank account in the unfortunate chance that something would happen to either or both parents. At one point a child survives because of this money. Their tale is incredible and truly inspiring; it demonstrates the desire to live through the worst circumstances anyone could ever imagine, without mentioning living through. The massacres and killings that began the genocide in April of 1994 began after the president of Rwanda and neighboring Burundi were killed in a plane crash, thought to be staged by Hutu Power leaders to incite riots. After the plane crash, Hutus were urged through the national radio station to kill Tutsis and kill them indiscriminately. Twenty-four hour curfews were instated and no one could flee the killings, they could only wait for their executors. Many tried to escape and most were killed. Odette and her family attempted to go to a safe haven, but were chased and threaten and ultimately they returned to their home, to die. They were fortunate, 800,000 others were not so fortunate. The group responsible for most of the violence, the interhamwe, drew up lists of Tutsis to execute and practiced their killing skills on dummies. This group was inclusive, welcoming anyone who was willing to kill, and they were skilled. Some said they could kill a thousand in twenty minutes with machetes. Even the meaning of their name signifies their purpose, those who work together, and work together they did. Massacres occurred throughout Rwanda in the thousands and the ever-present radio urged Hutus to kill the cockroaches that threatened to take over their government and their lives. “Most Rwandans didn’t agree with the genocide, of course, but many overcame their disagreements and killed, while many more simply saved their own skins.” (127) Hutus killed because they were told to kill, but they also killed because they too would be killed if they didn’t. “Everyone must help to kill at least one person. So this person which is not a killer is made to do it. And the next day it’s become a game for him. You don’t need to keep pushing him.” (24)
Gourevitch discusses in great detail the action or failure to act on the part of the international community. He criticizes both the UN and the US for their failure to act, when both were bound by the Genocide Convention of 1948 to do so. The US refused to call what was happening in Rwanda genocide, but claimed that “acts of genocide may have occurred.” The rest of the world asked how many acts constitute a genocide, to which there was no answer, but officials claimed they were using formulas to sort out the questions. This simple statement seems almost asinine. Formulas to decide when killings in the hundreds of thousands are constituted genocide. The United States did their best to skirt around the issue so they would not get involved, possibly because of the earlier debacle in Somalia or possibly because we they just didn’t want to get involved. Thoughts of Vietnam and Cambodia continued to infiltrate the American thought, so no one wanted to get involved.
Not only did the US drag their feet during the Rwandan genocide, but so did the UN. Belgian troops that were present during the beginning of the killings were mandated to use no force or violence except to protect themselves, and after they were brutally killed and mutilated, all UN countries were scared to offer troops for any missions in Rwanda. One week later Major General Dallaire asked for “five thousand well-equipped troops and a free hand to fight the Hutu Power” claiming he could bring the genocide to an abrupt halt, but the UN slashed troops and money going to UNAMIR which left General Dallaire’s troops impotent. The UN continued trying to enter Rwanda on a “genocide prevention” mission, but voices in the UN Security Council, namely the US, continued to refute the necessity of any troops in Rwanda and demanded control of the mission. Beaurocratic red tape got thicker and the piles of dead in Rwanda got higher.
The failure to act to prevent the genocide shows how little importance is placed upon Africa and its inhabitants. “As far as political, military, and economic interests of the world’s powers go, it might as well be Mars. In fact, Mars is probably of greater strategic concern. But Rwanda, unlike Mars, is populated by human beings, and when Rwanda had a genocide the world’s powers left Rwanda to it.” (149) This statement sums up the thinking toward Rwanda and most other African countries. There is little or no economic interest in Africa, it does not have any militarily strategic locations that would benefit the US, and the politics of the African nations do not jive with that of the US. What the US finds unimportant, it finds unworthy of its money and protection. We send trillion dollar land rovers to Mars, but we refuse to send a few million dollars worth of aid and troops to save thousands of innocent people who are being targeted simply because of their ethnicity.
After the killings slowed down, with the help of some African intervention and some UN help, refuge camps were erected to help fleeing Tutsis. Unfortunately they became a haven for Hutu murderers. Hutu Power and interhamwe reorganized and planned for the eradication of the remaining Tutsis. The killer and his victim were forced to share the same quarters and no one did anything to separate them because no one except other Rwandans could separate a Hutu from a Tutsi. These refugee camps also served as a breeding ground for disease and thousands died from the unsanitary conditions and the overcrowding. But the RPF, the militant Tutsi organization, also used these refuge camps as a place to regroup and plan their revenge. RPF leaders planned attacks on Hutus and succeeded in killing hundreds of them. The killing continued, although not at the five per minute rate that occurred during the height of the genocide.
Gourevitch’s descriptions of the killings and of the dead force pictures into the mind. Tangled bodies, dismembered corpses, random body parts, and terror. All of these images were the reality to the Rwandans, images that most Americans can not conjure easily if at all. Gourevitch allows the reader to experience the terror through his brilliant writing style and descriptive ability. He demands that we question each act that occurred between April and July of 1994. Why did this killing take place? What was the purpose? They called it a civil war, but what was the purpose? Gourevitch reminds us that the American Civil War had a purpose as have nearly all other civil wars, but if what happened in Rwanda is to be labeled a civil war what is the greater purpose for which Hutus killed and for which Tutsis died? There was no great class fissure between the Hutus and Tutsis. There was no great oppression by one group over the other. There was only the demand to kill because of fear, unfounded fear at that. And the killers heeded the call.
Throughout the book I continued to be simply amazed with the fact that through the years the Hutus and Tutsis had intermarried and mixed so much that it was difficult to find a pure, 100% Hutu or Tutsi. The situation can be likened to attempting to find a full-blooded Cherokee Indian, it cannot be done. But because some Europeans came to the country with their theories and measuring devices and ID cards the groups were identified as separate groups rather than as Rwandans. This led to the groups seeing some differences where there had only been similarities, same language, same religion, same thoughts and beliefs. Eventually when the killing began in mass, the groups were told to separate themselves and they did knowing that if they went to the Tutsi side they would be killed in a most gruesome and painful manner. These ID cards bring thoughts of the Star of David armband the Jews were forced to wear before and during the Holocaust. They were meant to separate and to cause hatred and it that purpose, they did their job well.
WE WISH TO INFORM YOU THAT TOMORROW WE WILL BE KILLED WITH OUR FAMILIES is a complicated story of a simple act, that of murder. The book is filled with history of both Rwanda and the surrounding nations, which sets up the killings in 1994. The political history of Rwanda is also complicated. The numerous acronyms for both Rwandan politics, but also UN organizations adds to the complications and sometimes it is difficult to separate the good guys from the bad guys and vice versa, and unfortunately they sometimes change sides. The book is a critical analysis of the international community as well as the inner workings of Rwandan and African politics, and Gourevitch does an excellent job in explaining how things work. He is critical of the lack of action by the UN, the US, and the rest of the international community. The book is written in such a way that it is difficult to put down, but as I read it I wanted to know why I was reading it. I had some knowledge of the genocide from teaching, but I wanted to know more. It is like watching a gory movie and covering your eyes at the worst parts, but then peeking between your fingers. The acts described in the book were too terrible to believe, but I didn’t stop reading, I couldn’t stop reading. I had to know how Odette and her family survived, how Paul, the hotel manager survived, how anyone survived. Gourevitch is writing as if he were actually telling the story to his reader verbally, the reader can hear the incredulousness in his voice and the sympathy and the terror.
Nyarubuye, a town that was entirely cleared of Tutsis, stands as it did the day the killings took place. It stands as a memorial to those who died and to those who killed. The bodies scatter the church ground in various stages of decomposition, in strange positions, to remind those living of what happened in Rwanda; a gruesome memorial for a horrific act of needless killing. Rwanda has a memorial of dead bodies, a country that is unknown to most of the world still today. Two groups of people who once stood together as one were told to kill each other. Why? The question is one that still goes unanswered today, even as leaders of the genocide are being tried before a tribunal for their crimes. It is difficult to understand something like the Rwandan genocide when we Americans sit in our sturdy homes with running water and electricity and plenty of food. We will never understand what took place there as they will never understand what it is like to live in America. But for one brief moment we were able to look into their country and see their pain, but never live it or feel it. ·
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