Tuesday, 1 March 2016
Book review: We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families by Philip Gourevitch
It was eleven years ago I first heard of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. I was in high school and we watched a documentary titled The Last Just Man. It featured retired LGen Romeo Dallaire and his mission in Rwanda. Since then, I've had a fire inside me. I kept up to date with each génocidaire finally convicted in Rwanda. My family cut out newspaper clippings for me whenever there was something mentioned about Dallaire, or Rwanda (and Darfur, whenever the newspaper decided to write about it).
I've had this novel on my list to read for years and now I've finally finished it. It took me 4 years to finish Dallaire's book, Shake Hands With the Devil. I kept putting it down and taking a break; it got me so angry.
What I love about this book is that it doesn't just focus on the "popular" 1994 genocide. It started at the beginning, in the 50s when there was another genocide. Actually, it went back further to explain how the division between Hutus and Tutsis came to be so wide. Gourevitch, as a journalist, sat down with Rwandans, both survivors and murderers, and listened to their stories. Never have I heard it told like this before. Never will I be able to fathom how someone can go from having a tight-knit family to the next day when my brother in law kills my children and parents. Or my doctor killing his loyal patients. And then having to see them every day after that. In the last few years, there was a young woman who was raped by someone from the same university as her. She reported it, and while the legal issues were being figured out, she still saw him every day on their small campus. She fought to have him banned from the campus until he was convicted. As far as I know, he still attended classes. While I don't agree with it, the people in Rwanda are doing that every day. Just to give you an example that might be relatable in our culture.
The most aggravating thing is something I've pondered for years, and Gourevitch worded perfectly. When we think of the holocaust, people say "never again." But what does that mean? What are we saying will never happen again? People will never forget? That's true. But what about people will never again take so long to come to the aid of a people falling victim to a genocide? Because that happened. People will never again let a genocide happen? Because that happened, and is still happening. People will never again let politics get in the way of helping? That happened too. It's so frustrating, and me sitting here on my computer isn't doing much to help, I know.
Gourevitch has painted a dynamic, and aggravatingly real picture of the people of Rwanda. He has shown not only the beauty and humanity in the darkest of corners, but has called out the rest of the world to do their part. He says that so many African countries helped in the fall-out (which I actually hadn't read much about before, and had no idea it went on for so long) that if this had taken place in Europe it would have been considered a world war. I was impressed that through his writing he didn't seem to be judgemental, simply stating facts and sharing parts of interviews. Of course he had his opinions, logically so considering the subject matter. But this is a well-written account of the events in Rwanda.