We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories From Rwanda

We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories From Rwanda

by Philip Gourevitch

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An unforgettable firsthand account of a people's response to genocide and what it tells us about humanity.

This remarkable debut book chronicles what has happened in Rwanda and neighboring states since 1994, when the Rwandan government called on everyone in the Hutu majority to murder everyone in the Tutsi minority. Though the killing was low-tech--largely by machete--it was carried out at shocking speed: some 800,000 people were exterminated in a hundred days. A Tutsi pastor, in a letter to his church president, a Hutu, used the chilling phrase that gives Philip Gourevitch his title.

With keen dramatic intensity, Gourevitch frames the genesis and horror of Rwanda's "genocidal logic" in the anguish of its aftermath: the mass displacements, the temptations of revenge and the quest for justice, the impossibly crowded prisons and refugee camps. Through intimate portraits of Rwandans in all walks of life, he focuses on the psychological and political challenges of survival and on how the new leaders of postcolonial Africa went to war in the Congo when resurgent genocidal forces threatened to overrun central Africa.

Can a country composed largely of perpetrators and victims create a cohesive national society? This moving contribution to the literature of witness tells us much about the struggle everywhere to forge sane, habitable political orders, and about the stubbornness of the human spirit in a world of extremity.

We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families is the winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780374706487
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date: 09/04/1999
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 356
Sales rank: 112,082
File size: 565 KB

About the Author

Philip Gourevitch is a staff writer at The New Yorker and a contributing editor of the Forward. He has also written from Africa, Asia, and Europe for Granta, Harper's, and The New York Review of Books. Born in 1961, he lives in New York City.

Philip Gourevitch is the editor of The Paris Review, a staff writer for The New Yorker, and the author of A Cold Case and We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories from Rwanda, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award.

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We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will be Killed with Our Families

Stories from Rwanda

By Philip Gourevitch


Copyright © 1998 Philip Gourevitch
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-374-70648-7


IN THE PROVINCE of Kibungo, in eastern Rwanda, in the swamp- and pastureland near the Tanzanian border, there's a rocky hill called Nyarubuye with a church where many Tutsis were slaughtered in mid-April of 1994. A year after the killing I went to Nyarubuye with two Canadian military officers. We flew in a United Nations helicopter, traveling low over the hills in the morning mists, with the banana trees like green starbursts dense over the slopes. The uncut grass blew back as we dropped into the center of the parish schoolyard. A lone soldier materialized with his Kalashnikov, and shook our hands with stiff, shy formality. The Canadians presented the paperwork for our visit, and I stepped up into the open doorway of a classroom.

At least fifty mostly decomposed cadavers covered the floor, wadded in clothing, their belongings strewn about and smashed. Macheted skulls had rolled here and there.

The dead looked like pictures of the dead. They did not smell. They did not buzz with flies. They had been killed thirteen months earlier, and they hadn't been moved. 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. The more complete figures looked a lot like people, which they were once. A woman in a cloth wrap printed with flowers lay near the door. Her fleshless hip bones were high and her legs slightly spread, and a child's skeleton extended between them. Her torso was hollowed out. Her ribs and spinal column poked through the rotting cloth. Her head was tipped back and her mouth was open: a strange image—half agony, half repose.

I had never been among the dead before. What to do? Look? Yes. I wanted to see them, I suppose; I had come to see them—the dead had been left unburied at Nyarubuye for memorial purposes—and there they were, so intimately exposed. I didn't need to see them. I already knew, and believed, what had happened in Rwanda. Yet looking at the buildings and the bodies, and hearing the silence of the place, with the grand Italianate basilica standing there deserted, and beds of exquisite, decadent, death-fertilized flowers blooming over the corpses, it was still strangely unimaginable. I mean one still had to imagine it.

Those dead Rwandans will be with me forever, I expect. That was why I had felt compelled to come to Nyarubuye: to be stuck with them—not with their experience, but with the experience of looking at them. They had been killed there, and they were dead there. What else could you really see at first? The Bible bloated with rain lying on top of one corpse or, littered about, the little woven wreaths of thatch which Rwandan women wear as crowns to balance the enormous loads they carry on their heads, and the water gourds, and the Converse tennis sneaker stuck somehow in a pelvis.

The soldier with the Kalashnikov—Sergeant Francis of the Rwandese Patriotic Army, a Tutsi whose parents had fled to Uganda with him when he was a boy, after similar but less extensive massacres in the early 1960s, and who had fought his way home in 1994 and found it like this—said that the dead in this room were mostly women who had been raped before being murdered. Sergeant Francis had high, rolling girlish hips, and he walked and stood with his butt stuck out behind him, an oddly purposeful posture, tipped forward, driven. He was, at once, candid and briskly official. His English had the punctilious clip of military drill, and after he told me what I was looking at I looked instead at my feet. The rusty head of a hatchet lay beside them in the dirt.

A few weeks earlier, in Bukavu, Zaire, in the giant market of a refugee camp that was home to many Rwandan Hutu militiamen, I had watched a man butchering a cow with a machete. He was quite expert at his work, taking big precise strokes that made a sharp hacking noise. The rallying cry to the killers during the genocide was "Do your work!" And I saw that it was work, this butchery; hard work. It took many hacks—two, three, four, five hard hacks—to chop through the cow's leg. How many hacks to dismember a person?

Considering the enormity of the task, it is tempting to play with theories of collective madness, mob mania, a fever of hatred erupted into a mass crime of passion, and to imagine the blind orgy of the mob, with each member killing one or two people. But at Nyarubuye, and at thousands of other sites in this tiny country, on the same days of a few months in 1994, hundreds of thousands of Hutus had worked as killers in regular shifts. There was always the next victim, and the next. What sustained them, beyond the frenzy of the first attack, through the plain physical exhaustion and mess of it?

The pygmy in Gikongoro said that humanity is part of nature and that we must go against nature to get along and have peace. But mass violence, too, must be organized; it does not occur aimlessly. Even mobs and riots have a design, and great and sustained destruction requires great ambition. It must be conceived as the means toward achieving a new order, and although the idea behind that new order may be criminal and objectively very stupid, it must also be compellingly simple and at the same time absolute. The ideology of genocide is all of those things, and in Rwanda it went by the bald name of Hutu Power. For those who set about systematically exterminating an entire people—even a fairly small and unresisting subpopulation of perhaps a million and a quarter men, women, and children, like the Tutsis in Rwanda—blood lust surely helps. But the engineers and perpetrators of a slaughter like the one just inside the door where I stood need not enjoy killing, and they may even find it unpleasant. What is required above all is that they want their victims dead. They have to want it so badly that they consider it a necessity.

So I still had much to imagine as I entered the classroom and stepped carefully between the remains. These dead and their killers had been neighbors, schoolmates, colleagues, sometimes friends, even in-laws. The dead had seen their killers training as militias in the weeks before the end, and it was well known that they were training to kill Tutsis; it was announced on the radio, it was in the newspapers, people spoke of it openly. The week before the massacre at Nyarubuye, the killing began in Rwanda's capital, Kigali. Hutus who opposed the Hutu Power ideology were publicly denounced as "accomplices" of the Tutsis and were among the first to be killed as the extermination got under way. In Nyarubuye, when Tutsis asked the Hutu Power mayor how they might be spared, he suggested that they seek sanctuary at the church. They did, and a few days later the mayor came to kill them. He came at the head of a pack of soldiers, policemen, militiamen, and villagers; he gave out arms and orders to complete the job well. No more was required of the mayor, but he also was said to have killed a few Tutsis himself.

The killers killed all day at Nyarubuye. At night they cut the Achilles tendons of survivors and went off to feast behind the church, roasting cattle looted from their victims in big fires, and drinking beer. (Bottled beer, banana beer—Rwandans may not drink more beer than other Africans, but they drink prodigious quantities of it around the clock.) And, in the morning, still drunk after whatever sleep they could find beneath the cries of their prey, the killers at Nyarubuye went back and killed again. Day after day, minute to minute, Tutsi by Tutsi: all across Rwanda, they worked like that. "It was a process," Sergeant Francis said. I can see that it happened, I can be told how, and after nearly three years of looking around Rwanda and listening to Rwandans, I can tell you how, and I will. But the horror of it—the idiocy, the waste, the sheer wrongness—remains uncircumscribable.

Like Leontius, the young Athenian in Plato, I presume that you are reading this because you desire a closer look, and that you, too, are properly disturbed by your curiosity. Perhaps, in examining this extremity with me, you hope for some understanding, some insight, some flicker of self-knowledge—a moral, or a lesson, or a clue about how to behave in this world: some such information. I don't discount the possibility, but when it comes to genocide, you already know right from wrong. 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 insofar as a precise memory of the offense is necessary to understand its legacy.

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 tranquillity 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.

We went on through the first room and out the far side. There was another room and another and another and another. They were all full of bodies, and more bodies were scattered in the grass, and there were stray skulls in the grass, which was thick and wonderfully green. Standing outside, I heard a crunch. The old Canadian colonel stumbled in front of me, and I saw, though he did not notice, that his foot had rolled on a skull and broken it. For the first time at Nyarubuye my feelings focused, and what I felt was a small but keen anger at this man. Then I heard another crunch, and felt a vibration underfoot. I had stepped on one, too.

RWANDA IS SPECTACULAR to behold. Throughout its center, a winding succession of steep, tightly terraced slopes radiates out from small roadside settlements and solitary compounds. Gashes of red clay and black loam mark fresh hoe work; eucalyptus trees flash silver against brilliant green tea plantations; banana trees are everywhere. On the theme of hills, Rwanda produces countless variations: jagged rain forests, round-shouldered buttes, undulating moors, broad swells of savanna, volcanic peaks sharp as filed teeth. During the rainy season, the clouds are huge and low and fast, mists cling in highland hollows, lightning flickers through the nights, and by day the land is lustrous. After the rains, the skies lift, the terrain takes on a ragged look beneath the flat unvarying haze of the dry season, and in the savannas of the Akagera Park wildfire blackens the hills.

One day, when I was returning to Kigali from the south, the car mounted a rise between two winding valleys, the windshield filled with purple-bellied clouds, and I asked Joseph, the man who was giving me a ride, whether Rwandans realize what a beautiful country they have. "Beautiful?" he said. "You think so? After the things that happened here? The people aren't good. If the people were good, the country might be OK." Joseph told me that his brother and sister had been killed, and he made a soft hissing click with his tongue against his teeth. "The country is empty," he said. "Empty!"

It was not just the dead who were missing. The genocide had been brought to a halt by the Rwandese Patriotic Front, a rebel army led by Tutsi refugees from past persecutions, and as the RPF advanced through the country in the summer of 1994, some two million Hutus had fled into exile at the behest of the same leaders who had urged them to kill. Yet except in some rural areas in the south, where the desertion of Hutus had left nothing but bush to reclaim the fields around crumbling adobe houses, I, as a newcomer, could not see the emptiness that blinded Joseph to Rwanda's beauty. Yes, there were grenade-flattened buildings, burnt homesteads, shot-up facades, and mortar-pitted roads. But these were the ravages of war, not of genocide, and by the summer of 1995, most of the dead had been buried. Fifteen months earlier, Rwanda had been the most densely populated country in Africa. Now the work of the killers looked just as they had intended: invisible.

From time to time, mass graves were discovered and excavated, and the remains would be transferred to new, properly consecrated mass graves. Yet even the occasionally exposed bones, the conspicuous number of amputees and people with deforming scars, and the superabundance of packed orphanages could not be taken as evidence that what had happened to Rwanda was an attempt to eliminate a people. There were only people's stories.

"Every survivor wonders why he is alive," Abbé Modeste, a priest at the cathedral in Butare, Rwanda's second-largest city, told me. Abbé Modeste had hidden for weeks in his sacristy, eating communion wafers, before moving under the desk in his study, and finally into the rafters at the home of some neighboring nuns. The obvious explanation of his survival was that the RPF had come to the rescue. But the RPF didn't reach Butare till early July, and roughly seventy-five percent of the Tutsis in Rwanda had been killed by early May. In this regard, at least, the genocide had been entirely successful: to those who were targeted, it was not death but life that seemed an accident of fate.

"I had eighteen people killed at my house," said Etienne Niyonzima, a former businessman who had become a deputy in the National Assembly. "Everything was totally destroyed—a place of fifty-five meters by fifty meters. In my neighborhood they killed six hundred and forty-seven people. They tortured them, too. You had to see how they killed them. They had the number of everyone's house, and they went through with red paint and marked the homes of all the Tutsis and of the Hutu moderates. My wife was at a friend's, shot with two bullets. She is still alive, only"—he fell quiet for a moment—"she has no arms. The others with her were killed. The militia left her for dead. Her whole family of sixty-five in Gitarama were killed." Niyonzima was in hiding at the time. Only after he had been separated from his wife for three months did he learn that she and four of their children had survived. "Well," he said, "one son was cut in the head with a machete. I don't know where he went." His voice weakened, and caught. "He disappeared." Niyonzima clicked his tongue, and said, "But the others are still alive. Quite honestly, I don't understand at all how I was saved."

Laurent Nkongoli attributed his survival to "Providence, and also good neighbors, an old woman who said, 'Run away, we don't want to see your corpse.'" Nkongoli, a lawyer, who had become the vice president of the National Assembly after the genocide, was a robust man, with a taste for double-breasted suit jackets and lively ties, and he moved, as he spoke, with a brisk determination. But before taking his neighbor's advice, and fleeing Kigali in late April of 1994, he said, "I had accepted death. At a certain moment this happens. One hopes not to die cruelly, but one expects to die anyway. Not death by machete, one hopes, but with a bullet. If you were willing to pay for it, you could often ask for a bullet. Death was more or less normal, a resignation. You lose the will to fight. There were four thousand Tutsis killed here at Kacyiru"—a neighborhood of Kigali. "The soldiers brought them here, and told them to sit down because they were going to throw grenades. And they sat.

"Rwandan culture is a culture of fear," Nkongoli went on. "I remember what people said." He adopted a pipey voice, and his face took on a look of disgust: "'Just let us pray, then kill us,' or 'I don't want to die in the street, I want to die at home.'" He resumed his normal voice. "When you're that resigned and oppressed you're already dead. It shows the genocide was prepared for too long. I detest this fear. These victims of genocide had been psychologically prepared to expect death just for being Tutsi. They were being killed for so long that they were already dead."


Excerpted from We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will be Killed with Our Families by Philip Gourevitch. Copyright © 1998 Philip Gourevitch. Excerpted by permission of Picador.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories from Rwanda 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 69 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great book if you want to begin to understand the genocide in Rwanda and the first few years after. I highly recommend it.
Callay More than 1 year ago
I picked this up on a whim one day and have since been glued to the pages. It not only brings to light the horrible things that people can do but also how some have survived them. Books like this need to be written, to be read, to show the rest of the world the horrors around them, maybe then people will start to change for the better and things like what happened in Rwanda will stop happening.
Bryan_Groves More than 1 year ago
WE WISH TO INFORM YOU THAT TOMORROW WE WILL BE KILLED WITH OUR FAMILIES, Philip Gourevitch, Picador Books, 356 pages. The subtitle of this book is "STORIES FROM RWANDA," but this book is about much more than Rwanda. It is about European colonialism and racism. It is about Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is about non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and international organizations that operate under United Nations mandates and charters as well as United Nations peacekeeping. It is about strategic communications and it is about stability operations. The title comes from a letter from several Tutsi pastors begging a Hutu pastor to intervene with the local Hutu mayor on their behalf. They were killed with their families. Gourevitch tell us his book is "about how people imagine themselves and one another - a book about how we imagine our world. In Rwanda. . . the government had adopted a new policy, according to which everyone in the country's Hutu majority group was called upon to murder everyone in the Tutsi minority. The government, and an astounding number of its subjects, imagined that by exterminating the Tutsi people they could make the world a better place, and the mass killing had followed." Gourevitch demonstrates that the genocide was a government-planned affair and not the spontaneous uprising of Hutus against their Tutsi neighbors and in many cases, family members, as a result of the assassination of the presidents of Burundi and Rwanda in 1994. He interviews alleged and confessed perpetrators as well as survivors and gives us narrative (no photos, words being sufficient) tours of various massacre sites, refugee camps and prisons. This book could be viewed as a strategic communications coup for then President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Vice President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and President Laurent Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Though Gourevitch interviewed opposition leaders as well, these three national leaders came across as sincere, just and competent The international community, with special emphasis on the United States, France, the United Nations and the NGO community did not come across as any of those. Gourevitch highlights the failure of key international actors to do anything to stop the genocide. He points out how French Operation TURQUOISE actually allowed for Hutu interahamwe militias to rearm and begin the genocide anew behind the French lines. He notes how the United Nations and NGO community and their donors failed to intervene effectively during the genocide and how they created and sustained huge refugee camps in Congo, all the while knowing that they were shielding not only bona fide refugees, but mass murderers as well. In the final page, Gourevitch recounts the continued ethnic violence and continued hope in and for Rwanda: "Rwandan television showed footage of a man who confessed to having been among a party of genocidaires. . . During their attack on the school in Gisenyi, as in the earlier attack in on the school in Kibuye, the students, teenage girls who had been roused from their sleep, were ordered to separate themselves - Hutus from Tutsis. But the students had refused. At both schools, the girls said that they were simply Rwandans, so they were beaten and shot indiscriminately."
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was amazingly well written and extremely insightful. The whole Rwandan Genocide can by seen and felt through the stories and accounts given by survivors. Gourevitch does an amazing job of capturing the attention of his readers in this book and holds their attention throughout. I was surprised by all the details he had but into the accounts and stories he told, holding nothing back. I really enjoyed his honesty and courage about these stories. I had never read anything on the Rwandan Genocide before, but this book helped me to understand it more and spark my interest in learning more about the genocide. It was a great read from start to finish.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book provides a thoughtful, in-depth look at a horrendous human tragedy that was essentially ignored as it unfolded and sadly remains overlooked and misunderstood to this day. Gourevitch's courage, passion, and determination to chronicle the events surrounding and fueling the Rwandan genocide is absolutely remarkable. He faces the most difficult of tasks: to explain the inexplicable...to describe the indescribable...and perhaps most importantly, to make us think about the unthinkable. He admirably accomplishes all of these tasks with great insight and understanding. He takes us on an amazing, humbling, and often disturbing journey through the killing fields of Africa. He skillfully explores the destructive impact of political and economic greed and general hedonism on the human condition. I believe most readers will come away from this compelling account with a novel perception of themselves and their place in the world around them.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In this well researched and beautifully written book about the genocide in Rwanda, Philip Gourevitch did a brilliant job not only in telling us about the genocide, but also in making us understand the intricate history of the land that made the genocide possible and the aftermath of the genocide. The book moved me from the opening to the last pages. What I particularly liked about this work by Gourevitch is the fact that it is easy for a non-African or non-Rwandan mind that has no knowledge of Rwanda to understand the story. The analysis was perfect and the criticism deserving.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a great historical account of the Rwandan genocide. I've been interested in the genocide for a few years now, but never knew/understood the outer-workings of surrounding countries and what affect they had on the genocide.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this when I was a sophmore in high school, three years ago, and it still makes me hurt to think about the stories I read. It inspired me to care more about what goes on beyond the U.S. borders, and I was also inspired by it to write a fictional piece about the Rwandan Genocide for a contest in which I became a semi-finalist. A very powerful piece in so many ways.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have to admit that I only knew about Rwanda because of Gorillas in the Mist but after reading the first page of this book I was hooked. Not only it is beautifully written but it makes you think about what horrible things we are capable of doing as human beings. It should be a must read for everyone.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Philip Gourevitch, author of We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families (1998), writes that the civil war in Rwanda in 1994 produced few heroes. However, in the midst of the horror, Gourevitch points out that Paul Rusesabagina the quick-witted and courageous Hutu hotel manager of the Hotel des Mille Colline, a luxury hotel in central Kigali owned by Sabena airlines, managed to save more than a thousand people. Many people who were slated for death wound up at this hotel. They were fortunate enough to find refuge in what was one of the only safe places in Rwanda. Two medical doctors Odette Nyiramilimo, her husband Dr Jean Baptiste Gasasira and their children ended up at this hotel. Many Tutsis were kept safe there. Gourevitch describes how Rusesabagina spent his days buying lives of Tutsis with liquor, reasoning, persuading, so that each band of killers who came to the hotel to take out various Tutsis on their lists for killing somehow ended up going away. Rusesabagina would then stay up until four in the morning using the one phone line, which the Hutu power authorities had not managed to cut off, as they did not know its number. He would send faxes to Bill Clinton, ring the French Foreign Ministry, ring the King of Belgium, and tell them what was going on. Gourevitch says that although Rusesabagina 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. None of the people who took shelter at the hotel were killed during the genocide and none were killed at a small number of other sites under foreign protection, like the hospital in Kigali run by Doctors Without Borders and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Perhaps these sanctuaries could not have been replicated so successfully elsewhere. But certainly it would have been right to try. In 2000, Rusesabagina was the recipient of the Immortal Chaplains Prize for Humanity and was running a transport company in Brussels Belgium, and is still exceptionally modest about what he did. Best Regards, David S. Fick, Author of Entrepreneurship in Africa: A Study of Successes (March 2002)
Guest More than 1 year ago
Philip Gourevitch writes with a beauty and clarity that few reporters do. As he embarks to explain the events that surrounded the Rwandan genocide of 1994, Gourevitch not only tells the offical story, but highlights the historical roots of the ethnic conflict and relays the personal stories of Rwandans. In short, this is a multilayered and comprehensive work. Furthermore, he puts a human face on an incomprehensible series of events. Gourvetich is particularly good at telling us how Rwandans feel about what happened rather than providing us with a purely western perspective. This book is highly readable and suitable for those who may know nothing about the event. I highly recommend it. It is very moving and beautifully written.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The interesting title of this book caught my eye, and the few sentences on the back cover made me realise that I was ignorant of major and horrific events that I should have known more about. I completed the book within a couple of days of buying it - I couldn't put it down. I've been discussing it with everyone I talk to, and thoroughly recommend it. The book has been an incredible eye-openner to me. Not only the subject matter, but the fact that I had to read a book to learn the basic truths of the genocide in Rwanda, and the west's disgraceful participation in it. Why weren't these important details provided by our journalists, TV news shows, and political commentators at the time?
Guest More than 1 year ago
As I read this book, I felt similarly to how I felt a few months earlier, when I had read a book chronicling the conflict in Bosnia. Only with this book, I felt it twice as much. Prior to reading this book, I knew embarrassingly little about Rwanda. What little bit I did know was wrong ¿ I thought Rwandans had merely endured a civil war. But as I read the book, I began to realize that what went on in Rwanda was full-blown genocide. I couldn¿t help but think of how many times I have heard people say that we can never let anything like the Holocaust happen again. And yet, as evidenced by what transpired in Rwanda, it has happened again and the rest of the world should be ashamed of our reaction, or lack thereof. For anyone who wants to learn about what happened in Rwanda during the 1990¿s, this book provides a comprehensive analysis. As the book¿s subtitle implies, Gourevitch¿s book is generally taken from his many travels in Rwanda and his countless interviews with people he met. I found the scope of the people he interviewed to be quite impressive, and many of their stories both powerful and shocking. But while a good portion of the book focuses on the experiences of individuals Gourevitch met who lived through (and even participated in) the genocide, he presents their stories in such a way that he also gives a great deal of analysis to the historical and political background of Rwanda. Moreover, he also manages to focus a great deal on the psychology of the genocide, and of the irony that many Western countries, rather than trying to help put a stop to the genocide, were actually helping the culprits at the expense of the victims. Bottom line¿any person who studies war crimes should read this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was impressed with the scope of the book. I'm glad to have been able to find out about a lot fo the things that happened in Rwanda. I too was struck by the sheer beauty of the country. People in America can't understand the reasons for what happened to the people in Rwanda. I'd like to personally thank the writer for opening my eyes.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book describes real stories of real people in the genocide. It is a very sombre book that describes to the world the very sombre Rwanda, that was, in 1994 and still is today. It is very well written and I believe quite accurate. I think it is a must read for all Africans, because Rwanda is our problem. This book is a good place for anyone interested in Rwanda to start or to build on because it explains the past, present and future of Rwanda. Gourevitch does an excellent job especially with the background history and Rwandan culture that he brings out in the first few chapters. This book aslo brings out important evidence that Africans can't possible rely on western governments to come in understand and solve African problems. They don't really care.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an important book for everyone to read as it dispels a lot of myths about what when on in the refugee camps in Goma, Zaire in the mid-90s. What most of the world didn't know was that all of the humanitarian aid that was being poured into Goma was being used to harbour killers who had fled Rwanda. These people in the camps participated in what was probably the worst genocide of an ethnic group the world has ever known, including the Holocaust. It is tough to read this and realize that the Western world was not only duped, but that we didn't pay that much attention to it anyway. Read this book and it will change your perception of 'ethnic cleansing.' What we vowed would never happen after the Holocaust happened right there in central Africa. God help the Rwandans.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book in two sittings, it has changed my perspective on not only the way western governments treat 3rd world countires that have no economical value. It also provides a view at humanity and human nature.
Anonymous 3 months ago
Legitimately one of the best books I've ever read, but absolutely heartbreaking.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
rachavez on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Excellent reminder of how easy it is to follow along.
TheAmpersand on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A vivid, unsettling, and ultimately heartbreaking history the Rwandan genocide, this is one of those books that might permanently alter the way you see the whole of humanity. While it's clearly written for a general audience, "We Wish to Inform" does a fairly good job of describing the complex political and social situation that precipitated the massacre and illustrating the genocide's visceral brutality shocking pace, and surprisingly low-tech modus operandi. He's also scathing when describing the developed world's equivocal and halfhearted response to the massacre. Still, while one of the cover's blurbs describes Gourevich's account as "definitive," it struck me as anything but. The author isn't interested in counting every body or providing a moment-by-moment timeline of the events of '94. The question he is most interested in answering is what, exactly, motivated a large population of Hutus to take up arms against their defenseless neighbors, with whom they'd lived in relative peace for most of their lives. While the author delves as deeply as he can into the psychological conditions and ethnic divisions that facilitated the genocide, I'm not sure that he comes away with a really satisfactory answer to this quesiton, which will surely frustrate some of his readers. His book's a useful document, and it's essential reading for Western readers who know little about this awful chapter of African history and would like to know more, but real clarity seems to elude his, and everybody else's, grasp. Part of this may have something to do with the relative silence of the massacre's Hutu participants: Gourevich interviews only one member of a Hutu death squad, and he seems unwilling to divulge his real reasons for participating in the killing or contemplate the nature of his guilt. I'd be interested to know what the massacre's participants have to say for themselves now that more than fifteen years have passed since the events described in this book.Where Gourevich's book succeeds is in convincing his readers that the Rwandan genocide was a complex and exceptional event and not, as has been argued, just another example of "Africans acting like Africans." Gourevich works hard to make it clear that while some Rwandans acted dishonorably and others honorably when the massacres began, they all made conscious choices and reacted to specific historical circumstances. In a sense, Gourevich is doing precisely what the best historians, and the best storytellers, set out to do: rescuing individuality from the passage of time and his readers' own prejudices. While not "definitive," then, "We Wish to Inform..." is an overwhelmingly sad and necessary book, and one hopes that its relative success makes a recurrence of the mistakes made before, during and after the Rwandan genocide a bit less likely.
drmarymccormack on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Outstanding account of the war in Rwanda. I saw the author on Chalie Rose, I think, and I knew I had to read it. So many things go on in the world and it's just a headline to me but this war was happening when I was a cognizant adult and I cared about it. It seemed that the world was standing by as people in Yugoslavia and Rwanda were being slaughtered. This book changed the way I feel about war and it made me feel cynical, maybe in a good way. I began to realize how cruel an entire government or even the world could be.
bookalover89 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Philip Gourevich's account of the aftermath of the genocide in Rwanda is soul shattering and haunting. One of the most important case studies of Rwanda's aftermath.
cestovatela on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In 1994, the Hutu-led government of Rwanda ordered its population to slaughter the Tutsi minority. Armed mostly with machetes and boards full of nails, thousands of Hutu tribesmen slaughtered their Tutsi neighbors by hand. This book documents the details of the killings, the indifference of the world, and the disturbing lack of resistance by both Hutu and Tutsi citizens. It's not an easy book to stomach, but required reading for anyone who wants to be an informed citizen of the world.
bfertig on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
'During the genocide, I didn't know - I thought so many people did as I did, because I know that if they'd wanted they could have done so.' - Paul RusesabaginaWow.This was one of those books where reading just a few pages was not really an option. I liked this book because the first half tells the story of what happed during the Rwandan genocide, and the second half tells why it happend. The author, Philip Gourevitch, doesn't flinch at pulling punches, he doesn't shy away from saying 'x screwed up', or from taking sides, and he isn't afraid to said that intolerance is intolerable or that Rwandans are people with motives and politics, rather than some backward primordial tribal people.Mr. Gourevitch makes a few very simple, should-be-obvious, yet completely overlooked points about the genocide that I think are central to understanding what happened:1) The causes were not as straightforward or pithy or about nothing as was commonly described by outsiders or the develped world2) That essentially the genocide was political strategy, and that it was not simply a case of descent into an anarchic scramble for power, nor was it an end but rather a means.3) Rwandans, especially the Hutu Power refugees, are not babes in the wilderness, or naive, and have self-motivations and strategies, and have been able to manipulate and utilize the international community for their own benefit.This book lays the groundwork for a compelling argument that the international community has a moral imperative to take the side of preventing loss of human life and should be able to committ troops - really commit troops - to do so.This is not a dry book, but nor is it a weepy book - it presents personal stories through the genocide, profiles of how Rwandans see themselves and the time 'Before' and up to 1998, but also a sharp look at the West and developed nations.Overall highly recommended, but not for the faint of heart reading at teatime.