Blogs > Cliopatria > Rwanda

Mar 21, 2004 6:56 pm


There's a story in the UK paper The Independent today about Rwanda that raises some interesting questions. About the ten-year-old mystery of who killed Habyarimana, for one thing. Who did bring down that plane? Was it the current president, Paul Kagame, as Le Monde wrote in an article last week? Or was it, as has largely been thought, Hutu extremists setting things up for the genocide that followed.

But a much bigger question is what happened after the genocide. It appears that there was a second, retaliatory genocide after the first one.

The current row is a continuation of the debate over responsibility for the genocide, which has drawn historians, politicians and journalists in to an argument in which there is little middle ground...The key question is whether President Kagame's RPF rebels also carried ethnic slaughter of Hutus after the genocide on a scale similar to the pogrom of Tutsis...M. Prunier is revising sections of his book that glossed over reports of RPF revenge massacres, something that he now says was"a mistake". He estimates that the RPF massacred up to 450,000 Hutus - almost two-thirds of the genocide death toll - in Rwanda and Congo in the wake of the 1994 slaughter.

Not much to add to that. Just a despairing shake of the head, I suppose.

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Ophelia Benson - 3/23/2004


Yes, isn't Gourevitch's book compelling.

Interesting about the tourism idea. I have grim memories of a visit to Dachau at the same time as a gaggle of callow young Americans (I was a young American myself at the time but I hope, I hope, I hope, not quite as callow). The things they said...Such as 'Hey, this doesn't look so bad!' And the constant flow of inane chatter they kept up instead of just shutting up and paying attention. Tourism might be good (at least economically) for Rwanda but bad for the people who engage in it - hard to say.

Derek Charles Catsam - 3/21/2004

Ophelia --
The enormity of the Rwanda tragedy is almost too incomprehensiblydistressing and enormous even to write coherently about, though I must say Gourevich's book is very compelling, and I used it in my Africa grad course last fall.
However, this piece:

in today's Times travel section might be cause for some hope inasmuch as the process of recovery seems to be happening. I am a bit worried about Rwanda as tourist spot: "Look, Bessie, that's where all them Africans was killed with machetes" but at the same time, it is clear that whatever the mixed blessing, tourism when done even close to right is a boon for Africa's ecomonies. I knoiw whenever i am back there I try to walk that line between interloper and welcome guest as best i can. Most african visitors are not Africanists, of course, but that may well mean they have more money to give to the local ecomomy as well. Of course we can only hope that the money does get to the local economy . . .