Rwandan genocide
Rwandan Genocide, originally uploaded by daveblume

I’ve started reading A Time for Machetes: The Rwandan Genocide - The Killers Speak.  I’m just reading the opening pages where the killers speak about how they were rounded up and organised to kill.  I am overwhelmed by a sense of denial.  Not in the political sense but the psychological sense; the sense where a dying person reasons that they feel fine or a mother refuses to believe her child is dead after exiting air from the lungs causes the vocal chords to sound.  I am thinking that these seem like such reasonable, normal, nice people and even though I have studied the Rwandan genocide for years now, I find myself hoping that they are not the killers, that the story is going to work out differently.

But it won’t.  I have already read Into the Quick of Life: The Rwandan Genocide - The Survivors Speak which I reviewed earlier on this blog and which had an incredible impact on me: On Rwanda: my passion and the need to know.  I know what is going to happen and yet it is so horrific that the normal human reaction of denial in the face of death or dying is occurring, my mind’s attempt to protect me from the unimaginable horrors ahead. 

I’ll be sure to review the book once I am done.  I am currently months behind in my book reviews but will try to catch up soon.

About Mandy Southgate

Mandy Southgate is an accountant living and working in London. She is passionate about world events such as genocide and apartheid and has a desire to understand how these events continue to occur in the modern world. With a focus on the 20th and 21st centuries, A Passion to Understand reflects her continuing research and reading on these topics.
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  1. "Where does one put such trauma and unimaginable evil? Human beings were not made to bear such atrocities." - from 'On Rwanda: my passion and my need to know'.

    I totally agree. I've met several Rwandans (my age), and at first it's hard to understand the look in their eyes, but after considering what they and their families have been through (hell on earth).... how could you expect them to have the same look of peace?
    I have a few friends who are currently working in Rwanda and it seems the current theme among youth indeed (from what I've heard) is a lack of understanding for what happened to their communities. How are they supposed to achieve reconciliation after experiencing such atrocities? The psychological and heart trauma runs deep.
    My experiences in West Africa with young men who were 'soldiers' suggest to me that they were not the killers (even though, technically, they were). It's like they've been brainwashed. There is no logic. I see them just as victimized as the people who ran for their lives in order to escape murder. Because I've never experienced Rwanda first hand, I don't know what the 'killers' are like there, but I would assume that there are similarities. The effects of war and murder, in most countries, have commonalities.
    The people in Africa who are experiencing war & genocide live on hope, because it's all they have. The boy soldiers (the killers) in West Africa now live on something else. It's something that I can't quite figure out and when I remember them, the look in their eyes and the 'thing' behind the way they relate with others.... it frightens me. It leaves me feeling unsettled. They seem to be a haunted people.
    I'm definitely interested in reading 'A Time for Machetes' to understand more about the men in Rwanda who killed.

  2. This is a fascinating subject, but the whole evil behind it is unimaginable for a right thinking person. I admire what you are trying to do, a concerned human being who spreads awareness about these matters. You make me think.

  3. It's really terrifying and unspeakable, and so many people turn their eyes away from what's really going on with these matters. I know the UN has tried to help, but they are always met with resistance, most of the time guns.

  4. Not to lessen the humanitarian part of the genocide, but a really interesting and critical aspect of the Rwandan genocide has to do with the political economy of the country and falling coffee prices. The failure of a treaty on coffee prices resulted in the collapse of the Rwandan economy. The situation was tragically worsened by the subsequent intervention of IMF and World Bank, and exacerbated underlying tensions caused by the Belgium colonization. As these facts demonstrate, developments in the Rwandan conflict were crucially shaped by political as well as economic variables, although this has been ignored to a large degree by academics and the public.

  5. I don't think I will ever understand...

  6. @ Claire: Hey Claire. Where did you work in West Africa? Did you meet former soldiers from Sierra Leone? The book "A Time for Machetes" is chilling. I can only read a couple of pages at a time at the moment - it makes me too angry.

    @ Gaelikaa: Thank you for your comment! I never expected other people to be interested in what I had to say here and it is great to have people like you who are.

    @ Lauren: It is indeed unthinkable. The UN are prevented in so many ways from being effective and a lot of that comes from their own red tape and diplomacy.

    @ Jen K: I've never come across mention of the coffee crisis before but I've accessed some papers on the matter and hope to make a post about it soon. Thank you for giving me an alternative point of research. My immediate thought is this: At the end of the day, victims and perpetrators alike make no mention of a coffee crisis or economic reasons for their actions. The genocide was planned months in advance, people were organised and mobilised and the killings were carried out with intent and organisation. Community leaders and media were calling people to action and the explicit goal of the action was to wipe out the Tutsi race. Blaming the genocide on economic reasons is as helpful as blaming the Holocaust on German economic conditions after World War I.

    @ Mom: Yeah, it's not always easy, is it?


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