In 1994, April the 6th, Rwandan government, Central Africa, called upon the Hutu majority to slaughter the Tutsi minority, their countrymen. About 800,000 Tutsis were killed in three following months(about 10 % of the whole population) – genocide which can be equalled only to the Hitler’s destruction of Jews (though the Hutu did not have gas chambers for fast killing of a lot of people, they managed to massacre Tutsis even quicker than the Nazis). Philip Gourevitch’s book depicts these horrible killings in Rwanda and shows us why these events should not be regarded as just another dispute between the tribes.
The most special thing about this book which makes it unique among all other similar books is that it outlines all the ways the government, especially the United States’ government, should undertake to avoid such genocide from happening. Everyone knew this was happening but not a single government did a thing to stop it. It was like looking at your whole country being murdered and not even thinking of helping it. After that each government tried to blame the other government for being apathetic to the Tutsis’ woes but never take the blame upon themselves. This was a good lesson to all of us.
Beginning in 1995 Gourevitch travelled across Rwanda and the neighbouring countries, interviewing those who survived and those who killed and observing the actual scenes of massacre in order to figure out what really happened.
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The title of the book - We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families – expresses a great deal of horror and despair and comes from one letter which was not paid much attention to. This letter was sent in 1994 by seven pastors from the Tutsi tribe while they were seeking for a refuge in the local Adventist church. They were informed there that they would be killed the following day. The letter was addressed to the head of the church who was Hutu and also a pastor. These seven pastors asked for help.
The head pastor did not intervene to prevent the murder but actually helped to organize it.
The story is told to us by both the author and by the people who lived through this nightmare. Some of the people he interviewed include: a hotel manager who sheltered lots of refugees, a Tutsi doctor who saw most of her family killed, and a bishop who was accused of helping to slaughter schoolchildren.
The massacre began right after the event which triggered it: The death of the Hutu President, Habyarimana, in a crash of a plane when he was going back to his country from the negotiations with a rebel force in exile which included many Tutsis. Many people believe that the Hutu Power organized the plane crash.
The killings were done with hand-held tools like clubs, garden tools, hammers, sticks, including grenades and guns. The size of Rwanda could be actually compared to West Virginia with the income of $ 80 per year. Imagine only these very poor people who could not even protect themselves properly. But let us have a closer look at these two tribes.
Out of the population of 7.5 million, 85 % were Hutus. For a certain reason the government of Rwanda claimed that the Tutsis were only 9 %, when in reality they were 15 %. The reason for this was in quotas. If the government decreased the amount of Tutsis, the smaller amount of them would visit schools, get higher education, jobs, etc.
No one really knows where these two tribes came from. It is believed that they migrated from the different parts of Africa and converged in the same area. Since then the tribes started to intermingle. Eventually they were sharing the same chiefs and fought arm in arm in battles. Intertribal marriages were also practiced.
However, the little difference between the tribes had always been present. They even differed in the way they lived and looked: Hutus usually stockier and shorter people with large noses and quite thick lips; whereas Tutsis are lanky, tall, with thin lips and limbs and pointy, long noses.
This difference between Tutsis and Hutus can be explained by understanding the way how they started to differ as social Rwandan categories by Belgians. For a long colonial period the idea reigned that Tutsis, the minority, were the elite, and Hutus remained in inferiority. With the imposing of system, Tutsis became almost like an apartheid exploiting Hutus as labor force. This happened because the Belgians saw Tutsis as ‘a race of kings-warriors’ – impressive and tall to the contrary of the Hutus who picked bananas and vegetables. In such a way the two ethnical categories were formed by the Belgians who colonized Rwanda until its independence in 1962 (without them the two groups would continue to live without really feeling that they were different as they already lived together for many years). When the country gained its independence the Hutus came to control Tutsis, mostly with violence. Philip Gourevitch says: “The regime was essentially feudal: Tutsis’ were aristocrats; Hutus were vassals”.
We should understand that the problem really was caused by the Europeans. One more fact which proves it is that the country was united religiously (they had beliefs which both of the tribes shared), linguistically (Rwadan language was accepted across the whole country, even in many other African countries), and patriotically (nonetheless some minor disagreements, the tribes were very patriotic). We can hardly find in the European countries such unity in these three aspects which usually cause more disorder than order. As we see the Rwadans lived quite well and definitely did not need the ‘kind’ Europeans who came to rescue them.
One of the survivors, Etienne Niyonzima, told Philip Gourevitch that he had eighteen people murdered in his house, that everything was completely destroyed. In his neighborhood the Hutus killed about 647 people. People were tortured to death. Hutus marked all the houses of Tutsis with red paint. Etienne’s wife was just visiting her friend when she got two bullets. She is still alive, but without arms…
Most of the people from other countries thought that this slaughter was an unplanned eruption of brutality. However, this brutality started in 1959 when the serious political conflict between the two ethnic groups arose. Moreover, we should not forget, and here I totally agree with the author, that mass violence has always to be organized. Gourevitch shows us that nonetheless the fact that there is no Hitler, Castro or any other outstanding leader, it is obvious that the massacre was planned and carried out due to the interest of a certain political ideology. The slaughtering was done by the political movement, so-called Hutu Power against the ‘cockroaches’, the Tutsis. Demonstration, anti-Tutsi propaganda on the radio, and even Hutu pop-singers were stirring up the hostility between the groups.
Gourevitch does not stop investigating the causes of the killings at the Rwandan borders. He is very critical of Madeleine Albright, the U.S. Secretary of State, Kofi Annan (UN official), and some other political figures who ignored numerous warnings of murders and did not send enough of the United Nations Army to Rwanda. A disgusting and at the same time unclear fact is that after the slaughter the soldiers were banned from firing but they killed hundreds of hungry dogs who fed on the corpses of Tutsis.
Philip Gourevitch dissipates the myth that the conflict between the two ethnic groups was only the result of the tribal hatred.
Philip Gourevitch also gives one of the best explanations of how the Rwandan agony influenced its neighbor-countries. After the Patriotic Front of Rwanda, a rebel army which consisted of Tutsi in exile came to their country and put the end to the genocide, a lot of Hutus escaped from Rwanda.
Charitable organizations sheltered and fed those Hutu who escaped. They even allowed them to make military camps. The outcome of this was that the conflict trespassed the borders and, as Gourevitch says, if this happened in Europe , it would be called the world war.
Our President Clinton told at that time that we should learn to say no. It appeared that we said ‘no’ to thousands of people who begged for help. Gourovitch, however, is highly critical that the United States and United Nations failed to intervene and suppress such genocide when it began. The Canadian commander, major general Romeo Dallaire, sent a message to the United Nations headquarters, located in New York, in January 1994 with the detailed plan of the genocide. But this message was ignored. When the killings began, Dellaire received the orders to withdraw and do not interfere with the conflict, instead of the reinforcement he asked for.
Despite the fact that at the present time about 125, 000 of those who were accused guilty for genocide are in prisons, we would never be able to erase the memory of what has happened in 1994 during 100 days in Rwanda.
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