Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Forgotten Rwanda

From Rosemary Ekosso's review of Left to Tell (HT: Global Voices Online):
Several books have been written about Rwanda. In my view, they will never be enough. Sixty years after the Jewish holocaust, books are still being published about it. We are not allowed to forget what happened to the Jews. That is good, because a terrible thing happened to them, and those who were responsible must remember it with shame and remorse so that they are deterred from repeating it.

But there is a general tendency to forget the Rwandan genocide. The conspiracy theorist in me thinks that it is because it happened to black people in a poor country with no oil. But we must not forget, because all humans bear in them the seeds of genocide. I was particularly worried when rumours began to circulate that some of the Rwandan higher-ups who had taken refuge in Cameroon were busy organising the training of a sort of Interahamwe (the Rwandan militia of disaffected youths and thugs who were used as the instrument of the genocide) to prepare for a showdown with those who sought to wrest power from the current regime. I hope to God it was not true.

Before the Rwandan genocide, many Africans thought that it was the moral bankruptcy of the white man that causes him to kill on a large scale. Then the Rwandan genocide happened. Circumstances can exacerbate old tensions to boiling point, and normally friendly neighbours can turn into bloodthirsty fiends. We must not forget. The madness of bloodlust and hatred lurks in all races. We are all potential genocidaires, because we are all human, black, brown, yellow or white. Ilibagiza’s book illustrates this with chilling accuracy.
I find it interesting that Ekosso cuts straight to the internal problems that the genocide displayed without reference to the European construction of race. What the Rwandan Genocide (and I hope a better name is on the horizon, one that is both descriptive and unique) becomes should, like the Holocaust, elucidate political problems without either relativizing them or externalizing them.


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