I just finished reading We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed along with our families (Stories from Rwanda). The book by Philip Gourevitch is an account of the genocide in Rwanda and the subsequent struggles of the two ethnic groups, the Tutsis and the Hutus, to live together in the post-genocidal world. Gourevitch talks to survivors, to the perpetrators, to political leaders, and ordinary citizens and weaves a story that is a compelling, brutal, and accomplished work of journalism.
The genocide that the book is primarily about is the massacre of the members of the Tutsi tribe by the (Hutu) supporters of the Hutu Power movement, a genocide in which approximately eight hundred thousand people were killed in around 100 days. The speed of the killings and the low-tech nature (the killers mostly used machetes) made it a remarkable attempt to wipe out a population.
The book also discuses how the UN and the international community failed Rwanda in the aftermath of the genocide, and how the complex situation was misunderstood by the international community. I learned a thing or two about how aid organizations and the UN function and it wasn’t something anyone should be proud of.
Gourevitch also takes into account the political situation in the countries around Rwanda, especially the (then) state of Zaire (now Democratic Replublic of Congo) and Uganda and how it affected the aftermath of the genocide.
I had heard about the Rwandan genocide and watched a few news items but the book was an eye opener to say the least. While the movie Hotel Rwanda focuses a little on the Rwandan genocide, the book has way more depth and detail (obviously). (Gourevitch spoke to Paul Rusesabagina, the man who saved many people in his hotel, and his story is mentioned in the book.)
Even though the subject of the book is hardly dinner table conversation, I’m glad that I read this book. I think it is important to read books like this if only to remind ourselves that there’s a world outside of the one that we live in. Sometimes we forget this when we are in our comfort zones living in our own little worlds.
It is still unbelievable though that just 13 years ago, a genocide of such massive proportions took place in such a tiny country like Rwanda.