Kathleen's Reviews > We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families

We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Ou... by Philip Gourevitch
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Jul 02, 11

Read in June, 2011

There are no firm figures on how many people perished in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Possibly one million, perhaps more. But each of them were a son or daughter. Each were loved by their families. The women, even the youngest of them, were raped, often repeatedly, and often in front of their children, their brothers, their friends, their mothers and fathers. They were not gassed or shot (at least not most of them.) They were mostly hacked to death with machetes and hoes, by their own neighbors and former friends and co-workers and priests and preachers. And the world knew it was happening, and allowed it to continue happening.

Few of us choose to read the details of such things. This book is not a blow by blow book of gruesome details. There are some horrific, graphic details, just as there should be. But mostly Philip Gourevitch does a remarkable job of helping us understand the politics of Rwanda and of how the people of the area came to this point of being able to decide to annihilate an entire group of their fellow human beings. It is not that is is *actually* easier to understand--how can it be? But it is so necessary to try to comprehend the failure of the local and the international community, not only so that it does not repeat itself, but because it is SO LIKELY TO BE REPEATED.

There were three things that I bookmarked to point out in this already too long review. Even if you do not read the book, I was horribly disappointed to learn the following:

1. The failure of "CHRISTIANS" and the CATHOLIC CHURCH. Most Rwandans are, in fact, Christians, and turned to the churches for protection when the massacres began. Imagine their horror when their pastors began helping to kill them. Worse, the Virgin Mary was apparently "appearing" at the hilltop shrine of Kibeho, and the Catholic Church has stated that she definitely did appear there. This, despite the fact that the Virgin Mary gave a message to one of the visionaries, Valentine Nyiramukiza, saying that the Hutu President who ordered the genocide was with her in heaven! The Tutsis who took refuge in the church where she was appearing were defended by only one of the priests there; the other dressed himself like a militia man and armed himself with a rifle, shooting into the crowd. There is MUCH more on the matter--read the book.
2. The compliance of the HUMANITARIAN EFFORTS. I clearly recall the time after the genocide when Rwandans were depicted in massive refugee camps, and being under the impression that these were the same Rwandans who had been the *victims* of the genocide, fleeing their country to remain alive. How wrong I was when I sent money to the effort to stop the cholera and starvation. These were, in fact, the Hutu killers, driving their fellow Hutus out of the country and forcing them (through threat of death and actual murders when necessary) to stay there. In the camps they received free health care, food, and shelter, and were also able to regroup and plan their next attacks on the Tutsis! The reason for the starving children was not even a lack of food, but that the soldiers TOOK THE FOOD FROM THE CHILDREN--that is the level of evil these men possessed. The UN soldiers were ordered to simply stand by and watch the continued murders occur before their very eyes. The next book I want to read on the subject is by General Dallaire, who pleaded to be effective, but was denied.
3. The complete failure of the UNITED STATES. I have always admired Bill Clinton and Madeline Albright, and eventually they did come around and apologize. But we failed the Tutsis completely and never did help them, really. The world has failed to acknowledge that a genocide took place. While the Jews of the Holocaust are told "Never Forget", the Tutsis of Rwanda are told nothing BUT "forgive and forget and live with your killers." In fact, they are expected to live right next door to the very murderers who they saw slaughter their own families! And we won't give them a dime for mental health services...

The Genocide Convention was passed after World War II, I always thought so if another genocide was to happen, the world would step in to stop it. Clearly it does not exist to do anything but take up space on paper. It is time for the countries of the world to re-evaluate and recommit to this important document. I am not sure that the United States has the stomach to do the right thing. We seem to use force only when oil or wealth is involved, which is when I oppose the use of force.
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Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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Yvonne Awesome review of a very disturbing book. General Dellaire's book is also excellent but difficult to read. His pain is still so apparent. But, I agree with you completely, it is important to understand what happened in Rwanda since it can and will happen again. I think people don't realize how easy it is to go from a situation of bitter political enemies to genocide.


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