Cristobo De's Reviews > Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak

Machete Season by Jean Hatzfeld
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M 50x66
's review
May 02, 2012

really liked it

Amazement. That`s my reaction to this book. So this journalist visits a Ruwandan prison and gets six of the Hutu executioners during the 1994 genocide to speak freely about their crimes. This time it is not a novel writer doing his best to sound spooky, this time it is not some sane, decent person like Primo Levy describing mass murder from the victim`s side. This time you get to the other side, as close as you can get to the real core of horror. What these men did goes so far beyond my experience, so far beyond my mindset, that I can`t grasp it, even after reading the book. Yeah, amazement is the word.
The book itself gets a bit confusing at times. The murderers often use eufemisms and seem to step back when they get to describe the actual killings. Anyway the whole thing sounds so unreal that sometimes it grows difficult to follow what they say. As a whole, however, the book is engaging, very well written and full of shocking information.
I would like to re-read it, and I guess that`s the best endorsement you can give a book.
On a sideline, these confessions may dispel many myths about the horrors of the 20th century.
1) It was very interesting to discover that Hutus really hated Tutsis without any encouragement from Western powers. It was also revealing that they were happy when the "whites", including diplomats, eventually left the country and they felt free to kill their countrymen without unwanted interference. There is some side hint at French complicity but at the end of the day, the genocide was an African enterprise, conceived and (very efficiently) organized by Africans. So bad for white post-colonial guilt.
2) It is interesting too the way they put aside their moral, their religion. As one of the killers put it: "We were getting so much tin roof, we were grabbing so much cattle, we were growing so rich that we didn`t need God any more". Simple as that.
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message 1: by Mark (new)

Mark Interesting review but your point about the Hutu really hating the Tutsi without any encouragement from the Western powers is only true surely if we ignore the fact that it was the Western powers who artificially welded these ancient tribes together into an inter-relatedness with which there was no precedent. It surely can't be denied that in so many situations the Western powers hamfistedly sought to impose their own outlook and structure on ancient peoples who they never tried to understand or listen to

Cristobo De Sir, I just know what I read in this book. I often read reports from journalists about the Belgians "artificially encouraging" the alleged superiority of Tutsis over Hutus, but this is not what I found in the book, and I regard it a deeper piece of investigation than any hasty report from any journalist.
I live in Europe and have seen traditional distrust between ancient ethnic groups actually alive. There was something familiar in the book. Hatred between cattle raisers and tillers? I have seen that before! You don`t need encouragement at all.

message 3: by Mark (new)

Mark No I would agree with you. I was not meaning to sound critical and I apologize if that is how it came across. I was not calling into question the investigation as it is presented, my point was really I suppose that situation which seems to be a continual fact of African modern history where the imperial scramble for Africa disregarded the boundaries or edges of tribal lands which have stood for centuries and then imposed false identities or 'nationhood' which exacerbated the emnity between 'cattle raisers and tillers' .
The distrust between ancient ethnic groups is indeed alive sadly in so many parts of the world but we don't help to ease or remove that by artificially cramming them together. I suppose the horror of the war in Bosnia and Serbia in the 90's was because those countries had been forcibly intermingled without the opportunity for a gradual growing together

message 4: by Albert (new)

Albert Barlow I just ordered the book on Ebay, so I haven't yet read it but I did want to clarify how the Hutu/Tutsi divide came to be.
The Belgians went through the villages. If you had more than ten cows you were assigned a Tutsi identity. If you had less, you were a Hutu. Pigmies were called Twa.
Many of the " Tutsi " were considered wealthy because they were nomadic herders mainly from Ethiopia and they settled in Rwanda because of the vast amounts of water.
I have been there three times now and have friends that were both wielders and victims with machete scars. The divide wasn't tribal, it was political and followed a well worn imperial pattern; divide them, stir up hate and take the natural resources while they are busy killing each other. 800000 in Rwanda, but 3.5 million in the DRC in the same conflict. Nobody talks about the DRC because it is full of gold, copper and diamonds as well as hardwood and it is not fully exploited yet.

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