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… this is a book about how people imagine themselves and one another — a book about how we imagine our world. In Rwanda … the government had adopted a new policy, according to which everyone in the country’s Hutu majority group was called upon to murder everyone in the Tutsi minority. The government, and an astounding number of its subjects, imagined that by exterminating the Tutsi people they could make the world a better place, and the mass killing had followed.” — Philip Gourevitch, “We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families.”

You expect to feel sickened when reading an account of the Rwandan genocide but the overwhelming feeling I had while reading Gourevitch’s book was anger. It’s impossible not to be infuriated over how culpable the international community was with regards to Rwanda.

The international media initially shrugged off the genocide as an extension of age-old enmities while failing to mention that those enmities didn’t occur before 1959. The international community initially looked away and when it did act, it managed to extend humanitarian aid to genocidal racists. The one superpower which could have ameliorated the situation deliberately went out of its way to avoid taking meaningful action.

Screwed up seems to be the phrase that best fits the situation in Rwanda in the aftermath of the genocide as well.

A man who committed an act of genocide is allowed to return to his home where he just might bump into the relative of someone he slaughtered.

The pen-pusher who failed to act when he was in a position to save thousands of lives not only avoided censure but actually went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

The stories in the book end in 1998 on a hopeful note but that hope was drawn from an incident involving the wholesale slaughter of schoolchildren.

You would like to imagine that these events would never happen again but of course, they do and the world does the same thing again.

Imagine that.

Posted in Books, Reviews.

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