Good books and films about the Rwandan Genocide

Genocide in Rwanda

The genocide in Rwanda started in April 1994 and resulted in the deaths of over 800,000 people

April is Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month. In honor of this, we have compiled a Resource List of books and films themed around each of the past genocides that have commemorative dates in April, plus the areas that we cover.

We hope you will make use of this list as a way to both remember these genocides, and learn more about them.  This is our second entry, the Rwandan Genocide.

Recommended Books:

A People Betrayed: The Role of the West in Rwanda’s Genocide, by Linda Melvern
Melvern gives a shocking portrait of calculated mass murder, revealing how the international community, and especially the U.S., failed to act in the face of a carefully executed plan to murder one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda in 1994.

An Ordinary Man, by Paul Rusesabagina
The book explores the inner life of the man who became one of the most prominent public faces of the Rwandan genocide.  Rusesabagina tells the story of his life which led him to become the first Rwandan manager of the Hotel Milles Collines and brings the reader inside the hotel for the days depicted in the film, “Hotel Rwanda”.

God Sleeps in Rwanda, by Joseph Sebarenzi
In this memoir, Joseph Sebarenzi presents a thoughtful critique of Kagame’s regime.  His tale is a provocative warning to the many outsiders who are ready to canonize Paul Kagame, the ruler of Rwanda since the genocide.

Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust, by Immaculee Ilibagiza
This searing firsthand account of Rwandan native Ilibagiza’s experience in 1994 cuts two ways: her description of the evil that was perpetrated, including the brutal murders of her family members, is soul-numbingly devastating, yet the story of her unquenchable faith and connection to God throughout the ordeal uplifts and inspires.

Life Laid Bare: The Survivors in Rwanda Speak, by Jean Hatzfield
In this French-English translated book, the author made several trips to the Bugasera-one of the region’s most devastated by the genocide.  In the villages of Nyamata and N’tamara, he interviewed 14 survivors. From child farmers to school teachers, each person gives accounts of their experiences.

Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak, by Jean Hatzfeld
This book features the testimony of 10 friends from the same village who spent day after day together, fulfilling orders to kill any Tutsi within their territory during the 1994 Rwandan genocide.  Hatzfeld offers an analysis of the psychology of the perpetrators and how the Rwandan genocide differs from other genocides in history.

Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda, by Roméo Dallaire
As former head of the late 1993 U.N. peacekeeping mission in Rwanda, Canadian general Dallaire’s initial proposal called for 5,000 soldiers to permit orderly elections and the return of the refugees.  Nothing like this number was supplied, and the result was an outright attempt at genocide against the Tutsis that nearly succeeded, with 800,000 dead over three months. The book documents in horrifying detail what happens when no serious effort is made.

We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories From Rwanda, by Philip Gourevitch *favorite
The stories in this book are unrelentingly horrifying and filled with “the idiocy, the waste, the sheer wrongness” of one group of Rwandans (Hutus) methodically exterminating another (Tutsis).  With 800,000 people killed in 100 days, Gourevitch found many numbed Rwandans who had lost whole families to the machete.

When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism, and the Genocide in Rwanda, by Mahmood Mamdani
Mamdani attempts to give his readers an understanding of all of the historical reasons underlying the 1994 massacre.  His holistic approach to explaining the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda makes Mamdani’s When Victims Become Killers a must read for anyone interested in knowing how such an enormous calamity could occur in modern Africa.

Recommended Films:

Beyond the Gates
A harrowing recounting of the 1994 Rwandan genocide ends with an epigraph by Elie Wiesel that is worth pondering: “The opposite of faith is not heresy but indifference.”  The movie addresses two unrelated questions.  The first — why the West sat back as the catastrophe unfolded?

Ghosts of Rwanda *favorite
Through interviews with key government officials, diplomats, soldiers, and survivors of the slaughter, this Frontline documentary presents groundbreaking, first-hand accounts of the genocide from those who lived it.

Hotel Rwanda *favorite
The true-life story of Paul Rusesabagina, a hotel manager who housed over a thousand Tutsi refugees during their struggle against the Hutu militia in Rwanda.

Shake Hands with the Devil
The story of General Romeo Dallaire’s frustrated efforts to stop the madness of the Rwandan Genocide, despite the complete indifference of his superiors.

Sometimes in April
In April 1994, one of the most heinous genocides in world history began in the African nation of Rwanda.  The film focuses on the human atrocities that took place a decade ago through the story of two Hutu brothers–one in the military, one a radio personality–whose relationship and private lives were forever changed in the midst of the genocide.

Background on the Rwandan Genocide: Since independence, Rwandan society featured tensions between the Tutsi minority and the Hutu majority, leading to massacres amd expulsions in 1959 and 1963. On April 6, 1994, Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana, was killed when his plane was shot down outside of the country’s capital, Kigali. Habyarimana’s assassination provided the spark for an organizated campaign of violence against Tutsi and moderate Hutu civilians across the country. In 100 days, extremist Hutu groups, including the Interahamwe and the Presidential Guard, used radios to direct the killings of civilians across the country. Despite the efforts of the UNAMIR Peacekeepers, extremists were able to kill between 800,000 to 1 million Tutsis and moderate Hutus in 100 days. In 1994, the United Nations created the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), dedicated to bringing those responsible for the genocide to justice. While slow, the ICTR has determined that the widespread rapes committed during the Rwandan genocide may also be considered an act of torture and genocide on their own.

– From GI-Net / Save Darfur Coalition (link)

Compiled by Paulina Robles and Barbara English of Orange County for Darfur and Martina Knee of the San Francisco Bay Area Darfur Coalition.

One Response to Good books and films about the Rwandan Genocide

  1. Pingback: Good books and films about genocide and mass atrocities (all entries) « Orange County for Darfur Blog

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