The Rwanda Crisis: History of a Genocide

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In the spring of 1994 the tiny African nation of Rwanda exploded onto the international media stage, as internal strife reached genocidal proportions. But the horror that unfolded before our eyes had been building steadily for years before it captured the attention of the world. In The Rwanda Crisis, journalist and Africa scholar Gerard Prunier provides a current yet historical perspective that Western readers need to understand how and why the brutal massacres of 800,000 Rwandese came to pass. Prunier shows how the events in Rwanda were part of a deadly logic, a plan that served central political and economic interests, rather than a result of ancient tribal hatreds - a notion often invoked by the media to dramatize the fighting. The Rwanda Crisis makes great strides in dispelling the racist cultural myths surrounding the people of Rwanda, views propagated by European colonialists in the nineteenth century and carved into "history" by Western influence. Prunier demonstrates how the struggle for cultural dominance and subjugation among the Hutu and Tutsi - the central players in the recent massacres - was exploited by racially obsessed Europeans. He shows how Western colonialists helped to construct a Tutsi identity as a superior racial type because of their distinctly "non-Negro" features in order to facilitate greater control over the Rwandese. Expertly leading readers on a journey through the troubled history of the country and its surroundings, Prunier moves from the pre-colonial Kingdom of Rwanda, through German and Belgian colonial regimes, to the 1973 coup. The book chronicles the developing refugee crisis in Rwanda and neighboring Uganda in the 1970s and 1980s, and offers the most comprehensive account available of the manipulations of popular sentiment that led to the genocide and the events that have followed.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
One of the absolute and mystifying horrors of the late 20th century has been the carnage taking place in the small central African nation of Rwanda. It is also probably safe to say that it has been the least understood. The author, a senior researcher at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris, has written the first comprehensive account in English that examines the causes and events of this genocidal civil war. Whereas most in the West have been given to believe it was merely a "tribal" conflict (Hutu vs. Tutsi), Prunier points out, correctly, the substantive underlying causes: a colonial legacy that disrupted precolonial ethnic relations, political chaos and repression, economic dislocation, Western bungling and neglect, the role of the church, and overpopulation-to name a few. His well-written and important study belongs in all but the smallest collections dealing with Africa or current events. Another comparable title is Alain Destexhe's Rwanda and Genocide in the Twentieth Century (LJ 10/1/95).-Paul H. Thomas, Hoover Inst. Lib., Stanford, Cal.
Kathleen Hughes
In spring 1994, in the tiny African nation of Rwanda, 800,000 men, women, and children met their deaths at the hands of government soldiers, neighbors, and friends, at the instigation of a corrupt, fascist government. Fearing retaliation, these murderers fled to massive refugee camps, where they died by the thousands of cholera and other diseases. Journalist and African scholar Prunier endeavors to provide explanations for how and why this horrifying massacre occurred. Dispelling notions of ancient tribal hatred among the Hutu and Tutsi the two groups involved as the primary reason for the madness, Prunier believes that this antipathy was exploited by Europeans for political and economic reasons, and that this laid the groundwork for the hatred to explode into genocidal rage. While Prunier has done an excellent job of research, documentation, and interviewing, and he points to several reasons why the genocide may have taken place, we never understand exactly what motivated so many people to kill so many people with whom they had previously been friends or at least acquaintances. And while that is probably not within the scope of this book, it remains a nagging question. Although extensively footnoted, this compelling, important work is never pedantic, and Prunier's chatty writing style contributes to the book's readability.
A journalist and Africa scholar analyses Rwandan history and culture to expose the roots of the horrendous 1994 massacres in which some 800,000 Rwandanese were killed. Prunier shows how the events in Rwanda were part of a plan which served political and economic interests rather than being a result of ancient tribal hatreds--a concept often invoked by the media to dramatize the fighting. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
The Boston Book Review

Gérard Prunier's new history of the Rwandan genocide casts this sad moment into the black and white relief of print and commits to memory the struggle of those Rwandans who fell victim to the atrocities of last year's tragedy. His book is a fitting tribute to those who lost their lives, and an important contribution to the work of understanding the complexities of modern conflict.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231104081
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/1996
  • Pages: 389
  • Product dimensions: 5.85 (w) x 8.83 (h) x 1.09 (d)

Meet the Author

A renowned analyst of East Africa, the Horn, Sudan, and the Great Lakes of Africa, Gérard Prunier is a Research Professor at the University of Paris and the author of DarfurA 21st Century Genocide; From Genocide to Continental War: The Congolese Conflict and The Crisis of Contemporary Africa.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

Map of Rwanda
1 Rwandese Society and the Colonial Impact: The Making of a Cultural Mythology (1894-1959) 1
2 The Hutu Republic (1959-1990) 41
3 Civil War and Foreign Intervention (October 1990-July 1991) 93
4 Slouching towards Democracy (July 1991-June 1992) 127
5 The Arusha Peace Marathon (June 1992-August 1993) 159
6 Chronicle of a massacre foretold (4 August 1993-6 April 1994) 192
7 Genocide and renewed war (6 April-14 June 1994) 213
8 'Operation Turquoise' and Gotterdammerung in Central Africa (14 June-21 August 1994) 281
9 Aftermath or new beginning? (22 August-31 December 1994) 312
Bibliography 356
Glossary 366
Abbreviations 374
Index 379
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