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 Gérard Prunier provides a 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 propogated 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, though 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.

In the aftermath of this devastating tragedy, The Rwanda Crisis is the first clear-eyed analysis available to American readers. From the massacres to the subsequent cholera epidemic and emerging refugee crisis, Prunier details the horrifying events of recent years and considers propsects for the future of Rwanda.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

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.
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.
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 (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231104098
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 6/27/1997
  • Pages: 389
  • Product dimensions: 5.58 (w) x 8.55 (h) x 0.96 (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

ForewardMap of Rwanda1. Rwandese Society and the Colonial Impact: The Making of a Cultural Mythology (1894-1959The physical settingThe Tutsi, the Hutu and the AbazunguMyths and realities of pre-colonial Rwandese society- Rwandese society- The dynamics of Rwandese historyThe colonial impact- the Germans- The Belgians- The 'Rwandese ideology'2. The Hutu Republic (1959-1990)The 1959 muyaga and its consequencesThe Kayibanda years (1961-1973)The refugee problem- The question of numbers- Life in the diaspora- The Ugandan factorThe Habyarimana regime- The good years- The atmosphere of the regime- The crisis- The RPF prepares for war3. Civil War and Foreign Intervention (October 1990-July 1991)The RPF strike and the first days of fightingForeign interventionSettling down into a war cultureThe reorganisation of the RDFThe advent of multiparty politics4. Slouching towards Democracy (July 1991-June 1992)The problems of democratisationWar and violence as parts of the political processThe new multiparty cabinet and the opening of peace negotiationsHardlines, democrats and warriors in the Hutu/Tutsi context5. The Arusha Peace Marathon (June 1992-August 1993)The economic situationPeace and its enemiesNegotiations feed the rise of extremismThe February war and its aftermathPeace through exhaustion6. Chronicle of a massacre foretold (4 August 1993-6 April 1994)Waiting for UNAMIRNdadaye's murder: the shock and its exploitationHanging on to the cliff's edge7. Genocide and renewed war (6 April-14 June 1994)The enigma of President Habyarimana's deathThe second week of April 1994The Genocide- Who were the organisers- Who were the killers- Who were the victims- Were there any bystanders- Patterns of killing- The horrors- Complexities of the situation- Unknown heroes- How long did it last- How many were killed- The refugeesThe warFrom the outside looking in8. 'Operation Turquoise' and Gotterdammerung in Central Africa (14 June-21August 1994)Deciding and preparing for the intervention (14-23 June)From the intervention to the fall of Kigali (23 June-4 July)The fall of the northwest and the refugee explosion (4-19 July)The new government and the cholera apocalypse (19 July-1 August)'Turquoise is going away, the problems remain' (1-21 August)9. Aftermath or new beginning? (22 August-31 December 1994)The new refugee problemReconstruction and internal insecurityWhat sort of political structure? The attitude of the international communityTowards a provisional conclusionBibliographyGlossaryAbbreviations

Columbia University Press

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