We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories from Rwanda

We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories from Rwanda

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by Philip Gourevitch

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An unforgettable firsthand account of a people's response to genocide and what it tells us about humanity.

This remarkable debut book chronicles what has happened in Rwanda and neighboring states since 1994, when the Rwandan government called on everyone in the Hutu majority to murder everyone in the Tutsi minority. Though the killing was low-tech--largely


An unforgettable firsthand account of a people's response to genocide and what it tells us about humanity.

This remarkable debut book chronicles what has happened in Rwanda and neighboring states since 1994, when the Rwandan government called on everyone in the Hutu majority to murder everyone in the Tutsi minority. Though the killing was low-tech--largely by machete--it was carried out at shocking speed: some 800,000 people were exterminated in a hundred days. A Tutsi pastor, in a letter to his church president, a Hutu, used the chilling phrase that gives Philip Gourevitch his title.

With keen dramatic intensity, Gourevitch frames the genesis and horror of Rwanda's "genocidal logic" in the anguish of its aftermath: the mass displacements, the temptations of revenge and the quest for justice, the impossibly crowded prisons and refugee camps. Through intimate portraits of Rwandans in all walks of life, he focuses on the psychological and political challenges of survival and on how the new leaders of postcolonial Africa went to war in the Congo when resurgent genocidal forces threatened to overrun central Africa.

Can a country composed largely of perpetrators and victims create a cohesive national society? This moving contribution to the literature of witness tells us much about the struggle everywhere to forge sane, habitable political orders, and about the stubbornness of the human spirit in a world of extremity.

We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families is the winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“[It is the] sobering voice of witness that Gourevitch has vividly captured in his work.” —Wole Soyinka, The New York Times Book Review

“[Gourevitch] has the mind of a scholar along with the observative capacity of a good novelist, and he writes like an angel. This volume establishes him as the peer of Michael Herr, Ryszard Kapuscinski, and Tobias Wolff. I think there is no limit to what we may expect from him.” —Robert Stone

“A sobering, revealing, and deeply thoughtful chronicle.” —The Boston Globe

“The most important book I have read in many years . . . [Gourevitch] examines [the genocidal war in Rwanda] with humility, anger, grief and a remarkable level of both political and moral intelligence.” —Susie Linfield, Los Angeles Times

“Shocking and important . . . clear and balanced . . . the voice in this book is meticulous and humane.” —Michael Pearson, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Astonishing . . . [Gourevitch] is masterful at placing the unspeakability of mass murder into actual people's mouths and inhabiting it in actual people's stories.” —Mark Gevisser, Newsday

“Unsettlingly beautiful . . . brilliant . . . this is a staggeringly good book . . . [It] should be on bookshelves forever.” —Tom Engelhardt, The Philadelphia Inquirer

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We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families

Part One

Leontius, the son of Aglaion, was coming up from the Peiraeus, close to the outer side of the north wall, when he saw some dead bodies lying near the executioner, and he felt a desire to look at them, and at the same time felt disgust at the thought, and tried to turn aside. For some time he fought with himself and put his hand over his eyes, but in the end the desire got the better of him, and opening his eyes wide with his fingers he ran forward to the bodies, saying, "There you are, curse you, have your fill of the lovely spectacle."


—PLATO, The Republic

Decimation means the killing of every tenth person in a population, and in the spring and early summer of 1994 a program of massacres decimated the Republic of Rwanda. Although the killing was lowtech—performed largely by machete—it was carried out at dazzling speed: of an original population of about seven and a half million, at least eight hundred thousand people were killed in just a hundred days. Rwandans often speak of a million deaths, and they may be right. The dead of Rwanda accumulated at nearly three times the rate of Jewish dead during the Holocaust. It was the most efficient mass killing since the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

WE WISH TO INFORM YOU THAT TOMORROW WE WILL BE KILLED WITH OUR FAMILIES. Copyright © 1998 by Philip Gourevitch. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. For information, address Picador, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.

Meet the Author

Philip Gourevitch is a staff writer at The New Yorker and a contributing editor to the Forward. He has reported from Africa, Asia, and Europe for a number of magazines, including Granta, Harper's, and The New York Review of Books. He lives in New York City.

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We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 42 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great book if you want to begin to understand the genocide in Rwanda and the first few years after. I highly recommend it.
Callay More than 1 year ago
I picked this up on a whim one day and have since been glued to the pages. It not only brings to light the horrible things that people can do but also how some have survived them. Books like this need to be written, to be read, to show the rest of the world the horrors around them, maybe then people will start to change for the better and things like what happened in Rwanda will stop happening.
Bryan_Groves More than 1 year ago
WE WISH TO INFORM YOU THAT TOMORROW WE WILL BE KILLED WITH OUR FAMILIES, Philip Gourevitch, Picador Books, 356 pages. The subtitle of this book is "STORIES FROM RWANDA," but this book is about much more than Rwanda. It is about European colonialism and racism. It is about Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is about non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and international organizations that operate under United Nations mandates and charters as well as United Nations peacekeeping. It is about strategic communications and it is about stability operations. The title comes from a letter from several Tutsi pastors begging a Hutu pastor to intervene with the local Hutu mayor on their behalf. They were killed with their families. Gourevitch tell us his book is "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." Gourevitch demonstrates that the genocide was a government-planned affair and not the spontaneous uprising of Hutus against their Tutsi neighbors and in many cases, family members, as a result of the assassination of the presidents of Burundi and Rwanda in 1994. He interviews alleged and confessed perpetrators as well as survivors and gives us narrative (no photos, words being sufficient) tours of various massacre sites, refugee camps and prisons. This book could be viewed as a strategic communications coup for then President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Vice President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and President Laurent Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Though Gourevitch interviewed opposition leaders as well, these three national leaders came across as sincere, just and competent The international community, with special emphasis on the United States, France, the United Nations and the NGO community did not come across as any of those. Gourevitch highlights the failure of key international actors to do anything to stop the genocide. He points out how French Operation TURQUOISE actually allowed for Hutu interahamwe militias to rearm and begin the genocide anew behind the French lines. He notes how the United Nations and NGO community and their donors failed to intervene effectively during the genocide and how they created and sustained huge refugee camps in Congo, all the while knowing that they were shielding not only bona fide refugees, but mass murderers as well. In the final page, Gourevitch recounts the continued ethnic violence and continued hope in and for Rwanda: "Rwandan television showed footage of a man who confessed to having been among a party of genocidaires. . . During their attack on the school in Gisenyi, as in the earlier attack in on the school in Kibuye, the students, teenage girls who had been roused from their sleep, were ordered to separate themselves - Hutus from Tutsis. But the students had refused. At both schools, the girls said that they were simply Rwandans, so they were beaten and shot indiscriminately."
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was amazingly well written and extremely insightful. The whole Rwandan Genocide can by seen and felt through the stories and accounts given by survivors. Gourevitch does an amazing job of capturing the attention of his readers in this book and holds their attention throughout. I was surprised by all the details he had but into the accounts and stories he told, holding nothing back. I really enjoyed his honesty and courage about these stories. I had never read anything on the Rwandan Genocide before, but this book helped me to understand it more and spark my interest in learning more about the genocide. It was a great read from start to finish.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book provides a thoughtful, in-depth look at a horrendous human tragedy that was essentially ignored as it unfolded and sadly remains overlooked and misunderstood to this day. Gourevitch's courage, passion, and determination to chronicle the events surrounding and fueling the Rwandan genocide is absolutely remarkable. He faces the most difficult of tasks: to explain the inexplicable...to describe the indescribable...and perhaps most importantly, to make us think about the unthinkable. He admirably accomplishes all of these tasks with great insight and understanding. He takes us on an amazing, humbling, and often disturbing journey through the killing fields of Africa. He skillfully explores the destructive impact of political and economic greed and general hedonism on the human condition. I believe most readers will come away from this compelling account with a novel perception of themselves and their place in the world around them.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In this well researched and beautifully written book about the genocide in Rwanda, Philip Gourevitch did a brilliant job not only in telling us about the genocide, but also in making us understand the intricate history of the land that made the genocide possible and the aftermath of the genocide. The book moved me from the opening to the last pages. What I particularly liked about this work by Gourevitch is the fact that it is easy for a non-African or non-Rwandan mind that has no knowledge of Rwanda to understand the story. The analysis was perfect and the criticism deserving.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a great historical account of the Rwandan genocide. I've been interested in the genocide for a few years now, but never knew/understood the outer-workings of surrounding countries and what affect they had on the genocide.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this when I was a sophmore in high school, three years ago, and it still makes me hurt to think about the stories I read. It inspired me to care more about what goes on beyond the U.S. borders, and I was also inspired by it to write a fictional piece about the Rwandan Genocide for a contest in which I became a semi-finalist. A very powerful piece in so many ways.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have to admit that I only knew about Rwanda because of Gorillas in the Mist but after reading the first page of this book I was hooked. Not only it is beautifully written but it makes you think about what horrible things we are capable of doing as human beings. It should be a must read for everyone.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Philip Gourevitch, author of We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families (1998), writes that the civil war in Rwanda in 1994 produced few heroes. However, in the midst of the horror, Gourevitch points out that Paul Rusesabagina the quick-witted and courageous Hutu hotel manager of the Hotel des Mille Colline, a luxury hotel in central Kigali owned by Sabena airlines, managed to save more than a thousand people. Many people who were slated for death wound up at this hotel. They were fortunate enough to find refuge in what was one of the only safe places in Rwanda. Two medical doctors Odette Nyiramilimo, her husband Dr Jean Baptiste Gasasira and their children ended up at this hotel. Many Tutsis were kept safe there. Gourevitch describes how Rusesabagina spent his days buying lives of Tutsis with liquor, reasoning, persuading, so that each band of killers who came to the hotel to take out various Tutsis on their lists for killing somehow ended up going away. Rusesabagina would then stay up until four in the morning using the one phone line, which the Hutu power authorities had not managed to cut off, as they did not know its number. He would send faxes to Bill Clinton, ring the French Foreign Ministry, ring the King of Belgium, and tell them what was going on. Gourevitch says that although Rusesabagina may not have seen what he did as heroic, he still saved many lives. Something that almost everyone else was unable or unwilling to do. None of the people who took shelter at the hotel were killed during the genocide and none were killed at a small number of other sites under foreign protection, like the hospital in Kigali run by Doctors Without Borders and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Perhaps these sanctuaries could not have been replicated so successfully elsewhere. But certainly it would have been right to try. In 2000, Rusesabagina was the recipient of the Immortal Chaplains Prize for Humanity and was running a transport company in Brussels Belgium, and is still exceptionally modest about what he did. Best Regards, David S. Fick, Author of Entrepreneurship in Africa: A Study of Successes (March 2002)
Guest More than 1 year ago
Philip Gourevitch writes with a beauty and clarity that few reporters do. As he embarks to explain the events that surrounded the Rwandan genocide of 1994, Gourevitch not only tells the offical story, but highlights the historical roots of the ethnic conflict and relays the personal stories of Rwandans. In short, this is a multilayered and comprehensive work. Furthermore, he puts a human face on an incomprehensible series of events. Gourvetich is particularly good at telling us how Rwandans feel about what happened rather than providing us with a purely western perspective. This book is highly readable and suitable for those who may know nothing about the event. I highly recommend it. It is very moving and beautifully written.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The interesting title of this book caught my eye, and the few sentences on the back cover made me realise that I was ignorant of major and horrific events that I should have known more about. I completed the book within a couple of days of buying it - I couldn't put it down. I've been discussing it with everyone I talk to, and thoroughly recommend it. The book has been an incredible eye-openner to me. Not only the subject matter, but the fact that I had to read a book to learn the basic truths of the genocide in Rwanda, and the west's disgraceful participation in it. Why weren't these important details provided by our journalists, TV news shows, and political commentators at the time?
Guest More than 1 year ago
As I read this book, I felt similarly to how I felt a few months earlier, when I had read a book chronicling the conflict in Bosnia. Only with this book, I felt it twice as much. Prior to reading this book, I knew embarrassingly little about Rwanda. What little bit I did know was wrong ¿ I thought Rwandans had merely endured a civil war. But as I read the book, I began to realize that what went on in Rwanda was full-blown genocide. I couldn¿t help but think of how many times I have heard people say that we can never let anything like the Holocaust happen again. And yet, as evidenced by what transpired in Rwanda, it has happened again and the rest of the world should be ashamed of our reaction, or lack thereof. For anyone who wants to learn about what happened in Rwanda during the 1990¿s, this book provides a comprehensive analysis. As the book¿s subtitle implies, Gourevitch¿s book is generally taken from his many travels in Rwanda and his countless interviews with people he met. I found the scope of the people he interviewed to be quite impressive, and many of their stories both powerful and shocking. But while a good portion of the book focuses on the experiences of individuals Gourevitch met who lived through (and even participated in) the genocide, he presents their stories in such a way that he also gives a great deal of analysis to the historical and political background of Rwanda. Moreover, he also manages to focus a great deal on the psychology of the genocide, and of the irony that many Western countries, rather than trying to help put a stop to the genocide, were actually helping the culprits at the expense of the victims. Bottom line¿any person who studies war crimes should read this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was impressed with the scope of the book. I'm glad to have been able to find out about a lot fo the things that happened in Rwanda. I too was struck by the sheer beauty of the country. People in America can't understand the reasons for what happened to the people in Rwanda. I'd like to personally thank the writer for opening my eyes.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book describes real stories of real people in the genocide. It is a very sombre book that describes to the world the very sombre Rwanda, that was, in 1994 and still is today. It is very well written and I believe quite accurate. I think it is a must read for all Africans, because Rwanda is our problem. This book is a good place for anyone interested in Rwanda to start or to build on because it explains the past, present and future of Rwanda. Gourevitch does an excellent job especially with the background history and Rwandan culture that he brings out in the first few chapters. This book aslo brings out important evidence that Africans can't possible rely on western governments to come in understand and solve African problems. They don't really care.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an important book for everyone to read as it dispels a lot of myths about what when on in the refugee camps in Goma, Zaire in the mid-90s. What most of the world didn't know was that all of the humanitarian aid that was being poured into Goma was being used to harbour killers who had fled Rwanda. These people in the camps participated in what was probably the worst genocide of an ethnic group the world has ever known, including the Holocaust. It is tough to read this and realize that the Western world was not only duped, but that we didn't pay that much attention to it anyway. Read this book and it will change your perception of 'ethnic cleansing.' What we vowed would never happen after the Holocaust happened right there in central Africa. God help the Rwandans.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book in two sittings, it has changed my perspective on not only the way western governments treat 3rd world countires that have no economical value. It also provides a view at humanity and human nature.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In We Wish to inform you that tomorrow will be killed with our families Gourevitch takes the audience in depth to such an unimaginable cruelty. It took 100 days in 1994 for ruling Hutus to kill 800,000 of their Tutsi minority, people they once called friends, families, preacher, wives, and husbands. Where preachers were headed over the killing of their congregations, husbands over the killing of their wives, but yet relations did not stop these massacres. The killings were horrifying not just for its cruelty but for the matter of how they were carried out. Following the Hutu militias order/example the Hutus did as they did. “Neighbors hacked neighbors to death in their homes, and colleagues hacked colleagues to death in their workplaces. Doctors killed their patients, and schoolteachers killed their pupils (page 115)." Gourevitch also points out that the genocide was not the product of chaos, but rather "of order, authoritarianism, decades of modern political theorizing and indoctrination, and one of the most meticulously administered states in history (page 95)." Hutu leaders convinced many Hutus that Tutsis were "cockroaches" to be eliminated. "Genocide, after all, is an exercise in community building (page 95)" said Gourevitch. Overall this book is a wonderful book! Even though it can be graphic in some scenes, the use of detail that Gourevitch uses makes it feel as if the audience was reliving the experience with the genocide survivors. With the use of interviews from various people the audience gets to hear the story told from many different perspectives and in many different ways that they themselves can take a position on how they feel about the genocide.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thus was a crazy story.....i had to read it for school but it was not easy....i knew about this but i didnt know it wad thus bad......
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