Nearly a quarter-century after the fact, a searching look at the children of genocide in Rwanda.
French journalist/activist Hatzfeld (The Antelope's Strategy: Living in Rwanda After the Genocide, 2009, etc.), who has been writing for years on the Rwandan massacre and its aftermath, chronicles his travels across the small nation to speak with young men and women, Hutu and Tutsi alike, whose parents and grandparents were swept up in a back-and-forth violence that saw the deaths of as many as 1 million people. One young Hutu man speaks to the dire consequences of ethnicity in itself, saying that he does not speak of it—especially with members of the other major tribe. People don’t care about ethnicity in other African countries, he observes, but to this day in Rwanda, “it attracts misfortune and it blocks understanding.” He thinks further and adds, “it’s important for the ones who suffered to be clear about who suffered and who committed crimes.” That is, it’s important to assign blame—and perhaps to keep the wheels of recrimination turning. Aid workers, street people, workers: Hatzfeld is comprehensive in his choice of subjects, many of whom, though too young to remember events firsthand, keep them alive in memory for good and ill. The author himself came under suspicion as someone perhaps “inexplicably trying to rile people up” in the quest of remembrance, when most Rwandans, it seems, would sooner forget—not forgive and forget, just forget. So can genocide be ruled out as a future possibility? Almost certainly not. Says one 16-year-old Tutsi girl, wiser than her years, “deep down, a lot of young people from both ethnicities conceal a desire for revenge. That’s why so many young Rwandans are religious. They put their trust in God in order to alleviate their sorrows, in order not to stumble.” But, she adds, “We are keeping on our guard, since the threats are quiet for now.”
Hatzfeld’s work is of great importance to understanding the Rwandan tragedy—and to the study of genocide generally.