Sunday 17 July 2011

Genocide: My Stolen Rwanda by Reverien Rurangwa

During the Rwandan genocide of 1994, Reverien Rwangwa was hacked with machetes and left for dead with all 43 members of his family solely because he is a Tutsi.  One of his attackers was a man who they thought had been a friendly neighbour but who was Hutu.  Reverien survived both this initial attack and further machete attacks which left him without an eye, his hand was severed at the wrist and his nose became detached from his face.  After making it to a hospital in which Tutsi victims waiting for treatment were being slaughtered by Hutus, he was flown out of the country by a charity and began treatment.  Over the following years he struggled to come to terms with what had happened to him and how normal life could ever possibly continue.

I've read lots about the Rwandan genocide before, and would recommend both Romeo Dallaire's Shake Hands With the Devil (written by the UN commander for Rwanda) and Samantha Power's A Problem From Hell (which covers all genocides, not just the Rwandan one), but this is the first time I've read such a personal account and it was harrowing to say the least.  It was as impossible for me as for Reverien to understand why or how anyone could attack others in that way, let alone in a coordinated effort.  The biggest question I had throughout reading the book was - how can you ever live normally after that?  and the answer was that it is almost impossible.  Reverien became consumed by hate and grief and found it impossible to come to terms with the genocide.

The hardest part for me to read was not the attacks, but the section where Reverien goes back to Rwanda.  He comes across his attacker, still living in the same house and going about the same job as if nothing had happened.  When he lodges a complaint, he receives death threats and is eventually forced out of the country.  No one wants to talk to or acknowledge a survivor as it makes the whole thing real.  The amount of collective looking away and not wanting to accept that anything bad happened was astonishing.  The vast majority of perpetrators were never tried or imprisoned, and if they were the sentence could be as short as only three months.

This book shows a side of humanity that we would all like to pretend doesn't exist, but I think it's important to face it and remember.  I would definitely recommend this book.

Verdict:  Harrowing but worthwhile.
Source: Library
Score: 4.5 out of 5


  1. This does seem like a very emotional, even shocking book. Though it's not at all a light read, I think I would like to read this book. Thanks for the review!

  2. Misha - it definitely is an emotional and shocking read, but very powerful. I hope you do get a chance to read it.