What to read on Rwanda

Having received a few requests recently for books on Rwanda & the genocide, I thought I’d list those that I’ve found most valuable in understanding the peri-genocidal state.  (I’ve since updated this post several times since publication, most recently in June 2015.)

What else would you recommend?  (Update: see the comments for some additional recommendations!)

17 thoughts on “What to read on Rwanda

  1. I would also recommend my book In the Aftermath of Genocide – the U.S. role in Rwanda for an inside view of what the US govt knew and did. R. Gribbin

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  2. Also, what Cyrus said. There’s no definitive history of the Great Lakes, and you have to read it all to understand the interpretive divide. Chretien’s thousand-year history of the region is a long, long, long, long way to familiarize yourself with his side of things. :)

    If you’re really up for some historiographical imagination, go to the LOC and read the two volumes of Alexis Kagame’s history of Rwanda. It’s not all factual, but it’s absolutely fascinating and is a great window into how Tutsis of his era viewed themselves and their place in the region.

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  3. Hey, Rachel, sorry to be late in answering this, but I third (fourth?) the Catharine Newbury recommendation. It’s helpful to read her alongside David Newbury’s Kings and Clans on the Kivus as the history of Rwanda and that part of Congo are inseparable. As are the Newburys, which is why both books are so great. :)

    David Newbury just edited Alison Des Forges’ dissertation and it is out and reasonably priced. Just got my copy on Monday – will let you know if it’s worth your time.

    Strauss’ Order of Genocide is great for understanding the microdynamics of violence and why people chose to engage in it. One thing that’s missing out there is a study of the bigger picture. Alan Kuperman is working on a book on this – he’s trying to look at the question of why did the Hutu extremists see genocide as the best way to achieve their political goals? His book, the Limits of Humanitarian Intervention, is helpful for understanding what would have (and would not have) been possible had the international community done something about the crisis.

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  4. I first suggest the three Hatzfeld books. Second, Phil Clark has written a book about the Gacaca, just published. The product of years of research IN Rwanda and over 500 interviews THERE he has taken the time and made the effort to try to get to the bottom of things.
    As for Remaking Rwanda, well readers will have to consider in respect of the various contributors whether s/he in each case has explained that they are in a position to comment authoritatively e.g. when were they last in Rwanda?

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  5. The path of a genocide by Adelman&Suhrke (editors) and The shallow graves of Rwanda by Shaharyar Khan who was the SRSG during unamir II.

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  6. I recommend “God Sleeps in Rwanda” by Joseph Sebarenzi and “Hope for Rwanda” by Andre Sibomana. Nice to get a perspective from Rwandans, who have a deeper personal connection to the history.

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  7. Hey Rachel, good list. I have to recommend the Order of Genocide by Scott Straus. It’s the only book I’ve read that goes beyond what was going on in Kigali with the politicians and the diplomats and actually asks the genocidaires, “why did you do this?” The answers are very surprising for casual observers of Rwanda, but not at all surprising if you’ve lived there. It seems to be less about hatred, and more about local level coercion. At least for the people with the machetes… Also, I think I have your copy of “Antecedents to Modern Rwanda”. I can’t finish it. It puts me to sleep.

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  8. 1 on Newbury. Also it is very important to familiarize oneself with the debates between, e.g. Reyntjens, Lemarchand, and their students on one side, and Chretien and his students on the other. Much of the work is in French. Looking at their work allows one to appreciate how intensely contested is Rwandan and broader Great Lakes historiography. No one owns the truth. Mamdani’s book was important in it’s analysis of the ’62 refugees in Uganda from which the RPF arose.

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  9. Catherine Newbury, Cohesion & Oppression. Absolutely essential. Troubled by Hatzfeld’s third book, but it should be read. Scott Straus, “Order of Genocide” (or “order and genocide?”), dense but necessary.

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