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Once in a while you are confronted by a book of a special kind. A book that deals with you. Like thoroughly deals with you.

The story of Rwanda and the genocide is horrific and so reading a booking about it is bound to be a challenge.

This makes sense in theory, until you pick up a book and actually read about what happened.

Horrific, very horrific, like traumatic events.

This was a very hard book to read. One of the most difficult books to read.

It left me asking myself how can human beings do that to each other.

It left me asking myself how do the survivors of such atrocities live with such trauma.

Stepp’d in blood is book about the history, mainly pre, during and post the Rwandan genocide.

It gives a detailed account of the events, the main characters, the background, context and why things happened the way they did.

What Andrew Wallis is a journalist who has been written and followed the Rwandan events very closely for decades. He has done a good job of researching, interviewing people involved, looked at archives, evidence and other evidence that explains the story that is Rwanda.

Wallis is intimately familiar with Rwanda, its leaders and its history. Wallis brings a journalist’s eye and pen to his book.

According to the unfolding events in the book, the genocide was bound to happen. It was inevitable. It is one of those “it has to get worse before it gets better” situations.

This book engages the deep roots of the genocide. Wallis argues that the decision to commit genocide emerged out of a political crisis.

The sense I get from this book is that it serves not to present a side favoring one party, it serves no agenda other than presenting all the events, facts and actions leading to the 94 Genocide against the Tutsi, and a while afterwards.

The research in this book is mind-blowing, it’s as if he was there in the thick of things as they happen.

What I like about this book is that Wallis just sets out the facts, and let’s the reader draw their own [in this case horrified] conclusions.

Rating

9/10

This book is well-researched regarding the Rwandan genocide. It goes deeper to the heart of the issues, stories, horrors and atrocities.

In order to appreciate a country, it is important to appreciate its history, no matter how difficult it is.

Stepp’ed in Blood is an important read. Genocides are traumatic, however it is important know where we come from, so that we avoid the past mistakes.

As I read this book, I now understand what they mean that South Africa could have went this wrong. Something that South Africa managed to avoid, a civil war in 1994, Rwanda unfortunately went through it.

Quotes that stood out:

  • “The massacres that occurred at the end of 1992 and early 1993 in the north of the country stopped when the international  fact-finding mission arrived and the massacres resumed on the very next day after the departure of the fact-finding mission.”
  • “You know we are not Tanzanian, we are Rwandan and in Rwanda there is something they call genocide. Our daily bread is genocide.”
  • “Goretti Mukunde was only a baby, when at 4am on New Year’s Eve 1963, a sergeant from the local police arrived at her home. They seized Goretti’s father and forced him into a pit they had dug only a few metres from the house. His only crime was to be a Tutsi. He was buried up to his neck in the hot red soil and then abandoned. His family were not allowed to approach him. Instead they were forced to listen from the house as their beloved father slowly died, desperately crying out to his wife and children for a drink of water in the heat of the day. After 3 days his voice stopped. The family was broken by the murder, Goretti’s brother fled to Burundi, while her mother had to face her husband’s murderers in the marketplace.”
  • “Like (Theoneste) Lizinde, and indeed Habyarimana himself, taking another man’s wife who caught his fancy was a statement of his power and status. Husbands were given work assignments away from the area, and tended to co-operate rather than face the consequences of trying to face down authority. Zigiranyirazo would sometimes stop his car when he saw a pretty lady, married or single, to talk to her or to invite her on board!” 
  • “The massacres of Tutsis from 1990-1993 followed a pattern. And the organisers and perpetrators soon learned two important lessons. First, ‘that the could massacre large number of people quickly and efficiently’ and second, ‘based on the reactions they had elicited to date, they could get away with it.’
  • “Rwanda today is a country where hundreds of thousands who took part in genocide live alongside hundreds of thousands of victims and survivors.”
  • “Only in understanding the past can those outside Rwanda make informed opinions and expectations about the country, its present and its future.”
  • “The new ruler was content to dress as a European, enjoy Western customs and happily converted to Catholicism. In doing so he took his country with him into the Christian faith to the joy and relief of the Vatican.”
  • “History had taught Akazu the way to stay in power was through ethnic division.”
  • “If the price for staying in power was genocide against the minority, they reasoned, so be it. The end justifies the means. For many, it was not even a matter of hating the Tutsi ethnic group per se. After all, many Akazu had Tutsi wives or mistresses, business partners or friends. Mixed marriage was common and all spoke the same language. Genocide was purely a matter of political expediency, a cynical way to defeat the external and internal threats.”
  • “The Rwandan horror was proof that domestic political agendas then and now count more than any signature on a piece of paper, however well intentioned its aims may have been.”
  • “Rwanda is a warning from history, and a harsh lesson for the present and future.”
  • “He who cultivates friendship with the head of the family has won the friendship of the whole family. – Rwandan proverb”

 

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