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The Genocide in Rwanda, 1994

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  • Af: Peter Steenberg-Ørnemark, forskningsassistent, stud.mag., DCHF

    A chilling aspect of the twentieth-century was the unprecedented loss of life and destruction through violent conflicts and in particular through genocide. In 1994 Rwanda erupted into one of the most appalling cases of genocide the world had witnessed since World War II. ‘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 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki’. (Note 1) Since genocide is the most aberrant of human behaviour, it cries out for explanation. Why did it occur in Rwanda? A broad and perhaps even impossible question to answer since the atrocities committed are morally reprehensible, wanton at its very worst. An inconceivable phenomenon that we all presume will not be committed in our lifetime and in our civilised and (post) modern society. However, as Philip Gourevitch altruistically states in his book “We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families. Stories from Rwanda”: ‘I presume that you are reading this because you desire a closer look, and that you, too, are properly disturbed by your curiosity. Perhaps, in examining this extremity with me, you hope for some understanding, some insight, some flicker of self-knowledge – a moral, or a lesson, or clue about how to behave in this world: some such information. I do not discount the possibility, but when it comes to genocide, you already know right from wrong. The best reason I have come up with for looking closely into Rwanda’s stories is that ignoring them makes me even more uncomfortable about existence and my place in it. The horror, as horror, interests me only insofar as a precise memory of the offence is necessary to understand its legacy’. (Note 2) The legacy of the Rwanda genocide, therefore, has to be explored further in order to understand the current situation in Rwanda and especially to understand events following the Rwanda genocide in former Zaire and Burundi.

    Note 1) Gourevitch, Philip: “We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families. Stories from Rwanda”. Introduction. 1998.
    Note 2) Gourevitch, Philip: “We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families. Stories from Rwanda”. P. 19. 1998.


    Philip Gourevitch: We wish to inform you that tommorow we will be killed with our families. Stories from Rwanda. 1998.

    Christian Jennings: Across the Red River. Rwanda, Burundi & the Heart of Darkness. 2000.

    Om folkemordet i Rwanda:

    Learthen Dorsey: Historical Dictionary of Rwanda. 1994.

    Alain Destexhe: Rwanda and Genocide in the Twentieth Century. 1995.

    Gérard Prunier: The Rwanda Crisis. History of a Genocide 1954-1994. 1995.

    Alison Des Forges: Leave None to Tell the Story. Genocide in Rwanda. 1999.

    Mahmood Mamdani: When Victims become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism and the Genocide in Rwanda. 2001.

    The Lake Victoria region:

    Dixon Kamukama: Rwanda Conflict: Its Roots and Regional Implications. 1993.

    René Lemarchand: Burundi, Ethnic Conflict and Genocide. 1994.

    René Lemarchand: Genocide: Rwanda and Burundi.

    Howard Adelman & Astri Suhrke: The Path of a genocide. The Rwanda Crisis from Uganda to Zaire. 1999.

    Christian P. Scherrer: Genocide and Crisis in Central Africa. Conflict Roots, Mass Violence, and Regional War. 2002.

    The UN and the International Community:

    René Lemarchand: The International Response to Conflict and Genocide: Lessons from Rwanda. 1996.

    Jay Arthur Klinghoffer: The International Dimension of Genocide in Rwanda. 1998.

    Linda Melvern: A People Betrayed. The Role of the West in Rwanda's Genocide. 2000.

    Peter Ulvin: Aiding Violence: The Development Enterprise in Rwanda. 1998.

    Tim Allan: War, Genocide and Aid. The Genocide in Rwanda. In: Elwert, Georg; Stephan Fechtwang & Dieter Neubert (eds): Dynamics of Violence: Processes of Escalation and De-Escalation in Violent Group Conflicts. 1999.

    Rwanda and the post-Genocide: Paul J. Magnarella: Justice in Africa. Rwanda's Genocide, its Courts, and the UN Criminal Tribunal. 2000.

    Gunnar Heinsohn: Post-genocidal Reconciliation in Rwanda: Are there Lessons from Germany. 1997.

    Aryeh Neier: Rethinking Truth, Justice, and Guilt after Bosnia and Rwanda. In: Carla Hesse & Robert Post: Human Rights in Political Transitions. 1999.

    Eyewitnesses and sources to the Genocide in Rwanda:

    Réne Lemarchand: The Rwanda Genocide. Eyewitness Accounts. In: Samuel Totten, William S. Parsons & Israel W. Charny. (eds): Century of Genocide. Eyewitness accounts and critical views. 1997.

    Report of the independent inquiry into the actions of the United Nations during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. 1999.

    The US and the Genocide in Rwanda 1994

    Samantha Power: A problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide. 2001.


    On-line documents on the US and the Rwanda Genocide available from The National Security Archive, USA.


    Report of the independent inquiry into the actions of the United Nations during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. 1999.

    The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

    The National Security Archive, USA.

    Specialeforum - folkedrab
    Specialeforum på Dansk Center for Holocaust- og Folkedrabsstudier.


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