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Silent Accomplice: The Untold Story of France's Role in the Rwandan Genocide
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 19 February 2007
This is an extraordinary book. It is outstanding neither because of its presentation nor because the story it tells is in essence hitherto untold. It deserves careful reading rather because it is an important contribution in providing the detail of a tragic, lamentable, culpable and irreparable episode in the history of France. The failure of the French Government and regime to date to recognize the monstrous morality and devastating consequences of its foreign policy actions in Rwanda continues 12 years after the genocide is laid bare.

The information, drawn from a range of sources, adds strength to the already comprehensive indictment of French actions in Rwanda from 1990 onwards. But this is not just an indictment of the past. The excellent final chapter includes many significant and well made conclusions, of which this one concerning Agathe Habyarimana, the wife of the former dictator, makes clear this book proclaims France has much to do in coming to terms with its actions: `Meanwhile (2006), Madame de l'Akazu sits safely in her comfortable Parisian house cloaked in a secure French political cocoon that mocks the Rwandan dead.'

The conclusions are well drawn and represent accurately the evidence presented. Would that the research the book represents and the story it tells were matched by its narrative. The route to the conclusions is strewn by an anti-French tone, selective quotes and a prejudicial use of language. The chronology veered back and forth in the first few chapters and an appendix showing a detailed timeline would have enhanced the book. Of course the author is writing from the standpoint of his conclusions but he would have done better to conceal his conclusions more until he had laid out his evidence.

This is an important contribution to the corpus of analysis and information about the Rwandan genocide of 1994.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 5 April 2007
This is a shocking account of the disregard the French government under Mitterrand showed towards African lives. Well referenced, this describes how sections of the administration supported those responsible for the premeditated genocide of Rwandan Tutsis, despite being fully aware of the consequences. It is a terrible indictment of how personal cronyism, corruption and basic, petty Anglophobia still contribute to the direction of modern-day French foreign policy making.

Another reviewer suggests that the author adopts an anti-French tone and to some extent this is evident, but in my opinion it would be difficult to document these events without doing so. I also observed problems with the consistency of the chronology in the earlier chapters.

I highly recommend this book as it is, on the whole, well-written and the subject matter does not appear to be covered in similar detail in any other English language title.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 13 July 2014
Prior to reading this book, I had no knowledge of the French government's role in the Rwandan genocide of 1994 when the Hutus slaughtered one million Rwandan Tutsis. Andrew Harris, the author is a researcher and journalist, who specialises in Central and East Africa. The book's emphasis is on the French government led by Francois Mitterand and how it bolstered the Rwandan dictatorship under President Juvenal Habyarimana. French government support came in the forms of arms, gifts to President Habyarimana and his wife Agathe as well as the deployment of French soldiers to train Hutus in the Rwandan Government Forces otherwise known as FAR, whose main target was the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). The RPF was a manly Tutsi guerrilla army fighting against the Habyarimana regime. Throughout the twenty year term of Habyrimana's 'government', Jean-Baptiste Habyarimana (no relation to the president) was the only Tutsi to be made a prefect, administering the Butare prefecture in the south. Unfortunately at the beginning of the genocide, Jean-Baptiste Habyarimana was killed.

Harris asserts that the French government refused to accept that the Hutus intended annihilation of Rwandan Tutsis. The reality is that Hutus slaughtered their Tutsi wives and in-laws such, thereby, indicative of the hatred that led to such ethnic cleansing. The French government and soldiers stationed in Rwanda claimed that they played no role in assisting the Rwandan Army in the massacre of Tutsis. Yet, Harris asserts that the French trained the government's army and sold them arms following UN embargo. Seemingly,French soldiers also participated identity searches at road blocks.

In other words, Mitterand's government supported a network of extremists who supported the massacres of thousands of its population and politicians who opposed the Rwandan dictatorship that governed them. Harris further illuminates the lack of will on the part of the French government to rescue Tutsis in serious danger from the Hutus. Nor were they too co-operative in the inquiry following the genocide. In fact, Belgium has tried and imprisoned those found guilty of atrocities committed in 1994, living on its national territory. France in contrast, refused to comply.

For example, Colonel Tharcisse Renzho, a genocide suspect, prefect of Kigali, was sentenced for life for crimes against humanity and genocide in July 2009. His family live peacefully in Verpilliere in the Isere alpine region of France. Agathe Habyarimana the Rwandan president's wife also resides in France free from any responsibility of answering for what she knew about the treatment afforded to the Rwandan Tutsis.

This book is highly recommended for anyone who has little or no knowledge of the subject to hand an in such a case is a great starter should one want to research further. I certainly feel enlightened. In addition, it was first published in 2006, this review is for this year's second edition which includes an extra chapter. Crucially Harris shows how support from a democratic government enabled an anti-democratic government to commit such evil. It further shows how silence was an essential ingredient for the genocide of 1994, thereby implicating France as 'the silent accomplice'.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 8 April 2014
This is not so much an account of the genocide – other books like Prunier’s cover this in far more detail – but it focus’, as the title suggests, on how France under Mitterrand got involved in Rwanda to the point where it has been accused of complicity in the killing (arming, funding, political support and allowing those responsible to escape). The new (2014) edition has an added chapter, which looks at the incredible story of relations between the two countries during the past six years.

The author portrays a feeling that politics has interfered with justice, with revelations about the true nature of French policy and action in Rwanda in the early 1990s and since then a concerted political effort to cover up that policy and to deny the magnitude of the crime. There seems an incredible amount of scarcely believable political double-play going on which could fill a whole book just on what has happened in the past six years, but this added chapter seems to offer a credible and useful outline on Bruguiere, Trevidic, Mucyo and issues of genocidaire living freely in France.

I’m not sure I agree with another review that the author was being anti-French, perhaps more a sense that he finds certain members of the former Mitterrand government and military were responsible for a disastrous policy in Rwanda and are still in denial about it. Given many French military who served in Rwanda have recently testified in defence of genocidaire on trial in Europe and in Arusha, that seems a fair point.

James Wizeye
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on 6 April 2014
When I followed the unfolding horrors of the events in Rwanda in the 1990s I don't remember reading much analysis in the UK press of the role of western countries in fanning the flames of the conflict. So when I read Wallis' hardback on the deep involvement of the French state in the genocide it came as a revelation. Now an updated paperback edition of his book has appeared.
Wallis is an academic and journalist who frequently visits Rwanda and keeps his finger firmly on the pulse of events there. He regularly contributes to BBC and Al Jazeera programme coverage on Rwanda, and was used as a media commentator during the April 2014 commemoration of the genocide. (If I have one criticism of the writing, it's a stylistic one: occasionally the journalistic wins out over the academic in the appearance of the odd cliché. But other readers might find this contributes to readability!)
In 'Silent Accomplice' Wallis builds up the case for France's complicity in the slaughter of Tutsis and moderate Hutus with clarity and considerable forensic skill. He draws on a wide variety of sources, providing appropriate notes and references. He is good on the backstory to the genocide - the anxieties of the Elysée and Quai d'Orsay about the fate of France's francophone policy in Africa. He highlights the role of individuals against this wider ideological background, of politicians such as the Mitterands, père and fils; Martres, the French ambassador, described by one observer as "more Hutu than the Hutus"; and the mercenary, Paul Barril. His analysis makes the case absolutely for French complicity in the genocide, and more..... There is incontrovertible evidence that it provided active political, diplomatic, financial and military support to the Hutu supremacists. Wallis, however, is no francophobe. He acknowledges the honourable role in the conflict played by individual French politicians, press and NGOs.
Although this book informed me mightily about Rwanda, perhaps of even greater value was the resonances Wallis' account set up for other recent conflicts in which the west has been involved - Bosnia, Iraq, Libya, Syria....the 'War on Terror'. It stimulated me to think more about the rhetoric and actuality of humanitarian interventionism, the value attached to 'stability' and the political techniques western countries use in establishing and propping it up, and the whole question of western guilt - or lack of guilt - for its 'errors' (Sarkozy's word) in the developing world, and how this might be addressed.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 7 October 2014
The whole thesis is wrong and is nothing less than US propaganda. The French were not responsible for what happened in Rwanda, the Americans were. Wallis is ignorant, or pretends to be, of all the evidence in the war crimes trials at the Rwanda War Crimes Tribunal that stablished that the US had its forces on the ground in Rwanda as did the Canadian and the Belgian UN forces with Dallaire helped to overthrow the legitimate government and replace it with a homicidal maniac in the form of Paul Kagame. Nothing in this book in correct. It is just a regurgitation of US and RPF propaganda and its purpose is to confise and to cover up the real role of the USA in the disaster that happened in Rwanda. Mr. Wallis claims to be a researcher but he has done little research, has not read the transcripts at the trials or spoken to anyone in the former regimes military or government or any French officers. Don't waste your money. Christopher Black, Lead Counsel, Rwandan War Crimes Tribunal
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6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 10 August 2008
I found this account of the Rwanda genocide confused and confusing, lacking focus generally and undermined not only by the already noted anti-French tone, but also the author's obvious distaste for all things military. This, and a lack of basic research, combined with a strong sense of righteous indignation (which may be understandable, but does not sit well with the book's academic aspirations) left me in no doubt as to the author's perspective, and his conclusions were very clear from the outset. This was not a cool, calm examination of the facts.

A quick internet check would have revealed that French soldiers are not known generically as "Legionaires" (that is only members of the Foreign Legion) nor do French paratroopers wear green berets as the author asserts several times (again, this is only applicable to the Foreign Legion). Such easily checkable mistakes make me wonder about other elements of the research that went into this book.

It is also noteworthy that many of the author's best first hand sources were members of the French military establishment; the very people the author holds in general contempt. This makes for a confused view of the French military's role, and whilst the author is cynical about the French view (both political and military), he is much more accepting of the views of NGOs etc who had no less of an agenda than others present.

Clearly the French state has a lot to answer for, and as Rwanda finds its feet as a nation once more, we should hope that justice can be done. However, this book is not the way for readers to learn more about the terrible events of the 1990's, nor of France's role. Try Romeo Dallaire's memoirs for a personal view, and numerous texts for a clearer academic analysis. I felt this book was a missed opportunity for a full investigation into France's participation in genocide.
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