on 11 November 2008
I've read reviews suggesting this is a hagiography, but it's not.
True, it tells the harrowing tale of post-colonial Rwanda primarily from the perspective of its remarkable but controversial president, Paul Kagame. True, it includes extensive coverage of the many idealistic outsiders who see in Kagame's Rwanda a simplistic tale of good triumphing against all odds. And I admit that I myself generally take a 'glass half full' perspective on a regime and a country that tends to polarise the opinions of interested outsiders.
But the fact that it is based on hours of one to one interviews with Kagame makes it a valuable contribution to the literature on post-genocide Rwanda. The lengthy italicised quotes from these interviews give new glimpses into the soul of the man Romeo Dallaire has called the 'Napoleon of Africa'. These glimpses are often inspiring, often ambiguous and troubling - but always fascinating. And Kinzer, particularly in his concluding chapter, is all too aware that a ruler who's got used to triumphing over improbable odds, and believing implacably in his own judgement.. can become dangerous. Especially when he stands at the helm of a young, still to be consolidated state - with few checks and balances on his will to power.
As someone who works in Kigali, I have already read a few Rwanda books. Much of this book, therefore, was familiar ground. But its story remains the most awesome and awful of our times, and bears re-reading. Added to which, this book is well-written and unique (so far) in its conception. I liked it sufficiently that I ploughed through it pretty much in one sitting.
on 1 April 2009
We've been visiting Rwanda for the past 4 years and have made many friends there and have developed a real love the country and a deep interest in it's history and its 'rebirth'. This book gives an insight to the build up to the genocide, the genocide itself, how the UN and the international community failed Rwanda, and and understanding of what is happenning now in this tiny African state. I've also learnt what drives President Paul Kagame to achieve his main objectives of eradicating poverty and safeguarding the people from another genocide, his love for his country and his reasons for his contempt for simplistic overseas views of the way Rwanda is governed. The book certainly reflects our own impressions and experiences of this country and it's people.