Decimation means the killing of every tenth person in a population, and in the spring and early summer of 1994 a program of massacres decimated the Republic of Rwanda. Although the killing was low-tech—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 might 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 the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
-Phillip Gourevitch, We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families
For three weeks in the fall, I will be visiting Kibuye, Rwanda with a team of nursing students. Kibuye sits on the eastern border of Lake Kivu in western Rwanda. This town was hit hard by the genocide in 1994, suffering the loss of most of the city’s Tutsis, which accounted for nearly one third its population.
For the month of June, I read We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families.
Journalist Philip Gourevitch, of The New Yorker, wrote this New York Times bestseller and winner of the Los Angeles Times book prize and the Polk award for foreign reporting. The back cover calls it, “an anatomy of the killings in Rwanda, a vivid history of the genocide’s background, and an unforgettable account of what it means to survive in its aftermath.”
True to this description, Gourevitch does an incredible job bringing to light what happened in Rwanda nearly fifteen years ago. He interviews survivors of the genocide, individuals accused of committing genocide, important political leaders on both sides, and anyone else willing to talk to him. He examines the response of the international community to the crisis and writes during the early post-genocide years of the country.
This is a book everyone should read. It was incredible how little I knew about such a significant tragedy, and I found myself surprised at my lack of understanding of how much learning about the genocide matters for me as I seek to understand, help and love people of Rwanda today. If you’re looking for a page turner that will teach you a great deal and inspire you to think, this is the book.