CRITICISM AND COMMENTS ON PHILIPPE GOUREVITCH'S
Philip Gourevitch's " We Wish to Inform You That.... " is a result of a long work carried out in Rwanda and in the Great Lakes' Region. The author's apparent major concern is how what is known as " Genocide " took place in Rwanda and its consequences. He plunged into the history of Rwanda starting from the pre-colonial period to the end of the first Zairian (DRC) war in 1997. He interviewed people from both ethnic groups-Hutus and Tutsis- from both the upper and lower classes, the Hutu exiles and the dignitaries of the new regime,...
The above seems to give his work a certain objectivity, but it is to be noted that a greater part is reserved for Tutsis at the expense of Hutus. Therefore, a number of points are worth pointing out, for they may lead non or ill-informed readers to wrong conclusions and deductions.
It is within that framework that the author's lack of impartiality and objectivity, illogical information, contradictions, deliberate omission of deep analysis and " inhumanity " towards Hutus will be pointed out.
The aim of this criticism is not to defend either camp-Hutu or Tutsi-but an attempt to present some differed opinions that may not demonize gratuitously any of the sections under the spotlight.
After a careful exploration of Gourevitch's " We Wish to Inform you That... ", one may easily identify three pillars on which it is based :
1. What the Author Saw : the author visited massacre sites such as Nyarubuye, Mugonero, Kibeho,... as well as refugee camps in former Zaire, and he describes them.
2. What the Author Heard or Read : this is the spinal column of the whole book. Stories or testimonies of survivors, genocide perpetrators, the new authorities and humanitarian workers are presented. It is on this part that many criticisms and comments will be focused, either because the author refuses to analyse deeply what he was told, or because he has strong prejudices about Hutus. As far as the history of Rwanda is concerned, the author gives the letter-to-letter version of the new regime.
3. Personal Analysis : a non or ill-informed reader may call it " personal ", but actually, for some one who knows the propaganda of the Tutsi-dominated regime, it is a Tutsi leaders' analysis. The author is like a spokesman of the government. The following pages will provide many statements from the interviewees that need clarifying and explaining, but which the author found convincing.
In the opening pages of the book, it appears immediately that Philip Gourevitch has a pre-determined mission in Rwanda. For instance, without qualifying directly all Hutus as human butchers, he writes about Hutu refugee camps on page 17, 2nd paragraph :
...I had watched a man butchering a cow with a machete. He was quite expert at his work, taking big precise strokes that made a sharp hacking noise...It took many hacks to chop through the cow's leg. How many hacks to dismember a person ?
One may ask whether there are no butchers among Tutsis, or even in Europe and America. But the very wisely made comparison between butchering a cow and butchering a person is very conclusive as far as the author's objectivity and impartiality are concerned.
As mentioned above, the author wrote about the history of Rwanda, but he actually re-copied the Tutsi version of facts. For example, on page 58, 3rd paragr., he writes about the " Hutu Manifesto ", with very bad intentions attributed to its authors, and deliberately omits the Tutsi reaction to that very Manifesto, dated 17th May 1958. The reason is most probably the fear that the document, which should be easy for any researcher to find, could reveal the Tutsis' refusal to share power with Hutus. Here are some illustrative extracts from the document :
The Hutu claim to share our ancestor Kanyarwanda with us...whereas Kanyarwanda is the son of Gihanga, son of Kazi, son of ... Kigwa. This Kigwa found the Hutus in Rwanda. Then, Ho can we-Tutsi- be Hutus' brothers in Kanyarwanda, our grand father ? Ruganzu killed many Hutu kings... and conquered their kingdoms...Since our kings killed Hutu kings...how can Hutus claim to be our brothers ?...
Furthermore, the author seems to ridicule his Hutu interviewees or lead the readers to condemn them in advance or during the interview. Let us take the case of Mgr Augustin Misago on pages 137,139,140. Statements like:
...He was described as a Hutu power sympathiser,...publicly accused of barring Tutsis from places of refuge...of asking a Vatican emissary (...) to find a place for Tutsi priests " or " ... the bishop appeared there [Kibeho ] himself with a team of policemen, and told a group of ninty-nine Tutsi school children... not to worry because the police would protect them. Three days later, the police helped to massacre eighty-two of the children... (P. 137 , 3rd paragr.).
The fact of presenting this is not a problem, but omitting Misago's response to all these allegations is unfair. The reader is thus " forced " to condemn the Bishop. Let me inform the author that Misago has been found innocent and acquitted. So, in his next edition, he should swallow his pride and have the courage to rearrange this passage to restore his credibility.
More strikingly, the author always finds good reasons for massacres against Hutus. Reasons are innumerable, but the main one is the presence of " Genocidaires " among Hutu civilians (see pages 189,190,191). This alleged presence always provokes more deaths of unarmed civilians . First of all, one may ask how those alleged " Genocidaires " preferred to stay in Kibeho camp, while they had had all their time to flee the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) troops.
Moreover, among the dead in Kibeho, (between 2,000 and 4,000), those mysterious " Genocidaires " were not found. They escaped miraculously and crossed the border into Zaire (see page 194, 3rd paragr.). Therefore, the presence of the so-called " Genecidaires " is questionable. The author is rather trying to camouflage this cold-bloodied massacre of innocent Hutus by the RPA, who were obviously determined to kill as many Kibeho displaced as possible, as page 191, 2nd paragr. shows :
RPA troops opened fire , shooting non stop and indiscriminately into the crowd...shooting and lobbing grenades at them...in addition to machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and at least one mortar were fired into the camp.
Further on page 203, 3rd paragr., the author presents an extract from the International Commission's report about Kibeho massacres :
The tragedy of Kibeho neither resulted from a planned action by Rwandan authorities to kill a certain group of people, nor was it an accident that could not be prevented.
The author did not rather comment, which infers that he has the same opinion. But how can we call a tragedy which is neither planned nor accidental ? A natural catastrophe ? perhaps, and this was not the case in Kibeho, where all the above-described armament was used.
The same commission told the government to investigate individual responsibilities within the army (see page 204, 1st paragr.). On the same page, 2nd paragr., the author writes :
The officers were cleared of any responsibility for having presided over or allowed massacres, but they were found guilty of having failed to use the military means at their disposal to protect civilians in danger ".
One may ask : " to protect whom against whom, since those to protect are the same to assault defenceless Hutus ? "
However, the author changes his way of reasoning whenever the killers are Hutus and the victims Tutsis. Before April 1994, the RPA had sent among the population its spies and soldiers with weapons, ammunition and telecommunication equipment. Starting from April 6, 1994 , whenever those people were found, they were immediately killed with all their family members.
Comments about Manasse's testimony on page 30, 2nd paragr., needs analysing :
Bisesero was the only place in Rwanda where thousands of Tutsi civilians mounted a defence against the Hutus...
Unfortunately, the author did not ask the kind of defence they mounted to enable them to resist armed soldiers and Interahamwe militiamen. Stones and knives could not help, thus, some of those people had firearms. When the Hutus discovered that, they became more brutal, and this led to the death of many Tutsis. There were many similar cases throughout Rwanda. But, the author believes strong-headedly that all massacres were blindly committed, and he wants the readers to believe him.
By the token, another lack of objectivity appears on page 42, 3rd paragr., where the authors refuses to tell about the backgrounds of the people he mentions in his accounts. According to him, the Tutsi pastors killed at Mugonero were killed because they were just Tutsis, without any link with the RPF's attacks. He does not mention for instance that Semugeshi's sons and grand sons were RPA soldiers. How could RPA war survivors let him continue to live in peace while his sons were decimating their families ? The same for Edmond's family on page 238, 4th paragr.
In addition, Odette's testimony on pages 90, 3rd Paragraph and 91, 1st paragraph gives more revelations :
...the RPF had to make us aware that...[they ]were our brothers coming and that the Hutus we'd lived with didn't regard us as equals...
The logical conclusion is that they were collaborating with the RPF, the then rebel group. And this is the only reason why their lives were in danger between April and July 1994. The confirmation of this is on page 120, 3rd paragraph, where Gourevitch says :
...they [Tutsis ] listened to Radio Muhabura, the RPF station, where the names of Tutsis who had been reported killed were read each day on the air.
It is clear that the RPF had informants among the Tutsis in Rwanda.
More surprisingly, the authors never wonders how Venantie got her pistol (see page 120, 1st paragraph) or whether her death was linked to it or not. Jean Baptiste too had two grenades he claimed to have bought at the market. For what purpose would he buy grenades ? The author says nothing about that. He rather counts Venantie among the victims of genocide and in his eyes, the pistol in wartime has nothing to do with her death. Gourevitch never wonders whether the pistol and the grenades came from the RPF, which is highly probable.
Moreover, Bonaventure's testimony on which the author makes no comment, reveals once again Gourevitch's aim. Bonaventure says on page 125, 4th paragraph :
He was a Hutu, this priest, but he was kind.
Logical deduction ? All Hutus are generally unkind. Only a few, like that priest, are kind.
For Gourevitch, Hutus had no good reason to flee to neighbouring countries, as if the RPF was using water canons or rubber bullets. The passage on page 166, 2nd paragraph reads :
...and cholera and general horror of Goma [Zaire ] inspired a number of refugees to reflect that they might have been better off if they, too, had stayed behind...
This may lead to think that Hutus fled bad living conditions and diseases, and not RFP terror.
Also, the strange prayer of the author's colleague on page 167, 1st paragraph, is worth citing :
God, if that thing [volcano ] erupts right now and buries the killers, I will believe that you are just, and I will go to church again every day of my life.
Quoting this prayer, without any comment shows the author's position.
The last example-because there are many- of Gourevitch's partiality highlights his blind sympathy of General Kagame. And this prevents him from asking substantial questions. On page 211, 1st paragraph, he writes : " ...Rwanda's post-colonial Hutu dictators... " ; on page 225, 1st paragraph, he adds " ...for more than fifteen years, his [Kagame's] life had consisting of overthrowing dictators and establishing new states... ". Later on page 251, 2nd paragraph, he writes : " when Rwandans spoke of reconstruction...they spoke of the need to overcome or liberate themselves from the old mentalities of colonialism and dictatorship... ". One may ask of the name or qualification the author gives Kagame. Is he a democrat or a dictator ? What kind of leaders does Kagame install on power after overthrowing dictators ? Yoweri Museveni was a dictator from 1986 to the 1996 elections. He installed Laurent Desire Kabila a dictator. He is himself a harsh dictator for he was not elected and his so-called parliament is appointed.
Moreover, on page 311, 3rd paragraph, Kagame lists his his regime's priorities :
Housing, justice, the economy, education, the demobilisation of thousands of ex FAR soldiers returning from exile, and above all 'this issue of ethnicity'.
Where is DEMOCRACY which should cap his priority list and which they chanted while attacking Rwanda in 1990 ? That is not the author's preoccupation.
From the foregoing, it appears clearly that in the eyes of Philip Gourevitch, all Hutus are killers while all Tutsis are victims as he asserts on page 96, 2nd paragraph that " the entire Hutu population had to kill the entire Tutsi population ". Therefore, what his book aims at is to prove his belief rather than to seek the truth, and this explains his partiality as illustrated in some examples given above. For him, Tutsi civilians were not killed because they were or had links with RPF accomplices among them, but Hutus are always killed because they are or have " Genocidaires " among them.
This part will endeavour to point out a good number of passages in which the author finds unnecessary to go further with his inquiries. He receives and reproduces stories from survivors and that is all. No comment, no analysis and no questions for clarifications. That is quite unacceptable in such a complicated and complex situation.
In the first place, the passage on page 26, 2nd paragraph, needs at least one inevitable question. The passage reads :
On April 6,...President Habyarimana was assassinated in Kigali...
By whom ? For what reason ? Any link with the subsequent massacre ?None of these questions is answered. Logically, there is no way one can deal with consequences and ignore the causes.
Moreover, the passage on page 18, 2nd paragraph, should lead to one logical question on the part if the author. The passage says :
...The dead had killed their killers training as militias in the weeks before the end, and it was announced on the radio, it was in the newspapers, people spoke of it openly...
Why didn't they flee on time before being slaughtered ? There were no roadblocks at that time. So, either they knew nothing or they had no fear for their lives. Unfortunately, the author finds further analysis useless.
More interestingly, there is a series of passages that should lead to a very logical and single deduction. If the author had taken his time to study them, he would doubtless have changed his position. Here are some of them (end of page58 and 1st paragr of page 59):
On November 1, 1959…an administrative sub-chief named Dominique Mbonyumutwa was beaten by a group of men. Mbonyumutwa was a Hutu political activist, and his attackers were Tutsi political activists…., within twenty four hours of the beating of Gitarama, roving bands of Hutus were attacking Tutsi authorities and burning Tutsi homes…
The other one says (page 64, 3rd paragr.) :
...the pretext for this popular violence was found in the fact that from time to time armed bands of monarchist Tutsis who had fled into exile would stage raids on Rwanda.
Then page 84, 2nd paragr, reads :
On October 11  just ten days after RPF invasion, local officials in the village of Kibilira in Gisenyi instructed Hutus that their communal duty for the month would consist of fighting their neighbours.
Finally, page 90, 3rd paragr. Adds :
Like many Rwanda Tutsis, Odette first reacted to the war with indignation toward the refugee rebels for placing those who had stayed in the country in jeopardy.
From these passages, we logically deduce that ethnic violence always breaks out when Tutsis provoke Hutus. The beating of a Hutu sub-chief by Tutsis led to massacres against the latter in 1959 and early 1960. Tutsi refugees' attacks in the 1960s led to Tutsi massacres. And finally, the RPF's attack against Hutus gave rise to what people now call " Genocide ". The author remains unmoved and insensitive in front of such evident conclusions.
In addition, the reported Jean Baptiste's reaction on hearing the news of the assassination of president Habyarimana is strange, in that he had earlier predicted what would happen. He says on page 111, 3rd paragr. :
We're leaving, every one get in he jeep or we'll be massacred.
Further on page 112, 2nd paragr. His wife tells her sister :
Why won't you come ?...If Habyarimana is dead, who'll kill us ? He was the one.
Something is really strange : why immediately thinking of being killed just after Habyarimana's death ? Certainly they had something to reproach themselves. Or, why would they decide then to flee from what they had known many weeks before, especially this family of doctors who had enough means to flee on time ? This proves that they knew nothing about this so-called project to eliminate Tutsis, otherwise they would have left the country. Let us remind ourselves that when Jean Baptiste made that statement on April 6 at 8 :14 pm, no body was killed yet, except president Habyarimana, and no roadblock was mounted. But he thought he would die. Strange enough !
Also, the author seems afraid to ask the question " WHY ? " where testimonies call for it. On page 233,2nd paragr. , Gourevitch presents the following survivor's testimony :
We survivors, find it very difficult to integrate into the present society...into the government, too...When they [Tutsi refugees] came, they took the country as in a conquest...They said of us who were here 'the smart ones are dead, and those who survived are traumatised'...so they took homes and goods for their families and they didn't like the survivors getting in the way. And they would say 'If they killed every one and you survived, maybe you collaborated'...
Further on page 315,3rd paragr. The author writes :
That effort wasn't being made. The government had no program for survivors.
Both passages confirm that Tutsis from outside had and still have no " pity " for their compatriots. The reason is very simple : they were very rich, they ran big businesses abroad and had neither parents nor belongings in Rwanda to expose to jeopardy. So, for them, those living inside the country had to serve as sacrifices as Odette predicted it. This explains the testimony on page 233, 2nd paragr..
More interestingly, Kagame declares on page 245, 2nd paragr. , that a secure place for innocent Hutus is jail, for they would be killed in their villages. To the question about innocent Hutus in jails, Kagame responded :
Yeah it's a problem...I would rather address the problem of putting them in prison because that is the best way to do it for the process of justice, and simply because I don't want them out there , because people would actually kill them.
This seems to be quite normal in the eyes of a western reporter. If he had investigated the situation, he would have found that Hutus are simply kept in terror and prisons for them to stop thinking about power. So, prison is one efficient means to brainwash and intimidate Hutus who have no crime to be charged with. They are thus expected to complete their lifetime in the so-called secure places.
Even though Kagame mentions " justice " among his priorities, his " justice " is quite particular as page 250, 2nd paragr . makes clear :
....the government discussed easing the burden on the courts by ranking degrees of criminality among the genocidaires, and assigning lesser offenders to public works or reduction programs.
Then where is the independence of the courts if the executive should rank the degrees of criminality? What is their role as the names of people in each category and their sentences are known in advance without any trial ? Therefore, the courts are there just to implement the government's decision. And this seems normal to Gourevitvh who never dared to ask more.
From the above, one notices Gourevitch's lack of in-depth analysis and his will not to let us know the truth. It appears clearly that if he had carried out deep investigations, he would have come to different and acceptable conclusions. But, as pointed out elsewhere in this piece, his concern is far from looking for the truth, but rather " demonizing "Hutus, denying all Tutsi responsibilities in the tragedy and praising the new Tutsi-dominated regime. Therefore, analysing what he was wrongly fed with should have no room in his book.
This part is linked to the previous one, for the information given to the author is reproduced without any analysis. And the result is illogical statements as the following paragraphs demonstrate.
To start with, let us deal with the passage on page 104, 4th paragr. About the weeks before the genocide. It reads :
...the government was importing machetes from China in numbers that exceeded the demand for agricultural use...
The deduction is that those machetes were to be used to kill Tutsis. But, who was prime minister at that time ? Who was minister of finance ? Both of them, among other government ministers, were strong opponents to what Gourevitch called " Hutu Power ", and logically, massacres. Moreover, during those massacres, the former, Agathe Uwilingiyimana was killed, and the latter, Marc Rugenera, escaped miraculously. They were suspected of working in league with the RPF. So, how could those key government members have allowed this importation of machetes for the purpose of massacres whose victims they would be ? THAT IS ILLOGICAL !
In addition, the author writes on page 114, 2nd paragr., about the hostilities which followed the assassination of the president. He says :
...The RPF which remained prepared for combats... resumed its war...launching a major offensive from 'demilitarised zone' in the north east.
How can Gourevitch call it a demilitarised zone and at the same time describe military activities in it ? THA IS NOT LOGICAL.
Also, the presence of the alleged " genocidaires " among the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) is illogical. They moved from their homes for fixed and known reasons and those camps inside Rwanda offered no shelter. Moreover, they had had enough time to cross the borders. Why should they stay in Kibeho camp under RPF's full control ? Were they seeking comfort ? There were more comfort and security in Zairian camps. And among the 2,000-4,000 dead in Kibeho, ne " genocidaires " were found. Is there any logic ?
To conclude this part, one may assert that one of Gourevitch's means to achieve his goal is to publish brute information and lead the readers to believe in it. Logically, a reporter of such famous a newspaper as The New Yorkers should wonder " why, how, by whom... " before publishing any piece of news. I am not giving him lessons, because I believe masters it better that whoever, he he overlooked such questions.
Sometimes, when one is writing a long article or book, it happens that he forgets what he stated in the opening pages and contradicts it. That is the case in Gourevitch's book, and the aim of this part is point out some of the most striking ones.
Gourevitch declares on page 218, 3rd paragr. :
...The RPF earned a reputation for strict physical discipline during its years as a guerrilla force...and officers and soldiers guilty of crimes like murders and rape were liable to be executed...
Not further than pages 219, 4th paragr. And 220, 1st paragr. , he writes about a Hutu businessman who was looted by RPF rebels, what follows :
It was mostly quite orderly, with a command structure. But what they needed or wanted they took, top to bottom...
Can we imagine a disciplined army looting civilians under commands from officers ? STRANGE DISCIPLINE !Further on page 223, 2nd paragr., Gourevitch writes about the days which followed RPF's victory :
So there were killings ;nobody knows how many...As a rule, the victims were Hutus, and the killers were unidentified. The RPA claimed to have jailed hundreds of undisciplined soldiers, but military secrecy tended to shroud these affairs...
Is that a disciplined army ?
In addition to the above, pages 245, 3rd paragr. And 246, 1st-2nd-3rd paragr. Give a strange situation in which the RPA is rather a menace to Hutus than a protector. The assassinations of Placide Koloni and his family, of a deputy governor and of a Catholic priest, all Hutus, are illustrative. Then the author adds on page 246,3rd paragr. :
General Kagame who never tired of reciting the numbers of RPA soldiers-four hundred, seven hundred ; I los count after a thousand- who had been thrown in military jails for killings and indiscipline...
We already know what the military secrecy does for those soldiers.
By the same token, it is written on page 204, 2nd paragr. About Kibeho massacres that :
The officers were cleared of any responsibility...and were guilty of having failed to use the military means at their disposal to protect civilians in danger.
And further on page 208, 10th line, the author presents extracts from the interview with Kagame, in which the latter accuses his soldiers of excesses on the part of individuals. Above it is said : " No use of military means to protect civilians " and below it is inferred : " excesses of use of military means to kill civilians ". NO CONTRADICTION ?
Also, many passages (pages 128, 1st paragr and 144, 1st paragr.) present some senior officers of the former army as Tutsi protectors, aseptically in Hotel des Mille Collines. Yet, that army is called a genocidal one. When Hutus are involved, there is no individual responsibility or isolated cases.
At last, it appears that Gourevitch does not control his assertions, because, as the above paragraphs show, he declares this now and affirms the contrary later. A vigilant and well-informed reader notices easily that this method is deliberate and contributes to the achievement of his goal :demonizing Hutus and praising Tutsis.
From what precedes, it is not astonishing that Gourevitch displays inhuman attitudes towards Hutus. For him, Hutus must starve, perish and disappear for ever. Those are not gratuitous affirmations on my part, but the author's ones as the following paragraphs demonstrate.
During his visit in eastern Zaire, Gourevitch visited refugee camps and describes them on page 270, 3paragr., as follows :
...the Zaire camps...cost their sponsor at least a million dollars a day. A dollar per person per day...Under the circumstances, living in a camp was not a bad economic proposition for a Rwandan...Food was not only free, but ample ;malnutrition rates in the camps were far lower than anywhere it got in central Africa ;...Camp residents were free to engage in commerce, and aid agencies frequently provided enticements-like agricultural supplies to do so...
This leads us to conclude that Gourevitch wants Hutus to die of hunger, malnutrition and diseases, and to stay in abject poverty for ever. Human rights have no value when they are to be applied on Hutus. A dollar per person per day is too much for a Hutu. One wonders what Gourevitch himself can do with one dollar per day except buying a biro for his skewed reports. Gourevitch also reproaches the UNHCR of continuing to request for more funds to keep the camps (page 271, 3rd paragr). One wonders whether he knows the UNHCR's noble mission.
As if the above was not sufficient, Gourevitch does not hide his frustration against the UNHCR opposing refugee forced repatriation in 1995. He writes on page 272,2nd paragr.:
...That August, Zairian soldiers did move on the camps...they hustled about 15,000 Rwandans across the border in less than a week. That was more than the UNHCR had accomplished in the preceding six months...
This sadistic comparison shows that the author ignores the International Humanitarian Law or wants to take great exception to the UNHCR's accomplishment in that regard. For him, the best way to convince the Hutus to return home, is to shoot into them and force them to cross the border. If there is no way to do so, at least, let them starve in exile.
Furthermore, Gourevitch displays his happiness and satisfaction when, at last, the UNHCR cooperated with the Burundian Tutsi-dominated army to repatriate Hutu refugees by force.
Logically, his moral duty as a professional reporter should have been denouncing this big violation of the International Humanitarian Law. Unfortunately, at that time, Gourevitch was more a propagandist than a reporter.
In contradiction with himself, he encourages the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) to continue to evacuate Tutsis from Masisi (eastern Zaire) to Rwanda. There is no logic in this : on the one hand he encourages a forced repatriation for Hutus and, on the other hand, he encourages an internationally covered evacuation of Tutsis from their land.
From this short analysis-whose aim is to contribute to the truth- there is no doubt that " We Wish to Inform You That... " contains many " anomalies ". They resulted from the fact that the author's mission was not " looking for the truth ". To achieve this, he used different methods among which are commentless brute information amd many others (pages 157,1st paragr. ;170, 2nd paragr. ; opening paged ; back cover...)
Let us hope that Gourevitch too, will discover the truth little by little, as Gerard Prunier did in his second edition of " Rwanda, History of a Genocide (1959-1997 ", 1998. In fact, G. Prunier had enough courage to apologise for some of his analyses which were wrong, deceitful or precocious. But as a Latin saying reminds " SCRIPTA MANENT ". We wait patiently for posterity to prove Gourevitch right or otherwise.
Bangui, 19 November 2000
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