New Books Network

How do you put Humpty-Dumpty back together again? Susan Thomson‘s new book Rwanda: From Genocide to Precarious Peace (Yale University Press, 2018) examines the postwar...

How do you put Humpty-Dumpty back together again?

Susan Thomson‘s new book Rwanda: From Genocide to Precarious Peace (Yale University Press, 2018) examines the postwar history of Rwanda to consider the ways the Rwandan genocide shaped governance, policy and memory in that country.  She begins by recounting what we now know about the genocide, revisiting older interpretations, revising some common assumptions and rethinking earlier arguments.  But most of her book is about the way the RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front) understood the genocide and its causes and how that understanding shaped the choices Paul Kagame and his party made about governing Rwanda.

Her conclusions are sobering.  The RPF, she argues, has governed in a way that divides Rwandans into victims and perpetrators, leaving no space for the complexities of real life.  In doing so, government policies have made it more difficult for individuals to mourn and for communities to wrestle seriously with what happened in their homes, hills and churches.  And, under the RPF, a sanitized, modernized Kigali has raced ahead while rural areas struggle.

It’s a carefully argued and well-supported critique.  Anyone considering the postwar history of Rwanda will have to wrestle with its claims.  And anyone interested more broadly in the aftermath of genocide will benefit from reading Thomson’s work.