Surviving the Slaughter: The Ordeal of a Rwandan Refugee in Zaire [now Democratic Republic of Congo]

By Marie Beatrice Umutesi

Writer of the book – ‘Surviving the Slaughter: The Ordeal of a Rwandan Refugee in Zaire.’

People live their tragic past in different ways. This was my reply to Jennifer Fierberg,  a friend journalist when she asked if I had written a publication about what I experienced during the dark years of 1990/94 even those after the Rwandan genocide. 

Fierberg had just finished reading Philip Gourevitch, New York Times journalist who published, ‘We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families’, in the aftermath of the Rwandan tragedy. She had particularly liked the historic information about Rwanda.

When she asked if anyone had read that book, I told her that I had purposely avoided it because of its apparent strong bias towards the RPF narrative of events. That was the general view from those who had been first hand witnesses of what happened.

I decided instead to recommend to my friend Jennifer Fierberg,  another publication by Marie Beatrice Umutesi, ‘Surviving the Slaughter: The Ordeal of a Rwandan Refugee in Zaire’. Her story comes close to that of millions of voiceless Rwandans  who died unheard of or continue surviving without a possibility of expressing what they went through or experience today.

I reproduce here J. Emerson’s review of Umutesi book. In the review, there is an interesting comparison between the two publications mentioned in this note.

A story of incredible courage and humanity
By J. Emerson.

This review is from: Surviving the Slaughter: The Ordeal of a Rwandan Refugee in Zaire (Women in Africa and the Diaspora) (Paperback)

This is the tragic and triumphant autobiography of a Rwandan Hutu woman who, after living for a couple of years as an internally displaced person in Rwanda and then surviving the horrific conditions in the camps that were – illegally – set up in by the UN in Zaire within shelling distance of the Rwandan border and further down the road in the death camp at Tingi Tingi, decided, along with tens of thousands of others to try to escape from the murderous attacks of Kagame’s RPF, UN bounty hunters and Kabila’s troops by taking to the roads in an effort to find a way out of the country. She took around ten children, none of them her own, with her and tried, mostly unsuccessfully, to keep them alive during months of trekking through trackless tropical forests during the rainy season, walking barefoot on blistering roads, eating whatever they could scavenge in the deserted villages along the way.

We have heard a lot about the tragedy of the Tutsi genocide in 1994. What we haven’t heard, partly because the press has been manipulated by the current Tutsi regime in Rwanda and partly because the U. S. continues to count on Kagame to keep our access open to the minerals in Congo – particularly coltan, which is used in cell phones and computers – is that as many Hutu as Tutsi have been killed both before and after 1994. Books like “We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families” by Philip Gourevitch were highly misleading and only served to reinforce the mistaken view that all Hutu were genocidal and all Tutsi innocent victims, and as a result the world has let at least 750,000 innocent Hutu be slaughtered while their killers enjoy impunity. And that is not even counting the 3,000,000 Congolese who have died.[This was only an estimate by the year 2004].

The first chapters of the book give an overview of the historyRwanda and life in the camps, and the rest of it deals with Umutesi’s trek acrossZaire. It is even handed, understated, immensely powerful and very timely. It was published in French, Spanish, Catalan and Dutch before being translated into English.

To order the book, please click here.

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