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When Victims Become Killers:
Colonialism, Nativism, and the Genocide in Rwanda
Mahmood Mamdani

Paperback | 2002 | $37.50 / £26.95 | ISBN: 9780691102801
384 pp. | 6 x 9 | 3 maps
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eBook | ISBN: 9781400851720 |
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Reviews | Table of Contents
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"When we captured Kigali, we thought we would face criminals in the state; instead, we faced a criminal population." So a political commissar in the Rwanda Patriotic Front reflected after the 1994 massacre of as many as one million Tutsis in Rwanda. Underlying his statement is the realization that, though ordered by a minority of state functionaries, the slaughter was performed by hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens, including even judges, human rights activists, and doctors, nurses, priests, friends, and spouses of the victims. Indeed, it is its very popularity that makes the Rwandan genocide so unthinkable. This book makes it thinkable.

Rejecting easy explanations of the genocide as a mysterious evil force that was bizarrely unleashed, one of Africa's best-known intellectuals situates the tragedy in its proper context. He coaxes to the surface the historical, geographical, and political forces that made it possible for so many Hutu to turn so brutally on their neighbors. He finds answers in the nature of political identities generated during colonialism, in the failures of the nationalist revolution to transcend these identities, and in regional demographic and political currents that reach well beyond Rwanda. In so doing, Mahmood Mamdani usefully broadens understandings of citizenship and political identity in postcolonial Africa.

There have been few attempts to explain the Rwandan horror, and none has succeeded so well as this one. Mamdani's analysis provides a solid foundation for future studies of the massacre. Even more important, his answers point a way out of crisis: a direction for reforming political identity in central Africa and preventing future tragedies.

Review:

"The strengths of the book are clear and admirable. First, it provides what might be called an intellectual history of the Hutu-Tutsi division that is invaluable. . . . Anyone from now on who writes on identity in Central Africa--and there will be many--will have to wrestle with the case that Mamdani has made."--Jeffrey Herbst, Foreign Affairs

"Mr Mamdani's political settlement is not democracy, which would simply restore the majority Hutus to power, but an acceptance of the Hutu and Tutsi with political, not cultural or class affiliations. He recommends a broad-based constitutional settlement that includes everyone prepared to give up violence whatever their ideology."--The Economist

"[Mamdani's] analysis of Rwandese society, in particular the role of the church in the genocide, is fascinating. . . . Mamdani believes that the tens of thousands of killers who wielded the machetes that murdered 800,000 people in three terrible months of 1994 saw themselves as victims who feared losing out in the struggle for power."--Victoria Brittain, The Guardian

"Few are better qualified to explain the tensions of post-colonial Africa than Mahmood Mamdani, a Ugandan political scientist with a sharp perspective on the colonially inspired differences between 'subject races'. His Rwandan case-study provides powerful evidence that the Tutsis came to be crushed between colonist and native."--Richard Synge, The Independent

"A welcome, powerful, and clear-sighted addition to this literature. . . . When Victims Become Killers represents a great achievement. It is a passionate and strongly argued work, memorable both as scholarship and as a brilliant political polemic."--Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History

More reviews

Table of Contents:

List of Abbreviations ix
Preface and Acknowledgments xi
Introduction: Thinking about Genocide 3
1. Defining the Crisis of Postcolonial Citizenship: Settler and Native as Political Identities 19
2. The Origins of Hutu and Tutsi 41
3. The Racialization of the Hutu/Tutsi Difference under Colonialism 76
4. The ''Social Revolution'' of 1959 103
5. The Second Republic: Redefining Tutsi from Race to Ethnicity 132
6. The Politics of Indigeneity in Uganda: Background to the RPF Invasion 159
7. The Civil War and the Genocide 185
8. Tutsi Power in Rwanda and the Citizenship Crisis in Eastern Congo 234
Conclusion: Political Reform after Genocide 264
Notes 283
Bibliography 343
Index 357

Another Princeton book authored or coauthored by Mahmood Mamdani:

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Hardcover: Not for sale in the Commonwealth (except Canada), the Republic of Ireland, Africa, South Asia, and Afghanistan
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      File created: 7/11/2014

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