Twenty-two years have passed since the African nation of Rwanda found itself caught in a civil war between the Hutu and Tutsi tribes. Tensions between the two had been simmering beneath the surface for many years and when things finally came to a head in April, 1994, the conflict escalated into a full-scale genocide. Rwandan society had been shaped on ethnic grounds under the colonial governments imposed by German and Belgian settlers resulting in jealousy, mistrust and unfortunately, ethnic cleansing. The tragedy ranks high among the worst cases of large-scale genocide in history. One of the survivors, Immaculee Ilibagiza, decided to record her memories following the war and they have been turned into this chilling account of the horrors of the holocaust and the incredible effort by her and others to stay alive in the midst of what could only be described as hell. The book became a New York Times bestseller upon its release and remains a testament to the tragedy of Rwanda more than two decades later.
On April 6, 1994, a plane carrying Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana and the President of Burundi, Cyprien Ntaryamira, was shot down killing everyone on board. The Tutsis were blamed and the tensions helped sparked the Rwandan Genocide. Ilibagiza and her family are of the Tutsi tribe, which had been a minority in Rwandan society but also held a large amount of political power. Ethnic tensions simmered beneath the surface as Hutus began to eye their opposing tribe with suspicion and disgust. For 100 days in 1994, nearly one million people were murdered in one of the worst acts of genocides known to man. For Immaculee, the civil war changed her life and the lives of her family members permanently. She lost several siblings and many others she knew intimately. Death would have certainly come for her as well if not for a chance encounter which would encourage her to discover God and have a new-found faith in religion.
The fact that she is alive today is nothing short of a miracle. Help sometimes comes from the most unlikeliest of places but goes a long way in changing the lives of others. Now married and a mother herself, she has come a long way since the tragedy in Rwanda, but her words convey to the reader the reality of the atrocities that took place. Some parts of the book may be upsetting to some and I forewarn the reader that they are not for the faint of heart as graphic details of the deaths of her family members are recorded, in particular those of her two brothers Damascene and Vianney. The atrocities were beyond repulsive and disheartening but these are her words of the nightmare she escaped from and to which no one would ever want to go back.
Today Rwanda is far different but the people have not forgotten the genocide which has been detailed through the organization known as Never Again Rwanda. Their goal is to preserve the memory of the genocide while at the same time, making sure that it is never repeated again, against any group of people of any ethnic background.