The “Stories from Rwanda” are of the horrible genocide that took place in this small African country in 1994. The genocide involved two African tribes, the Hutus and the Tutsis. Beginning in April of 1994 and ending only ninety days` later, just under a million Tutsis were slaughtered by the Hutu majority, making this event the largest genocide since the Nazi extermination of the Jews during World War II. The book is divided up into three sections: before the genocide, during the genocide and finally, after the genocide. Many testimonials, from the different groups/individuals/nations, are included.
In the first part of the book Gourevitch provides a concise history of Rwanda leading up to the genocide. Rwanda was colonized by the Belgians and it was the Belgians who claimed that the majority Hutu population (80-85%) was inferior to the minority Tutsi population (15%). The Belgians believed that the Tutsis were more closely related to Europeans. This led the Tutsi population to gain control over the Hutus; having the best jobs, living in the nicest houses and benefiting from a higher social status. After World War II, pressure was put on many nations to allow their colonized countries/regions to become democratic nations. In July of 1962, Rwanda gained its independence. When this took place, the Hutu majority immediately gained control of the country and began ostracizing the Tutsis. By 1964 one quarter million Tutsis fled Rwanda. Many of these exiles joined the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF), which became the biggest opponent of the Hutu regime in Rwanda. President Habyarimana began ordering attacks on the Tutsi population throughout the 1970’s all the way up to the 1990’s. Killing Tutsis became a norm in Rwanda, and in the author’s words, “…killing Tutsis was a political tradition in postcolonial Rwanda…and it brought the people together” (p.95).