Silent Accomplice: The Untold Story of France's Role in the Rwandan Genocide, and: Genocide in Cambodia and Rwanda: New Perspectives, and: Accounting for Horror: Post-Genocide Debates in Rwanda (review)
- Genocide Studies and Prevention
- University of Toronto Press
- Volume 3, Number 1, Spring 2008
- pp. 153-157
- Additional Information
Book Review Andrew Wallis. Silent Accomplice: The Untold Story of France’s Role in the Rwandan Genocide. London: I.B. Tauris, 2006. Pp. 242, cloth. $44.00 US. Susan Cook, ed. Genocide in Cambodia and Rwanda: New Perspectives. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2006. Pp. 299, paper. $24.95 US. Pp. 299, cloth. $49.95 US. Nigel Eltringham. Accounting for Horror: Post-Genocide Debates in Rwanda. London: Pluto Press, 2004. Pp. 232, paper. $24.95 US. Pp. 232, cloth. $79.95 US. Reviewed by Gerald Caplan, Independent Scholar, Toronto, ON New studies of genocide continue to materialize at a modest but regular pace. Of course, there is nothing like the Holocaust publishing phenomenon, with a small flood of books and articles appearing month after month. A long lifetime devoted to nothing but reading about the Holocaust would barely begin to scratch the surface of the available studies. But it is gratifying, if obviously frustrating, to report that it is now quite impossible to keep up with all the literature on other genocides and on genocide as such. Nonetheless, the universe of those one Israeli on the fringes affectionately calls ‘‘genocide freaks’’ remains distinctly small. It is no fluke that I know, at least as acquaintances if not as dear friends, two of the three authors under review. This leads to the situation that always prevails when a field is so small and intimate—the difficulty of candor and criticism in reviewing the work of peers, if only because there is at least a reasonable possibility that they may one day be called on to review one of your efforts. It is easier to pretend that this is not an issue, but it is. And all we can do is disclose this implicit conflict of interest. As it happens, I have problems with all three books under review. The author I do not know at all is Andrew Wallis, identified on the jacket flap as a journalist and a researcher in the Department of Peace Studies at Bradford University. Wallis’s book is the most timely of the three, and probably the most important, but it is also the most disappointing. The role of France in the Rwandan Genocide remains a blur to many in the English-speaking world. The division in the field of genocide studies between monolingual French and English speakers is almost scandalously unbridged; the two simply do not share the same universe of information. Nowhere is this more true than in books and articles on Rwanda, where—with notable exceptions, such as Linda Melvern—two solitudes can be said to exist. There is a good deal of writing related to the genocide by francophone Rwandan academics and other francophone writers, including the indispensable Belgian journalist Colette Braeckman, that remains a blank slate to most Anglophones. (Braeckman feels so divorced from the Gerald Caplan, review of Silent Accomplice: The Untold Story of France’s Role in the Rwandan Genocide by Andrew Wallis; Genocide in Cambodia and Rwanda: New Perspectives edited by Susan Cook; Accounting for Horror: Post-Genocide Debates in Rwanda by Nigel Eltringham. Genocide Studies and Prevention 3, 1 (April 2008): 153–157. ß 2008 Genocide Studies and Prevention. doi: 10.3138/gsp.3.1.153 agenda-setting Anglophone world, she told me, that she will never again write a book that is not translated into English.) Wallis’s signal contribution is to pull together the most important work extant in both English and French on France’s role in the genocide, from the many reports of Human Rights Watch (HRW) to the writings of Patrick de St. Exupery and FrançoisXavier Verschave. Noting that the usual criticism of the ‘‘international community’’ is that it has failed to intervene to stop atrocities perpetrated by Africans against each other, he reminds us of the real truth: ‘‘genocide often occurs because of too much, not too little, Western interference’’ (x). Following the lead of HRW, he asks exactly the right question: Would the genocide of the Rwandan Tutsi have happened at all without French President François Mitterrand’s consistent support for Rwanda’s Hutu extremists and his attempts to undermine the rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) before, during and...