review FRIDA

It was 1994. The year of the manmade disaster in Rwanda. Neigbour killed neighbour. Relative killed relative. Friend killed friend. Thousands upon thousands died in the killing fields and hills of Rwanda. Some managed to find refuge in a neigbouring country, some found refuge outside the continent. Some managed to survive within the borders of the landlocked country. 

I remember the times I listened to a young man who was from mixed parentage, Hutu and Tutsi. He could not trust a countryman. Who was friend? Who was foe? 

One of the survivers within the borders of Rwanda is a young woman, named Frida. In this shocking book she recounts the events of the genocide and the years there after. She is born in 1980 and is from a family of five children, her father is a small businessman, her grandfather is a schoolteacher. The family belongs to the Roman Catholic Church. The days arrive that the children at primary school are counted as belonging to a certain tribe. Frida notices she is a Tutsi. She recounts the first invasion by the RPF in 1990, the other invasions, the massacre.

From the primary school she moves on to a secondary school, a boarding school with a Belgian principal. In 1993 the Milles Collines broadcasts its message about cockroaches that need to be destroyed. The next year the president is killed when his plane is shot at.   

Frida recounts how her familymembers were killed, how she lived in the bush, was hidden by Hutu people she knew, while other Hutu are looking for her, in order to kill her. 

When the RPF has conquered Kigali she takes stock, a few relatives are still alive. She moves to the other side of the continent, to Gabon, to stay with a relative, for one and a half year. In the end she is back in Kigali where she attends a boarding school. Here she meets a staunch young christian, and that influences her. She commits herself to Jesus Christ in 1998. 

This marks a new beginning in her life. After some time her nightmares disappear. She struggles with the notion of forgiveness. How to forgive when the other one does not confess his sins? At times I think that Frida is a bit too quick to dispense forgiveness. Justice needs to be done as well. She is of the opinion that the devil is behind the murderous work of the Hutu, but this can easily absolve people from their responsibility. 

She gets into contact with the man who murdered her father. One moment the man confesses to the killing, the other moment he denies it. 

Frida marries a pastor of a church. She goes abroad for courses, eventhough there is hardly any money available. Her husband travels widely, with the same lack of money. It was not clear to me what she did want. One time she proclaims that she want to be a preacher, the next she takes a short course in counselling. 

The proces of mourning takes many years for Frida. Looking back at what happened to you and your loved ones is a tough proces.  A proces that cannot be easily surmounted by words of forgiveness, when it is not clear whom to forgive for what!

It can hardly be imagined what happened to people and the suffering that went on, many years after the genocide. 

Frida Umuhoza – Frida, chosen to die, destined to live – 2007


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I enjoy reading about Africa. New books. Old books. By African writers. By non-African writers. Novel. History. Travel. Biographies. Autobiographies. Politics. Colonialism. Poetry.

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