This is another book on the ravages of the explosion of a genocide in April 1994 in the landlocked country of Rwanda. Blood on the hills, blood in the valleys, blood in the rivers.

This is the very peronal story of one of the survivors of the genocide. The third genocide in the 20th century (first on Armenians in Turkey, the second on Jews in Europe, the third on the Tutsi in Rwanda). In her book Annick wants to sing a hymn of survival and the joy of survival.

Annick paints the context of the history of Rwanda, with the Twa, Hutu and Tutsi, the influence of the occupiers of Belgian and French descent. The French have a lasting influence, by supporting the Hutu leadership and populace.

Annick is raised in a well-to-do Tutsi family. Her parents got married in 1976, living in the southeastern part of land of the hills. Her father Athanase is a medical doctor, who works very hard. When her mother Spéciose gets very ill she is transported to Belgium where she is treated in a hospital. A few years later one of Annick’s sisters gets ill and is also transported to Belgium. Her medical father accompanies her. Close to the return to Rwanda, both father and daughter find death in a fire.

In 1990 the political situation in the country gets more and more problematic. Yannick writes about her personal situation, what happens in her neighbourhood, what she hears on the radio, the attempts to get to safety, the betrayal by people around her. Her mother is murdered and her younger brother Aimé is killed during the early stages of the genocide. Being born a Tutsi had become a crime in itself, worthy of death.

In the second part of the book Annick describes her stay in France after she had managed to leave Rwanda and move to France with the help of friends and relatives. At first she (15 years young) stays with a Rwandan family, but here she is sexuallly harrassed by the master of the house (this ends in a courtcase that lingers on). What did not happen to her in Rwanda, happened to her in the safehouse called France ! She gets another family where she can stay and she moves to the South of France. This family sees Annick (and other children ) as a source of income from the French government. She lives in France, but Rwanda is still at the back of her mind.

In the third part she travels to Rwanda with her fostermother and one of her children. To these two people the vist is a holiday, to Annick it is an unsetling experience. She even stays at the school were her mother was murdered. Her three weeks visit is a visit of fear. She wants to forget Rwanda.

Back in France she moves out of the fosterhouse and settles with her elder sister Aline, with whom she had fled Rwanda. She finds love, moves to Paris to study at the Sorbonne. And leaves her lover. When an aunt mentions to her that a courtcase will be held concerning the death of her mother, she decides to testify in Rwanda. The journey and the courtcase are a deception, a joke.

Later on she travels to Rwanda again, in the company of three young cineasts. She talks with victims and with perpetrators, these last ones do not take responsibility for their actions and the death and havoc they caused. Annick confronts people who took the side of the Interahamwe during the genocide.

There is a call for reconciliation that is heard in Rwanda (or in Kenya after the election violence that left more than a thousand people dead). For reconciliation to be usefull those who committed crimes should come forward and confess their crimes. Without this, reconciliation is an empty word and a blatant attempt to close the eyes in the face of injustice.

Annick looks for dignity for all people. She talks about what happened in Rwanda, at times together with survivors of that other genocide, the Holocaust.

Annick Kayitesi – Nous existons encore – 2004


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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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