When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism, and the Genocide in Rwanda

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Princeton University Press, 2002 - History - 364 pages

"When we captured Kigali, we thought we would face criminals in the state; instead, we faced a criminal population." So a political commissar in the Rwanda Patriotic Front reflected after the 1994 massacre of as many as one million Tutsis in Rwanda. Underlying his statement is the realization that, though ordered by a minority of state functionaries, the slaughter was performed by hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens, including even judges, human rights activists, and doctors, nurses, priests, friends, and spouses of the victims. Indeed, it is its very popularity that makes the Rwandan genocide so unthinkable. This book makes it thinkable.

Rejecting easy explanations of the genocide as a mysterious evil force that was bizarrely unleashed, one of Africa's best-known intellectuals situates the tragedy in its proper context. He coaxes to the surface the historical, geographical, and political forces that made it possible for so many Hutu to turn so brutally on their neighbors. He finds answers in the nature of political identities generated during colonialism, in the failures of the nationalist revolution to transcend these identities, and in regional demographic and political currents that reach well beyond Rwanda. In so doing, Mahmood Mamdani usefully broadens understandings of citizenship and political identity in postcolonial Africa.

There have been few attempts to explain the Rwandan horror, and none has succeeded so well as this one. Mamdani's analysis provides a solid foundation for future studies of the massacre. Even more important, his answers point a way out of crisis: a direction for reforming political identity in central Africa and preventing future tragedies.


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I am not sure what to say really because this book have change me and I been telling everyone to read it. This book can be used to explain so much. It explain wars and Violence. It explains why in the world would someone Kill. It's on the Cover. The Title it-self say so much..This book should be in schools. I have to thank my Prof for giving me this book.  

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I have an essay that I would like to submit on Mamdani and Rwanda.


List of Abbreviations
Preface and Acknowledgments
Thinking about Genocide
Defining the Crisis of Postcolonial Citizenship Settler and Native as Political Identities
The Origins of Hutu and Tutsi
The Racialization of the HutuTutsi Difference under Colonialism
The Social Revolution of 1959
The Second Republic Redefining Tutsi from Race to Ethnicity
The Politics of Indigeneity in Uganda Background to the RPF Invasion
The Civil War and the Genocide
Tutsi Power in Rwanda and the Citizenship Crisis in Eastern Congo
Political Reform after Genocide

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About the author (2002)

Mahmood Mamdani is Herbert Lehman Professor of Government and Director of the Institute of African Studies at Columbia University. He is the author of Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism (Princeton), which won the Herskovitz prize of the African Studies Association. Among his other books are The Myth of Population Control, From Citizen to Refugee, and Politics and Class Formation in Uganda. He is currently President of the Dakar-based Council for Development of Social Research in Africa (CODESRIA).

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