Writing ‘Parrhesia’, Narrating ‘the Other Rwandan Genocide’

Marie Béatrice Umutesi’s Surviving the Slaughter and Pierre-Claver Ndacyayisenga’s Dying to Live

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  • 1 Stellenbosch University

At the end of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, close to a million Tutsis and moderate Hutus had been murdered, and over 1.5 million people were either internally displaced or had fled over the borders into neighbouring countries and beyond for fear of reprisals from the advancing Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). This article places Marie Béatrice Umutesi’s Surviving the Slaughter (2004) and Pierre-Claver Ndacyayisenga’s Dying to Live (2012) within the context of post-1994 Rwandan testimonial literature that writes what is feared to be “the other Rwandan genocide,” particularly against those who fled to eastern Zaïre (now the Democratic Republic of Congo). In the two narratives, I argue, Umutesi and Ndacyayisenga destabilise and deconstruct the claim of genocide to create a literature that captures the anxieties of genocide memories in Rwanda. Specifically, Umutesi and Ndacyayisenga deploy a rhetorical narrative form that employs cynicism, bitter humour and a harsh tone to suggest that the suffering of Rwandans must not be seen, or even told, from a single perspective, and that only a balanced engagement with extant issues would lead to genuine reconciliation in Rwanda. To illustrate the ideological purpose at work in the two texts, I reference Michel Foucault’s parrhesia as a framework for understanding how the authors contest genocide memories in Rwanda.

  • 3

    Phil Taylor, “Preface: In a Time of War, God Help the Non-Combatants,” in Dying to Live: A Rwandan Family’s Five Year Flight Across the Congo, tr. Casey Roberts (Montreal: Baraka, 2012): 11.

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  • 5

    Foucault, Fearless Speech, 17–18.

  • 7

    Paul Kagame, “Preface,” in After Genocide: Transitional Justice, Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Reconciliation in Rwanda and Beyond, ed. Phil Clark & Zachary D. Kaufman (London: C. Hurst, 2008): xxiii.

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  • 8

    René Lemarchand, “Bearing Witness to Mass Murder,” African Studies Review 48.3 (December 2005): 93, 94.

  • 9

    Aliko Songolo, “Marie Béatrice Umutesi’s Truth: The Other Rwanda Genocide?” African Studies Review 48.3 (December 2005): 107–119.

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  • 10

    Aliko Songolo, “Marie Béatrice Umutesi’s Truth,” 108.

  • 11

    Emizet Kisangani, “The Massacre of Refugees in Congo,” 179.

  • 14

    Adam Jones, “The Great Lakes Genocides: Hidden Histories, Hidden Precedents,” in Hidden Genocides: Power, Knowledge, Memory, ed. Alexander Laban Hinton, Thomas La Ponte, & Douglas Irvin-Erickson (New Brunswick NJ & London: Rutgers UP, 2014): 131; original brackets and slashes.

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  • 15

    Olivier Nyirubugara, Complexities and Dangers of Remembering and Forgetting in Rwanda—Memory Traps, Volume 1 (Leiden: Sidestone, 2013): 125.

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  • 18

    Felix Holmgren, “The Forgotten Slaughter: An Interview with Marie Béatrice Umutesi,” Eurozine (2010), http://www.eurozine.com/pdf/2010-01-15-interview-en.pdf (accessed 29 January 2016).

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  • 20

    Paul Kagame, “Preface,” xxii–xxiii, xxiv.

  • 22

    Howard Adelman, “The Use and Abuse of Refugees in Zaïre,” 96.

  • 24

    Howard Adelman & Astri Suhrke, “Preface,” in The Path of a Genocide: The Rwanda Crisis from Uganda to Zaïre, ed. Howard Adelman & Astri Suhrke (Uppsala: Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, 1999): xvii.

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  • 25

    Aloys Habimana, “Lending a Voice to the Voiceless: The Quest for Justice in Umutesi’s Narrative,” African Studies Review 48.3 (December 2005): 105.

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  • 29

    Graça Machel, The Impact of War on Children: A Review of Progress since 1996 United Nations Report on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children (London: C. Hurst, 2001): 55.

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  • 32

    Israel W. Charny, “Innocent Denials of Known Genocides: A Further Contribution to a Psychology of Denial of Genocide,” Human Rights Review 1.3 (April 2000): 21.

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  • 33

    Cited in René Lemarchand, “The Politics of Memory in Post-Genocide Rwanda,” in After Genocide: Transitional Justice, Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Reconciliation in Rwanda and Beyond, ed. Phil Clark & Zachary D. Kaufman (London: C. Hurst, 2008): 72.

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  • 34

    Quoted in Claudine Vidal, “Les commémorations du génocide au Rwanda,” Les Temps Modernes 56.613 (March–May 2001): 46.

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