So although this part had less action—and by action I mean killing, looting, raping and the whole nine yard—it was no less poignant. I was surprised at Paul Kagame’s candid assessment of the international community’s response following the genocide. His thinking about the international community’s perspective on the creation and subsequent intervention of the Pan-African Alliance in the Congolese Civil War, in which he argues that because solely African countries had resolved the Congo conflict, the international community is embarrassed thus trying to poke holes in the Pan African response. Kagame’s thoughts and reasoning mirrored my thoughts and feelings, which I would have said had I been candidly talking about race and international politics with my friends or my mother. I realized that either Gourevitch is a really good journalist because he was able to make Kagame comfortable enough to reveal that side of him or Kagame is really blunt. Either possibility makes either of them look good in my eyes.
There was a part about a killer during the genocide named Girmuhaste who admitted that he was responsible for killing five people. However, when comparing his account with that of the community, it was revealed that he might have killed or overseen around ten killings of Tutsi. When confronted with this information and his victim, Girumatse attributes his actions to the authorities which instructed him to kill. When reading this part, I could not help but think about the Milgram study. The Milgram study was a study conducted during the Eichmann trial in order to explore the possibility of “doing their job” mentality in the accomplices during the Holocaust. In the study, the “experimenter” instructed “teachers” to have actors, called “learners”, memorize word pairings. After sometime, the “learners” were instructed by the “teachers” to repeat the word pairing, a wrong answer punished by a “shock” to the “learner”, who really was not shocked at all. If the “teachers” were at all hesitant to punish the “learner” the “experimenter” prodded the “teachers” with certain phrases such as “The experiment require that you continue”. More often than not, the “teachers” “shocked” the “learners” with the highest voltage, which was four-hundred fifty volts. The study reported that when the “teachers” were instructed to shock the victim, they were somewhat apprehensive but felt as though the “experimenter” bore sole responsibility for the patient’s harm and they [the “teachers”] were only the “agent” of torture for the “learner”, known as the agentic state theory. Equating the “teachers” with Girumatse, I felt as though blaming the “experimenters” or the “government authorities” assuaged their guilt for harming their victims and prevented them from hating themselves for their actions. I can’t say that I feel sympathy for Girumatse, but I can understand his motivations for rationalizing his actions through his “agency state theory”.
When Gourevitch discusses the lack of accurate coverage of the Congolese war, specifically in Mugunga camp in Goma because of little access, I was angry because humanitarian refugee agencies and the Secretary General of the United Nations Boutros Boutros-Ghali continued to make unfounded claims about refugees suffering from cholera and starvation, when in actuality, the refugees were being murdered and murdering other. These claims were explained as the result of the refugees being mostly women and children. When I read that I was so furious at the sexism being used to mislead the public that I just had to stop reading and roll my eyes for a second.
I thought that this was a good read so I would recommend that you all look for it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, but check the library first because saving money is always most important!
Below is some reading about the Milgram experiment, just in case you are interested, you do not believe me or you think I did a poor job of explaining the study: