Rwanda: Teenage Hutus and Tutsis

I was surprised to see that it was hard to find books from Rwanda. I had thought that there would be quite a few books about the Genocide, I could easily get hold of. Luckily, I did not have to read about the Genocide, instead I found the cutest book ever: Our Lady of the Nile by Scholastique Mukasonga. It is set in the time before the Genocide. The cuteness ends with the look and size of the book.

The setting is somehow so idyllic. The all-girls school is on top of a hill, close to the mouth of the Nile River. The Hutus are ruling the country. The school has a quota of a maximum of ten per cent Tutsis in the school.  This means that only two girls are Tutsis. The book is about these teenage girls studying, bullying, competing, and living the life of teenage girls in Africa. The book is also about how the country was going towards Genocide.

There are girls as nasty as girls can be. One decided to destroy the nose of a statue of the Virgin, because apparently the statue had the nose of a Tutsi. She also claims some Tutsi men raped her. In a way this probably does not differ from other places on our planet where racism is part of everyday life, but the genocide part really makes you see things in perspective.

I enjoy the aspect of the book. It is refreshing to read about the years before a genocide from such a different point of view. Yes, it is devastating, but so different. No politicians, soldiers, farmers, but teenage Catholic girls. There are many compelling people in the book, not just the girls, but their teachers, family members and even a neighbor.

For such a short book it is powerful and distinctive.  No one knows how many Tutsis were killed, but the estimate is 500 000 to 1 0000000 in just some months. Up to seventy per cent of the Tutsis were slaughtered. The author left the country a few years before the Genocide, and she lost 27 family members. It is a criminal offense to deny the genocide. “Maybe one day there’ll be a Rwanda with neither Hutu or Tutsi”.

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