New book review: André Guichaoua’s From War to Genocide: Criminal Politics in Rwanda, 1990-1994

Genocide Studies and Prevention has just published my latest review of André Guichaoua’s From War to Genocide: Criminal Politics in Rwanda, 1990-1994. Translated from the original French by Don Webster, From War to Genocide is an excellent addition to the English-language literature on Rwanda. Guichaoua draws upon an impressive range of evidence collected by the Office of the Prosecution for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) as part of its efforts to hold accountable those individuals with primary criminal responsibility for the 1994 genocide. As the former lead expert witness for the prosecution at the ICTR, Guichaoua had unprecedented access to these materials, which he then supplemented with his own interviews and related fieldwork among Rwandans who were not complicit in the genocide but had been close to Presidents Juvénal Habyarimana (r. 1973-1994) and Théodore Sindikubwabo (r. AprilJuly 1994), the interim President who ruled briefly following Habyarimana’s assassination. The outcome is a comprehensive overview of the civil war and genocide in Rwanda and one that speaks to several key debates among experts on the conflict: most notably, the question of which parties to the conflict were most likely responsible for Habyarimana’s assassination. Another potential point of controversy in Guichaoua’s book is his discussion of whether the genocide was the inevitable outcome of a long-term plan on the part of the Habyarimana regime, or the result of a last ditch effort on the part of the interim government to eliminate all Tutsi civilians in order to undermine the predominantly Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front’s likely support base, in the increasingly likely event that they won the civil war and became the new ruling party of Rwanda.

Taken together, From War to Genocide offers a thorough overview of the rapidly shifting political climate in Rwanda during the civil war and genocide grounded almost entirely in primary sources (many of which are available online at the book’s website) and Guichaoua’s extensive knowledge of Rwandan politics.

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