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Rwanda and the New Scramble for Africa: From Tragedy to Useful Imperial Fiction Paperback – Dec 20 2013
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“Explosive, very daring and solidly defended . . . a real bomb that rocks our interpretation of the Rwandan tragedy!” —Le Devoir, Montreal
"The author makes strong, compelling cases.... Rwanda and the New Scramble for Africa presents an illuminating investigation of the Rwandan crisis that will often grip the attention of serious readers and foreign policy experts." —Karl Helicher, forewordreviews.com
“Philpot has provided us with an invaluable resource for understanding the Rwandan tragedy and for countering those who cite the tragedy in order to justify Western military interventions.” —Yves Engler, Montreal Review of Books
“Robin Philpot’s book makes an extremely valuable contribution. . . . Rwandan and the New Scramble for Africa is an essential read for anyone intersted in understanding the roots of the Rwandan tragedy.” —Dan Glazebrooke, counterpunch.org
About the Author
Robin Philpot is a writer, translator, and publisher. He is the author of six books in French on international and Canada/Quebec political issues and is coauthor with Jacques Lacoursière of A People's History of Quebec. He lives in Montreal.
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November 2, 2015: I was about to buy “Rwanda and the New Scramble for Africa” but hesitated to do so after reading an excerpt from it by Robin Philpot on globalresearch[dot]ca entitled “The Rwanda ‘Genocide Fax’. Who was behind the 1994 Massacres?” The author has a chatty but confusing style that enjoys the strength of narrative interpretation unburdened by excessive citations, but unfortunately he is not a good analyst of evidence. Philpot’s analysis of the "Genocide Fax" illustrates this. The Official Story has this fax, reportedly received by UNAMIR Force Commander Romeo Dallaire, warning of an impending Hutu genocide against Tutsis that tragically failed to produce relevant preventive action. Philpot gives a correct but limited interpretation of the genocide fax but never reaches the most important conclusion about it which by the time of this book’s publication had been well established for many years, i.e., this it is a forgery. His limited correct interpretation is this:
"The spin given to the fax story in The New Yorker could be summed up as follows: We in Washington are not guilty of having supported a murderous invading army that has spread death and destruction throughout central Africa. It’s those incompetent UN bureaucrats and especially that secretary general who did not take the obvious necessary measures to stop those horrible génocidaires from carrying out their evil plans. They did nothing even though they were sitting on unquestionable documentary evidence of a planned genocide. They did not even inform the international community."
The more important point is that this fax first surfaced after, and in response to, Romeo Dallaire's public statements that first denied and then affirmed prior knowledge of Hutu intent to commit genocide against Tutsi. The failure to find any UN documentary evidence of a pre-planned genocide by the Rwandan government against Tutsis was thus embarrassing to the US narrative. The fax filled that evidentiary gap, but is a partial forgery into which the allegations of genocide have been added by “cut and paste.” You can read some details proving this in “Enduring Lies: The Rwandan Genocide in the Propaganda System, 20 Years Later” by Edward Herman and David Peterson (H&P) but the far-better account comes from one of the lead defense counsels at the ICTR, Chris Black, whose 2005 online essay “The Dallaire Genocide Fax” provides a compelling analysis that Herman and Peterson unwisely truncate. I say “unwisely” because the more one understands the very deliberate plotting and deception at the core of media disinformation, the clearer a view one has of the mechanisms of state control at the center, a point that Herman and Chomsky notoriously scant, especially Chomsky, who remains as foolishly ignorant of USG domestic covert operations covered up by the propaganda system as do the masses. (To their credit, H&P do their best to make the mechanics of the deceit plain in appendices; even Black never says why the fact that ¶12 is missing matters: the likely problem was that the first page of the fax gave the total number of pages – 2 – and the forgers simply ran out of room.) Part of the evidence of its being a fake comes from the UN response to it that Philpot mentions but fails to appreciate properly, i.e., the UN response to the alleged genocide fax makes no reference to any mention of genocide. Still, even the short excerpt that I read of Philpot’s book shows that it clearly has lively details and political analyses that make it worth reading and it is highly recommended by Edward Herman, who reviewed it for Z-mag, a review worth reading.
In reviewing Philpot's book Eric clifrod [sic] Miller complains of its one-sidedness by writing, “Yes, the US supported the RPF but it did not create it as part of some grand Machiavellian conspiracy to steal the Congo's resources and destroy France's sphere of influence in the region.” I doubt that Philpot ever claimed that the US created the RPF in order to loot the Congo, but part of this criticism is likely justified even if there is some hyperbole from Miller about how Philpot views the US role – some more modest description of the US is justified, such as that the US trained, armed and supported a genocidal monster, Paul Kagame, because he served US goals of looting the Congo. It is not hard to see how a superficial reading of Philpot’s book might promote misinterpretation. After all, the back cover of Philpot's earlier "Rwanda 1994: Colonialism Dies Hard," states that "former UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali declared to the author that the 'Rwandan genocide was 100 percent American responsibility.'" I would bet my right arm that Philpot includes this quote in his present book and such remarks may give the false impression that Philpot claims that the US created the genocide from whole cloth. Certainly Boutros-Ghali might believe that the US is 100% responsible for the genocide without suggesting that it made the RPF from scratch in order to loot the Congo, but I am nonetheless sympathetic to Miller’s discontent because I felt a similar dissatisfaction reading the very informative “Enduring Lies” cover-to-cover and was troubled by both its academic dryness – “genocide” in the abstract without the blood spilled – and its failure to grasp the particular lives and values and aspirations of the Africans themselves, and them acting in this monstrous affair under their own set of motivations even if they could never have achieved their genocidal goals but for the fact that these dovetailed so neatly with the geopolitical and economic ends of the US ruling class.
For example, on p.15 H&P quote with approval Malmood’s Mamdani’s account of the meaning of “Hutu” and “Tutsi”, i.e., “To be a Tutsi was thus to be in power, nearly power, or simply to be identified with power – just as to be a Hutu was more and more to be a subject,” which the authors summarize according to their political biases as a “longstanding class conflict within the Kingdom’s social order.” But one has only to open Gérard Prunier’s 1995 “The Rwandan Crisis, History of a Genocide,” to begin to see how such a sanitary description misses quite a lot.
[BEGIN QUOTE] In May 1958 [the year before the successful Hutu revolution], the Court notables declared that since Kigwa, the ancestor of the Banyinginya dynasty, had reduced the Hutu by force, there could be no fraternity between Tutsi and Hutu. The whole climate became poisoned as a political rivalry went into heavily symbolic disputes not amenable to reason. In October 1958, Joseph Gitera, one of the new Hutu leaders, asked Mgr Perrudin to get rid of the Kaliga, the sacred royal drum, because, being decorated with the testicles of vanquished Hutu princes it could not be considered a symbol of national unity. The Tutsi court notables strongly protested. [END QUOTE] (p.47)
Most of us can appreciate how such a difference of opinion between these two tribes over whether the Kalinga drum decorated with the testicles of defeated Hutu princes might serve as an adequate symbol of national unity reflects a deep-seated divergence of worldviews that may have escaped the notice of H&P. It would be fair to conclude that even absent the US there was not going to be one big happy African family, but at least the majority’s will and welfare would have prevailed in Rwanda much as the Sandinistas would have in Nicaragua but for the US arming and training and supporting the Contras. In too many ways H&P write a scholarly version of a legal brief whose primary purpose is assigning legal and moral responsibility for the genocide without much understanding of the visceral stakes at issue for the participants in the fighting, understanding of which is certainly insufficient to understand the genocides in Rwanda and the Congo. Thus, despite his keen understanding of African politics and passions, Prunier got the genocide exactly wrong whereas H&P got it right -- a genocide of the Hutus by the RPF/RPA mixed with slaughters of both groups by each other, and both strategic and tactical slaughters of Tutsi’s by the RPF/RPA (one reason so many of Kigame’s officers later turned against him) but the vast majority of the dead were Hutus -- so H&P vis-à-vis Prunier is a case of different authors playing to different strengths.
To repeat: What is missing from H&P is an understanding of how US military and intelligence assets take the cauldron of festering African passions and then decide how to intervene to achieve their geopolitical goals using the RPF/RPA as it finds it and building it into an even more useful shape, not by creating the RPF/RPA from whole cloth for its own ends, or turning it into a mere puppet of US interests. For a short but illuminating overall account of the 1994 Rwandan genocide and its liaison into the DRC under the fabricated pretext of killing the Hutu génocidaires sheltering there see Chris Black online “The Truth about Rwanda.” For a fascinating and largely, and perhaps perfectly, sincere first-hand account of the genocide by a key ICTR witness whose testimony helped to convince the very biased (anti-Hutu) judges that the Hutu defendants did not commit genocide, see online “Testimony of Abdul Ruzibiza about how mistakes by both the Rwandan Government and the RPF led to the Rwandan genocide of 1994.”
Ruzibiza, a high-ranking member of the RPF/RPA living in exile in Norway at the time (2009) demanded that Kagame be prosecuted for committing genocide, maintained sincerely but falsely that genocide occurred by both sides, so effective was the mindset and brainwashing of the Kagame intelligence network upon even his own troops. And even though Ruzibiza's very informative account omits the substance of his grievances, their intensity is conveyed when he describes Habyarimana in an aside as someone "whom I hated and opposed with a passion." Ruzibiza's account of the slaughters and Kagame's prior awareness and embrace of a genocide that Kagame knew included massive numbers of Tutsis provides all the blood and gore any of us might want to wade through and, remarkably, with considerable understanding of Ruzibiza's Hutu victim's feelings, calling Kagame's depredations cruel in the extreme and showing how Kagame routinely incorporated false-flag operations into the preliminary attacks in order to destroy the fabric of Rwandan society. He conveys a wish that the RPA's original leader, Fred Rwigyema, had not been slain in battle soon after the fighting started in 1990 (Kagame stopped his training at Ft. Leavenworth and took command) because "he would never have allowed an army under his command to engage in killings of civilians." Indeed, Ruzibiza’s argument is that Kagame and his troops behaved with such genocidal fury toward the Hutus that the retaliatory genocide was only to be expected.
[BEGIN QUOTE] Going deep inside the country meant surviving on what we found in the areas, and that was nowhere other than in villagers’ homes. If the home owner was present when we arrived, we killed them immediately. If they were absent, we destroyed the house, and took away all the goats, chickens and cattle for food. At times, meat became so plentiful that we started being very selective as to what we ate, with every one of us killing their own animal and taking only the heart, one leg, the liver, etc., leaving the rest to go to waste. About 20 people sharing 2 cows, 10 chickens, and 3 goats for food evidently was nothing but a display of wastefulness and cruelty. Now picture this: here’s a Hutu peasant who is not particularly informed about the RPF and its agenda, and then the same RPF shows up, kills his children, rapes his wife, takes away his cattle and destroys his property for which he has worked his entire life! Anyone wanting to understand how genocide happened need not look further. [END QUOTE]
Nonetheless, and crucially, such genocide of Hutu against Tutsi did not occur though horrific retributive slaughters -- still vastly less than what they suffered -- did.
If you want a good balanced book, by another Francaphone author, who covers both the sides of the story thoroughly and covers the abuses committed on all sides than read Gerard Prunier's book, Africa's World War.