Country Focus: Rwanda
The Antelope’s Strategy: Living in Rwanda After the Genocide
By Jean Hatzfeld
Translated by Linda Coverdale
Originally published in French as La Stratégie des antilopes by Editions du Seuil, 2007.
My edition: Picador, 2010.
Time period: @2003-2007
The Rwandan genocide of 1994 resulted in the slaughter of roughly 800,000 people, primarily Tutsi, by a Hutu majority intent on purging Rwanda of its Tutsi inhabitants.
In The Antelope’s Strategy: Living in Rwanda After the Genocide, Jean Hatzfeld catches up with the killers and survivors who he interviewed in his first two books, Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak and Life Laid Bare: The Survivors in Rwanda Speak. Hatzfeld’s interviewees reside in the town of Nyamata, whose Tutsi survivors employed the “antelope’s strategy” – running and hiding together as a group and then scattering upon attack so that everyone had an equal chance to escape. The Hutu killers wielded machetes as their primary weapons, hence the usage of the terms “cut” and “cut down” in reference to the slaughter and mutilations that occurred.
In 2003, President Paul Kagame authorized the conditional release of “average-Joe” killers who had confessed and served at least half of their prison sentences. International humanitarian organizations conducted mandatory and intense reeducation programs for both killers and survivors, instructing them on how to interact with each other. So less than ten years after the Hutus had pursued and cut down their Tutsi neighbors, they returned to live among them.
Never has there been a more uneasy but necessary peace. Survivors are afraid and resentful. Killers warily withhold aspects of their crimes; tell too much and survivors get too riled up, but telling too little is unacceptable.
These Rwandans exemplify the assertion that peace is not merely the absence of violence. For many of them, peace demands an almost unbearable compromise and daily sacrifices. Peace requires the Tutsis to put their country’s needs before their need for retribution, the Hutus to put humility before pride, and for both to sacrifice the emotions of this generation for the safety of the next. Rwandans have submitted to a bold experiment, the long-term results of which won’t be known for decades: will a forced and heavily monitored peace eventually yield an easy-going tranquility?
[Claudine Kayitesi, Tutsi survivor:]
But for me, the chance to become someone is over. You will never hear answers from the real Claudine in response to your questions – because I’m no longer truly happy in my own skin. I’ve known the defilement of a bestial existence, I’ve witnessed the ferocity of the hyena and even worse – since animals are never that wicked. I was called a cockroach, as you know. I was raped by a savage creature. I was swept away to that place, out there, which no words of ours can ever match. But the worst walks on ahead of me. My heart will always look around suspiciously; I know so well now that destiny can break its simple promises.