Selected for Choice Magazine Outstanding Academic Title list, 2014
“Provides a rich discussion of the contemporary Rwandan context, giving voice to people who are largely excluded from public discussions of Rwanda. A much-needed corrective to the cheery presentation of Rwanda in the popular press.” —Timothy Longman, author of Christianity and Genocide in Rwanda
For 100 days in 1994, genocide engulfed Rwanda. Since then, many in the international community have praised the country’s postgenocide government for its efforts to foster national unity and reconciliation by downplaying ethnic differences and promoting “one Rwanda for all Rwandans.” Examining how ordinary rural Rwandans experience and view these policies, Whispering Truth to Power challenges the conventional wisdom on postgenocide Rwanda.
Susan Thomson finds that many of Rwanda’s poorest citizens distrust the local officials charged with implementing the state program and believe that it ignores the deepest problems of the countryside: lack of land, jobs, and a voice in policies that affect lives and livelihoods. Based on interviews with dozens of Rwandan peasants and government officials, this book reveals how the nation’s disenfranchised poor have been engaging in everyday resistance, cautiously and carefully—“whispering” their truth to the powers that be. This quiet opposition, Thomson argues, suggests that some of the nation’s most celebrated postgenocide policies have failed to garner the grassroots support needed to sustain peace.
Susan Thomson is assistant professor of peace and conflict studies at Colgate University. She has published articles in African Affairs, African Studies Review, and The Journal of Modern African Studies, and she also serves as the Amnesty International–USA Country Specialist for Rwanda and Burundi.
“Thomson’s research methods and creative engagement with these issues open new lines of inquiry and should inspire both critical review and emulation. Highly recommended for college, university, and major public library systems and those specializing in politics, international affairs, and African studies.” —Choice
“Besides its methodological merits, this book’s strength lies in the rich ethnographic data that allow us to gain insights into peasants’ attitudes beyond the official rhetoric of unity and reconciliation.” —African Affairs
“Sobering and disturbing. . . . The peasant people’s resistance to official policies of national unity and reconciliation emerged because these national schemes do not reflect the peasants’ own lived realities and experiences of state power, genocide and day-to-day living within their communities. Instead, these official policies disrupt everyday life and endanger existing networks of mutual support and dependence.” —Canadian Journal of Development Studies
“Analyzes peasants’ everyday resistance strategies to Rwanda’s National Policy of Unity and Reconciliation, shedding light on how state power interacts with everyday life in the politically tense context of postgenocide Rwanda. Through its bottom-up perspective, the book is an important and innovative contribution.” —African Studies Review
“Thomson shows how Paul Kagame’s version of national reconciliation is designed not merely to forge a united Rwanda but also to control its citizens, shape the country’s history in a self-serving manner, and ensure Kagame’s hold on power.” —Foreign Affairs
“Thomson’s elegant research is praiseworthy and her arguments are forthright. . . . This important publication will be of great value to scholars of Rwanda and genocide as well as students of reconciliation politics and transitional justice.” —Human Rights Quarterly
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November 2013 LC: 2013010424 DT
256 pp. 6 x 9
10 b/w illus., 2 maps, 1 table