Book eleven was again one from the table by the café at Mainstreet Trading my local bookshop. It’s a reason why I love this bookshop as I pick up books that I would never pick online and they don’t go for the best sellers. Over the years since the bookshop opened my reading has been stretched and extended. This was one such book “Running the Rift” by Naomi Benaron. It’s a fictional book set round the genocide in Rwanda in the 1990’s.
Although I have a reasonable grasp of world politics my awareness of African politics to my shame is limited to South Africa and apartheid. Via the news I was aware of the genocide in Rwanda but reading the book made me realise how truly awful it was. The book centres round a Tutsi family and a boy Jean Patrick who is a skilled runner and wants to win the Olympics for his country which as a Tutsi boy has huge challenges. The story takes you from his boyhood to his student days right through to early adulthood all set during the massacre and killing of the genocide. It is truly appalling and the writer does not hold back painting a picture of a country not just in crisis but totally out of control where evil is the rule. The scenes of the radio broadcasts are horrific calling Huti’s to kill Tutsi’s and actually naming them and then rejoicing as they are killed.
No this is not an easy read. Yes it is an informative read. But it is worth reading as through the hatred and blood there is love, there is fighting against adversity, there is the loss of family but there is hope. The characters both the central ones and the less central ones like Jean Patrick’s brother are brought so to life that at the end you put the book down and believe that these people lived. And so they did through the many hundreds of thousands of families and people who were involved in this terrible time of history.
I finished this book at 6am this morning and came down an hour later to pop on the radio. Radio Scotland was interviewing Patricia Ferguson MSP who was talking about the lack of women in politics. There was a country she cited as a model for Scotland. It was Rwanda. This caused me to take a look at Rwanda today. I quote Wikipedia at the end of this blog. Nothing is worth the killing and what happened but it is a small comfort that this has changed for the people of that land today.
“Rwanda has low corruption levels relative to most other African countries; in 2010, Transparency International ranked Rwanda as the eighth cleanest out of 47 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and 66th cleanest out of 178 in the world. The constitution provides for an Ombudsman, whose duties include prevention and fighting of corruption. Public officials (including the President) are required by the constitution to declare their wealth to the Ombudsman and to the public; those who do not comply are suspended from office.