Forgotten Genocides: Oblivion, Denial, and Memory

Forgotten Genocides: Oblivion, Denial, and Memory

Forgotten Genocides: Oblivion, Denial, and Memory

Forgotten Genocides: Oblivion, Denial, and Memory

Synopsis

Unlike the Holocaust, Rwanda, Cambodia, or Armenia, scant attention has been paid to the human tragedies analyzed in this book. From German Southwest Africa (now Namibia), Burundi, and eastern Congo to Tasmania, Tibet, and Kurdistan, from the mass killings of the Roms by the Nazis to the extermination of the Assyrians in Ottoman Turkey, the mind reels when confronted with the inhuman acts that have been consigned to oblivion. Forgotten Genocides: Oblivion, Denial, and Memory gathers eight essays about genocidal conflicts that are unremembered and, as a consequence, understudied. The contributors, scholars in political science, anthropology, history, and other fields, seek to restore these mass killings to the place they deserve in the public consciousness.

Excerpt

My main motivation for putting this book together stems from my lifelong immersion in the tragic destinies of Rwanda and Burundi. No two other countries in the continent have experienced genocidal bloodshed on a comparable scale. That they happen to share much the same ethnic map, a mutually understandable language, and were once traditional kingdoms before they became republics make their divergent paths to modernity all the more intriguing. And while genocide is the overarching theme of their blood-stained trajectories, the parallel should not mask the differences: the victims in each state belonged to different communities (Tutsi in Rwanda, Hutu in Burundi) and, unlike what happened in Rwanda in 1994, the perpetrators in Burundi won the day, insuring that the story be told from the victor’s point of view. Hence the paradox inscribed in their agonies: while Rwanda suddenly emerged from decades of obscurity to become a synonym for a tropical version of the Holocaust, very few in the United States or elsewhere outside Africa have the faintest awareness of the scale of human loss suffered by Burundi twentytwo years earlier. That about three times as many people died in Rwanda is no reason to ignore the fate of its “false twin” to the south.

Because of its even more appalling reenactment in Rwanda, and the connection between them, my early encounter with the Burundi slaughter stays in my mind as if it happened yesterday. I am still haunted by visions of school children being rounded up and ordered to get into trucks, like sheep taken to the abattoir, only to be bayoneted to death or their skulls crushed with rifle butts on their way to the mass graves. Compounding the moral revulsion I felt in the face of the first genocide recorded in independent Africa was the death of many close friends, a loss I would experience again, twenty-two years later in Rwanda. Notwithstanding the retributive character of the killings, the vehement denial by . . .

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