Review: A Thousand Hills: Rwanda’s Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It

cvr_a-thousand-hills_rwandas-rebirth-and-the-man-who-dreamed-it-by-stephen-kinzerA Thousand Hills: Rwanda’s Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It by Stephen Kinzer

MY RATING: 5/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Library Book

RELATED MOVIE(S): Hotel Rwanda (2004)

REVIEW: The central figure in Rwanda’s rebirth, Paul Kagame, emerged during the first decade of the twenty-first century as one of the most intriguing figures in Africa (pg. 3). “He preaches a doctrine of security, guided reconciliation, honest governance, and, above all, self-reliance” (pg. 3). Three distinct parts comprise Stephen Kinzer’s book, “A Thousand Hills: Rwanda’s Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It:” colonial rule, genocide, and reconciliation. Rwanda’s current status rests in that of reconciliation. The genocides have been dated as far back as 1959, and colonial rule has been officially established as early as 1884. This time-frame may be equated with the creation of the foundation for this country’s genocide.

The “Berlin Conference of 1884-1885 had awarded Germany control over the territory of Ruanda-Urundi, which today forms the ‘twin’ nations of Rwanda and Burundi” (pg. 24). During World War I, Germany lost Rwanda to Belgium. Belgians took over and created an official, twisted classification system of segmenting Rwandans already existing tribes (Tutsi, Hutu and a minute group of Twa) into racism-based categories.

Laws passed that required Rwandans to always carry their race identification cards. Belgians placed Tutsi into power positions and the Hutu majority into, essentially, servitude and poverty. As the world social climate changed, Belgian alignment with the non-majority Tutsi did not bode well with outsiders. Belgium reduced its presence in Rwanda, placed the majority Hutu in power, and broke its alliance with the Tutsi. The Hutu utilized this situation as a time for payback; and, “the racial designation on the cards, called ubokwo, would later consign hundreds of thousands of Tutsi to death” (pg. 26).

As a child, Paul Kagame’s life was spared due to royal interference at just the right time; ultimately his family had to flee to Uganda to preserve its safety. Paul developed a close relationship with Fred Rwigyema while in a Ugandan refugee camp. At one point, Fred had disappeared to conduct a string of rebel activity for the sole purpose of overthrowing Uganda’s Idi Amin. Once this action was completed, Fred returned, reunited with Paul and shared the rebel knowledge with Rwandan exiles. This knowledge helped them envision an independent Rwanda; thus the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) was formed.

“Most RPF leaders…grew up in Uganda, spoke English, and felt no connection to France” (pg. 95); this was opposite of Rwanda’s Hutu regime. Kinzer described how the RPF gained strength and credibility over time and that Uganda supported this group as allies. Prior to the mass genocide of 1994, Kagame negotiated a “Demilitarized Zone” created by the Arusha accords; they also mandated withdrawals of French troops coupled with United Nations neutrality, the latter two points were ones of consternation for the RPF leader. Regardless of the accords, plans continued to develop under Hutu extremists for increased killing of Tutsi. The Hutu hardliners began developing militias and a vocabulary to start carrying out the genocides; “death squads in Kigali could slaughter one thousand people in twenty minutes, kill Belgian peacekeepers (so the rest would withdrawal)…” (pg. 125). One could assert that they created a genocidal culture; it was supported by France and other countries, including the Middle East. The United Nations had no idea as to the haste and extent of the genocidal campaign. Regardless, UN troops withdrew “except for 270 whose main job was to watch the slaughter” (pg. 156).

Stephen Kinzer was thorough in interviewing an array of people familiar with the holocaust and having them define what reconciliation meant to them. It proved to be a word with much more meaning than that found in the dictionary. The word evoked an expectation of all Rwandans and perhaps the outside world as well. The author delivered well on his promise. He provided an in-depth set of lessons all rolled up into a neat package. He took readers on a visitor’s tour in between interviews and casual conversations. Quotes were well-utilized and did not detract from the intensity of neither the story of Rwanda nor the accomplishments of Paul Kagame. “A Thousand Hills: Rwanda’s Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It” encompassed all of this and so much more…easily earning it a well-deserved five-star rating and a place on my “Favorites” list.

Review: Infidel

“There are times when silence becomes an accomplice to injustice.”― Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Infidel

cvr_infidel-by-ayaan-hirsi-aliInfidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

MY RATING: 5/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Library Book

REVIEW: Ayaan Hirsi Ali did it again–she easily pulled a five-star rating out of me for a second time. I had inadvertently read “Nomad” before “Infidel” because I did not have knowledge of this book as being her first one.

Once I started reading, “Infidel,” I was hoping that she would not simply re-state everything I had already read in the other text. She did not. In fact, while the author’s voice was consistent in both pieces of literature, the reader was educated with a series of micro-histories that could not be disregarded, neither in the character development of this fine woman nor in the culmination of Muslim Fundamentalist religious ferver on a worldwide scale.

Ayaan wanted to “…be judged on the validity of (her) arguments, not as a victim.” This stance seemed to exist as a delicately crafted undercurrent of her stories while she continued to educate the reader about her life and that of so many innocent people around the world. When she asserted that “My combat was legitimate,” it was Hirsi Ali’s way of wrapping up all of the facts into a neat package and making it clear to the reader that he/she was in survival mode with the author as well.

The only difficulty I face in writing this review is that anything submitted cannot do this author’s fine work the justice that it deserves. I find myself in awe of her life experience and how she has chosen to manifest them into an incredibly educated, passionate and compassionate existence.

In closing, I cannot wait to get my hands on her next book, “The Caged Virgin,” and continue along the path of this educational journey and heightened sense of awareness that she has created.

Review: Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy, and the West

cvr_reconciliation-islam-democracy-and-the-west-by-benazir-bhuttoReconciliation: Islam, Democracy, and the West, by Benazir Bhutto

MY RATING: 3/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Purchased Book, 2016 Library Thing Santa Thing

RELATED MOVIE(S): Bhutto (2008) Trailer (IMDB)

REVIEW: “I return to Pakistan after eight years abroad on October 18, 2007, and was greeted in Karachi by crowds estimated by Sindhi press and party officials to be up to three million people. It was a moment I have dreamt of for so many years. I was overwhelmed by emotion as I touched the land of my birth and saw the love of the people. It was a love I returned with all my heart and soul.  Politics started out as a duty for me. Over the years of pain, suffering, sacrifice, and separation, of young men and women tortured and killed, it had become an all-consuming passion” (218). An equal level of commitment resulted in “Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy, and the West,” becoming the last book written by the first-ever, female prime minister of a Muslim country; her name was Benazir Bhutto.

Reconciliation” was divided into six chapters with clearly defined elements: Islam’s saga, democratic ideals, Pakistan’s internal strife and dichotomous relations with the United States (who she repeatedly asserted as a nation pursuing arbitrary democracy), “clash of civilizations”, the need for a changed vocabulary, and fear of her nation being disintegrated from within. She successfully argued that “to understand Pakistani politics, an understanding of Pakistan’s provinces and their characteristics is necessary” (158). Over time, the reader could recognize that the author became stuck in a political quagmire; and, despite the fact that Bhutto needed the USA, she seemed to dedicate a good portion of her book to rant against her greatest ally.

Overall, I recognized that “Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy, and the West,” served as a plea for dialogue, understanding, change, help and recognition. Unfortunately, this book’s preachy and academic approach caused me to skim some of the material. Sometimes I felt like the author was speaking down to the reader; yet, fragments reflected how she wrote so beautifully, so passionately, that you could visualize where she was and feel what Bhutto felt in that moment. It set my expectations for the rest of the piece. Ultimately, the writings could not maintain a significant quantity of that communication style to reflect a higher star rating.

Review: Nomad: From Islam to America: A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations

cvr_nomad-from-islam-to-america-a-personal-journey-through-the-clash-of-civilizations Nomad: From Islam to America: A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

MY RATING: 5/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Library Book

REVIEW:Nomad” exists as one of the best books I have ever read. Ayaan Hirsi Ali presented herself as an incredible, multi-faceted, dynamic human being, and her book did not waste a single word in its effort to directly and thoughtfully convey her Somali clan culture, Muslim history, and personal growth that paved the way to an atheistic position.

She clearly defined how the Muslim religion manifested itself in numerous familial generations and those around her. This belief system was stagnant, fanatical, illogical, sexist, and radical; this perspective did not change in the hearts and minds of her loved ones as they moved to different countries and modernity infringed upon the clan. Hirsi Ali did a phenomenal job of demarcating when the Muslim “Call to Prayer” migrated from a poetic one to a song that sounded like a call to arms.

This woman had every right to be angry and bitter; yet, if anything, she demonstrated an endless capacity for compassion toward just about everyone. She clearly understood the clash of cultures dynamic and thoroughly explained why it was important to motivate people to enjoy their heritage but thoroughly integrate into their new country(ies).

Ayaan Hirsi (Magan) Ali seemed to want her book to serve as a wake-up call to the reader(s). It could not, nor should not, be ignored. “Nomad: From Islam to America: A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations” proved to be an excellent, educational read!