By: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
In April-May 1994, 800,000 Rwandan Tutsis were massacred by their Hutu fellow citizens–about 10,000 a day, mostly being hacked to death by machete. In Machete Season, the veteran foreign correspondent Jean Hatzfeld reports on the results of his interviews with nine of the Hutu killers. They were all friends who came from a single region where they helped to kill 50,000 out of their 59,000 Tutsi neighbors, and all of them are now in prison, some awaiting execution. It is usually presumed that killers will not tell the truth about their brutal actions, but Hatzfeld elicited extraordinary testimony from these men about the genocide they had perpetrated. He rightly sees that their account raises as many questions as it answers.
Jean Hatzfeld has been an active journalist is several historical movements one in particular which led up to this book Machete Season. Originally everything started when Hatzfeld published a book of interviews with the survivor of the Rwandan genocide.
In 2000, Hatzfeld published Dans le nu de la vie: récits des marais Rwandais (Life laid bare: the survivors in Rwanda speak), which lead to many unanswered questions by readers. Sending Hatzfeld endless messages, the readers wanted to know about the Hutus who were involved in creating the havoc. The ‘Who’s’, the ‘Whys’, etc. So Jean took off on an expedition to get some of these questions answered.
In this book we relieve some of the personal accounts of the killers and their reasons, or logic behind this very short-lived genocide which wound up destroying thousands of the Tutsis population.
Most of the young men that gave their personal “truth” about the situation were too young to had been part of the original conflict or ancien régime, but were all involved in the new conflict which nobody can admit that the term “Kill or be killed” is an invalid possibility.
The attack that formed habit, uncontrolled addictions that nobody can explain, and yet there isn’t enough accountability for proper prosecute. Thousands of men were sent to a Rwandan penitentiary in Rilima. Men piled on men compacted together until their are forced in make-shift tents in the common grounds. Apparently, according to the book, there was a new law at one point that started emptying the prison, men over a certain age were automatically pardoned, sentences were reduced and those men would do community service and other forms of rehabilitation.
But in Rwanda, there were still interahamwe set up camp in little remote parts deep in the jungle living off the land but are not afraid to wave their machetes to gain something, big or small, they still think they can achieve for the “cause”. Those who have been pardoned fully claim to believe that they will be reformed citizens, try to gain forgiveness from the survivors, especially of those whose families had had members who were slaughtered.
All in all, this book is a very depthy read, which to the readers discretion, is a mix of falsities and truth. The killers who were interviewed have consistently remained to tell things as if they might’ve been the victim twisted with the reality they were corrupted by their own elders that were part of the ancien régime, but they often don’t realize how difficult the act of forgiveness would be by the survivors. Their hopes that these people would just forget and allow these men to move on. Mostly speaking in an air of being brainwashed through repetition.