Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak – Jean Hatzfeld

Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak – Jean Hatzfeld

machete seasoSynopsis

During the spring of 1994, in a tiny country called Rwanda, some 800,000 people were hacked to death, one by one, by their neighbors in a gruesome civil war. Several years later, journalist Jean Hatzfeld traveled to Rwanda to interview ten participants in the killings, eliciting extraordinary testimony from these men about the genocide they perpetrated. As Susan Sontag wrote in the preface, Machete Season is a document that “everyone should read . . . [because making] the effort to understand what happened in Rwanda . . . is part of being a moral adult.”

My Thoughts

This is the last book I had to read for a school paper this semester. As per others I’ve had to read so far, it was rather tough to get through. Aside from the spring of 1994, Rwanda has seen violence and power struggles for decades. It would seem as if Rwanda is a country that has been ruled by violence for far too long – so long, in fact, that the inhabitants of the country don’t know how to function in any other way.

To this day, the killers firmly believe in their actions during the spring of 1994. The tensions between the Hutu and the Tutsi are present even today. Many of the killers return to their communities in fear of retaliation, while survivors fear a recurrence of the genocidal mass killings of 20 years ago.

There are those who do regret their participation in the massacres, but they are also quick to point out that they weren’t the only ones participating. Sharing the blame between many individuals is a defense mechanism that the killers have developed in order to go on. These first-person accounts are at times chilling, but all the time eye opening.

Many people have a misconception that all killers are manipulative, psychopaths with no moral center. While this is true in some instanced, it certainly doesn’t apply to all perpetrators of genocide.

Taking on this academic pursuit for the purpose of my paper has certainly opened my eyes, and reading this book has helped me understand, undoubtedly, that there are many different motivations for genocidal mass violence. Not all perpetrators are crazy psychopaths with a thirst for blood. But one thing remains clear – at the time of their actions, they firmly believed that what they were doing was the right thing. And that is the most chilling notion of all.


~ by Aubrey Smith on December 1, 2013.

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