Surely the world has heard of the Genocide, but no words can convey a clear picture of what happened at the technical school in Murambi, a town in Nyamagabe District, Southern Province.
A few have nevertheless tried to tell this story. One of them is Boubacar Boris Diop, a Senegalese novelist, who came to Rwanda four years after the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi as part of the “Writing by duty of memory” project which brought together 10 writers from all over Africa. .
Diop became interested in what was then a memorial center for the more than 50,000 Tutsi killed in the genocide that he decided to return there twice after his first visit.
“As a novelist, I was interested in the difference between Murambi and other places where the killers were doing their infamous ‘work’ very quickly. They arrived completely drunk, shouting obscenities at their victims and a few hours later hardly anyone was alive.
“In Murambi, there was a relatively long face to face between the perpetrators and the victims. I also noticed the duplicity of a “man of God”, Augustin Misago, the important role of the masterminds of the genocide like Aloys Simba, Bucyibaruta and the presence of French foreign troops via Operation Turquoise. For me, Murambi was a microcosm of the whole Rwandan tragedy,” Diop said.
He ended up publishing a book in 2000; “Murambi, the book of bones”, a name he already knew how to give him from his first visit in September 1998.
“In Murambi, the corpses seemed almost alive to me. I could see their last gesture to protect their faces from machetes and I really felt like they were telling their personal story, what they had been through at the very moment they were killed,” Diop added. .
This book, originally in French, played a vital role in informing people about the Genocide. He was also awarded the 2021 Neustadt International Prize for Literature, a prestigious literature award from the University of Oklahoma.
However, until this year, the first and second publishers of this novel, based in France, only had a total of 500 copies available for readers in Africa. Not only was it insufficient for the continent, but it was also not enough for the Rwandan public.
Flore-Agnès Zoa, the founder of La CENE Littéraire (the Circle of Friends of Committed Black Writers) which aims to promote and defend the literature produced by African and Afro-descendant writers, has purchased the reissue rights to Diop’s novel on Murambi.
Zoa’s main intention was to make the novel available to African audiences, and she says it was not easy for her legally and financially.
“That’s when I printed 8,000 copies for Africa and donated 1,000 to Rwanda, free of charge, to distribute to high school and university students,” Zoa told The New Times. .
She also noted that some readers in the 10 countries where the books have been distributed have started reading and discussing them in book clubs. Some of them include Cameroon, Senegal, DRC and Benin.
Furthermore, the preface to the republished edition was written by a Rwandan scholar, Jean Pierre Karegeye, who is also the founder of the Interdisciplinary Center for Genocide Studies (IGSC).
The plan to republish and distribute this book is something Diop’s team sees as their “small” contribution to informing young people about the Genocide.
“To be frank, I doubted very strongly at first that a book could be useful in any way in the fight against genocide ideology. But if you and I are having this conversation today, almost thirty years after the genocide of the Tutsi, it is partly because this book was published in March 2000. So the novel itself can be a pretext for meet people, especially young people, all over the world. world to make them aware of what happened in Rwanda between April and July 1994 and even before that date,” Diop said.
Karegeye, who led the book presentation project in Rwanda, paraphrased Diop who once said that a history book shares facts, while literature helps us understand what happened.
“Any human being can say ‘this is our story’. Rwandan history is made universal and the reader will understand that what happened in Rwanda can happen to them,” Karegeye said.
During their trip to Rwanda, this team had three major events; Connect with Publishers, where they met writers with manuscripts and authors who wish to be published, read and sign Murambi, the Book of Bones, and a workshop for writers, publishers and librarians on challenges and writing and publishing solutions in Africa.
The team is also ready to work together to start a new center in Kigali, the African Bridging Center (ABC), which should connect Rwandans with foreign publishers, researchers and institutions, organize writing workshops and bridging academic research with African social issues.
Rwandan scholar Jean Pierre Karegeye, founder of the Interdisciplinary Center for Genocide Studies, speaks during the book signing at Norrsken House in Kigali on July 15.
Boubacar Boris Diop signs books at Norrsken House in Kigali on July 15.