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From Bloodshed to Hope in Burundi: Our Embassy Years during Genocide

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Apart from the complicated details of the peace agreement - the negotiations for which required an enormous amount of time and energy - two issues dominated the inter-Burundian dialogue: genocide and ethnicity The term genocide is frequently mentioned in the book, and it refers mainly to the bloodshed perpetrated by the Tutsi military and paramilitary forces, and incidentally to the murders conducted by armed groups of ethnic Hutu following the assassination of President Ndadaye. [...] the Tutsi representatives realized that the attempt to legitimize their illegitimate power on the pretext of genocide was no longer working, and they accepted negotiation.

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									192 African Studies Review

Robert Krueger and Kathleen tobin Krueger. From Bloodshed to Hope in
Burundi: Our Embassy Years during Genocide. Austin: University of Texas Press,
2007. xviii + 308 pp. Photographs. Notes. Index. $26.00. Cloth.

The book is very well written, and it captures the attention of the reader
from the first page. Burundi’s recent history has been marked by the Octo-
ber 1993 assassination of Pierre Ndadaye, the country’s first Hutu presi-
dent, who had been elected six months earlier. The Kruegers’ description
of the tragic night of that coup d’état, along with the events that preceded
and followed it, is particularly dramatic. The events unfold like a thriller in
which the killers ruthlessly hunt for their victims as they desperately try to
escape. Only a few will succeed.
     The goal of the army was not only the physical elimination of President
Ndadaye, but also the elimination of all those who could legitimately suc-
ceed him. It was seemingly a ritual murder whose intent was to wipe out
the results of elections and to exorcize the spirit of democracy. The killers
succeeded in their criminal attempts, but they failed in their political objec-
tives. The response of the international community prevented them from
completely taking over; they had to share power with the survivors. But the
game was not over. The army persisted: the bloody coup d’état was followed
by a continuing “creeping coup d’état” executed by regular military troops
supported by paramilitary gangs of young Tutsi targeting Hutu political
leaders and the innocent civilian population.
     The mandate of Ambassador Krueger covered the most dramatic phase
of this “creeping coup”—perhaps the most abominable period of Burundi’s
recent history. Despite the obstacles presented by the political and military
authorities and the intimidation of the paramilitary gangs (culminating in an
ambush attempt in June 1995), the ambassador made various excursions to the
most remote areas of the country. The stories gathered during those trips pro-
vide a vivid picture of a country where torture, sexual violence, and the physical
elimination of competitors were ordinary tools of the political game.
     This is the most vibrant part of the book, but the causes behind the
tragic events so wonderfully described are left rather unexplored. Burundi
is a small, severely overpopulated country without res
								
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