5 Books To Read Before Visiting Rwanda

Our very own Oli Broom lived and worked in Rwanda for two years from 2011 and during that time read widely about the country and particularly its recent past. Here are five of his must-reads. 

1. 'Land of Second Chances' by Tim Lewis

If you are a cyclist and you're going to read one book about Rwanda, this story of the rise of the Rwandan cycling team is a must. While many of the books about Rwanda focus largely on the events surrounding the 1994 genocide, Tim Lewis’ first book is essentially a tale of hope and redemption. Adrien Niyonshuti is a member of the Rwandan cycling team. He was seven years old when he lost his family in the 1994 genocide that tore Rwanda apart. Almost twenty years later he has a shot at representing his country at the Olympics. In The Land of Second Chances, Tim Lewis charts the incredible true story of the Rwandan cycling team as they overcome impossible odds to inspire a nation.

2. 'Shake Hands With The Devil' by Roméo Dallaire

When Roméo Dallaire was called on to serve as force commander of the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda, he believed that his assignment was to help two warring parties achieve the peace they both wanted. Instead, he was exposed to the most barbarous and chaotic display of civil war and genocide in the past decade. In Shake Hands with the Devil, General Dallaire recreates the awful history the world community chose to ignore and in doing so becomes the highest-ranking officer ever to share such experiences with readers.
 

3. 'We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families' by Philip Gourevitch

In April 1994, the Rwandan government called upon everyone in the Hutu majority to kill each member of the Tutsi minority, and over the next three months 800,000 Tutsis perished in the most unambiguous case of genocide since Hitler’s war against the Jews. Philip Gourevitch’s haunting work is an anatomy of the war in Rwanda, a vivid history of the tragedy’s background, and an unforgettable account of its aftermath. 
 

4. 'When the Hills Ask for Your Blood' by David Belton

Former BBC Newsnight producer Belton, one of the first journalists into Rwanda in 1994, tells of the horrors he experienced at first-hand. A story of bravery and forgiveness, he follows the lives of a few of those caught up in the genocide as he revisits a country still marked with blood, in search of those who survived and the legacy of those who did not. 
 

5. 'Running the Rift' by Naomi Benaron

Unflinching and beautifully written, Benaron's novel focuses on Jean Patrick Nkuba, a young boy who dreams of becoming Rwanda's first Olympic runner. Inevitably, his chances are threatened by the ethnic tensions erupting all around him. Jean Patrick is a Tutsi and he soon discovers that Tutsis are not supposed to win. When Hutu violence against Tutsis finally erupts after the murder of the country's President, Jean Patrick has no choice but to run for his life. In doing so, he abandons his family, his country and the woman he loves. Finding them again will be the race of his life. The book evokes a tragedy of lives lost and a celebration of loves salvaged.

We'd love to know your favourite books about Rwanda. Do please let us know in the comments below.