We may spend much of our time exploring Rwanda by bicycle, but over the years we’ve read some of the best books about the country too. And although much of the most celebrated work covers the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, the range and quality of literature is quite staggering. Here are four of our absolute favourites.
‘LAND OF SECOND CHANCES’ BY TIM LEWIS
If you are going to read one book about Rwanda before, during or after your time with us, we recommend this story of the rise of the Rwandan cycling team. 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 genocide that tore Rwanda apart. Almost twenty years later he has a shot at representing his country at the Olympics.
‘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. Over the next three months 800,000 Tutsis perished in the most unambiguous case of genocide since Hitler’s was 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.
‘SHAKE HANDS WITH THE DEVIL’ BY ROMEO DAILLAIRE
When Romeo Daillaire 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 Daillaire recreates the awful history that the global community chose to ignore and, in doing so, becomes the highest-ranking officer ever to share such experiences with readers.
‘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 first-hand. A story of bravery and forgiveness, he follows the lives of a few of those caught up in the genocide and he revisits a country still marked with blood in search of those who survived and the legacy of those who did not.
There are many other books about Rwanda that are well worth reading. These include ‘Running the Rift’ by Naomi Benaron, ‘Rwanda Inc.’ by Patricia Crisafulli and Andrea Redmond, and ‘God Sleeps in Rwanda’ by Joseph Sebarenzi. A harrowing but excellent film is SHOOTING DOGS and, in 2018, the BBC produced BLACK EARTH RISING to high acclaim.
You may also like to consider A Sunday by the Pool in Kigali, Baking Cakes in Kigali or Running the Rift. Do get in touch if you would like to come cycling in Rwanda with us.