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09.02.2017 14:39 Age: 189 days

Stéphane Audoin-Rouzeau, Une initiation. Rwanda (1994-2016), Seuil, 2017

French historian Stéphane Audoin-Rouzeau has recently published a new book on Rwanda, Une initiation. Audoin-Rouzeau is a director of studies at the French School for the Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences and an expert in the Great War and in twentieth century warfare.

Inspired by a visit to Rwanda in 2008, Audoin-Rouzeau’s book begins with the question, "But what happened?" and goes on to explore the personal and professional upheaval that the author experienced after learning about the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. Shocked at his lack of knowledge about the genocide, particularly given his expertise, Audoin-Rouzeau’s stay in Rwanda proved to be the impetus for a life changing investigation

The nature of the investigation demanded that Audoin-Rouzeau take a break from his former life in France as a researcher and citizen. What the author witnessed in Rwanda, and the discovery of Rwanda’s tragic past, changed the way that he viewed the world, understood his job as a historian, and his identity as a Frenchman.

Confronted with the legacy of the genocide, having visited memorials and listened to stories from survivors and songs of mourning, the historian had the realization that not all historical knowledge was contained in books or archives. Faced with the reality of the genocide, Audoin-Rouzeau lost his objectivity and became personally involved in his research, looking inwards to better understand both himself and the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.  

Several chapters of Une Initiation are devoted to answering questions that will require decades of research. These include querying why the ethnic nature of the genocide superseded religious ties, how neighbors became enemies and how survivors and perpetrators continue to cohabit together.                                                

As part of the author’s journey into researching the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, Audoin-Rouzeau discovered France’s political and military support for President Habyarimana’s government. This discovery led to a change in his political beliefs and resulted in him questioning the wall of silence that had been built during the last two decades by French politicians. Due to Audoin-Rouzeau’s professional expertise, his presence was requested three times at the Assizes court in France in order to provide historical context for trials of Rwandan genocidaires. In his testimony, Audoin-Rouzeau gave a powerful lesson of history to convince the jury of the importance of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, which has followed the tragic path of the Armenians mass killings and the Holocaust. 

Audoin-Rouzeau’s book documents his travels in Rwanda, as well as the personal story of one man’s confrontation with the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, which is the last genocide of the twentieth century. His book contains a condemnation of French policies between 1990 and 1994 and invites us to see, feel and to think. By following Audoin-Rouzeau’s initiation, the reader is able to start his/her own journey into understanding the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.