Analysis of Jean Hatzfeld’s novel, The Antelope’s Strategy

The genocide that occurred in 1994, in the African country of Rwanda, was a deliberate and structured attack by the Hutu tribe in which they sought to fully exterminate the Tutsi tribe. Post-genocidal Rwanda implemented a reconciliation strategy for the two tribes so that the country may progress peacefully. The Hutus and Tutsis struggled tremendously after being forced to live amongst each other once again without being allowed to speak of the massacre.

Their difficulties are illustrated in Jean Hatzfeld’s novel, The Antelope’s Strategy: Living in Rwanda After the Genocide, in which Hatzfeld interviews both Hutus and Tutsis about their emotions and opinions towards the genocide and reconciliation. The Hutus and the Tutsis have had a difficult and strenuous relationship for decades that is fueled by politics. The Rwandan president, Juvenal Habyarimana, was in office from 1973 until his death in 1994. Habyarimana was a Hutu and therefore favored and supported them above the Tutsis.

He warned the Hutus that if the Tutsis were to reclaim the throne, the Hutus would suffer just as their ancestors had and they would be forced to work without pay or share in the Rwandan harvest (Hatzfeld, p. 205). On April 6th 1994, Habyarimana was assassinated and the Hutus, reacting out of fear, planned and conducted the mass murders of the Tutsis. This genocide was initially planned by the akazu which was a group of Hutu extremists that had been very close to Habyarimana. Hutu politicians formed two militia groups, the interahamwe and the impuzamugambi, to lead the genocide.

However, once the genocide had begun, a vast number of the Hutu civilians participated in the murders. Many of these civilians had been friends, neighbors, schoolmates and coworkers of the Tutsis. Despite their former connections, the Hutu civilians yielded their machetes against the Tutsis with great vigor. The elimination of the Tutsis was heartening for the Hutus because not only would the Hutus continue to be favored politically Fisher 2 but they would be able to take over Tutsi land and belongings which would provide them with more wealth.

The Rwandan government was not interested in solving the issues regarding the genocide or punishing those involved and therefore has made it is very unlikely that the Hutus will ever receive the punishment they deserve for their terrible crimes nor will the Tutsis receive justice. The government was merely interested in what benefits the country as a whole. Rwanda is a poor third-world country that is dependent on its farmers. In Rilima, the mission where the Hutu criminals of Nyamata were imprisoned, it was expensive and arguably counter-productive to keep many genocide criminals imprisoned while there was famine throughout the country.

The criminals would be more useful if they were sent home to resume the farming of their fields and providing crops. In 2003, Rwandan president Paul Kagame authorized the release of the lower-echelon killers involved in the genocide and their accomplices whose confessions had been accepted and had served at least half of their prison sentence (Hatzfeld, p. 241). The release of the Hutu criminals was wonderful for the Hutus and devastating for the Tutsis in Nyamata. The Tutsi survivors were forced to come face to face with the Hutus who had hunted them and murdered their family and friends.

Even worse than this fate, the Tutsis were forced into complacency and reconciliation with the Hutus by the Rwandan government. The released criminals underwent a series of instructional sessions in which they were taught how to interact with the Tutsis and begin their life anew. They were taught to interact kindly and patiently with survivors, resist boastfulness, and never offer apologies or specific details of the murders (Hatzfeld, p. 81). These actions were strictly forbidden because the gruesome truth of the killings would have only caused further chaos for Nyamata.

These rules only meant further Fisher 3 agony for the Tutsis. They received no apology from the murderers they so narrowly escaped from in the Rwandan swamps and forests. They received no reparations from the government for their immense losses and many would never be able to claim the remains of their loved ones. The Tutsis were not even allowed to express their true feelings on the matter for fear of being reprimanded by the authorities for disturbing the peace. The Rwandan government implemented the gacaca court system into Nyamata in 2002.

The gacaca, which literally means justice on the grass, was designed to promote healing and allow the country to move forward from the genocide (Hatzfeld, p. 241). The courts were a vital part of the new reconciliation policy of Rwanda, and were an attempt to aid the regeneration of society. The released Hutu criminals were often required to attend the gacacas and there they offered empty apologies for their crimes. The courts did little for the Tutsi survivors as many simply wanted to know where they could recover the remains of their loved ones.

The Hutus were not permitted to indulge these questions because the survivors could become angered or Hutu colleagues could be provoked. The Tutsis believed that the Hutus felt no guilt for their crimes and only mentioned the killings in the gacaca to avoid further imprisonment or fines (Hatzfeld, p. 83). Elie Mizinge, a released Hutu, is credited with stating that he had not forgotten his misdeeds and was fearful of what would become of him for these crimes. He “shook worse from fear than from a fit of malaria” when he thought of the murders he committed in the swamps of Rwanda (Hatzfeld, p. 11).

However, when he received the presidential pardon and was released from prison, he no longer harbored fear or guilt for his crimes. Many other released Hutus also felt redeemed by being freed by the president. Tutsis believe that because the Hutus did not receive a proper punishment for their crimes, they would never offer a proper apology or Fisher 4 admit their misdeeds (Hatzfeld, p. 17). Reconciliation was decreed as vital to the progression of Rwanda, but the government’s efforts at reconciliation are thwarted by memories of the Tutsi survivors.

These survivors will not forget that the Hutus slaughtered their family and friends without remorse. Despite the public awareness meetings, posters, and gacacas of the Forgiveness Plan, the memories of the Tutsis will remain and forgiveness has no place for many survivors (Hatzfeld, p. 18). The Hutus not only massacred the Tutsis, but they also degraded them. The Tutsis were forced into an incredibly primitive existence as they struggled to survive the elements of nature. They resorted to scrounging the forests and swamps for bits of food, picking lice from one another’s scalps, and sleeping next to corpses.

There was no time or energy to bury the dead and children were often sacrificed for personal survival. The Tutsis will continue to hate and fear the Hutus for their experiences and losses during the genocide. Although the Tutsis and Hutus will most likely forever harbor differences and ill-feelings towards one another, the reconciliation attempts have not been entirely unsuccessful. The two tribes continue to live amongst one another somewhat peacefully and there have not been anymore attempts at genocide against the Tutsis.

Reconciliation is obligatory for Rwandans because it is a state policy. The government is feared, and therefore obeyed but reconciliation is not taken to heart. The authorities have ultimately been fair to both the Tutsis and Hutus and although the two tribes are not quarreling, trust has not been reinstated. Apologies have not been offered by the Hutus and forgiveness has not been offered by the Tutsis. The Hutus and Tutsis typically avoid each other and intermarriage is rare. Interactions between the tribes tend to only occur on a superficial level.

They might share drinks, give cows, or help each other in the fields Fisher 5 but they rarely partake in personal or intimate relationships with one another. Their indifference towards one another has made a true reconciliation all but impossible. For a true reconciliation to be made possible, several things must occur. The Hutus should offer a sincere apology to the Tutsis and in return, the Tutsis should give forgiveness and the Rwandan government should provide the Tutsi survivors with some form of reparation for their losses.

In addition, the Rwandan government must not attempt to silence their citizens, but instead let them speak about the genocide and its effects so that there may be forgiveness and understanding between the two tribes. The differences between the Hutus and Tutsis are not so vast that they should dislike one another based on which tribe they belong to. If the Rwandan government were to allow for more personal interactions between Hutus and Tutsis, the country would have a much better chance at reconciliation and peace.