In This Review

The Order of Genocide: Race, Power, and War in Rwanda
The Order of Genocide: Race, Power, and War in Rwanda
By Scott Straus
Cornell University Press, 2006, 288 pp

Straus' ambition is to examine the 1994 Rwandan genocide through a social science lens. Based on a careful reading of both primary and secondary sources, as well as systematic interviews of people directly involved in the killings, his approach yields interesting new insights into the events of that tragic April. Straus emphasizes that the violence against the Tutsi population was in large part encouraged by a general climate of uncertainty and chaos that had descended on the country as a result of the war between the government and Tutsi rebels. "War underpinned the logic of genocide," Straus argues, "war legitimized killing, war empowered hardliners." Straus' book is also the first account of the events in Rwanda that is explicitly comparative. Particularly compelling is his comparison of killers in Rwanda with those of the Holocaust. His careful work shows that Hutu killers do not appear to have been particularly sadistic, hateful, or economically disadvantaged. Rather, they were fairly average people who were afraid of being punished for disobeying orders and worried about the consequences of a Tutsi victory for their own safety.