A Thousand Hills: Rwanda's Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It

In This Review

A Thousand Hills: Rwanda's Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It
By Stephen Kinzer
Wiley, 2008
400 pp. $25.95
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Kinzer's account is part sympathetic portrait of Paul Kagame, Rwanda's current strongman president, and part journalistic account of recent Rwandan history, notably the 1994 genocide that ended with the victory of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (the Tutsi guerrilla army that Kagame led to power). The book's last couple of chapters provide a very positive assessment of the Rwandan government under Kagame, especially its excellent economic record. Kinzer is most compelling when he describes Kagame, who emerges as a personable, tough-minded, and extraordinarily disciplined realist. Kagame's family lived in exile in Uganda, and Kagame rose to become one of the Ugandan leader Yoweri Museveni's leading military intelligence officers while secretly plotting the overthrow of the Hutu dictatorship in his neighboring homeland. Kagame was undergoing intelligence training in the United States when the RPF invaded Rwanda, and his efforts to get back to East Africa were almost thwarted. Kinzer manages to avoid hagiography, but not by much. RPF violence against Hutu civilians is mentioned but down-played; the Kagame regime's authoritarian streak is discussed at much less length than its anticorruption rhetoric and economic policy ambitions are. Kinzer's implicit suggestion that Kagame's Rwanda constitutes the region's first developmental dictatorship, in the mold of South Korea or Singapore, is arresting, even if it does inevitably bump up against the reality that the Tutsis who control it constitute less than a fifth of the population of what remains a very divided country.