In This Review

Whispering Truth to Power: Everyday Resistance to Reconciliation in Postgenocide Rwanda
Whispering Truth to Power: Everyday Resistance to Reconciliation in Postgenocide Rwanda
By Susan Thomson
University of Wisconsin Press, 2013, 288 pp

The Kagame regime in Rwanda continues to enjoy a solid reputation in the West, earning plaudits for its role in ending the 1994 genocide, promoting economic growth since then, and advocating national reconciliation. Thomson’s provocative study offers a useful corrective to that overly charitable conventional wisdom. Through extensive interviews with poor peasants in the southern Rwandan countryside, Thomson shows how Paul Kagame’s version of national reconciliation is designed not merely to forge a united Rwanda but also to control its citizens, shape the country’s history in a self-serving manner, and ensure Kagame’s hold on power. Thomson reveals that officials who carry out the government’s national-reconciliation policies often abuse their power to advance their own interests and, as a result, often enjoy little legitimacy. The book’s most novel sections describe the subtle and discrete but still subversive acts of passive resistance that poor Rwandans take to undermine government policies that disadvantage them. Thomson suggests the emergence of a kind of Rwandan class consciousness, as her respondents express a deep sense of alienation from elites whose policies they doubt will promote the broader welfare.