Inspiré d'une histoire vraie, ce roman raconte, au coeur du génocide rwandais, les affres psychologiques et la déchéance morale de Stanislas, un prêtre hutu, accusé de viols et de crimes contre l'humanité. On suit au quotidien la mécanique qui mène à consentir puis à participer à l'extermination d'un million de personnes en cent jours. Exilé en France, Stanislas y sera mollement poursuivi. Répondra-t-il de ses actes devant la justice des hommes ? Ce récit aborde la question du rôle de l'Église dans le génocide de 1994. Le Feu sous la soutane est le premier roman écrit par un Rwandais sur le génocide des Tutsi.
"When we captured Kigali, we thought we would face criminals in the state; instead, we faced a criminal population." So a political commissar in the Rwanda Patriotic Front reflected after the 1994 massacre of as many as one million Tutsis in Rwanda. Underlying his statement is the realization that, though ordered by a minority of state functionaries, the slaughter was performed by hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens, including even judges, human rights activists, and doctors, nurses, priests, friends, and spouses of the victims. Indeed, it is its very popularity that makes the Rwandan genocide so unthinkable. This book makes it thinkable.
Rejecting easy explanations of the genocide as a mysterious evil force that was bizarrely unleashed, one of Africa's best-known intellectuals situates the tragedy in its proper context. He coaxes to the surface the historical, geographical, and no political forces that made it possible for so many Hutu to turn so brutally on their neighbors. He finds answers in the nature of political identities generated during colonialism, in the failures of the nationalist revolution to transcend these identities, and in regional demographic and political currents that reach well beyond Rwanda. In so doing, Mahmood Mamdani usefully broadens understandings of citizenship and political identity in postcolonial Africa.
There have been few attempts to explain the Rwandan horror, and none has succeeded so well as this one. Mamdani's analysis provides a solid foundation for future studies of the massacre. Even more important, his answers point a way out of crisis: a direction for reforming political identity in central Africa and preventing future tragedies.
Mahmood Mamdani is Herbert Lehman Professor of Government and Director of the Institute of African Studies at Columbia University. He is the author of:
He is currently President of the Dakar-based Council for Development of Social Research in Africa (CODESRIA).
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