Joyce E. Leader, "From Hope to Horror: Diplomacy and the Making of the Rwanda Genocide" (Potomac Books, 2020)


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Earlier this year the world marked the 25th anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide. An occasion for mourning and reflection also offered a chance to reflect on the state of research about the genocide.

Among the many books that were published in the past year, Joyce E. Leader's new book From Hope to Horror: Diplomacy and the Making of the Rwanda Genocide (Potomac Books, 2020) stands out. Leader was the Deputy Chief of Mission in Rwanda from 1991 through April 1994. As such, she was ideally positioned to witness Rwanda's slide into catastrophe. The book is an unusual combination of memoir, reflection and lessons learned. Leader offers a nuanced interpretation of the causes of the violence, one that supplements other secondary research. She also reflects on how we can apply the lessons of Rwanda to future conflicts.

But most interesting are her own reflections on her experiences. Leader paints vivid pictures of what it was like to live in Rwanda before and at the very beginning of the genocide. And she is unusually honest and self-reflective about ways in which foreign diplomats could have acted differently. It's an important and valuable book.

Kelly McFall is Professor of History and Director of the Honors Program at Newman University. He’s the author of four modules in the Reacting to the Past series, including The Needs of Others: Human Rights, International Organizations and Intervention in Rwanda, 1994, published by W. W. Norton Press.

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