Sunday, 27 August 2017

A Child's View of Genocide - Andrew Crofts


A few weeks ago I went down to the beautiful hills on the Rwanda/Congo border, fancying that I was following in the great literary footsteps of the likes of Joseph Conrad and Graham Greene, but in reality probably more closely resembling William Boot from Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop.



I was travelling with my client, Hyppolite, a young man who was just seven years old when he survived genocide. In 100 days he lost eighty members of his extended family and witnessed his beloved father being hacked to death by machetes and eaten by dogs.

Born in a mud hut without shoes, water or power, and often hungry, he struggled after the genocide to gain an education and to learn to forgive the killers. By the age of thirty he had a Masters Degree in Sociology from Bristol University, had started a Foundation for Peace and had delivered a lecture at Harvard.

I am hoping that in this book we will be able to give a child’s view of genocide, in the style of The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. It is also the story of an inspiring young leader, who endured the worst nightmare imaginable, as in I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb.

In his village, on the “other side of the forest”, nothing much has changed since Hyppo was a child, or indeed since his great, great grandfather was a child. The huts still have mud floors and the villagers have to walk forty five minutes to get to their water supply, many of them still barefooted. There is still no electricity. The roads are so potholed it is impossible for any vehicles to get across them during the rainy season and only the bravest of 4x4 drivers can make it in the dry season.

Most of the killers are now back from prison, living side by side once more with the genocide survivors, sharing locally brewed banana beer during the long, dark evenings and living off what they can grow around their huts.

Once again I have been reminded that of all the advantages that ghostwriting offers, one of the greatest must be the opportunities that you get to meet people of interest.  


2 comments:

griseldaheppel said...

What an extraordinary man Hyppolite must be to come through such unbelievable horror and poverty and achieve so much, both academically and as a person. This will make a fascinating book. Hyppolite's determination and sheer will power remind me of Legson Kayira, whose memoir 'I Will Try' describes how, aged 16, he decided he wanted a western education and set off from his village in Nyasaland (now Malawi) to walk to America - and did it. Took him 2 years and was hard going, though he at least didn't have the trauma of genocide and seeing his family hacked to bits to deal with.

Yes indeed, what amazing people you meet as a ghost writer! I much look forward to reading your book.

Enid Richemont said...

Hyppolite must, indeed, be extraordinary, to survive such a nightmare, get himself an education - but the most impressive thing of all must be learning to cohabit, and to somehow forgive, the monsters who did this. I don't think I could.