Small Wars Journal

Book Review - Conspiracy to Murder: The Rwandan Genocide

#3 of 3 book reviews from our favorite

old Rwanda hand.  Links to

review #1 and

review #2

#3 follows.  And don't neglect

Tom's book, either, in the short list of good works on that period.

A review of:

Conspiracy to Murder: The Rwandan Genocide

Linda Melvern, New York: Vasco, 2006

2nd edition.

Reviewed by:

Thomas (Tom) P. Odom

LTC US Army (ret)


Journey Into Darkness: Genocide In Rwanda

"It is called The General's Book

on Rwanda, and, right, the General is Rwandan Major General Augustin

Ndindiliyimana, who was the head of the

Nationale Gendarmerie during the

period of time in which what has come to be referred to as the "Rwandan Genocide"

of 100 days (7 April to 4 July 1994) took place. And everybody knows the boilerplate

of "800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus slaughtered by extremist Hutus." But, so far

at least, my writing hasn't really been about any kind of personal story of the

General's life. It's about what really happened in Rwanda between 1 October 1990

and sometime after the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) took over (or "liberated,"

as they would have it) the country on 4 July 1994 -- because the mainstream version

couldn't be further from the truth.



a tragedy and you will almost always find an alternate conspiracy theory to go with

the accurate accounts. Rwanda is no different. The above extract comes from an interview

with Mick Collins who holds that all that happened in Rwanda was due to US greed. 

Mr. Collins is not alone in making that assertion.  Robin Philpot's book

Rwanda 1994: Colonialism dies hard,

as listed on the

Taylor Report is another. 

Keith Harmon Snow is another conspiracy theorist who pushes the US conspiracy

theory as does

Wayne Madsen.   The truly sad thing about these alternate theories--aside

from their use of fantasy as fact--is they lend weight to the Hutu Power's mantra

that they were victims of the second genocide, that the first genocide of 800,000

to one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus was an unfortunate result of war between

them and a foreign aggressor, namely Tutsi "aliens" bent on Hutu destruction..



Conspiracy to Murder: The Rwandan Genocide handily demolishes those myths

because she documents the intimate planning and meticulous record keeping that went

into execution of the Rwandan genocide.  Note that in 1991 Rwandan Major General Augustin Ndindiliyimana originally proposed creating the self-defense militias that

became monstrous killing machines over the next three years.  That same general

as commander of the National Gendarmerie was a member of the "Zero Network" used

by the conspirators of the genocide.  His case is hardly unusual; there was

nothing spontaneous about the Rwandan genocide.


as the interim government of Rwanda crossed to safety in Zaire in July 1994, Melvern

quotes Prime Minister Kambanda proclaiming, "We have lost the military battle but

the war is by no means over because we have the people behind us."


That statement and hundreds of pages of government records, testimony at the International

Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and countless first person accounts from the genocidal

killers document what the genocide was all about: continued Hutu political domination

of Rwanda.


commentators then and today refer to the genocide as tribal conflict, as if it is

a lesser form of warfare for lesser beings. Such statements minimally miss the point

that the Hutus and the Tutsis are not tribes.  Maximally they ignore the reality

that ethnic struggle--especially ethnic struggle on the scale advocated, planned,

and executed by the Hutu Power bloc in Rwanda--is absolutely political and terribly

final in deciding who has power and who does not. The loser dies. Kambanda and his

cohorts sought to use genocide as a final solution to any challenge to their absolute

political power in Rwanda.  Just as the Nazis kept the trains running to the

extermination camps in the failing moments of the Third Reich, Kambanda's government

concentrated on killing Tutsis as they lost their fight with the Rwandan Patriotic

Front. Melvern's book documents that fanatical focus on extermination.


does make a couple of errors that are likely to irritate informed readers. 

Most blatant is her referral to the US parachute operation in Mogadishu, Somalia

in October 1993.[3]

Referring to Mogadishu as greatest humiliation to the US military since Vietnam

is needless and inaccurate hyperbole. Another is over emphasizing the effect of

Paul Kagame's brief and aborted sojourn at the US Army Command and General Staff

College.  As a former instructor there, I doubt that many even noticed that

Kagame was leaving until he was gone.  His abilities as a tactician and strategist

owe little to his short stay on the banks of the Missouri River.


those are minor faults, mentioned only in the hopes they might be corrected in a

future edition.  I recommend Ms. Melvern's book to all.  It is a balanced

account of a Rwanda unbalanced by war and genocide.  Don't waste your time,

money, or brain cells on the conspiracy theorists.  Read Linda Melvern's work

on how the true conspiracy to commit genocide unfolded.

[1] Mick

Collins, Interviewed by John Steppling, Rwanda: The General's Story A

Conversation at the Swans Café..., June 20, 2005. 

Collins continues his claim with, " First,

the short version of how and why the media disinformed and continues to

disinform: Unlike what Clinton and Albright pissed and moaned about -- how

they were sorry they didn't pay more attention to Central Africa until it

was too late -- the U.S. was 100 percent behind the destruction of Rwanda

(see Robin Philpot's interview with Boutros Boutros-Ghali). It was part

of a larger plan to bring down Mobutu and open the region to total dependence

on Western financial, commercial, and military institutions. The bookends

to this monstrous nation-o-cide were the invasion of Rwanda from Uganda

by forces of the RPF on 1 October 1990, and the shooting down of the Falcon

50 business jet that was carrying the Hutu presidents of Rwanda (Juvenal

Habyarimana) and Burundi (Cyprien Ntaryamira) on their way home from peace

talks in Dar-es-Salam on the evening of 6 April 1994; again, by the RPF,

on the order of their commander and the current president (military dictator's

more like it) Paul Kagame."


Linda Melvern,

Conspiracy to Murder: The Rwandan Genocide, New York: Verso,

2006 edition, p. 248.


Melvern, 79.