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A Thousand Hills: Rwanda's Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It 1st Edition

41 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0470120156
ISBN-10: 0470120150
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Editorial Reviews Review

Amazon Best of the Month, June 2008: Fourteen years after the 1994 genocide that claimed 800,000 lives in 100 days, Rwandans continue the daily work of rebuilding their shattered country. In light of recent reports that one in four people suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder--which Rwandans aptly describe as ihahamuka or "breathless with fear"--how is recovery even possible? In search of answers, foreign correspondent Stephen Kinzer traveled extensively throughout Rwanda where he observed an astonishing economic and political transformation based surprisingly on Asian models, and the implementation of unconventional reconciliation efforts. The author also conducted extensive interviews with Rwanda's enigmatic president, Paul Kagame. The result of Kinzer's quest is A Thousand Hills, a page-turning story of a society desperately trying to regain its breath, and an ambitious and autocratic leader's unrelenting efforts to breathe life into its future. This is essential reading, even if you've read earlier accounts by Canadian general Roméo Dallaire, journalists Phillip Gourevitch and Samantha Power, and the heroic Paul Rusesabagina immortalized in the film Hotel Rwanda. --Lauren Nemroff

From Publishers Weekly

Kinzer (All the Shah's Men) has penned a hagiographic account of Rwandan president Paul Kagame, the Tutsi refugee who organized the Rwandan Military Front in 1994 and helped halt the genocide in Rwanda. Instead of settling scores, Kagame embarked on a program of reconciliation and reconstruction; Kinzer eloquently describes a physical and psychological recovery unmatched in Africa: a Rwanda whose people are bubbling with a sense of unlimited possibility. Kagame's goal, modeled on the successes of Asian tigers like Singapore, aims to transform Rwanda into the continent's first middle-income country in a single generation, eschewing foreign aid in favor of reliance on business-driven development. Kinzer does not conceal the bloody realities behind Kagame's acquisition of power nor does he deny Kagame's rigorous, absolutist approach to governing. Nevertheless, he is transparently trusting in Kagame's capabilities and intentions, and while his eloquent prose invites optimism, a half-century of experience urges caution. (June)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (June 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470120150
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470120156
  • Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #100,382 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Stephen Kinzer was Istanbul bureau chief for The New York Times and is now that paper's national cultural correspondent. He is the author of Blood of Brothers and co-author of Bitter Fruit: The Untold Story of the American Coup in Guatemala. He lives in Chicago.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Carrie Strahl on July 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I read this book in preparation for trip to Rwanda later this year. Mr. Kinzer has done exhaustive research into the history or Rwanda from the early 20th century through the present. From the time of Belguin colonialism, the rise of the RPF in Uganda and the genocide to an a fair presentation of Paul Kagame's mission to bring peace, reconciliation and prosperity to Rwanda post genocide. Although Rwanda has a long way to go, according the author, they are on the right track - largely thanks to Paul Kagame. The author is highly critical (rightfully so in my opinion) of the Clinton Administration, the UN and France in particular in the role either ignoring or aiding the genocide. Highly recommended for anyone interested in the history of Rwanda and the current state of affairs in the country.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Thomas P. Odom on July 31, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
President Paul Kagame is a man who inspires a wide range of emotions in those who meet him. Some like me admire him...Others hate him. Certainly many in French diplomatic circles see him as the devil clothed in Anglophone robes. In the Africanist analytical world, he is either Rwanda's greatest hope or its mortal danger. Certainly his enemies have reason to fear him even as his friends love him. Both enemy and friend know that the wise respect him.

I first met then Vice President and Defense Minister Major General Paul Kagame in the fall of 1994 when he was struggling to put the shattered country of Rwanda back together. Some were want to describe him as a "war lord" even as one could buy T-shirts with his picture on them with the phrase "Free at Last!" at Kigali's international airport. General Kagame was serious, determined, and it was clear that he was a strong man. What remained to be seen was whether he would become another "Big Man" in African politics or rise above that label to be a truly great African leader.

Like no other author so far, Stephen Kinzer offered us a peak inside the complexity named Paul Kagame. Kinzer enjoyed unprecedented access to the President of Rwanda and provided a colorful and insightful biography of the man. Like any good interlocutor, Kinzer understands that listening is best technique for the interviewer. He offers Kagame's own words to the reader allowing the subject of this biography to speak on his own behalf. That is not only fair, it is probably critical to understand this man who spent much of his life fighting the status quo--and ultimately winning.

According to Kinzer, Kagame's early life as a refugee in Uganda hardened him into the typical angry young man found in a life surrounded by poverty.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Mihal Mihailovitch on February 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Stephen Kinzer, former Times correspondent, has written a curious book about Paul Kagame, current leader of Rwanda. Kinzer's approach is to tell Kagame's story from the beginning and then let Kagame, in his own italicized words, comment on the ideas and incidents that Kinzer has highlighted. This makes for a nice balance of author and subject but more often than not Kinzer seems uncertain whether Kagame's particular approach is really as wonderful as Kinzer desperately wants it to be.

Why is Kinzer so eager to see Kagame succeed? That's a simple enough question to answer. The Rwandan genocide was a horrendous event and one can only feel sympathy for the Rwandan people and wish them well in overcoming the disastrous effects of that grusome episode. One also senses a real affection for Kagame on the part of Kinzer who undoubtedly views him as an immensely heroic (even romantic?) figure. A true guerrilla leader/statesman in the mold of Che Guevara. A man who also bent history to his own will.

One of the most remarkable revelations in this book is that fact that foreign diplomats posted in Kigali are often at odds with their home governments in how to deal with the overtly authoritarian and at times repressive actions of Kagame's government. When Kinzer interviews these diplomats the same rationale seems to emerge: we don't like everything Kagame is doing but it seems to be working so let's not rock the boat. Kinzer also makes short work of critical analysts from organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch who according, to Kinzer, are short-sighted and may even have an anti-Kagame bias.

This is not to say that Kinzer himself is totally on board with the Kagame Way. Far from it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By G. Stephen Goode VINE VOICE on January 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Summary: A Thousand Hills by Stephen Kinzer/Rwanda's rebirth and the man who dreamed it

This is an awful and a beautiful story of Rwanda, pre and post-genocide, a gripping story like you have never read before. It is a book about a country that was forgotten and how in this globalized world, that is not possible to do anymore without grave consequences. It is also an important story of a country that has come back from the brink of hell to a totally different future. It is a story that is taking place right now.

It is also the story of Paul Kagame, almost murdered at the age of two years along with his family by a death squad in the "practice genocide" of 1959, a refugee in Uganda most of his early life, a visionary guerilla leader with a simple dream to return to his homeland and now the President of Rwanda trying to bring this future into reality. This is a story of leadership and the script is being written now.

Stephen Kinzer, an award-winning writer that has worked in more than 50 countries, has written a compelling, incredible book. It is history from a different perspective that I had not read about before. It is a book that many political leaders from Europe, the USA and most of all the UN will be upset about regarding the colonial period and specifically the genocide of 1994. When individuals and countries had the power to do something, most did little if nothing. Rwanda is a small, landlocked country with few resources. This was an African issue, tribes fighting tribes, colonial powers protecting their age-old self-interests. So most did nothing. That is the awfulness of a "A Thousand Hills" where the darkest part of the human soul came out with all of its hate and prejudice. Some wonder whether it will happen again.
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