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Journey into Darkness: Genocide in Rwanda (Williams-Ford Texas A&M University Military History Series) Paperback – July 29, 2005
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LTC Tom Odom was the Defense Attache in Kinshasa during the Rwandan genocide in 1994. When Rwandan refugees began pouring over the border into Zaire, Odom was sent to Goma as leader of the American embassy team. He saw first-hand the appalling conditions of the humanitarian crisis, as well as the political challenges of any attempts to address it. Many of the refugees were Hutu genocidaires, some of them still armed. After for the most part ignoring the Rwandan genocide, international attention now focused on the camps, where the persecutors were seen as victims.
Odom's primary mission was to "stop the killing." But that was impossible. Odom predicted the violence would spill over into the Congo and possibly provoke a region-wide conflict. That prediction sadly proved to be true. Whether or not the USG could have stopped the Congo War, if Odom's warnings had been heeded, the U.S. and international community might at least been able to mitigate the violence. Instead, some five million people died.
Odom offers a soldier/scholar's perspective, one that sees a humanitarian crisis as a logistical and political challenge, without losing sight of the human tragedy. The book should be read by all interested in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Great Lakes conflict, and Sub-Saharan Africa. It is also of interest to the Small Wars community, as the Congo War is one of the more complex and challenging conflicts of our time. And Journey Into Darkness is simply a great read. Odom has a gift for telling stories. He has a sense of humor that is never glib or disrespectful. His style is honest and hard-earned, the voice of a man who knows who knows who he is, and isn't afraid of the truth.
"". . . provides a rare but accurate account of the real challenges facing Rwanda and the region and why the efforts to seek solutions to the challenges have been elusive . . . Journey into Darkness is an excellent contribution to the understanding of the Rwandan genocide and its regional consequences. It is a must-read piece of work for all decision and policy makers in governments or private civic organizations."-Dr. Zac Nsenga, Ambassador of Rwanda, Washington, DC
". . . an insightful book about Africa-most especially about the terrible humanitarian crisis, genocide, and war that afflicted Rwanda and eastern Zaire in 1994 and 1995."-Robert E. Gribbin, former U.S. Ambassador to Rwanda
"This book is unique. [Odom] is a perceptive observer and is skilled at translating his perceptions and conclusions into verbal images and in evoking the feel and drama of the events. In particular, this book offers valuable insights into the culture of the army at high levels, based on the author's direct participation in key events, such as the Gulf War, and in his personal interaction with senior political and military officers." -Norman Cigar, U.S. Marine Corps Command and Staff College
"Colonel Odom's study is an important contribution to the literature on genocide and Africa. It should be of interest to every academic library in the country."-W. A. Terrill, U.S. Army War College
Yet to characterize the Journey into Darkness merely a very good account about the U.S. in Rwanda is unfair; a flaw that is reflected in the book's title. The book covers a far wider swath of history, including the author's experiences as a military observer in Lebanon during the 1980s, his participation in the planning for Operation Desert Storm, and several years as a Defense Attaché in Kinshasa. With security sector reform and "defense diplomacy" becoming an increasingly important components in western relations to the third world, Odom's varied experiences offer a gratifying insight. It is frequently at odds with the classic image of the polished diplomat as the face of a state in a foreign land. It is a gritty, in the trenches point of view, in many ways representing the new realities of western diplomatic relations.
Above all though, Journey into the Darkness is an engrossing read, one that quickly absorbs the reader into the world of the United States Military Attaché. Filled with colourful descriptions of Odom's surroundings and amusing anecdotes from his time in Lebanon, Zaire and Rwanda, it is completely unlike most other contributions of this type. It is an honest, fascinating account, which makes it a rewarding worthwhile read for even the most casual of readers.