The Shadow of the Sun by Ryszard Kapuściński

The Shadow of the Sun” is a book written by Ryszard Kapuściński, who was a journalist that traveled extensively across Africa from the late 1950s to the end of the 20th century. He was fluent in many languages, which allowed him to connect with and understand various cultures, making his work rich and insightful.

In this book, Kapuściński shares essays about different aspects of African countries, including political, social, and cultural elements, as well as conflicts that took place in this vast continent.

In 1820, the American Colonization Society began sending former slaves back to Africa. They pressured local leaders in Liberia to sell land for the returning ex-slaves. These freed slaves eventually formed the Republic of Liberia after 20 years. It was a peculiar place where the Americo-Liberians adopted the culture of their former masters. Unfortunately, they also enslaved some of the local people and denied them citizenship.

Kapuściński goes into detail about the complex civil wars that tore Liberia apart from multiple sides. He describes a gruesome scene in which one warlord kidnaps his former friend, who is now the president of the country, and tortures him to death.

In his discussion of Rwanda, Kapuściński explains the conflict between the Tutsis and Hutus, which led to the Rwandan genocide. The Tutsis, despite being a minority, held power historically as cattle owners and later as the dominant political group. European colonizers worsened these ethnic imbalances.

When Rwanda gained independence, the Hutus, who had long resented the Tutsis, expelled the Tutsi government and took control. The Tutsis regrouped in a neighboring country with plans to invade Rwanda. However, the Rwandan president was assassinated during a trip, which triggered the Hutus to begin the genocide. For almost three months, killings continued, and no international intervention occurred.

Unlike other historical atrocities, such as Stalin’s actions in Ukraine or the Holocaust, in Rwanda, the killings were carried out by ordinary people, not state police, and they did not have advanced weaponry. Hutu farmers used machetes and sheer brutality to commit the killings, often targeting their neighbors, acquaintances, and even classmates. This aspect highlights the tragic nature of the genocide.

Years later, a system of courts was established to handle hundreds of thousands of cases related to the genocide, but overcrowding and poor conditions in the jails created another humanitarian crisis.

However, the book is not just about war; it primarily serves as an exceptional introduction to life in Africa. I’m confident that I’ll revisit this book in the future.

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