Le Château: the lives of prisoners in Rwanda tells the story of life in Rwanda’s prisons in the ten years which followed the 1994 genocide.  In 2004, around 85,500 people were detained in Rwanda.  Most are accused of participation in the genocide, which claimed more than 500,000 lives.  Many have spent more than ten years in prison without being tried.

In Rwanda, every aspect of prison life is defined by overcrowding.  The standard width of a prisoner’s living space is 40 centimetres.  The prisoners call this their “château”, their castle.  Many prisoners sleep outside, exposed to the sun and the rain.  Family visits last just three minutes.

Yet prisoners have succeeded in imposing order on chaos.  The prisons are effectively run by the prisoners themselves, through a highly efficient hierarchical system which mirrors the society outside.

This book presents a vivid portrait of humanity pushed to the extreme:  an intense and disturbing picture of suffering, ruthlessness, creativity, humour and resilience.  It confronts the reader with a morally complex world, full of contradictions, where the absence of justice makes it almost impossible to differentiate between the guilty and the innocent.

“In turn captivating, horrifying, thought-provoking and deeply moving, this account of life inside Rwandan prisons shows how human beings can and do survive in the most extreme conditions.  Listen to the prisoners speak and you will hear tales that transcend the limits of time and place.”

Alison Des Forges, historian and writer on Rwanda

La version française sera publiée prochainement.

Inyandiko mu Kinyarwanda izaboneka mu minsi iri imbere.

Cyangugu Central Prison, Rwanda 2004 © Carina Tertsakian
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