This week, on the anniversary of the 100 days of killing that we now call the Rwandan genocide, Biteback is privileged to publish You Alone May Live by Mary K. Blewitt OBE, a harrowing and important account of her own experiences.
Over a period of 100 days from 6th April 1994, largely unimpeded by the international community, up to a million Rwandan Tutsi were murdered by Hutu militias in the most appalling episode of ethnic cleansing since the Second World War.
Fifty members of Mary Kayitesi Blewitt’s family were slaughtered in cold blood during the genocide.
Mary was lucky. She managed to locate the bodies of her loved ones and lay them to rest. After the killing ended she travelled the capital, Kigali, witnessed the exhumation of mass graves and struggled to understand the scale of the killings.
To try to make sense of what had happened, Mary undertook voluntary work, believing she had been allowed to survive in order to help others like her. She became a figure of trust with survivors seeking her out to tell their own stories of survival. One woman told how she was raped in front of members of her own family who were then murdered. She was allowed to live and told, “You alone may live, so that you will die of sadness.” This was a common experience amongst women survivors.
You Alone May Live is an important book about grief and survival in the face of unimaginable trauma. It traces the arc of Mary’s own extraordinary journey from a childhood in exile in Burundi, Tanzania and Uganda, to trying to come to terms with the loss of her family in the genocide, to setting up the Survivors Fund (SURF) a charity providing aid to Rwandan survivors. Poignant, sad and sometimes overwhelming, this book records Mary’s story but also encompasses the painful testimonies of those who survived and shared their memories with her.
“I did not enter politics out of philanthropy but rather as an extension of my own annoyance and resentment at having inherited freedoms infringed by power-crazed idiots spouting gibberish. It gives me particular pleasure, then, to know that we have empowered many others and caused them too to doubt the authority whereby such people presume to grant us rights where we can manage perfectly well with innate freedoms.”
In an age of colourless bureaucrats, Nigel Farage is a politician you are unable to ignore, causing controversy and admiration in equal measure. What cannot be denied is the effect he has had on British and European politics. A fun-loving iconoclast whose motto is “work hard and play harder”, Farage’s charismatic leadership and determination to battle the forces of anti-libertarianism have made him a Robin Hood figure to many, and propelled his party, UKIP, into a position of real power in the country.
A passionate advocate of living life to the full, Farage’s journey into politics has been fuelled by a desire to resist unnecessary authority. He resents being told what to do, especially by faceless bureaucrats in Europe.
Told with Farage’s customary wit and humour, Fighting Bull is a thoroughly engaging look at an extraordinary life, including the spills – a near fatal car accident and surviving testicular cancer – and the thrills – a boisterous boyhood in London and a career as a City trader, to battling bureaucracy in Europe and defending the nation’s hard-won freedoms against erosion from without and within.
His account of his journey into the Brussels labyrinth is compelling. The book tells of loyalty and treachery in his own ranks and of his struggle to overcome media preconceptions. It features sometimes hilarious and often terrifying encounters with a stellar supporting cast, including Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Nicolas Sarkozy,José Manuel Barroso, and UKIP’s short-lived, silver-gilt mascot – Robert Kilroy-Silk. In September 2009 Nigel Farage announced he would stand against John Bercow, the newly elected Speaker of the House of Commons, in his Buckingham constituency in the next election, despite a modern convention that the speaker is not challenged for re-election. Fighting Bull is a candid, colourful life story by a fascinating and controversial character. It also shows that one fearless, determined individual can still make a difference.
On Thursday this week, Biteback publishes a new book called HOW TO CUT PUBLIC SPENDING (AND STILL WIN AN ELECTION) by the TaxPayers' Alliance. It's desgined to advise all political parties on how they can cut government spending, borrowing and debt and still remain popular.
The Government is spending more than £5 for every £4 it raises in taxes, racking up hundreds of billions in new debts. The recession has exposed the parlous state of the public finances. Politicians irresponsible borrowing threatens to create a new economic crisis, driven by excessive, wasteful spending. If serious cuts aren't made then Britons face years of tax hikes and economic decline. All the major parties are planning to cut spending but none of them have set out a credible programme to make the tens of billions of cuts needed. In this book, the Taxpayers' Alliance presents the most thorough investigation yet of this vital issue and a plan to turn things around. Edited by Matthew Sinclair, their Research Director, it includes a detailed examination of the records of the major parties and sets out a detailed programme of potential cuts and essential reforms to ensure taxpayers get better value for money. Expert authors from around the world set out their experience of what it takes to successfully get a country's public finances in order.
I only ask after a weekend which has been dominated by phrases such as " well hung... messily hung... swinging ". All of which of course, refer to the increasing speculation that there will be a hung parliament which is arousing constitutional experts to a state rarely seen or heard. Meanwhile the playground bullies of the political press have failed to goad Nick Clegg into declaring for either Tories or Labour . 'Tis the eternal question that faces Lib Dem leaders " Who do you prefer? Who will you work with?" and much time is spent in Lib Dem leader land trying to find elegant ways of refusing to answer the one question that voters are perfectly entitled to ask, particularly if they're about to switch allegiance. However, Nick's sound bite assertion that he was no kingmaker but the 45 million voters of Britain are is one that should be relayed to everyone who's got the chance to vote in the next few weeks.
I'm not a gambling woman although for a nano second on Saturday I contemplated putting a fiver on West Ham to beat Chelsea on 14 to 1 odds, but if the parties are as close as the polls suggest then all the more reason to get out and vote when it really could make a difference. Even if we do end up with something messily hung that only HM The Queen can sort out.
My co-author Jo Phillips asks what constitutes a pamphlet. If Kevin Maguire is right and Why Vote? is a pamphlet rather than a book, it would make us Pamphleteers, which is the highest praise someone on the Left can bestow.
Among the great Pamphleteers have been Paine, Milton, Locke, Swift, Defoe (Daniel, not Jermain), and Addison. Should the names of Phillips and Seymour now be added to that estimable list? Modesty forbids us accepting that accolade.
But I am sure I speak for Jo, too, when I say that we are grateful Kevin thinks of us that way. Unless, of course, he is not of the Left at all and doesn’t understand what he is saying.