BUFFALO, N.Y. – This year marks the 20th anniversary of
the genocide in Rwanda, in which an estimated 800,000 people lost
their lives over 100 days beginning in April 1994.
To commemorate this anniversary and honor the memory of Alison
L. Des Forges, an internationally known historian and human rights
activist, the University at Buffalo will present two events on
The first, an international symposium that will bring together
some leading survivors of the genocide and experts on its origins,
course and consequences, will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. in
120 Clemens Hall, North Campus. The symposium is free and open to
Later that day, a Scholarship Fund Dinner and Discussion will
take place from 6:30-9:30 p.m. at the Jacobs Executive Development
Center, 672 Delaware Ave., at the corner of Delaware and North
Street, Buffalo. Reservations are required for the dinner.
Both events are sponsored by the Alison L. Des Forges Memorial
Committee; the UB Humanities Institute, Office of the Vice Provost
for International Education and Department of History; and
One of the world’s leading experts on Rwanda, Des Forges
was senior advisor to the Africa Division of Human Rights Watch at
the time of her death in 2009 in the crash of Continental flight
3407 in Clarence Center.
She was an adjunct member of the UB history faculty during the
1990s and received an honorary doctorate from SUNY during
UB’s 155th general commencement ceremony in 2001.
Her book, “Leave None to Tell the Story: Genocide in
Rwanda,” is a landmark account of that event, and her
tireless efforts to awaken the international community to the
horrors of the genocide earned her much recognition, including a
MacArthur Foundation Award in 1999.
The symposium, “The Rwandan Genocide: 20 Years
Later,” will feature six main speakers addressing three
topics: “Justice for the Perpetrators,” “Healing
for the Survivors” and “Contemporary Rwandan
The panel on “Justice for the Perpetrators” will
address what happened to the perpetrators of the genocide and how
justice was sought and administered. Francois-Xavier Nsanzuwera,
appeal counsel in the Prosecutor’s Office for the United
Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in
Arusha, Tanzania, brought to trial and convicted some of the most
egregious perpetrators of the genocide. He will assess the record
of the tribunal and its legacy.
While those most responsible for planning and inciting the
genocide were tried at the ICTR, thousands of the lesser figures
implicated were judged by their neighbors in a process of popular
justice called “gacaca” courts. Lars Waldorf,
formerly head of the Human Rights field office in Rwandaandnow a
professor at the Centre for Applied Human Rights at York University
in the U.K., will evaluate the work of the gacaca courts and the
results of these efforts at mass justice.
The panel on “Healing for the Survivors” will focus
on how the survivors of the genocide are coping and the
consequences that have affected their lives. Buffalo resident
Nicole Fox, a doctoral candidate at Brandeis University and newly
appointed assistant professor of sociology at the University of New
Hampshire, has talked to dozens of Rwandan survivors about how they
have been coping and how they have memorialized their loved
Aimable Twagilimana, a native of Rwanda, professor of English at
SUNY Buffalo State College and author of several books on the
genocide, will talk about how history, culture and identity might
be reimagined in post-genocide Rwanda — as Germans reimagined
their country after the Nazis.
The third topic, “Contemporary Rwandan Politics,”
will address how politics have changed in the country since the
genocide: The majority Hutu were in power leading up to the
genocide; now the minority Tutsi dominate the government. Jean-Paul
Kimonyo, senior policy advisor to the president of Rwanda, will
present an insider’s view.
Noel Twagiramungu, a Rwandan human rights activist who fled the
country in 2005 to become a Scholar at Risk at Harvard University
and is now a doctoral candidate in the Fletcher School of Law and
Diplomacy at Tufts University, will offer an insider-outsider view
of the genocide and of Rwanda today.
Each of the panels will be followed by general
question-and-answer periods, and then by small-group discussions
led by the six principal speakers and seven others who are
survivors of the genocide and/or experts on human rights and
All but two of these participants knew Des Forges well as
colleagues in the Africa Division of Human Rights Watch, as
co-workers at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, or as
graduate students whom she mentored and/or protected.
The Scholarship Fund Dinner held later in the day will provide
members of the Buffalo community with an opportunity to speak with
the 13 symposium participants and raise funds for the Alison L. Des
Forges Memorial Scholarship Endowment Fund at UB. The fund supports
four-year scholarships at UB for promising Buffalo public school
students interested in pursuing a course of study and career in
Those attending the scholarship dinner are asked to make a
donation of $100 or more to the fund; the full amount over $40 is
For more information about the symposium, contact Roger Des
Forges at 716-885-6828 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For
reservations, contributions or further information about the
Scholarship Fund Dinner and Discussion, contact Helene Kramer at
716-866-3876 or email@example.com.