BUFFALO, N.Y. — To honor the memory and achievements of
the internationally-known historian, human rights activist and
Buffalo native Alison L. Des Forges (1942-2009), PhD, three events
will take place in Buffalo on Thursday, April 23 and Friday, April
- An international symposium on April 23 featuring talks
by university researchers and representatives of human rights
organizations working in Africa, including Human Rights Watch. This
event, free and open to the public, takes place on Thursday, April
23 from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. in 120 Clemens Hall on the University
at Buffalo North Campus.
- A scholarship dinner and discussion on April 23. A
reservation is required, and tickets are $100 per person. Proceeds
go to the Alison L. Des Forges Memorial Scholarships for Buffalo
Public School graduates who demonstrate a strong interest in
pursuing studies at UB related to human rights and social justice.
The dinner takes place on Thursday, April 23 from 6:30-9 p.m. at
the Jacobs Executive Development Center at 672 Delaware Ave.,
- A community roundtable on April 24, where university
researchers will reflect on the previous day’s symposium
topics. This event, titled “The Interplay of Politics,
Religion, Terrorism, Modernity and Human Rights,” takes place
on Friday, April 24 from noon to 2 p.m. at the Burchfield Penney
Art Center at 1300 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo.
For information about the events and to register for the dinner,
contact Ellen Dussourd (716-645-2258, firstname.lastname@example.org) or
Shaun Irlam (716-359-2222, email@example.com).
The two-day program, titled “Islam, Islamism, and Human
Rights in Africa,” is sponsored by the Alison L. Des Forges
Memorial Committee, along with the UB Department of History,
Department of Political Science, Humanities Institute and Office of
the Vice Provost for International Education.
“In an effort to address issues of intense public concern,
these events will explore in depth the recent rise of violent
extremist groups in Africa,” said Dussourd, co-chair of the
Alison L. Des Forges Memorial Committee. “In so doing, we
will go beyond sensational media headlines to the historical roots
of this phenomenon as we examine groups such as Boko Haram, Seleka
One of the world’s leading experts on the Rwandan
genocide, Des Forges was senior adviser 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 Fellowship in 1999.
The April 23 symposium will feature six speakers addressing
three topics: “The Interplay of Politics and Religion,”
“The Interplay of Terrorism and Modernity,” and
“Focus on Human Rights.”
Presentations will include:
- “The Rationality of Abusing Civilians in Civil
War.” This talk by Jacob Kathman, UB associate professor
of political science, will examine the conditions under which
combatants believe it is rational to use violence against civilian
populations even when they recognize that popular support is
eventually essential for their success.
- “Historical Perspectives on Jihad in Africa: The
Religious Logic of Boko Haram.” This talk by Ndubueze
Mbah, UB assistant professor of history, will discuss the
transformation of the movement from a nonviolent organization to a
radicalized and nihilist movement reminiscent of antecedent cases
of reactionary revolt against the crisis of modernity.
- “Terror, Jihad and Modern Society.” This
talk will be given by Martin Klein, professor emeritus of history
at the University of Toronto, who has written extensively on Islam,
slavery and colonialism in West Africa.
- “What are the Islamist Solutions to Post-colonial
Crises in West Africa? Rethinking Competing Muslim Modernities in
Mali.” This talk will be given by Bruce Hall, associate
professor of history at Duke University, who explores the emergence
of ideas of racial difference along the West African Sahel, focused
in and around the Malian city of Timbuktu.
- “Challenges to Human Rights Research and Documentation
in Central and East Africa.” This talk will be given by
Maria Burnett, senior researcher with the Africa Division of Human
Rights Watch, who currently covers Uganda and emerging human rights
issues in Central Africa and supervises work on Somalia.
- “Terrorism and State Culture: Creating a Human Rights
Agenda in Somalia.” This talk will be given via Skype by
John Foley, advocacy and research manager with the East and Horn of
Africa Human Rights Defenders Project based in Nairobi.
At the community roundtable on April 24, Hall, Klein and Mbah
will briefly summarize their symposium talks, and then exchange
reflections on the previous day’s events.
To contribute to the Alison L. Des Forges Memorial Scholarship
Endowment Fund at UB, visit giving.buffalo.edu/giving-options/honorary-and-memorial-gifts/alison-desforges.html.