Play, Films, Speakers Recall Rwandan Genocide and Honor the Life of Alison Des Forges

The distinguished human-rights activist and Rwanda expert died aboard Flight 3407

Release Date: January 26, 2010 This content is archived.


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The life and work of Alison Des Forges will be honored Feb. 11-13 at a series of events to be held at UB.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The celebrated one-woman play Miracle in Rwanda, which tells the story of a Rwandan woman who survived her country's 1994 horrifying genocide, will be performed on Feb. 11-13 at the University at Buffalo in memory of the late human-rights activist, historian and MacArthur Fellow Alison L. Des Forges.

One of the world's foremost experts on the genocide, Des Forges died last year aboard Flight 3407.

Performances will take place at 7:30 p.m. in the Student Union Theater on UB's North Campus, the first a fundraising event, the other two presented for the general public and students.

The Feb. 11 opening night performance and reception will be hosted by the Alison L. Des Forges Memorial Committee, which is raising funds for a scholarship and lectures in her name. The reception will begin at 6 p.m. Tickets for that performance are $125 and will be available at the door, by e-mail at or from Helene Kramer at 866-3876. Contributions also will be gratefully accepted.

After the Feb. 11 performance, comments will be offered by Rwandan genocide survivor Aloys Habimana, now deputy director of the Africa Division of Human Rights Watch, and by Alison Des Forges' husband Roger Des Forges, PhD, professor of history at UB.

Tickets for the Feb. 12 and Feb. 13 performances will be $25 (general admission) and $10 (students with ID). They are available at the Sub Board I ticket office, 221 Student Union, online at (click on "Tickets"), or at

The associated films to be shown on Feb. 12 and 13 will be hosted by Bruce Jackson, SUNY Distinguished Professor of English, and Diane Christian, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor of English.

On Feb. 12, the play will be preceded by a 4 p.m. screening of the award-winning 2004 film Hotel Rwanda in the Student Union Theatre. The film, which was nominated for an Academy Award, will be followed by commentary by Paul Rusesbagina, whose astonishing and heroic efforts to save hundreds of Tutsis are portrayed in the film by Don Cheadle in a performance that also was nominated for an Oscar.

Post-play comments will be offered by Monique Mujawamariya, a Rwandan survivor of the genocide and founder of the Rwandan Association for the Defense of Human Rights and Public Liberties, and Tim Longman, professor of political science and director of the African Studies Center at Boston University, a former Human Rights Watch researcher on Rwanda.

On Feb. 13, the play performance will be preceded at 5 p.m. by the Emmy-nominated HBO film Sometimes in April, also in the Student Union Theatre. Post-play commentary that evening will be provided by Claude Welch, PhD, human-rights specialist and SUNY Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science at UB, and Shaun Irlam, PhD, professor of comparative literature at UB and a student of the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide.

The organizer of the three-day event is UB alumnus DeWane Allen Harris (BA '93 Theatre and Dance).

The play was written and will be performed by award-winning actress Leslie Lewis Sword. It is based on the bestselling book Left to Tell by Immaculée Ilibagiza, which describes how Ilibagiza survived the Rwandan genocide by hiding in a tiny bathroom with seven other women for ninety-one days. The play has been performed by Sword to much acclaim in venues throughout the United States, Canada, India and Rwanda.

For the last 20 years of her life, Alison Des Forges served as senior advisor to the Africa Division of Human Rights Watch. Her book, "Leave None to Tell the Story: Genocide in Rwanda," is a landmark account of those events and her tireless efforts to awaken the international community to the horrors of that event earned her much recognition including a MacArthur Foundation Award in 1999.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

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