Genocide is Topic of 'Conversations With Daschle'
October 24, 2008 – Nearly 1 million people were killed in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Eighty of them were members of Freddy Mutanguha extended family, including both of his parents and four sisters.
The survivor spoke to Georgetown Public Policy Institute (GPPI) students Oct. 24 as part of the university's "Conversations with Daschle." The lecture series pairs former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), a visiting GPPI professor, with leaders in different fields for a lunchtime conversation and a question-and-answer session with students.
Now director of the Kigali Genocide Memorial Center, which acts as a gathering place to mourn the 258,000 people buried in a mass grave there and a spot to learn about and from the genocide. Mutanguha travels throughout the world talking about the genocide and its aftermath, and he came to Georgetown to share his personal story of surviving the killings and to speak about Rwanda's recovery efforts.
Hearing directly from people such as Mutanguha is what "Conversations with Daschle" are all about, said Joseph Ferrara, GPPI associate dean. "You can study development in Africa, but there is nothing like the experience of having someone like Freddy come in. It energizes students in a way that a graduate class alone simply cannot," he said.
Mutanguha's message included notes of hope for Rwanda's future. Primary education is now free and enrollment is up 300 percent from the time of the genocide. Women make up 56 percent of the parliament – the highest percentage in the world, Mutanguha said – and the economy is growing every year.
Reconciliation between survivors and perpetrators is aided by "gacaca," or a traditional system of community justice, Mutanguha explained. With 1.2 million suspects and a conventional court system in shambles following the genocide, it would have taken 200 years to try the accused, according to Rwandan officials. So the country's leaders decided to try only suspected genocide planners and instigators in conventional courts. The rest face individual community judgment and punishment through gacaca.
Rwanda moved from merely surviving to aiding survivors and then to thinking about democracy, Mutanguha said of the time lapsed since the genocide. He believes the country is now in the "implementation phase" of instituting policies to unify Rwandans.
GPPI student Henoch Derbew (G'09) said he came to "Conversations with Daschle" because of his interest in African development.
"I had the chance to study the reconciliation process in Rwanda, so I'm touched to hear a survivor's views on it," Derbew said. "We outside of Rwanda all have a view about what happened, but we can learn a lot by hearing a personal point of view of the genocide."
Learning from experts in various fields is invaluable for Georgetown students, Daschle said. The conversations to date have tackled topics from energy to addressing terrorism and featured guests including Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), 9/11 Commission vice chair Lee Hamilton, former Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and late journalist Tim Russert.
"If there's one thing I want these conversations to do," Daschle said, "it is to bring the nation's future leaders together with the present ones."