A team of 42 students from universities in the US, Europe, Asia and Africa, are in the country as part of their field study on Genocide. 30 of them are from Brown University and California Institute of the Arts in the USA. Others are from Afghanistan, Singapore, Mexico and Uganda.
According to Jean Pierre Karegeye, the coordinator of the programme, the visit is part of an annual event by students undertaking Genocide studies across the world.
Karegeye, an assistant professor at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, US, is also the Director of the Interdisciplinary Genocide Studies Center (IGSC), a Kigali-based association, which runs the international students’ programme.
“This programme is an eye-opener to the visiting students, academicians and other people. Those who come return home with the truth surrounding the 1994 Genocide and it’s an opportunity to prove Genocide deniers wrong,” Karegeye told The New Times yesterday.
The visit, which started on June 14, is expected to end on June 28.
The students have conducted visits to Genocide memorial sites, met with survivors and confessed perpetrators, as well as various academics and politicians.
Yesterday, they met with Senator Antoine Mugesera, who gave them an overview of Rwanda’s history, specifically decades of political and ethnic manipulations that culminated into the Genocide.
The Senator told the students that seeds of ethnic discrimination were first sowed when Belgian colonialists introduced national Identity Cards bearing one’s ethnicity.
He said that this manipulation was sustained by the post-independence governments, to the extent that Tutsis started to be labelled as foreigners who came from Ethiopia.
“Many innocent Tutsis were thrown into River Nyabarongo during the Genocide as a sign of sending them back to where they came from (Ethiopia),” Mugesera told the students at the National Commission to Fight against Genocide (CNLG) in Remera.
Amanda Montei, a student from California Institute of the Arts, who is in Rwanda for the first time, said that she was shocked and saddened at the sight of remains of Genocide victims and the two memorial sites the team has visited. She said she was equally devastated to hear stories of 1994 Genocide survivors.
“It is very hard in America to really understand the whole magnitude of the Rwandan Genocide,” she said, adding that she was however moved by the tremendous development the country had registered.
IGSC organizes such visits every year. IGSC is an international scholarly association composed of 35 scholars from European, North American and African universities and academic institutions.
Its mission is to encourage the study of Genocide through rigorous cross-disciplinary analyses, organizing conferences, colloquia and symposia.