Lewis & Clark’s Dallaire Scholarship Committee hosted a Kwibuka on April 14 in honor of the 25th Annual International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda. During the genocide, which occurred in the time of the Rwandan Civil War, members of the Hutu ethnic majority in the east-central African nation of Rwanda murdered as many as 800,000 people, mostly of the minority Tutsi community. To commemorate the tragedy and focus efforts on moving forward and rebuilding, the Rwandan people developed Kwibuka, which means “to remember” or “remembrance” in Kinyarwanda, the official language of Rwanda.
Former Ambassador to Guinea Joyce Leader, who served as deputy to the U.S. ambassador in Rwanda during the genocide, delivered the keynote address at the event. During the event, there were reflections from David Rawson, who served as the U.S. Ambassador to Rwanda from 1993-96, and Niels Marquardt ’75, an LC alumnus and Diplomat-in-Residence.
Lewis & Clark’s Dallaire Scholarship honors the work and vision of Roméo Dallaire, who served as the former commander of the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission to Rwanda as well as the Canadian Army Lieutenant-General. Students eligible for the Dallaire Scholarship must be Rwandan and must enroll in the Academic English Studies program for one academic year. Fabrice Sibomana received the Dallaire Scholarship for 2018-19. He’s at LC exclusively for AES and to improve his English. Sibomana, along with Dallaire Scholarship Committee representatives Liza Clairagneau ’21, Ocean Eale ’19 and retired head of AES Joann Geddes, attended the 25th commemoration of the Rwandan Genocide in Washington D.C. on April 7, the anniversary of the first day of the genocide.
Eale, a German studies major, became involved with the committee while studying the Holocaust. According to Eale, many of the Dallaire scholars have been directly impacted by the genocide against the Tutsi. Eale was involved in planning the trip to D.C.
“My time in D.C. was very moving,” Eale said. “We got to hear from multiple speakers from the Diplomatic Corps as well as from a survivor from the genocide. She gave a very personal testimony. Her testimony made me think of the term ‘denial,’ which was a common theme throughout the event. When you hear denial in the context of genocide, I think of people who denied the Holocaust, for example. However, when we deny that genocide happens, we continually deny each other through division.”
Clairagneau became involved with the Dallaire Scholarship Committee last year because her friend, Eddyne Ukunze, was a previous AES scholar. For Clairagneau, the trip to D.C. served as a communal space to focus on her Rwandan identity.
“Going to D.C., we got to meet a lot of Rwandan students and have time and space to focus on the commemoration with other Rwandan students,” Clairagneau said. “There were a lot of different feelings. When we were in D.C., it was a very powerful experience to meet with other Rwandans who are not back home and what it’s like being here and what it’s like following the lives of American people. Having the Kwibuka here, we were both commemorating and also organizing so it was a different dynamic than that of the Kwibuka in D.C.”
Sibomana also found the trip to D.C. to be moving, as he was able to connect with other Rwandans.
“I got to meet other Rwandans and experience this commemoration that I respect and that I’m connected towards,” Sibomana said. “Like Rwandans, I cared about the significance of the Kwibuka. I loved seeing other people who support it.”
Sibomana thought that the Kwibuka held at LC went well, but he expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of students in attendance.
“I was not satisfied because the majority of the attendants were older people who work here or live nearby,” Sibomana said. “The presence of students was not satisfying. These older people maybe already know something about the genocide and respect it, but younger people may need to educate themselves on it. A genocide is a humanity (sic) crisis. People need an education to see how hate and segregation damages humanity.”
The Kwibuka both in D.C. and LC were opportunities for reflection and standing in solidarity with the Rwandan community. Every year, Kwibuka asks people of all backgrounds to come together, support survivors and ensure that events like the Rwandan genocide are never forgotten.