On the evening of July 11, we joined together at the residence of the United States Ambassador to the African Union, Mary Beth Leonard, with 15 South Sudanese representatives of civil society. We sat around a large table, in front of a roaring fireplace, warming the cool, rainy season night. It was reminiscent of a parlor or salon meeting, or a fireside chat; we discussed transitional justice and processes in Africa, how civil society can help in ensuring peace in South Sudan, based on examples (or lack of examples) in other African countries and contexts.
On the morning of July 12, we gathered at IPSS, with 60 guests in attendance, representing various diplomatic missions, defense attaches, ministries of foreign affairs, civil society, NGOs and international NGOs, and students. I presented on Transitional Justice in the Great Lakes Region of Africa: Theory and Practice. The questions posted touched on the example of the transitional justice process in Rwanda, and provided recommendations for states including DRC and South Sudan. Finally, I was interviewed on AfroFM, the only English radio station in Addis Ababa, for the show Real Talk USA. It was an exciting event, and I thank the USAU, Ambassador Leonard, and IPSS for hosting me.
The week of April 7 seems like a distant blur to me, a week that began the period of Kwibuka, commemorating the 1994 genocide that targeted Tutsi people in Rwanda, a period that has been the primary focus of my research in Rwanda since 2013. I started by attending the national commemoration at the Kigali Genocide Memorial, moving to Nyanza-Kicukiro and the ETO, Kinigi in Musanze, Ntarama where a friend buried his uncle who had been killed during the genocide, whose body was found this year. Then to Notre Dame school, Ndera, and Mbuye. Interviews conducted on memory culture in Rwanda before genocide in different sites led me to being exhausted and overwhelmed. And as tired as I was, my mind kept turning to my Rwandan friends and colleagues, who suffered through the genocide personally. All I could do was hopelessly check in on them and their mental health, knowing I could not provide much support but trying nonetheless. I hope they will forgive my inability and, at times, and my lack of comforting words or actions.
Some lessons learned from this difficult period of fieldwork are highlighted in this article I wrote for The Conversation.
I was pleased to present research, participate, and help organize this Interdisciplinary Symposium with esteemed scholars from South Africa, Zimbabwe, DRC, Germany, Slovakia, and Rwanda, which took place from 4-6 April in Kigali, Rwanda. It was hosted by the Research Chair in Historical Trauma and Transformation (Stellenbosch University), in Collaboration with the Institute of Research and Dialogue for Peace (IRDP; Rwanda), the Centre for Ethics (University of Zürich), and the Violence, Injury and Peace Research Unit (University of South Africa; South African Medical Research Council), hosted an Interdisciplinary Conference in Rwanda.
Healing the traumatic wounds and divisions of societies in the aftermath of mass violence and conflict, and the problem of the transmission of historical trauma across generations—these are probably the most urgent questions of the 21st century. Few topics stake a more compelling claim on Humanities and Social Sciences research than the legacies of tragic historical pasts—the impact of genocide, colonial oppression and other mass atrocities not only on individuals and groups that experienced the traumas directly, but also on their descendants, and the descendants of perpetrators and implicated others under oppressive regimes. This international symposium brings together an interdisciplinary group of scholars and young researchers working in the area of historical trauma, and aims to promote comparative and transnational research on the transgenerational hauntings of historical trauma. Scholars will examine the connection between historical trauma and memory, and illuminate how this relationship has been represented in different cultural contexts, and how it plays out in the lives of descendants of victims of genocide and other forms of political violence in societies that have a history of gross human rights violations. Taking a multidisciplinary approach (including film and literature), the symposium aims to set an agenda for exploring new intellectual frontiers within the buzzing hub of scholarly debates on historical trauma. Its objective is to deepen understanding of the transgenerational repercussions of traumatic pasts in a range of cultural contexts, to explore how different disciplines represent this transgenerational phenomenon, and through a comparative lens, to contribute to new knowledge production in this area of research. Our starting point is that engaging in this comparative reflection is more essential than ever, to advance scholarship and to create a new archive in an area dominated for far too long by the Holocaust as a reference point for understanding the long-term impact of genocide and other forms of gross human rights violations.
Liliane Pari Umuhoza, a university student at Juniata College in Huntingdon, PA, and Rwandan genocide survivor, channeled her energy as an intern at Survivors Fund (SURF) last summer (2017) to work with women who were raped during the genocide. Please read the article below, watch the 5-minute video, and share with all who are interested. I’m proud to call Liliane my sister and friend. Komeza cyane, Lili!
It has been an exciting start to 2018 as a Fulbright Scholar in Rwanda (2017-2018). Here is the first update.
I was pleased to be hosted by the Honorable Judge Vagn Joensen, former President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and Judge at the UN-MICT in Arusha. He joined me for my lecture at Tumaini University Makumira, Arusha, Faculty of Law, where I spoke to 200 engaged and excited law students and their esteemed faculty. The lecture, titled, Practical Implications of the Holistic Nexus between Juridical and Non-Juridical Transitional Justice Measures: The Case of the Great Lakes Region of Africa, provided a framework for discussing legal and symbolic measures to address mass atrocities and genocide, using examples from my extended research in Rwanda.
Today is the last day of the Ife Institute of Advanced Studies at Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria. I am proud to have been a part of the first cohort of Fellows to participate in the IAS Summer Seminar, the first initiative of the Institute. I would like to thank Professor Jacob K. Olupona from Harvard University and all of my Nigerian colleagues and friends for welcoming me to their country, for teaching me invaluable lessons about interdisciplinary research, rethinking mentorship and communities of thinkers, and renewing my dedication to research that will not just “sit on a shelf,” but will impact the world. Please see the article above, published in the Huffington Post with my colleague, teacher, and friend Dr. Laura Grillo from Georgetown University. Enjoy!
I had the pleasure of participating in the international launch of the feature documentary “The Uncondemned,” a film by my friend and colleague Michele Mitchell, and Nick Louvel. In New York, I met witnesses JJ, NN, and OO, who are rape survivors and who testified at the ICTR in 1997 in the landmark case Prosper v. Akayesu. This was the first case to try an individual for genocide, including acts of rape and sexual violence.
In basic Kinyarwanda and lengthy French, I got to know these wonderful women, Serafina, Victoire, Cecile, and Godelieve, founder of SEVOTA, an organization dedicated to supporting widows and survivors of rape after the genocide. These women traveled from their small town of Taba, Rwanda, to New York City, for the film launch.
On Wednesday, October 19, we joined over 700 people in screening the film at the United Nations, with remarks by Mr. Adama Dieng, Mrs. Zainab Hawa Bangura of the United Nations, Amb. Pierre Prosper, Michele Mitchell, Godelieve, and others.
On Sunday October 23, I had the privilege of moderating a panel with these phenomenal women and the film director Michele, at Eileen Fisher in SoHo. Eileen Fisher is a corporate sponsor of the film.
September 17-19 The Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU)hosted a three-day international conference “After Genocide: From Trauma to Rebirth, a Gendered Perspective” at AGBU Armenia Hall in Yerevan. I contributed an Op-Ed about gender and genocide.
I also met Maggy Barankitse, founder of Maison Shalom in Burundi, and Aurora Prize Laureate, who was awarded $1.1 million last April for her humanitarian work.
Thanks to Google Cambridge for inviting me to give a Talk@Google at the Google office on September 20, 2016! Stay tuned for the YouTube video coming soon.
Hi Friends! I wanted to share some links to videos of my prior presentations, including from TEDXFulbrightSantaMonica, the Frank Islam Athenaeum Symposia at Montgomery College, Queensborough Community College, University of Rwanda School of Law, and others. Enjoy!