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Speaker: Help stop genocide



Published: Thu, October 19, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



There is no reconciliation without healing and no healing without forgiveness, the speaker said.

By NANCY TULLIS

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Hearing firsthand accounts of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, Youngstown State University guests were urged to help stop the genocide now occurring in the Darfur region of Sudan.

Atty. Justine Rukeba Mbabazi, one of the new female leaders of Rwanda, was the guest speaker Wednesday at a lecture sponsored by the Mahoning Valley Coalition of Conscience and YSU's Judaic studies and history departments.

She said the genocide in Rwanda happened with few people around the world knowing about it, so no one did anything. The difference in Darfur is that more nations know about it, but there is still little international action to stop it.

She said the way to stop genocide is to act beforehand. Prepare the next generation ahead of time instead of waiting until millions have died, she said.

There is no clear model how to reconcile such a situation, but there can be no reconciliation without healing -- and no healing without forgiveness, she said.

Mahoning Valley Coalition for Conscience provided literature and sold wristbands from www.SaveDarfur.org, and encouraged lecture guests to sign postcards reminding President Bush of his pledge early in his presidency that genocide would not happen on his watch.

Statistics

According to a BBC report, an estimated 800,000 Rwandans were killed in the space of 100 days between April and June 1994. The BBC said the genocide was sparked by the death of the Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana -- and with him the president of Burundi and many chief members of staff -- when his plane was shot down above Kigali airport April 6, 1994, although whoever was behind shooting down the plane was never established.

Mbabazi emphasized the Rwanda genocide was much different than that of Nazi Germany against the Jews during the Holocaust in the 1940s. Rwandans committed genocide against one another, she said.

When people started killing one another, families were divided, she said. She saw cousins in her family take sides based on which children looked like their mother and which ones looked like their father. They killed one another during the genocide, and in the end, killed their mother.

Mbabazi said the turning point of her life came July 24, 1994. She arrived home late from work and went straight to bed without talking to other family members.

When she woke up the next morning, she was faced with 39 people in her home seeking help. Many were not family members and some she didn't even know.

She decided then that rather than be a victim and sit and cry with them, she had to be a lifesaver.

What she did

According to a press release, Mbabazi became an international lawyer and gender expert and has been instrumental in empowering women to seek prominent positions in Rwanda.

Nearly 300,000 volunteer judges are helping to process the thousands of genocide cases through Rwandan courts, and about 70 percent of those volunteer judges are women, Mbabazi said.

As a lawyer, Mbabazi drafted Rwanda's first legislation against gender-based violence. She provided legal aid without pay for a movement in Rwanda that brought women to the forefront of national politics, and played a critical role in the debate of gender equality in Rwanda's new constitution.

As an international consultant, she is a trainer and a mentor of the first team of female defense lawyers in Afghanistan, and traveled from Afghanistan to appear at YSU.

tullis@vindy.com




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