Rwandan President Kagame to Speak at BC April 11
By Stephen Gawlik
Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who is credited with stabilizing the ethnically divided country after the genocide there more than a decade ago, will address the Boston College student body on April 11 at 4 p.m. in Robsham Theater during a visit to campus.
Kagame will reflect on the Rwandan genocide and discuss his role as leader of a nation still coping with the effects. The president's address will be simulcast in the Heights Room of Corcoran Commons.
The United Nations has designated April 13 as the International Day of Reflection for Rwanda, marking the 11th anniversary of one of the most horrifying massacres of the 20th century.
The April 11 event comes amid UGBC's "Africa Awareness Week" during which a number of events taking place across campus will be oriented toward raising awareness of issues concerning African nations. (For more information see ugbc.org).
"He's an important leader who has played a very important role in the recent history of his country," said Undergraduate Government of Boston College President Grace Simmons '05. "We thought it was important to have a leader of an African nation come to BC and share some of these thoughts and ideas with students."
Long-simmering tensions between Rwanda's ethnic groups, the Hutus and Tutsis, flared into a civil war in 1990. A series of political and economic upheavals exacerbated these rifts, culminating in the genocide by Hutus of hundreds of thousands Tutsis and moderate Hutus during April of 1994. Tutsi rebels defeated the Hutu regime in July 1994, but millions of Hutus fled to neighboring countries. The country has since struggled to achieve political and social reconciliation and make economic progress.
Elected president in 2003, Kagame has drawn praise for his attempts to bring his country together, but has been a figure of some controversy. Critics accuse him of thwarting a democratic movement in Rwanda that could limit his control. He also defends Rwanda's continuing military action in the Democratic Republic of Congo, arguing that vital security issues are at stake.
Kagame, who criticized the United Nations for not doing more to stem the Rwandan genocide, recently made headlines when he called on the African Union to deploy a larger peacekeeping force in Sudan's war-torn region of Darfur in an effort to end violence there. At the time, he said the present size of the force in the troubled Sudanese western region, where Janjaweed militias have killed thousands of civilians and forced over a million others to flee, is not adequate to end what the United States has described as genocide.
"He's interesting and controversial and we hope it's an educational experience for everyone," said Simmons.
Kagame was initially scheduled to visit Boston College last fall, but the speech was postponed due to problems in Rwanda.