Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Alison Des Forges: A True Human Rights Champion

I only had the opportunity to see Dr. Des Forges a few times at African Studies Association conferences. I was surprised at how physically tiny and fragile she looked. In my mind -- she was a giant -- what else could she be -- standing up to human rights abusers whatever their ethnicity, religion or political affiliation.
It came as quite the shock to hear that she had died in a plane crash --over Buffalo. To Dr. Des Forges' family -- I am sure that nothing will soothe the pain of her loss -- but I think that you should know that there are many others, like me, out there that admired her from afar. She was an inspiration and a true hero. May she rest in peace.


Maribel said...

"The healthy man does not torture others - generally it is the tortured who turn into torturers”
-- Carl Gustav Jung

Having read the article about Alison Des Forges’ death and her denunciation of the Rwandan genocide, both of Tutsis and Hutus alike, I find myself pensive. I went to Rwanda in February of 2008 and read a substantial amount of books related to what lead to the Rwandan genocide and the genocide itself and I rooted for the Tutsi. It wasn’t a matter of at the end of winners writing history (that being the Tutsis) but of Tutsis being the one’s who died in genocide. Yet, I was very much aware that moderate Hutus who protected Tutsis or did not believe in the genocide were also murdered; it was easier to just make it genocide between Tutsis and Hutus.
Alison reminds us all to not cater to what is easier to believe. I know that the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) in some sense responded to genocide with another genocide, murdering Hutus to stop the genocide against Tutsis. The RPF in fact trained themselves and invaded Rwanda from Uganda-the pearl of Africa and the country in which I lived in for 4 months studying abroad. Alison’s teaching is relevant to the class because similar to what Danielle said in class, we have to remain conscious that though we are fighting for the victim, for the immigrant being deported, for the one truly seeking political asylum for fear of persecution, mixed among them are those that abuse of our system and we must be very careful in being too quick to believe that everyone is a victim.

calisunshine said...

Thus, the tragedy of the Buffalo plane crash becomes all the more heart breaking, losing a pioneer for human rights, in Dr. Des Forges. As an activist and human rights observer in Rwanda, Des Forges taught the world that there is no room for silence when dealing with genocide. She reminds us how precious human life really is and that the work we do today for human rights, no matter what it may be, really does matter. In morning her death, we must act to show that though Des Forges has move on, we will never forget her message, furthering the fight for action against genocide.