Panelists discuss experiences with ’94 Rwandan genocide


    The country of Rwanda has made an effort to grow since the 1994 genocide between the Hutus and Tutsis. The people have not lost their faith and sense of forgiveness.

    Moderator Kurk Gayle, director of the Intensive English Program, asked a panel of both Rwandans and Americans about what their experiences with the genocide were like.

    Three Rwandans told firsthand accounts: Johnson Mutibagirana, recipient of the 2015-2016 TCU Wilkens Award, Yvonne Umugwaneza, recipient of the 2014-2015 TCU Wilkens Award and Yannick Tona, recipient of the 2013-2014 TCU Wilkens Award.

    Three Americans were on the panel: Sister Charles Marie Serafino, Carl Wilkens and Teresa Wilkens, who give the Wilkens Award. The award helps one Rwandan student come to TCU and study in the Intensive English Program.

    The panel reflected on what makes Rwanda special. Each offered perspective. Some of the panelists knew people who died as a result of the genocide, and others did not.

    “We are a resilient nation,” Umugwaneza said.

    Tona said Rwanda has built itself from nothing. He said the country has come a long way from the hurt the country experienced due to the genocide.

    The Wilkenses lived in Rwanda for six years, and it taught them about how the Rwandan culture is able to forgive one another. They told a story about a Rwandan woman, a Tutsi, who married a man, a Hutu, after the genocide.

    Mutibagirana talked about the hope the country has. He said young people are eager to finish their schooling, and they want to change Rwanda for the better.

    The panel deviated away from talk of the genocide, and they agreed on the beauty of the country.

    When asked to comment on the landscape of Rwanda, Serafino said, “It’s just delicious.”

    She said she never got tired of the beauty she was surrounded by each day.

    Umugwaneza concluded the panel discussion by commenting on how she has overcome the things she experienced during the genocide.

    She talked about how she had to step over bodies in the middle of roads, which were tainted a deep shade of red. She said she has moved past what happened, but she will never forget the things she saw.

    “There’s no way you can overcome such a thing,” Umugwaneza said.