Peace is possible in a world of conflict

Mount Holyoke College welcomed Freddy Mutanguha, CEO of Aegis Trust and director of the Kigali Genocide Memorial, to discuss the Rwandan genocide, the lessons learned and how we can prevent genocide from ever happening again.

On the evening of March 5, 2024, Mount Holyoke College students, faculty, staff and members of the general public welcomed Freddy Mutanguha, CEO of Aegis Trust and Kigali Genocide Memorial, to Gamble Auditorium. The event marked the first stop of Mutanguha’s U.S. tour, during which he will be discussing the Rwandan genocide, the Kigali Genocide Memorial and the new Isoko Peace Institute to college campuses. It’s all part of an effort to prevent the atrocities from happening again.

“It’s very important to remember the Rwandan genocide against Tutsi to learn a lesson from the past, to understand that those people that were killed were innocent people,” he said. “It’s very important to understand those steps so that in our days, we can prevent these atrocities from happening again.”

Mutanguha opened his discussion by addressing the early 1990s, when the separation of citizens into Hutu, Tutsi, Twa and Neutralisé, along with a campaign of deceit and misinformation from the government and media, led to a civil war, with one million Tutsi people being killed in one hundred days. Mutanguha’s family was among those killed during the genocide.

“The last time I saw my mother was April 14, 1994,” Mutanguha said. “She brought me passion fruits, which I hated, and said, ‘It’s going to be okay. If you survive, be strong and be a man.’ I hid with my best friend Peter. I hid without hope, certain that death was near. In a matter of hours, we were reduced from a family of eight to a family of two.”

The discussion then turned to post genocide in Rwanda. Over the next ten years, more than one million cases and over one hundred thousand genocide perpetrators were tried in community-based courts. One of those perpetrators, Samson Rwanyindo, was tried and sentenced to prison for murder. He was responsible for killing Mutanguha’s family. Last year, Mutanguha and his sole surviving sister sat down with Rwanyindo in prison.

Mutanguha has devoted his life to human rights advocacy and peace education in the years since the Rwandan genocide. More than two hundred and fifty thousand victims of the Rwandan genocide are buried at the Kigali Genocide Memorial, and over two and a half million students visit each year. But for Mutanguha, it was the visit of someone entirely unexpected that made an impact.

“I invited the people involved in the killing of my family to the Kigali Genocide Memorial with me, and they accepted. One of the perpetrators came onto the property, broke down and started to cry,” he said. “These people who committed such atrocities — even they still had a human spark inside.”

As the Aegis Trust works toward building the Isoko Peace Institute, the hope is to create a destination for peacemakers around the world. Its vision is to establish a culture of peace and build resilience against intercommunal violence.

As Mutanguha discussed in a Q and A with Ruth Lawson Professor of Politics and Carol Hoffmann Collins Director of the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives Kavita Khory ’84 postpresentation, the most important part of his work is raising awareness of the signs of genocide.

“We need to understand those steps — how can peaceful people get to the light and realize that this is happening and is going to lead to genocide. Most countries descend into genocide and mass atrocities because the government allows it to happen. You want policy-makers to lead us into peace,” he said.

At the conclusion of the event, Mount Holyoke President Danielle R. Holley announced that the College will be making a gift to the Isoko Peace Institute in Mutanguha’s name.

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