Annual event for the Rwandan Genocide


Luke Schrum | Staff Writer

Remembering history is important to avoid repeating mistakes. In order to remember and discuss history, Duquesne University and its Center for African Studies has hosted annual events each April to commemorate the anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide. This year’s event, on April 16, is called Law and Healing: Lessons from the Rwandan Genocide, is being hosted in conjunction with the School of Law to discuss the healing process from a societal perspective on the judicial process.

Gerald Boodoo, director of the Center for African Studies, described the origins of the annual event being hosted at Duquesne starting with an initiative by former university president, Charles Dougherty.

“About five years ago, President Dougherty started a special scholarship for Rwandan girls. There’s a school in Rwanda that goes around the world and gets them into universities, and President Dougherty agreed to host five,” Boodoo said.

Most of the girls have graduated or continued to pursue graduate degrees, but the impact of a conversation they had with Boodoo has become the annual commemoration of the Rwandan Genocide.

“When I learned they were on campus, I called them together to chat. Out of it came the idea that Duquesne University should be part of the worldwide memorial of the genocide which happens every year in the first week of April,” Boodoo said.

The event focuses on a different subject regarding the genocide each year depending on the speaker or specific anniversaries.

“Every year we bring in a speaker. This year is the 25th anniversary of the genocide which is also a time when some people who were convicted will be released,” Boodoo said.

With this anniversary, the Center for African Studies and School of Law sought to hold a discussion about the intersection of law and the healing process.

“The question came up: How are they going to be accepted into society? Does that bring about some sort of healing? Can society actually accept the fact that they paid for their actions?” Boodoo said.

While the Rwandan Genocide occurred 25 years ago, the recent Tree of Life shooting in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood brought tragedy closer to home.

“The other side was the [Tree of Life shooting] which demonstrated that stuff like this doesn’t only happen across the world: it happens here, too. It brought a consciousness and recognition here for how can you deal with that?” Boodoo said.

The legal process is set up in order to bring about justice, but questions and the need for discussion still exist.

“When someone is convicted and serves time, does it bring healing? Does the legal process and law allow for society and individuals to deal with the situation that has happened? That’s the context we wanted to host this talk in,” Boodoo said.

This year’s speaker is Hon. Maria Wilson, a judge of the Supreme Court of Trinidad and Tobago. The event looks to encourage conversation not only for the anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide, but how law affects healing on a larger scale.