In 1994, ethnic tensions in Rwanda led to the killings of nearly one million people in just 100 days — a genocide that left the world asking “how? and why?” But, according to former UN Ambassador Andrew Young, these are questions of the past. Somehow, the people of Rwanda have learned to forgive the unforgivable, and are living and working together to rebuild their country as a model of economic prosperity for the rest of Africa.
Young has set out to tell this remarkable story of reconciliation through his documentary film Rwanda Rising, which will have its Tennessee Premiere in Chattanooga on Saturday, September 1. Young will introduce his film and host a question and answer session along with His Excellency Eng. James Kimonyo, the Ambassador of Rwanda.
The Department of English at UTC is partnering with the Arts & Education Council and Friends of Rwanda, Inc. to present the event, which will be held from 5-8 p.m. at the Benwood Auditorium, UTC Engineering Building, at the corner of Vine and Palmetto Streets.
Kimonyo will speak about the years of reconstruction, justice and reconciliation that have followed the Rwandan Genocide.
“During his visit to Chattanooga, Ambassador Kimonyo will meet with administrators at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga to explore the possibilities of forming partnerships between American higher learning institutions and those in Rwanda,” according to Chancellor Roger Brown.
The event is open to the public, with a suggested minimum donation of $15 ($5 for students). Proceeds from the event benefit a Tennessee non-profit organization that provides academic scholarships for orphaned Rwandese children.
According to treasurer Yozefu Rugina, the need for scholarship assistance is great.
“Since the end of the war, thousands of children were left scattered in orphanages, with relatives who have limited resources, or on their own to struggle for survival. We receive over a hundred scholarship applications every year.”
At its current capacity, the organization funds 12 children at an annual cost of $400 per student. Three will graduate this year. Its goal is to raise enough money to fund 30 students. That’s why Rugina approached the Arts & Education Council — known for its film programming in Chattanooga — about co-sponsoring a fundraiser around the film Rwanda Rising.
“The event fits our mission to provide unique opportunities for lifelong learning and participation in the arts for all members of the community,” says AEC Executive Director Susan Robinson. “It is a true honor to participate in this collaboration.”
Rwanda Rising opened the 2007 Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles earlier this year, to a sold out crowd and standing ovation. The film features interviews with Rwandan president Paul Kagame and Paul Wolfowitz of the World Bank.
Former President Bill Clinton also appears in the film, impressed with the way the two Rwandan ethnic groups have come together in villages that foster reconciliation.
“I never cease to be shocked by the way the Hutus and the Tutsis live together in these reconciliation villages, the stories they have of their experiences during that horrible period and their refusal to let it shape the rest of their lives,” said Clinton.
Andrew Young has been a civil rights activist, Atlanta mayor and United Nations ambassador. Today he lives in Atlanta and helps run a company called GoodWorks, International, a specialty consulting group that provides strategic services to corporations and governments operating in the global economy.