Jacqueline Murekatate: Making a Ripple, Changing the World

Jacqueline Murekatate: Making a Ripple, Changing the World

Blue Valley North welcomes Jacqueline Murekatete, an internationally recognized human rights activist and Rwandan genocide survivor, to speak to students and staff on Friday, April 10 at 2 p.m. in the gymnasium. Born in Rwanda in 1984, Murekatete was nine years old when she lost her entire immediate and most of her extended family in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

The motivation behind the genocide is rooted in historic conflict. In the mid 1800s, the Western powers in Europe began to colonize in Africa. Once the powers began to compete for control and territory, 14 colonial powers decided to meet at the Berlin Conference. The nations decided to divide Africa into fifty countries and claimed them for themselves. The colonists sought to create centrally governed nation composed of people with common characteristics.  Rwanda was initially controlled by Germany; however, after World War I Belgium seized control of Rwanda and inflamed old ethnic rivalries in their attempt to manage the colony .

To fortify their control, the Belgian colonists separated Rwanda’s native population into separated classes: Hutu, Tutsi and Twa. Since the Tutsi group looked the most Caucasian, they were considered the superior group and given authority positions. Hutus and Twa were discriminated against even though they made up the overwhelming majority of the population.

The Hutus, constituting 85 percent of Rwanda’s population, were restricted from higher education, land ownership and positions in government. Both the Tutsis and Hutus began to feel resentment towards each other and Belgium and unrest began. To preserve the colonial rule, Belgians altered their decision and chose to instead favor the Hutus.

In 1959, the Tutsi and Hutu groups began to fight. Hutus declared an independent republic and began to kill mass groups of Tutsis. The Hutus reversed the identity classification that had been used against them by the Tutsis. Once the Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana was killed, Hutus implemented a mass extermination of Tutsis. Nearly 1 million people were murdered during 100 days of the genocide. According to the United Nations, at least 250,000 women were raped during the genocide.

Murekatete has spoken in more than 300 forums, including schools, community centers, NGO events, UN agencies, and faith-based communities across the United States, Germany, Israel, Ireland, Bosnia and Belgium. She addressed the UN General Assembly on the 10th year anniversary of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, and she regularly participates in high level human rights forums where she speaks about genocide prevention, gender based violence during genocide, mass atrocities, the importance of justice in post-genocide environments and women’s role in post conflict rebuilding efforts. SevenDays, Make a Ripple, Change the World, is sponsoring the event. For more information, visit givesevendays.org.

Jacqueline Murekatete