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Biography of Alison DES FORGES


Born on 20/08/1942 (format : day/month/year)

Biography :

Alison Des Forges (born August 20, 1942- died Februray 12, 2009),  an american human rights activist and historian who tried to call the world’s attention to the looming genocide in Rwanda in 1994 and who later wrote what is considered the definitive account of the eventual slaughter of more than 500,000 Rwandans, was among the passengers killed Thursday when Continental Airlines Flight 3407 crashed near Buffalo.

She was 66 and lived in Buffalo.Although she lived in Buffalo, Dr. Des Forges (pronounced deh-FORZH) spent much of her adult life in Rwanda and the Great Lakes region of Africa. She was among a group of activists who investigated killings, kidnappings and other rights abuses of civilians in Rwanda from 1990 to 1993.

In May 1994, several weeks into the mass killing of Rwanda’s Tutsi minority, Dr. Des Forges called for the killings to be officially declared a genocide. By then about 200,000 people had been killed.

After a Tutsi-led rebel group took power after ending the killings, Dr. Des Forges spent four years interviewing organizers and victims of the genocide. She testified before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, based in Arusha, Tanzania, and at trials in Belgium, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Canada. She also appeared on expert panels convened by the United Nations and what is now the African Union, as well as the French and Belgian legislatures and the United States Congress.

The MacArthur Foundation recognized her work with a $375,000 “genius” grant in 1999. Her authoritative book, “Leave None to Tell the Story: Genocide in Rwanda,” was published that year.

Trained as a teacher, Alison Des Forges did her doctorat on Rwanda and spent the major part of her time working in the region of the Great Lakes. After obtaining her degree in history at Radcliffe University in 1964, she obtained her doctorat at Yale University in 1972.  

She began her career worked benevolently for Human Rights Watch in Rwanda and where she immediately tried drawing attention to the genocide which she felt sure was about to break out.

As Co-President of the International Commission she observed the ethnic violence in the region and published a report several months prior to the genocide. When the violence broke out she managed to convince several diplomates on mission in Kigali to protect Rwandais people. One of these was Mrs Monique Mujawamariya who wrote a very moving statement relating the event.

As a senior counsel of the African division of Human Watch from the beginning of the 90's. Alison Des Forges supervised works in the region of the Great Lakes providing precious advice to her colleagues working in other regions.

She recently worked on a report for the Human Rights Watch concerning the killings in the east of the Republic of Congo.



Last update : 02/23/2009

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