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1994 Rwandan genocide still haunts Buffalo State professor

Mike Desmond

For an audience at Daemen College Thursday evening, it was a story of genocide, blood, 800,000 dead and a country trying to rebuild itself.

Buffalo State English Professor Aimable Twagilimana has built a life for himself and his children here, with family still back in Rwanda. He is active in groups locally and around the world, helping support the country's rebuilding.

"I came here on a Fullbright scholarship in 1992 and I stayed after my studies," Twagilimana said, "and there are many people like me who are professionals, independent means, who decided to stay here, work and use all kinds of ways to contribute to the development of Rwanda."

Twagilimana teaches English literature, particularly African American literature. He has an MBA and uses that to teach accounting and corporate finance. He also has to make sure everyone knows what really happened in his homeland.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

"The last stage of genocide is denial," he said. "So there are people who are going to deny that the Holocaust ever happened. There are people who are going to argue that the genocide in Rwanda didn't happen. This is the fight we are fighting now. People who use all kinds of strategies to argue that these genocides did not happen."

Twagilimana said it can be very hard for families to explain to their children the horror of what happened in Rwanda in 1994 and face questions about why it happened, but not be able to explain fully. However, there also has been key change in the country's government.

"The one empowerment is like 68% women representation," he said. "Last week, with a government reshuffle, there are 52% in the government cabinet."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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