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Preparing for Rwanda’s Future

August 06, 2008

The headlines about violence and political chaos in Chad, Congo, and Sudan don’t surprise Viviane Gakire Kabeho, a Lewis & Clark student and citizen of Rwanda. Her parents fled Rwanda for the Democratic Republic of the Congo during civil war in 1964. They left behind most of their family and built a life in Congo, where Viviane was born and spent part of her youth.

Although Viviane and her family escaped the 1994 Rwandan genocide, most of their family members did not. Despite the great loss, Viviane’s parents were eager to return to their native country and spent several difficult years reuniting the family in Rwanda–one child at a time. In the process, they lost their home and belongings, and Viviane’s parents and four of her eight siblings were imprisoned for nine months during unrest in Congo.

Witnessing such political chaos and threat of violence left an indelible mark on Viviane, feeding her determination to make a difference.

“I am an optimist,” says Viviane. “Things can change, and we need to teach people about how that can happen.”

Viviane is the 2007–08 Romeo Dallaire Scholarship recipient. The scholarship provides full tuition, books, and living expenses for a qualified African student wishing to study the English language at Lewis & Clark for one academic year. He or she enrolls in classes with students from around the world in the college’s Academic English Studies program.

The scholarship itself was started in 2004, in honor of Lt. General Romeo Dallaire of Canada, former commander of the U.N. Peacekeeping Mission to Rwanda and a committed humanitarian.

Viviane, who earned a degree in political science and administration in Rwanda, is now studying English to strengthen her advocacy skills on the international stage. She is also benefiting from Lewis & Clark’s global perspective–and the political expression of the college’s students. She says she wishes everyone in Rwanda could exchange ideas so openly.

All of these experiences should better prepare her for the human rights work she’d like to pursue when she returns to Rwanda–and to her husband and young daughter–later this summer.

“I’m not so much interested in an office job. I want to be around people. I want to help those who have survived the genocide, HIV, and inequality of life. I want to take action so that tomorrow my daughter and my neighbors’ kids will tell other stories full of joy and good memory.”

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