The proposed visit to Sacramento State from the Rwandan President Paul Kagame Thursday is in doubt after domestic and international criticism.
Kagame's visit is part of the "Genocide Conference," which is a three-day conference dedicated to the late Alexandre Kimenyi, who was a professor at Sac State in the Department of Ethnic Studies and Pan African Studies before his sudden death in June 2010.
The days have been split into different dates with myriad talks at the Third International Genocide Conference covering negationism, revisionism, survivors' testimonies, eyewitness accounts, justice and memory.
Kagame has been Rwandan president since the downing of former President Juvanal Habyarimana's airplane in 1994. This date is best known for the start of the genocide in Rwanda in which 800,000 Rwandan Tutsis and "moderate" Hutus died.
There are three main groups of ethnicity in Rwanda. The Tutsi people, who make up approximately 13 percent of the Rwandan population, were given a higher social class as a result of the colonization by Belgium. "The Scientific Racism" used by Belgium established the social supremacy based on how white the group of people were. The Hutu people, the majority in Rwanda, make up another 85 percent.
Kagame shared a complicated relationship with Kimenyi, who criticized the Rwandan political system for not being transparent enough, said Patrick Cannon of the department of government.
Kimenyi was a native of Rwanda who moved the United States in 1971. In both 1973 and the genocide of 1994, his parents, paternal and maternal uncles and aunts, brothers and sisters, cousins, nephews and nieces were killed.
Kimenyi's political relationship with Kagame was formed by his involvement with the Rwandan Patriotic Front. Before his death, Kimenyi put forward papers for the conference to take place.
Ernest Uwazie, Kimenyi's close friend, said he believes the tribute is fitting of a man who was an intellectual giant, with a gentle and caring spirit and confident personality.
"President Kagame's visit to the campus in 2005 provided a rare opportunity for both men who conscientiously fought on same side of ending the Rwandan genocide, to talk and reconcile, after what I consider an honest political disagreement on the leadership and direction of Rwanda," Uwazie said.
Recent revelations criticize Kagame leading to the prediction of protest on the days of the conference.
In a statement dated Oct. 1, Theogene Rudasingwa, former chief of staff for Kagame's political party, the Rwandan Patriotic Front, wrote: "The truth must now be told. Paul Kagame, then overall commander of the Rwandese Patriotic Front, was personally responsible for the shooting down of the plane. In July, 1994, Paul Kagame himself, with characteristic callousness and much glee, told me that he was responsible for shooting down the plane."
On the international front, criticism of the Rwandan Patriotic Front is considered on several areas of poor relations with surrounding states most recognizably the conflict with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
"The primary causes of the conflict are Rwandan security considerations, the struggle among national and regional actors for control of mining operations, and the interactions of these actors with longstanding tensions over ethnicity, shrinking land availability, confused property rights, and access to state resources," Cannon said.
Kagame's visit was met by protest from a largely Congolese audience in 2005. Cannon believes such organizations such as Friends of the Congo will look to display similar protest this time around.
"It has been put into question whether Kagame will actually attend next week," Cannon said. "There are currently large questions to be answered. The United States has supported Rwanda during its conflict with the DRC, but the university should tread carefully on how it handles the situation."
It has been suggested by Cannon that the talk due to take place on Thursday could be conducted via satellite communication instead of in person.
Sac State's Third International Conference on Genocide: List of events
- "Genocide and Other Extensive Evils: Enablers, Perpetrators, Resisters," by Elizabeth Minnich, Wednesday at the University Union from 4 to 5:50 p.m.
- Keynote address by President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, in the Redwood Room of the University Union from 10:30 to 11:55 a.m.
- "Becoming Evil: How Ordinary People Commit Genocide," by James Walter, Thursday in the University Union from 1:30 to 2:45 p.m.
- "Rwanda: Beyond the Deadly Pit," documentary screening by filmmaker Gilbert Ndahayo, Thursday at the Hinde Auditorium from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
- "Indicting Pinochet for Mass Killings in Chile," by Juan Guzman Tapia, Friday in the Hinde Auditorium from 9 to 9:50 a.m.
Tim Barraud can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org