As the first speaker in a new series started by the UNA Vancouver called Jim Siemen Talks, Jean De Dieu Tuyisenge described the history of his country of birth, Rwanda. It was important to know the long history to make sense of the genocide, even though it is an impossibility, he explained.
Jean was just eight years old when the atrocities in Rwanda took the lives of 800 thousand people. Despite having a leg amputated and suffering through many surgeries to his jaw, he survived the genocide and, as an orphan, found himself eventually settling in South Africa. With the help of his high school principal, he was able to secure a scholarship to study in Canada. He has been enrolled at Simon Fraser University since 2009 studying Health Sciences. He has also become a permanent Canadian resident.
When Belgium took control of Rwanda, they issued Identity cards dividing the population into Tutsi and Hutu even though there is no racial difference between them. Most of the differences were based on social class. The population suffered for many years culminating in the genocide in 1994. Today the country is ruled by a democratically elected government with Paul Kagame as President.
Various Human Rights groups have criticized the elections as being marked by political repression and crackdown of free speech. The establishment of laws criminalizing genocide ideology has been used at times to silence dissent, according to some critics of the ruling party.
However it is important to note that in the 2008 elections, 45 seats of the total of 80 seats were taken by women making Rwanda the first among many nations to increase the representation of women in Parliament.
Jean De Dieu has established an organization in Canada called EDUAFRICA to aid the underprivileged children, orphans who have lost their parents through genocide. EduAfrica is supporting several young people to remain in school with the goal of eradicating poverty through education. It is a volunteer run organization. Any support and donations are encouraged. One is able to connect with this group for additional information at firstname.lastname@example.org