In Memoriam: Worldview Friend, Alison Des Forges

February 17, 2009

alisondesforge

audio It was with great personal sadness Monday that we learned a frequent Worldview guest and friend --  Alison Des Forges --  perished in last Thursday's airline crash in suburban Buffalo.‚  She was 66 years old. She leaves to mourn her passing a husband, two children and three grandchildren. Human Rights Watch has a‚ tribute page to Alison‚ on its website where you can leave comments or donations in lieu of flowers. Alison's integrity, compassion and uncompromising commitment to justice were unparalleled and awe-inspiring. Alison spoke truth to power with little concern for her own well-being. The expressions of grief and condolences have been overwhelming; from a Rwandan villager to the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Gordon Brown,‚  Alison's passing, as in her life, has given voice to the voiceless. Alison was one of the world's foremost experts on Rwanda. She was a human rights investigator and served as an expert adviser to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. In 1994, weeks into the killings of Tutsis in Rwanda, Alison was one of the first and loudest voices calling for the killings to be declared Genocide. In 1999, she wrote what is considered an authoritative account of the Rwandan Genocide‚ entitled Leave None to Tell the Story: Genocide in Rwanda. Alison was very critical of the Tutsi-led Rwandan government and the role of current President Paul Kagame in the mass killings in both Rwanda and later in neighboring Congo soon after the Genocide. Kagame retaliated and last year barred Alison from entering Rwanda.‚  Alison also confronted the Clinton Administration numerous times when it tried claimed ignorance while Genocide took place on the watch of the U.S. and other western nations. I have no doubt those leaders and others were taken aback by the sheer force of one who spoke so gently, yet so powerfully. When Alison's plane crashed, she was returning home to Buffalo after briefing European diplomats on the situation in Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.‚ Worldview spoke with Alison while she was in Europe for that trip.‚  Also in November,‚ Alison gave a detailed interview on the suffering of people in eastern Congo and Rwanda's connection to these events. On a personal note, Alison's death for me was like a kick in the stomach.‚  Sometimes we hear about selfless, committed people who empty themselves and co-suffer for the sake of others, but it is a rare privilege to know them. Though I was not a personal friend, Alison would open herself up to you and made you feel as such. She leaves a void in the mission for human rights, justice and mercy for all, but she also leaves a legacy that demands that we seek truth, speak truth, and accept the consequences of doing so. And though we long to hear Alison's voice, we should strive to honor her, by continuing to answer her call on behalf of the innocent.

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