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Feb 16, 2009
February 13, 2009

(New York) - It is with enormous sadness that Human Rights Watch announces the death of our beloved colleague Dr. Alison Des Forges, who was killed in the crash of Flight 3407 from Newark to Buffalo on February 12, 2009. Des Forges, senior adviser to Human Rights Watch's Africa division for almost two decades, dedicated her life to working on Rwanda and was the world's leading expert on the 1994 Rwanda genocide and its aftermath. Read more.

We are working with Alison's family to create an appropriate way to honor her memory and her work.

Watch a video of Alison talking about the Rwandan genocide.

Human Rights Watch invites you to leave a comment which we will publish below.

Alison's profound impact on

Alison's profound impact on the world's understanding of the ongoing catastrophe in the Great Lakes and her unflinching demand for accountability will endure. Her fierce determination to speak truth to power will be sorely, painfully missed.

Colin Thomas-Jensen

Alison was my boss at Human

Alison was my boss at Human Rights Watch for 2 ½ years while I was based in Goma, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, immediately on the border of her beloved Rwanda both geographically and psychologically. None of us who worked beside Alison in “the field” and who were mentored and guided by her will forget her, and our sorrow is deep. Here are some of my simpler memories of Alison.

As a boss, she was as demanding as she was kind and caring. Through sheer force of will, combined with a passion for and a fascination with her subject matter, she maintained grueling hours that tested her more youthful staff. Late into the night, she would think nothing of trying to seek out one more meeting before heading off to bed, if there was a chance it would offer another political insight, another piece of information about whatever event was currently under investigation, or another chance to persuade one more influential person to do the right thing. But Alison also took time out of her packed-to-the-brim schedule to ask me how I was doing; was I finding time to take a run or go for a swim; how was my social life going while living in what was at the time a low-level conflict zone? She would occasionally gather together the small group of researchers she supervised in the Great Lakes region, and she would lead us in a series of discussions of regional political and human rights developments in her own inimitable style -- part university seminar, part strategy session, and part informal therapy and retreat from the daily horrors that occurred in that region. For some reason, it always stuck in my head the way she taught me and most likely countless others to back into a parking space while conducting research, in order to be prepared for a quick getaway. I thankfully never had need to profit from that particular piece of wisdom, but I cannot forget the glint of purpose in her eye and the sense that she wanted to pass on any piece of information, however small or simple, that could help a person.

As I said, these are some of my simpler memories of Alison. She was also the world’s greatest expert on Rwanda and one of the foremost human rights activists for the Great Lakes region, and this ensured her access to the highest corridors of power. Much can, must and will be said about her passionate and dispassionate sense of justice. But Alison also remained a person of great humility and caring. These qualities underlay her tireless activism – her belief that every life, however humble, was worth protecting and defending; that every human being was valuable and had the ability and the right to experience the joy and comfort of human kindness.

I will never forget Alison and will always seek, and find, inspiration from her life’s example.

Karen Stauss

Globalvision Grieves For Alison and Human Rights Watch

All of us at the progressive independent media company Globalvision, producers of many human rights programs, grieve for Alison, and her family and loved ones. We share our deepest condolences with the colleagues who supported her work and, we know, will now carry it on.

How unfair it seems that this saintly and strong "soldier" in the extended family of justice would be taken from us on her homeward bound journey after contributing so much time, energy, and intelligence to people in other homes and lands who have lost so many to war and genocide.

She was one of our heroes too whose work must not only be admired but continued. We salute all at Human Rights Watch who worked with her as her spirit stays with us. Her work in Rwanda was a gift to the world.

Executive Producer, Globalvision Inc, New York

But we still needed

But we still needed you”--that was my first, entirely selfish thought on hearing of her death. Like many people, I didn’t have the privilege of knowing Alison Des Forges on a personal level, only from her work and from the occasional public presentation or interview she gave. Yet the news hit me hard: I felt, as so many of us did who care about Central Africa, that we had lost our champion.

We had grown so used to her voice we assumed she would always be there. And why wouldn’t we think so? That Friday morning, skipping over the front-page story about a plane crash in the cold dark of Buffalo, I read two articles in leading newspapers that quoted her. In one, she was defending a Rwandan professor living in the U.S. against possibly spurious accusations of genocide. In the other, she was raising awkward questions about Rwanda’s officially sanctioned return to eastern Congo. Rereading them later, in light of the news out of New York, was like receiving a postcard from the dead.

As it happens, both stories showed Des Forges in vintage form, standing up against the convenient consensus, the authorized stance. The railroading of an apparently innocent man and a troubling new political development in the Great Lakes; the newspaper accounts made it clear that these events were being acceded to and even applauded by highly placed people, including a college president, a major television network, U.S. government bureaucrats and high-ranking UN officials. Opposing them was Alison, never disputatious or angry, just patiently pointing out the inconsistencies of their arguments. As her friend Colette Braeckman wrote, she stood up to bureaucrats and politicians the same way she stood up to warlords in the bush: with a flinty stubbornness that came from knowing the facts, gathering the evidence, presenting the case.

“How I can’t stand that woman,” one politically connected Africanist once told me. “You say something and she comes back at you with all these facts and figures.” And another, presuming to lecture her at a presentation she gave at a DC think tank, urged her to be more careful in what she said, because “words have political consequences.”

In truth, no one was more careful with her words, more tempered in her judgments. This latter outburst came from a leading refugee advocate after the new regime had come to power in Rwanda. The official line at the time--emanating as much from the State Department as from our leading periodicals--was that President Paul Kagame was part of a new wave of African leaders piloting the continent out the wilderness. Pointing out, as Des Forges insisted on doing, that the new regime was hardly blameless; this just wasn’t done. It was human rights absolutism, said her critics; it was principle carried to the point of obstinacy. Later, after the 1996-97 rebellion that toppled Mobutu, it slowly emerged that the Rwandan forces leading the rebellion had killed thousands of Hutu refugees, on a scale that invites comparison to the Katyn Forest or Babi Yar massacres. This was what Des Forges had warned us against: Acquiescence to a worldly realism that counsels peace at the price of justice.

In the version of the myth told in the Iliad, Cassandra is given the gift of foresight but cursed so that no one believes her when she warns of the dangers facing Troy. Like Cassandra, Des Forges’ fate was to be ignored over and over again, beginning with her dire warnings before the 1994 genocide. Yet she never lost her cool. She never gave up or dropped out, never lost her faith in the aggregate human effort. Anyone who works in this business quickly learns that most of the real heroes are the ones without a plane ticket home. We meet people who humble us by their dedication, their courage, their unconscious decency. Alison belonged among them; she was the best we had. Now she is gone; her publications testify to her prodigious scholarship and advocacy, but to her admirers she has left something even more valuable: a code of conscience and a model of how to act.

Chers collègues, C'est

Chers collègues,

C'est grande émotion que je viens de recevoir la nouvelle de la mort tragique et subite de notre référence de défenseur et militant des droits humains en la personne de la regrettée militante Alison Des Forges.
A mon nom et à celui de toute ma famille ,nous présentons les condoléances les plus attristées à la famille de la regrettée en particulier et à celle de HRW en général. Que la terre de nos ancêtres lui soit douce et legérère.

Samuel Bicera BOROTO
Human Rights Defender.

I first met Dr. Des Forges

I first met Dr. Des Forges as a first-year graduate student who had some vague notion that studying central Africa might make for an interesting career. She was so gracious and kind to answer my naive questions out of her incredible knowledge of the region and its people. Des Forges combined scholarly skills of the highest order with an unwavering commitment to doing what is right and the knowledge that good scholarship should make the world a better place. My deepest condolences to her family, friends, and colleagues for your loss. To those of us for whom she was a role model, her legacy will endure.

Laura Seay
University of Texas at Austin

Dear Mr. Roth, It is with

Dear Mr. Roth,

It is with profound sadness that I write to express my sincere condolences for the death of Dr. Alison Des Forges.

The world has lost one of its greatest advocates for peace, justice and human rights.

In 1993, Rights & Democracy (the International Centre for Human Rights & Democratic Development) had the privilege of working with Dr. Des Forges and co-sponsoring the International Commission Concerning Human Rights Violations in Rwanda since 1 October 1990. Dr. Des Forges is well remembered by staff at Rights & Democracy as an empathetic, brilliant and tireless advocate. We were looking forward to greeting her in Montreal on March 2nd for a conference on Justice and the Rwandan Genocide.

All of us working for the promotion of human rights in the Great Lakes Region know that the loss of Dr. Des Forges leaves an incredible chasm.

May her light live on and may we all strive to achieve the justice she worked so hard to attain.


Rémy M. Beauregard
Rights & Democracy, Montreal, Canada


Although "just" a human rights activist, Ms. Des Forges is one of those special people who made a huge impact from a position of little inherent power. She did so by stubborness, rigor, resolute fairness and a strong belief in justice. Her work was not only invaluable to rendering justice to victims of the Rwandan genocide, but she was an inspiration to human rights activists around the world. My condolences to her family and colleagues.

I just received the shocking

I just received the shocking news and cannot believe that this is the way how Alison has lost her life. This is a true loss to her family, the people in the Great Lakes region, human rights activists around the world, politicians, HRW colleagues and others. But I also feel this is a loss for all the people in the world who did not have the chance to meet her. It becomes so obvious when you only read some of the comments published here that so many people were touched by her warmth, knowledge, dedication to the truth and extreme workpace. I am grateful to have had the chance to work with her in the Great Lakes region and within the political arena in the Hague and have always had deep respect for her way of working and her personality.

I do wish you all, family, friends and colleagues strength and do hope that knowing that so many mourn with you around the world will help you. May you remember and cherish the good times you shared with her. I will never forget you Alison and you will stay an inspiration to live a better life.

Best wishes,

Ylse van der Schoot
Programme Officer Great Lakes 1997 - 2004, (Oxfam) Novib
Amsterdam, the Netherlands

The sadness I felt when I

The sadness I felt when I first saw Alison's photograph on CNN is quelled some by the overwhelming display of love for her seen here.

I met Alison in 2005 at HRW in New York City, after weeks of contact by phone and email, and, as many others have said, I met one of the most important women in my life. To sit across from her, to feel her energy, and to have her agree -- seriously and with reservation, of course -- to take a chance on me, a stranger, has made all the difference in my life. To see someone, a woman, so steadfastly follow her dream, a dream that is rooted fundamentally in justice, peace, and the most basic of all human rights -- love -- is at the heart of all that is good in this world. Alison was taken too soon, but let us find faith in all those that she touched, that may we continue to bear the burden of justice through education.

Gina M. Bruno
Harvard University
Washington, DC

This is a truly terrible

This is a truly terrible loss. Alison Des Forges was a brilliant and remarkable person. She seemed to appear out of nowhere at the time of the Rwandan genocide, but in fact she had been following events there closely for years.

She first went to east Africa in 1963 on a Harvard student volunteer program (John Gerhart and I were in the same group). As a volunteer she taught in a Rwandan refugee camp in Karogwe district, west of Bukoba in Tanganyika. At Yale she took up African history--a subject Harvard hadn't yet gotten around to offering in the early 1960s. Later she followed Roger to Taiwan while he worked on Chinese. When he went to SUNY-Buffalo, she occupied herself with being a mom and managing the PTA, or so I heard at the time through friends.

Only after her children were grown did she begin to find ways to re-engage with Africa, especially from 1990 when Rwandan emigres in Uganda under Museveni began a series of incursions into Rwanda. By the time she joined the Africa advisory committee at Human Rights Watch she was actively monitoring developments in the region, communicating with friends there and sounding alarms that trouble was imminent.

When the genocide began she worked tirelessly to persuade apathetic policymakers in Washington and at the UN to overcome their inertia and act, to no avail. But it couldn't have been because her facts or logic weren't crystal clear or persuasive. She was diplomatic but her presentations were dynamite. At Human Rights Watch she found her metier and the organization found one of its outstanding activists of recent times.

In an age of few heroes she was one of mine and it's painful to know that she's going to be with us from now on only as a memory.

Gail Gerhart
New York City

A great loss for peace in the Great Lakes region of Africa

I was always inspired by her dedication on the issue of violence in Eastern Congo. Alison was not ashamed to say it like it is. She cared, she offered her time and her voice.
We greatly appreciate her work and her life.

Edgar Senga
Dignity Congo
Washington DC

Alison's spirit lives on.

I never knew Alison personally but was inspired by the compassion, commitment and caring that she always demonstrated to human rights. Rather than wait till another of us passes, I want to salute all the amazing people around the world who work tirelessly to advance human rights. Alison des Forges lives on!

My regards to the Human Rights Watch community,

Mallika Dutt
Breakthrough: building human rights culture

My sincere condolences to

My sincere condolences to the Des Forges family on the loss of someone I consider to be one of my personal heroes. My understanding of true courage was only clearly developed when I met and worked with Alison at Human Rights Watch. I will never forget my moments with her - chasing down information of the forced displacement of villagers near Kivu in a broken down land rover and getting stuck on an unmapped road, listening to her pride in Jessie’s work or the beautiful thanks Romeo Dallaire delivered to her, calling her his “moral and spiritual compass” at a HRW event on genocide. I was amazed at seeing the well-worn copy of her book in the library of the prison in Arusha or seeing the look of profound respect from the people we met at the ICTR. I am just another of the thousands of people she influenced with her integrity, her sense of true purpose and her commitment to protect the unheard. I know I am far richer for having known her.

My heart goes out to the Des Forges family and her friends and colleagues around the world.

Ritu Chattree


Grandement touché par la mort tragique de Dr ALISON Des Forges, survenue à Baffolo suite crache avion,je rends hommage à sa memoire.
Dr ALISON était la seule dame sage à m'encourager, en un très bon français dans ma lutte pour la justice, à chaque fois que nous nous rencontrons dans le couloir du siège de HRW. La connaissant bien, je sais que HRW a perdu un des experts la plus importante. Que les responsables de HRW reçoivent ici mes condoléances les plus sincères.
Dr ALISON DES FORGES, tu es morte bien sûr, mais tes oeuvres, tes conseils accompagnés toujours des beaux sourires, nous resteront et feront toujours vivre ton immage en nous.
QUE DIEU LE TOUT PUISSANT apaise nos coeurs affligés. PAIX A SON AME.


Le Ministre des Affaires étrangères, Karel De Gucht, souhaite exprimer ses condoléances aux membres des familles des victimes de la catastrophe aérienne de Buffalo, New York.
Une des victimes est Alison Des Forges, militante des droits de l'Homme au sein de l'organisation Human Right Watch qui depuis des années s'était faite l'avocate des populations dans la région des Grands Lacs avec une ardeur remarquable. Le Ministre n'oublie pas que Madame Des Forges avait participé, fin de l'année dernière à New York, à un forum organisé par la Belgique sur la situation dans l'Est du Congo et que son intervention passionnée avait participé à ce que la crise humanitaire règnante dans la région soit portée à l'attention du Conseil de sécurité des NU. "Je souhaite exprimer mes condoléances aux proches de Madame Des Forges ainsi qu'à HRW. Espérons que son existence et son travail soit source d'inspiration pour d'autres militants des droits de l'Homme" indique le Ministre.

Sincere Condolences

Dear Mr Roth
I know you must be reeling at the sudden death of Alison Des Forges, someone who was by all accounts an extremely principled, knowledgeable and forthright human rights activist.
I wanted to pass on my sincere condolences to you, to your staff at Human Rights Watch and to Alison's family for your collective loss.
She will be sorely missed too by many in Rwanda and beyond who never knew her but whose rights she tirelessly championed.
We all owe a debt of gratitude to people like Alison who did so much to change the dynamics of the world so crimes like those that took place in Rwanda will never again be tolerated.
Yours sincerely
Gordon Brown
Prime Minister
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Alison was a college

Alison was a college classmate and one of my few heroes. It has been an honor to serve with her on the HRW Africa Advisory Board. Her commitment to justice and truth made her the perfect scholar and activist. Neither role compromised the other, each added to the other. After the tragedy last week President Obama made the comment that life is fragile and every day counts. Alison would have been the first to agree. She was a witness to its fragility and no one ever made each day count more than Alison. One doesn't accomplish that much without being driven and she was driven in the best of ways, always willing to listen and always interested in learning something new, but never willing to be run over by someone with whom she disagreed. We all benefited from her style and substance. I extend my deepest sympathies to her colleagues at HRW, in the human rights community, in the Buffalo and academic community and, of course, her family who I never had the privilege of knowing.--Bob Joffe, New York, NY.

Among all her gifts,

Among all her gifts, Alison’s facility in connecting with other people was remarkable. While completely extraordinary – in her commitment, her brilliance, and her active compassion – the simplicity of her demeanor, grounded in a deep ordinary goodness, placed her on even ground with others. No one was above her, nor below her.

This is why, whether in the office of a government minister or standing in the field of a subsistence farmer, Alison put people at ease while conveying respect, fairness and understanding, regardless with whom she was speaking, no matter how horrific the story. She never seemed to forget a name or face and when meeting someone again, could easily recall details of a previous conversation, even after many years.

This amazing talent and deep concern for others was always obvious in her person and was reflected in the numerous detailed and powerful works she authored. She never ceased in her quest for truth and her desire for justice, even at the occasional expense of her physical health. Her tireless efforts in the Great Lakes have been an inspiration to generations of human rights workers.

Alison was a great friend to the people of Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Her truly heroic work was needed even when not always welcomed by authority, and her personal devotion and courage were unsurpassed.

It would be difficult to count the number of people whose lives she touched in a positive way, including our own. These include her colleagues and friends, children of Rwandan genocide victims she took into her own family, and countless people she met and listened to during her regular visits to Central Africa and whose voices she brought to the world’s attention.

Though many might not have known her or even known of her, the indirect beneficiaries of Alison’s great efforts are innumerable. Even those who might have been inconvenienced by her unstoppable search for truth must recognize that she was motivated by a deep and unusually selfless concern for humanity.

To Alison—our dear friend, mentor and inspiration. You are forever in our hearts. In our time, we will always go back to you, and we will bring you forward.

Tony Tate and Louis Putzel

As a young researcher on

As a young researcher on Rwanda, I evidently became familiar with Alisons' monumental work on the Rwandan genocide “Leave None to Tell the Story”. This voluminous work turned into my ‘bible’ whilst I was trying to understand the country, its past and its people. I quickly noticed I was among many to use her work on Rwanda as the point of reference. Her meticulously documented account of the horror that engulfed Rwanda in 1994 and especially the processes that sustained and structured the violence changed scholarship on Rwanda and genocide.

It was only at a later stage that my attention was drawn to her earlier work. A cryptic statement by a Rwandan peasant – ‘The drum is greater than the shout’ – guided me to an article written by Alison in 1977. She uses this Rwandan proverb as title of an article. The discovery of this “early” work revealed to me her lifelong dedication to understand Rwanda and the Great Lakes region. Similarly, the reading of her article further convinced me of her in-depth knowledge of the socio-cultural fabric of the region and her unparalleled insight in its politics and the potential dangers of these politics. The proverb means that “whatever happens, power will prevail over the aspirations of ordinary people”.

It soon became clear to me that Alison Des Forges did not agree with the fatalism ventilated in the above proverb. She never told me that she did not agree. She showed me instead; through her actions and interventions. The aspirations and dignity of ordinary people did matter to her, a lot. Justice is no privilege for the ‘developed world’ or the ‘winning party’: justice is meant to be for all - as well as democracy and development. I was struck by the selflessness, perseverance and courage with which Alison Des Forges pursued these objectives and denounced everything and everyone that would hinder ordinary people to reach their goals.

I had the privilege to get to know Alison Des Forges personally and I met her at numerous occasions during fieldwork in Rwanda or Burundi or during academic conferences all over the world. At first, I did not expect that someone whom I already considered to be ‘distinguished’ would pay attention to me, let alone that she would offer me guidance when I needed it. I was wrong. Alison Des Forges was always available for me and many other young (and not so young) academics or whoever wanted to discuss events and processes; findings and analyses. Her suggestions forced me - be it gently - to re-consider, re-think and re-assess.

Over the years I got acquainted with the specific nature through which knowledge is constructed in the Great Lakes region and in Rwanda in particular. It is not easy in this context to firmly ground academic analyses in local realities or to assess the practical implications of crucial policy interventions. Democratization, reconciliation, governance, the construction and reconfiguration of identity and other post-conflict themes figure in many research projects and they are placed high on the agenda of donor agencies. When assessing or researching these topics, it is often difficult to separate image and reality, the imaginary and the real. Alison Des Forges has always been the guide when this had to be done and she was virtually the only person left who was able to understand life after genocide AND to talk about it fearlessly despite attempts to muzzle her.

Future attempts to generate insights on Rwanda, Burundi and the DRC require the guiding example of Alison Des Forges. Not only by consulting her work when interpreting events, messages, information and research findings coming from the region, but especially also her attitude and spirit: being stern with the powerful and compassionate with the powerless. And in any case: righteous.

Bert Ingelaere


Triste fin de journée, en ce vendredi 13 février où une amie commune de la FIDH m’a appris la sinistre nouvelle. La disparition absurde de notre collègue Alison Des Forges et l’accueil de HRW (que je remercie) m’amène à dire simplement ce que je ressens maintenant.
Alison était la militante rigoureuse et déterminée que tout le monde connaît. Elle n'a jamais hésité à s’engager sur le génocide des Tutsi du Rwanda en 1994, comme sur la tragédie du Burundi en 1993, en étant toujours soucieuse de cerner la réalité avec rigueur et précision. Elle est le contraire d'une idéologue, le contraire des sophistes qui essaient d’éluder ces horreurs par des mots. .J'ajouterai qu'elle a souvent été meurtrie, insultée, jusqu’à ces derniers temps, par tous ceux qui n’ont rien appris ni rien oublié, y compris dans des enceintes judiciaires, offensée aussi en décembre dernier par des gens qui à Kigali ne souffraient pas son franc parler malgré tout ce qu’elle a fait pour un pays qu’elle aimait. Son calme, sa façon toute simple de travailler sans tenir compte de ces écumes, a représenté un réel encouragement pour nous.
J'ajouterai qu’elle est aussi une grande historienne du Rwanda, trop peu connue à ce titre. Il faudrait publier sa thèse inédite sur le règne de Musinga, ses articles sur le pouvoir et les missionnaires au Rwanda, etc., en hommage à ce qu’elle incarnait : le travail scientifique ne se trahit pas dans l’engagement.
A mes yeux, elle rejoint la cohorte de ces historiens français qui ont témoigné de la même exigence, Pierre Vidal-Naquet, Marc Bloch. Celui-ci écrivait : « Le passé a beau ne pas commander le présent tout entier. Sans lui le présent demeure inintelligible », mais aussi : « Un historien a pour premier devoir de s’intéresser ‘à la vie ‘… Sans se pencher sur le présent, il est impossible de comprendre le passé » (L’Etrange Défaite, p. 24 et 198). Alison a magnifiquement illustré ce double défi, apparemment contradictoire. Cette personne lumineuse reste avec nous.

Jean-Pierre CHRETIEN
Historien. Directeur de recherches émérite au CNRS
Centre d’étude des mondes africains (université Paris 1)

It is a great loss to her family and all who love freedom

I read her book on the Rwandan genocide and have recommended it to other people. Dr. Forges's analysis is clearly that of a researcher who cares about justice. Her commitment to human rights in Rwanda and Africa is contagious and one cannot read her work and remain detached from the cause she championed with such a passion.

Elias Bongmba
Rice University

I can't believe she is gone!

I can't believe Alison Des Forges is gone like that, so fast without saying good bye to his so many friends around the world. As a Rwandan Human right activist now living in the US, I have met and got to work with Alison at many occasions. I will always keep in mind how she was always an attentive listener, a good adviser and a friend for any good cause. I know she is leaving behind her a lot of work to achieve, especially in countries like Rwanda that are still struggling to recover from the genocide wounds she has always documented.

I can't believe she is gone but if this is the case now, let's pray that her soul rest in peace. We can't accept to become orphans of hers because she has taught enough how to defend ourselves when it is about a right cause.

Theo Rutagengwa
Manchester, NH, USA

As a young professional

As a young professional starting my career in international development, Alison des Forges was an inspitational writer whose legacy will live on through her extensive scholarship. My condolences to all those who knew her personally.

N. Blight, M.A

A French revisionist

A French revisionist characterized you as a puppet of the RPF, the ruling party in Rwanda. Rwanda recently expelled you because of the concerns you expressed about its legal system.
We, the survivors of the Tutsi genocide, will never forget that you wrote the most comprehensive report ever published about the tragedy that befell us, and that you spared no effort in fighting impunity.

Even though I - unfortunately - had the opportunity to speak to you only twice, you will for ever remain in my heart.

Yvonne Mutimura
The Netherlands

A poem-tribute to Dr.Alison

A poem-tribute to Dr.Alison Des Forges
by E. S. Olsson, Dallas

A lifesong needs to be sung for Dr. Alison Des Forges,
A lifesong of justiice and liberation;
A lifesong of kindness & giving;
The people of Rwanda & Congo & others benefited from
This human rights worker;
She stood up,
And so stood many others up with her,
She helps in memory of her life
others still to stand up
Sing a lifesong of praise
Thanks & celebration and care
in honor of her life,
with sadness that she is no longer with all
Yet a lifesong to honor her life
Dr Alison Des Forges
Her life reaching far beyond
the world says thanks
let us remember her & sing
A lifesong of a life of give & take
In honor of those she never forgot....
Genocide & crimes of that;
The lives she was not at all silent about
were gone through mass genocide-
She cared forever for the ones that
Had been gone from humanity
She loved justice for these people
this Lifesong is a celebration of life for people
that life will remember, that life cares, that life loves,
life is the gift and a mutual give and take..
the celebration of Dr. Alison Des Forges
Liberation & justice
Kind & caring
Her human life
translates into all that
And this is just one
Lifesong for her, celebrate her life
remember through yourself.......

Her work

I am sorry it took this tragedy to find out about the wonderful work Alison Des Forges was doing. Imagine this world without giving people like her. Thank you Alison . . .
My heart goes out to her family, to the world she touched.
K Eimiller

C'est avec consternation que

C'est avec consternation que nous avons appris le décès tragique de madame Alison Des Forges. Elle était l'image même de la militante sincère, intègre et courageuse qui mettait toutes ses énergies à combattre l'impunité au Rwanda et dans la région des Grands Lacs.
Alison avait aimablement accepté de bousculer son emploi du temps chargé pour participer à une conférence à Montréal au début du mois de mars prochain, sur le thème : Justice internationale et génocide au Rwanda : premier bilan. Pour nous, elle était une des rares observatrices et chercheures du génocide qui pouvait, sans partie pris et avec rigueur, dresser un premier bilan des instruments de justice internationale mis en place depuis 15 ans. Elle pouvait également en discerner les réercussions au Rwanda même.
Une fois passé le choc de sa disparition, nous comprendrons sans doute mieux l'immense vide laissé par son déart et surtout le sens de sa vie entièrement engagée pour la justice : un modèle pour toutes et tous.
Toutes nos sympathies pour sa famille, ses amiEs et ses collègues.

Denis Tougas
au nom de la Table de concertation sur la région des Grands Lacs, Montréal, Canada

I first met Alison Des

I first met Alison Des Forges a few years back while working on Burundi. Alison is fondly remembered with her work in and on Rwanda, but her knowledge of the Great Lakes is unsurpassed. I spoke to Alison about what I was doing and she gave me a wink and told me to "keep it up." As a young graduate student at the time her encouragement meant the world to me, and it was gratifying to see someone so "large" become so "small" and humble- willing to take time out of her busy schedule to meet with a graduate student.

I have since listened to Alison present a number of times. She was steadfast, strong-willed, and determined to let justice have its day. She will surely be missed by so many people that she touched, and perhaps did not even realize it.

My thoughts and prayers go out to her immediate family and friends who helped her become who she was. May God bless all of you!

Hommage à Alison DESFORGES

Chers tous

Il n'y a pas de mots pour dire la tristesse engendrée par cette terrible nouvelle! Non je ne peux pas croire à la disparition d'Alison!

Pour avoir travaillé avec elle à l'élaboration du livre "Aucun témoin ne doit survivre" dans le cadre de la collaboration FIDH-HRW.. je n'ai pas de mots pour dire à ses amis de HRW et à sa famille toute ma douleur. Mais je tiens ici à leur exprimer toute mon affection.

Alison n'est plus là, mais elle reste dans nos coeurs et nos mémoires. Elle était une grande chercheuse, elle était une grande militante des droits de l'Homme. Son exigence de vérité, sa rigueur dans la recherche et la vérification des faits sont et resteront des exemples pour tous les militants des droits de l'Homme.

Je la revois parcourant à grandes enjambées les rues de Butare ou celles de Kigali, poursuivie par des enfants criant "Muzungu, muzungu..." qui, étonnés par ce petit bout de femme, tentaient de caresser sa longue chevelure grise. Je la revois aussi discutant de sa voix douce, avec patience, pour faire surgir les faits,rien que les faits mais toute la vérité, pour qu'un jour justice soit rendue.

Mais sa voix douce pouvait devenir sévère, ironique, mordante face à ses détracteurs.. que pourtant elle combattait avec patience. Je me souviendrai toujours aussi de sa rage devant l'indifférence ou le méris de certains politiques français, européens ou d'ailleurs. Sa rage encore devant la disparition d'amis rwandais qui tentaient de faire avancer la cause des droits de l'Homme et de la démocratie.

Alison était une si belle personne avec des valeurs si nobles. Elle laissera à jamais son empreinte sur cette terre où elle a vu couler tant de sang.

Sa disparition est une grande perte pour la cause des droits au Rwanda, au Burundi et dans la région des Grands Lacs! C'est une grande perte pour l'Humanité toute entière.

Mais promis, Alison, nous saurons garder vivante ta mémoire, nous ferons tout pour suivre ton exemple et continuer ton combat pour qu'un jour enfin tous les êtres humains vivent et demeurent libres et en paix.

Catherine CHOQUET
ex- Secrétaire générale de la FIDH
Co-responsable du groupe de travail Questions internationales de la LDH France

another thank-you for alison

I count myself as one of the many students of Rwandan history and politics who benefited from Alison's generosity with her time and knowledge when I was an undergraduate conducting research on Radio-Télévision Libre des Mille Collines.

Alison guided me in this work and beyond not merely with her words but also through her example: as a scholar-activist with a searching intellectual curiosity that illuminated grim political realities, who maintained a resolute determination to change those realities for the better.

I take this sudden and tragic news as a reminder of our obligation to make the most of every moment permitted to us on this earth -- something that Alison embodied in her indefatigable commitment to justice.

Darryl Li
Finberg Fellow, Human Rights Watch (2003-2004)

My condolences

It is with great sadness that I write to offer my condolences to the family and friends of Dr. Alison Des Forges. As a Rwandan genocide survivor and young Human Rights activist, I speak for many others when I say that Dr. Des Forges will be forever missed by many in the Rwandan Community. We will be forever grateful to Dr. Des Forges for what she did to raise awareness about the 1994 genocide in our country and for her service in highlighting the plight of survivors in its aftermath.

The Human Rights Community truly suffers a great loss with the passing of Alison and she will forever be an inspiration to young human rights activists around the world. Dr. Des Forges will be truly missed by all of us who had the chance to meet her and may God give her family the courage they need to get through this tough time.

With deep condolences,

Jacqueline Murekatete
Rwanda genocide survivor/Human Rights Activist

Rest, Gentle Soul

We need not mourn your demise. You have played your part and left glowing legacies on the sand of time. Your work speaks and will continue to speak for you. I pray the spirit of the ancestors to guide your ascent into the heavens. May the good angels walk your steps down the stairway of heaven and grant you sweet repose.
The world salute you. The heavens doff their hats at your passage. what other things can you possibly ask for? Rest. Peace profound.

Oyeniyi, Bukola adeyemi

Alison always kept the human

Alison always kept the human at the heart of the human rights debate. She did so much for the people of the world, and did it with such grace and humili

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Posted: Feb 16, 2009 8:27pm


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