The first episode in a new five-part radio series on the Rwanda genocide by Carleton MJ grad Alice Musabende goes to air on BBC Radio 4 next Monday.

Musabende is a survivor of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, which claimed her family among upwards of a million ethnic Tutsi slaughtered in the space of 100 days. In the radio series – called Unspeakable – she confronts how to share the story of the genocide with her two little boys.

“As I started to approach this – not so much as an intellectual project as I had in the last 15 years – but more as a personal human story, I realized I didn’t know how to do that,” Musabende told the BBC. “I wanted to tell a story not just of death or desolation and pain – but also of life.”

At 19, Musabende was among the first female students admitted to Rwanda’s fledgling journalism school at the National University of Rwanda. And later, as a graduate of that program, she helped to launch The Rwanda Initiative, a five-year partnership between Carleton’s journalism school and its counterpart in Rwanda that ultimately brought hundreds of journalism instructors and media interns to the country.

“I don’t think we could have launched the Rwanda Initiative project so successfully without Alice’s local knowledge and skill,’’ said Allan Thompson, the head of Carleton’s journalism program and the founder of the Rwanda Initiative project, which ran from 2006 to 2011. “Her continued success doesn’t surprise me in the least and I am glad to see the BBC had the wisdom to ask her to help us better understand the Rwanda genocide all these years later.”

Musabende was the first of a number of Rwandan journalists to come to Carleton through the Rwanda Initiative to take up work placements or study. She completed her Master of Journalism degree at Carleton in 2008 and later worked as a reporter for CBC Radio and Radio Canada, as a producer for CPAC and a parliamentary reporter for Cogeco Diffusion.

Musabende has spoken and written extensively about the Rwandan genocide, international justice and war crimes. She studied international development at Dalhousie University, in Halifax and in 2016 received the Gates Cambridge scholarship, a prestigious award for postgraduate students through which she is pursuing a PhD in Politics and International Relations at the University of Cambridge, in England. Her research focuses on the role of global governance in rebuilding countries emerging from conflicts and mass atrocities. Last year she was awarded the 2020 Bill Gates Sr. Prize at Cambridge, recognizing her outstanding research and social leadership.

According to the BBC, in this series, “Alice asks for help, wisdom and guidance from others who have ‘already had the hardest conversations’ – from fellow genocide survivors, second generation holocaust survivors, a therapist who works with AIDS orphans in South Africa and a publisher of stories in Rwanda. What can they teach her about when and how to tell her boys about her history and the history of their home country?”

Wednesday, July 28, 2021 in ,
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