Alison Des Forges – USA (1942 – 2009)

Alison Des Forges (née Liebhafsky) (August 20, 1942 – February 12, 2009) was an American historian and human rights activist who specialized in the African Great Lakes region, particularly the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. At the time of her death, she was a senior advisor for the African continent at Human Rights Watch … Des Forges left academia in 1994 in response to the Rwandan Genocide to work full time on human rights. She testified 11 times before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and gave evidence about the Rwandan Genocide to panels of the French National Assembly, the Belgian Senate, the US Congress, the Organisation of African Unity, and the United Nations. She was also an authority on human rights violations in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Burundi. She wrote the 1999 Leave None to Tell the Story, in which she argued that the genocide was organized by the Rwandan government that took power in 1994, rather than being a spontaneous outbreak of tribal conflicts. Her specialized in the African Great Lakes region and studied the Rwandan Genocide. Des Forges was named a MacArthur Fellow in 1999, and became the senior advisor at Human Rights Watch for the African continent … (full text on wikipedia, last modified on 16 February 2009, at 20:49).

Her Bio on, on

Alison Des Forges chased justice right up until the very end. The 66-year-old, considered among the world’s foremost experts on the Rwandan genocide, had spent her career studying violence and genocide in Africa. Ms. Des Forges had long warned of a looming bloody conflict in Rwanda, before the 1994 killing of some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. She then authored a much-heralded genocide account, Leave None to Tell the Story, and was awarded a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 1999. “She predicted the genocide. She worked very hard to prevent it. And when it occurred, she was trying to save lives while others stood by and watched,” said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director of the Human Rights Watch, a division Ms. Des Forges worked in for more than 20 years … (full text).


Alison Des Forges – USA (1942 – 2009)

She worked for Human Rights Watch Africa.

Tributes for Alison Des Forges (1942 – 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 … (full text);
  • Alison Des Forges, 66, Human Rights Advocate, Dies;
  • Key human rights advocate dies in U.S. plane crash;
  • The New Yorker;
  • While many of the services are private, a public memorial for Alison Des Forges is set for Sunday. The human rights activist and expert on genocide and Rwanda was returning from London. Des Forges and 49 others died in the crash … (full text);
  • … and any article about on Google News-result.

Alison Des Forges (née le 20 août 1942 et morte le 12 février 2009) était une historienne américaine diplômée de l’université de Yale, conseillère principale de l’organisation Human Rights Watch pour l’Afrique. Elle s’est surtout fait connaître pour ses travaux sur l’Afrique des Grands Lacs et plus particulièrement sur le Génocide au Rwanda de 1994. Elle est la rédactrice d’un rapport sur le Génocide au Rwanda, réalisé sous l’égide de Human Rights Watch et de la Fédération internationale des droits de l’homme. Ce rapport, publié en 1999 est considéré comme une référence sur ce sujet. Alison Des Forges est morte le 12 février 2009 dans un accident d’avion survenu près de Buffalo dans le nord de l’État de New York … (texte entier sur fr.wikipedia).

Find her and her publications on amazon; on wikipedia /Bibliography; on Google Video-search; on Google Book-search; on Google Image results (Results 1 – 20 of about 33,500 – 0.13 seconds); on Google Scholar-search; on Google Group-search; on Google Blog-search.

Long audio: Alison des Forges, The impact of the Rwandan genocide on Congo Episode, Vital Voices on Genocide Prevention, not dated, time not indicated.

ALISON DES FORGES had said about Rwanda:

  • … “Why didn’t the world react? That is a question that’s almost as difficult to answer as why did Rwandans engage in the killing, because the evidence was so clear. The argument that people didn’t know, particularly at the highest levels of governments, that as Clinton told the Rwandans, you know, “Your voices didn’t penetrate into my office,” that’s not true. They knew. We know now from intelligence records just how much they knew, that within hours they were aware that the killing was being done on an ethnic basis, systematically, that there were lists, that the killers were going through the capital city choosing out people from certain households and executing them. They knew this. People had the impression that this was tribal warfare, that this was a repeat of something that had gone on forever, for centuries. And none of that was true. What was true was that this was a genocide fully as modern as the Holocaust, in the sense that it was state-organized and state-driven. At least half-a-million people were killed, and they were killed in a hundred days. Does it have to be 800,000? Does it have to be a million to cross the threshold of a horror? Isn’t half a million enough? … (Alison Des Forges on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Rwandan genocide. She later became very critical of the Tutsi-led Rwandan government headed by Paul Kagame and its role in the mass killings in both Rwanda and neighboring Congo after 1994. Last year – in 2008 – she was barred from entering Rwanda) … (full interview text with Kenneth Roth of HRW);
  • … The U.S. was interested primarily in getting a war over. They acknowledged that there were human rights abuses which had taken place during the course of the war. But they felt that, rather than address those abuses directly, it was more important to resolve the conflict, because they believed that the killing of Tutsi, for example, the smaller-scale massacres that had happened in 1991, 1992 and so on – that these would end when the war ended. So their immediate preoccupation was ending the conflict, getting some kind of a stable government in place that would carry on. Often now, there has been the allegation that the U.S. was, in fact, favoring the RPF, was favoring that side of the conflict. Seems to me that was not the case, because in the discussions I had, both in Washington, and locally in Rwanda, where I attempted to create some sense of outrage about massacres of Tutsi and abuses of Tutsi – My sense was that this was that this was always downplayed; that the primary concern for the diplomatic personnel, both at the embassy and in Washington, was to maintain neutrality in this war and not to condemn any abuses of the Tutsi, because this might suggest they were no longer neutral. So they were very anxious to try to preserve their own role as a middle player here, as a facilitator between the sides. So once the paper was signed, it became a kind of sacred text, and everyone wanted very much to make it happen. The focus on making it happen meant perhaps the key players were unwilling to look away from that text, and [were unwilling] to actually look carefully at what was happening in the real scene … (full long interview text, posted april 1, 2004).

She wrote: … During the crucial first weeks, the U.N., at the behest of the United States, ordered the more than 2,000 peacekeepers in Rwanda to do nothing to halt the killing and then withdrew all but a rump force of 400 soldiers. Some 1,000 elite French and Belgian troops (backed by 250 U.S. Marines just across the border) swooped in to rescue foreign nationals (most of them not at risk) and then left, ignoring the slaughter of Rwandan civilians. Clinton and other international leaders said nothing of substance. Seeing the international indifference, Rwandans became convinced that the genocidal government would succeed. Those who hesitated at first now yielded to fear or opportunism and carried the slaughter throughout Rwanda. U.N. peacekeepers and the evacuation force could have deterred the killings had they acted promptly. Belgian military records show cases in which they did just that when permitted to use their weapons. Firm and coherent international censure could have influenced the organizers of the genocide. On the two occasions when they received outraged telephone calls from foreign governments, the organizers halted attacks on hundreds of Tutsi at the Hotel des Mille Collines in Kigali. Jamming the genocidal radio broadcasts would have kept the organizers from passing orders directly to the population. The military radio, the only other channel accessible to the genocide’s organizers, did not broadcast to civilians … (full text, May/June 2000).


HRW Africa;

Download her book by chapters: Leave none to tell the story, genocide in Rwanda on (March 1999, ISBN 1-56432-171-1); … find this book also on amazon; on Google News-results; on Google Image-results; on Google Book-search; on Google Scholar-search; on Google Group-search; on Google Blog-search;

Categories on wikipedia: American historians; American human rights activists; Human rights activists by nationality; Human rights by country; People of the Rwandan Genocide; Rwandan Genocide.

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