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The unlikely pairing of a Democratic leader and Rwandan survivor met in the Car Barn on Friday to discuss issues regarding the 1994 genocide. Former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and Freddy Mutanguha, a survivor of the Rwanda genocide and director of the Kigali Genocide Memorial Center in Rwanda, discussed the genocide’s implications and lasting ramifications.

During “Conversations with Daschle,” an event sponsored by the Georgetown Public Policy Institute,Campus Progress and the Center for American Progress, Mutanguha recalled his experiences during the genocide and his current efforts to memorialize the victims. The two speakers also addressed the progress and development of the country within recent years.

Today, Mutanguha is focused on his country’s move toward genuine unity.

“What we decided as Rwandans is that we are all Rwandans, rather than Hutu and Tutsi,” Mutanguha said.

As director the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre in Rwanda, Mutanguha emphasized the importance of memorializing the victims. The center, which opened in 2004, serves as a burial site for about 258,000 victims of the genocide.

“It is very important for survivors to be listened to,” Mutanguha said. “It is a very important thing.”

utanguha focused on the survivors while Daschle brought attention to the enduring story of Rwandan progress and development.

“The other half of the story is what they did since the genocide,” Daschle said.

Daschle has been very involved in Rwanda and its rehabilitation since his time in the Senate. In July he led a delegation of policymakers to Rwanda on behalf of the ONE campaign, which aims for the eradication of global disease and poverty, according to its Web site.

“When I came [to Rwanda] in July, I was expecting to see a developing country. What I didn’t expect was how vibrant it was,” Daschle said.

“Now you can feel the stability of the country, the peace of the country,” Mutanguha said.

Both Daschle and Mutanguha stressed the challenge of reconciling the deeply divided Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups. Daschle said that moving forward has been especially hard for survivors.

Said Mutanguha: “I need to tell you that people are not going forward at the same rate. Survivors are behind.”

During the discussion, Daschle asked Mutanguha about “gacaca,” a form of community justice in the country that doubles as a form of reconciliation. Mutanguha said this form of communication facilitates conversation between the perpetrators and victims.

Gacaca requires the two sides to acknowledge each other in a peaceful setting and provides survivors with information about where they can find deceased family members to give them proper burial. Mutanguha said it has also helped ease the strain on the courts in Rwanda.

In a poignant moment during the discussion, Mutanguha recalled the night of April 13, 1994. Mutanguha, who was only 18 years old at the time, was sent into hiding at the home of a Hutu friend out of fear that the Hutu militia targeted young Tutsi men.

Holding back tears, he recalled the last time he saw his mother, when she came to bring him vegetables and passion fruit.

“She knew that I didn’t like any of those,” Mutanguha said of the rations. “When she came, I was very frustrated, but she said . `You are my son, and I know that you don’t like any of what I bring you, but please, you have to take something.’ It was my last food with my mom, and my last time to see her.”

utanguha said his parents and four sisters were killed the next day. In total he lost 80 extended family members during the genocide.

“I will say there are very deep psychological wounds,” Mutanguha reflected. “The best thing for survivors is to have a voice and have people outside the country listen.”

Correction: This article mistakenly attributed two quotes to Daschle; the quotes were actually said by Mutanguha.

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