Rwanda

A survivor of the 1994 Rwandan genocide was recently in Schenectady for what he describes as life-changing surgery.

Clemantine Wamariya was six years old when her mother and father began to speak in whispers, when neighbors began to disappear, and when she heard the loud, ugly sounds her brother said were thunder. In 1994, she and her fifteen-year-old sister, Claire, fled the Rwandan massacre and spent the next six years migrating through seven African countries, searching for safety—perpetually hungry, imprisoned and abused, enduring and escaping refugee camps, finding unexpected kindness, witnessing inhuman cruelty. They did not know whether their parents were dead or alive. 

In "The Girl Who Smiled Beads," Clemantine provokes us to look beyond the label of “victim” and recognize the power of the imagination to transcend even the most profound injuries and aftershocks. Devastating yet beautiful, and bracingly original, it is a powerful testament to her commitment to constructing a life on her own terms.

It has been 20 years since the genocide in Rwanda.

Susan Thomson, assistant professor of peace and conflict studies at Colgate University, examines life in the African nation since those tragic days.