Richard Nsanzabaganwa is one of a small group of Rwandan activists who
courageously defended human rights before the 1994 genocide, and who continue
to fight against abuses in the current climate of ethnic violence. Having
himself barely survived the genocide, Mr. Nsanzabaganwa suffered the tragic
loss of his mother, father, two younger brothers and an older sister.
Mr. Nsanzabaganwa's involvement in human rights work began early, as a high school student. He organized "thought groups" for young people to discuss the problems they faced and ways to overcome them. When the Hutu government began encouraging ethnic tensions, he formed an association of students to increase communication and mutual understanding between the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups.
In 1992, after completing his secondary education, Mr. Nsanzabaganwa sought to create a human rights organization for youth, and approached the Mission Permanente de Surveillance of the Association Rwandaise des Droits de l'Homme (ARDHO) for advice. The organizers encouraged him to join ARDHO and to strengthen it with his own ideas.
Currently the permanent secretary of ARDHO, Mr. Nsanzabaganwa is responsible for the daily management of the organization. He also oversees ARDHO's weekly radio broadcast, which is aimed at increasing awareness of human rights. A major part of ARDHO's mission is national human rights surveillance. Mr. Nsanzabaganwa trains new representatives to travel the country, gathering information and taking testimony from survivors, in an effort to bring justice to the human rights atrocities occurring throughout Rwanda.
The process of rendering justice in Rwanda is daunting. Approximately 47,000 prisoners nationwide have been detained on suspicion that they participated in the genocide, with approximately 100 prisoners dying each month due to disease and overcrowding. The civilian population is facing death, starvation and displacement.
One supporter said of Mr. Nsanzabaganwa: "What happened in Rwanda will remain a blemish on the face of humankind, but to bring attention to the selfless work of one of the individuals who continues to risk his life to resist the mass insanity of hatred in this country would be a small step in the right direction."