'An Unimaginable Day'
During 1994, 500,000 people died in Rwanda in one of the swiftest large-scale massacres in modern history. Richard Nsanzabaganwa, now 26, was one of the few human rights activists to survive the genocide that broke out between two ethnic groups. Most of his family perished: his mother, father, two brothers and a sister. Two weeks before he stood on the stage of the legendary Apollo Theater in Manhattan's Harlem to accept a Reebok Human Rights Award, he was seized, held captive and threatened with death.
"This is to me an unimaginable day," he told the audience during the ceremony in early December, 1995, "a day the world recognizes the efforts of young people to bring light to darkness." Speaking about his work to avoid further extermination and to aid refugees and prisoners, Nsanzabaganwa said, "I can see only that I have been saved by God. I survived not to live but to give life."
His words captured the selfless and inspiring dedication not only of the 1995 honorees but of the growing list of youthful human rights activists honored since the Reebok Human Rights Awards began in 1987. Forty-eight individuals from 23 countries have received the award and a supporting grant of $25,000 to an organization they name. There is no other corporate program honoring young human rights workers.
In addition to the young Rwandan, the 1995 honorees were: