“Awareness” is what Dydine Umunyana said is the key to stopping genocide in the future.
On April 7, 1994, Umunyana saw what could have been the last day of her life during the Rwandan Genocide when Hutus came to her neighborhood to kill Tutsis like herself.
On April 7, 2016, Umunyana came to Weber State to tell her story and offer her insight into how to prevent genocide in the modern world to an audience of students and educators in the Wildcat Theater.
Umunyana was soft spoken but demanded attention because of what she has been through. She is a survivor of genocide.
She told stories of her nightmares of the real-life events that are now locked away in her memory. As a 4-year-old girl, seeing people murdered right before her eyes was a lasting memory.
Her seeing this terror and having her life spared has put her on a mission to help bring peace and try and stop genocide from happening again. She is now an Aegis Trust Youth Ambassador who travels to different parts of the world to share her story and her approach to arresting genocide before it begins.
Umunyana gave the crowd three distinct things that she believes can prevent future genocide.
“We have to learn where conflict came from,” Umunyana said when asked what we can do to prevent genocide. She learned the history of the tension in Rwanda and believes that if people can realize they need to diffuse tension before it’s too late, genocide can be prevented.
The second thing Umunyana believes is important is to “teach children the unbiased history.” This tied in where learning where the conflicts come from but was specific because learning a biased history of genocide could create more hate.
Umunyana said she only knew one side of the conflict as a child because she only experienced one side. “As a child, I hated Hutus after what they had done and what I had seen,” said Umunyana. This hatred and fear based on what she saw was lessened when she learned the origin of the problem in her country when she was old enough to comprehend the conflict.
The third thing she believes is important to stop genocide from happening is for people to “see each other as human beings.” She spoke passionately about this and said to the audience that people used to measure the length of people’s noses in Rwanda to determine if they were Hutu or Tutsi.
A person could be killed based on the length of their nose or color of their skin.
Considering such arbitrary features being the deciding factor between whether someone lives or dies illustrates just how irrational genocide becomes and why it is so imperative that it is addressed before it gathers momentum.