USC Shoah Foundation Institute and IBUKA to Collect Testimonies of Survivors of the Rwandan Tutsi Genocide
KIGALI, RWANDA—The USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education and IBUKA, the umbrella organization representing survivors of the 1994 Rwandan Tutsi Genocide, have agreed to collaborate on a project to record the testimonies of survivors of the genocide in Rwanda that claimed as many as 1,000,000 lives. The project, called GTR (Genocide Testimony Research)–IBUKA, is a groundbreaking step forward for the Institute, which for the first time will expand its Visual History Archive to include new testimonies in addition to those of Holocaust survivors and other witnesses.
The USC Shoah Foundation Institute conducted a similar project from 1994 to 1999, when it collected the testimonies of nearly 52,000 Holocaust survivors and other witnesses. Since then, the Institute has pursued a mission to overcome prejudice, intolerance, and bigotry—and the suffering they cause—through the educational use of the visual history testimonies. The Institute has long identified the need to preserve memories of other genocides and atrocities as well, and the partnership with IBUKA is intended to be a model upon which other, similar collaborations can be based.
Under terms of the memorandum of understanding signed by Douglas Greenberg, Executive Director of the Institute and Theodore Simburudali, President of IBUKA, beginning in 2008 the Institute will provide technical consultation, logistical support, equipment, training, and other services to support IBUKA’s video interviews with Rwandan survivors. The partners plan not only to preserve the testimonies but also to use them, along with the testimonies of Holocaust survivors and other witnesses contained in the Institute’s archive, to develop educational programs for use throughout the world.
“On behalf of IBUKA Association, I am delighted that our dreams of recording the memories of survivors for future generations are going to become a reality,” Simburudali said. “The creation of GTR–IBUKA, a Center aimed to collect survivors’ testimonies, represents a historic achievement. The opportunity to work collaboratively with the USC Shoah Foundation Institute presents us with an ideal opportunity for success, and we hope to benefit from their rich experience in collecting testimony of genocide survivors. Together we believe we will make a contribution not only to Rwanda, but to the entire world.”
The agreement to begin the project is the result of an ongoing dialogue between the Institute and IBUKA. Greenberg, who is also a Professor of History in the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences at the University of Southern California, traveled from the Institute’s offices in Los Angeles to Kigali, Rwanda, for meetings in the spring of 2006 and 2007, and representatives of IBUKA and other survivor organizations traveled to Los Angeles for a lengthy meeting in November. While at the Institute, the delegates met with USC officials, including Howard Gillman, Dean of the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences; toured the Institute’s data center; participated in intensive meetings with Institute staff and others to address general issues and specific details of the project; and worked with Institute staff to develop the memorandum of understanding that will allow the project to move forward.
“There is no more compelling argument against intolerance than the testimony of those who have experienced its most horrific consequences firsthand,” Greenberg said. “Like the testimonies of survivors of the Holocaust, the testimonies of survivors of the Rwandan Tutsi Genocide have the power to change the world, which is why they must be preserved and disseminated.”
Fundraising for the project will commence immediately and work will begin as soon as it is practical to do so. IBUKA has secured an excellent building that will serve as the home for the project and its staff in Rwanda.
The interviewing phase will follow a procedure similar to that employed by the Institute when it gathered testimony from Holocaust survivors and other witnesses. Although the first interviews will likely be conducted in Kigali, the goal of the interviewing phase is to reach survivors from throughout Rwanda as well as those who live elsewhere in the world. The interviews will be recorded with high-definition digital video cameras and stored on servers in both Rwanda and the United States.
“Every human being should listen carefully to survivors’ testimony,” François Ngarambe said, “in order to understand that what happened to them and to their loved ones is likely to happen to any of us anytime if we don't act as one, here and now, for a real ‘never again’—which should be not just a slogan, but a real commitment to prevent genocide from ever being repeated.”
Since its incorporation as a charity in 1995, IBUKA has represented the interest of Rwandan survivors’ needs and worked to eliminate the causes of genocide worldwide. As an umbrella organization for survivors groups, IBUKA is mandated to coordinate and lead joint survivors’ projects, which have included home construction, peer counseling, vocational training, and the provision of medical support with specific focus on access to antiretroviral for rape victims.
IBUKA has recently worked very closely with the government of Rwanda to provide advocacy for survivors and preserve the memory of the Rwandan genocide by recording eyewitness testimonies and building memorial sites.
About the USC Shoah Foundation Institute
With a collection of nearly 52,000 video testimonies in 32 languages and from 56 countries, the USC Shoah Foundation Institute’s archive is the largest visual history archive in the world. The Institute interviewed Jewish survivors, homosexual survivors, Jehovah’s Witness survivors, liberators and liberation witnesses, political prisoners, rescuers and aid providers, Roma and Sinti survivors (Gypsy), survivors of Eugenics policies, and war crimes trials participants.
The Shoah Foundation Institute is part of the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences at the University of Southern California. The Institute relies upon partnerships in the United States and around the world to provide public access to the archive and advance scholarship in many fields of inquiry. The Institute and its partners also utilize the archive to develop educational products and programs for use in many countries and languages. For more information about the Institute, visit their website at www.college.usc.edu/vhi.