Alison Des Forges, 66, Human Rights Advocate, Dies
Dr. Des Forges was among critics who accused the Kagame government of massacring thousands of Rwandan civilians in 1994, of killing civilians and refugees in the eastern Congo in 1996 and 1997, and of making repeated military interventions in the Congo. The government barred her from entering the country last year.
Alison B. Liebhafsky was born Aug. 20, 1942, in Schenectady, N.Y., the daughter of Herman A. Liebhafsky, a chemist, and Sybil Small. She graduated from Radcliffe College in 1964 and received a master’s degree in 1966 and a doctorate in 1972, both in history, from Yale.
Her master’s thesis focused on the impact of European colonization on Rwanda’s social system, and her doctoral dissertation was about Yuhi Musinga, the mwami, or ruler, of Rwanda from 1896 to 1931, during which Germany, and later Belgium, colonized Rwanda.
Dr. Des Forges is survived by her husband, Roger V. Des Forges, a historian of China who teaches at the State University of New York at Buffalo; a brother, Douglas Small Liebhafsky; a daughter, Jessie Des Forges; a son, Alexander; and three grandchildren.
Dr. Des Forges’ efforts went beyond historical documentation.
Theodore S. Dagne, an Africa analyst for the Congressional Research Service, worked with Dr. Des Forges in Africa and in Washington. On Friday, he recalled how she fought to save the life of a human-rights associate in Rwanda, Monique Mujawamariya.
“On Day 1” of the genocide, Mr. Dagne said, “Alison was calling Monique hour after hour as they were going door to door killing people; Monique tells Alison they are close.”
Ms. Mujawamariya managed to escape by crossing the border.
“Day after day, for months,” Mr. Dagne said, “Alison lobbied everybody she could think of in Kigali and Washington and finally arranged for Monique to come to this country.”
Ms. Mujawamariya now lives in Canada, he said.