Rwanda is a state in Sub-Saharan Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa includes those states on the continent that are roughly south of the Saharan desert. These states are grouped together because of their common history of colonial domination, a history that influences the view of European history in general. Also, in these states, Muslims are not the majority population, or if they are, they are a slight majority, as in Nigeria, and thus there is a different level of engagement with the Holocaust than in North Africa.

RWANDA offers another example of Africa’s budding interest in the history of the Holocaust. Rwanda’s recent history has been influenced by the country’s attempts to memorialize the 1994 genocide of about 800,000 Tutsi by the Hutu-dominated military and Interahamwe militia. International organizations, especially Facing History and Ourselves (FHAO), have championed these efforts to memorialize and to teach the genocide in Rwanda. read more

FHAO specifically adapts its core curriculum, The Holocaust and Human Behavior, to countries with a recent history of violence. The standard curriculum is an “in-depth case study” that looks at “universal themes of human behavior, choice, and decision making.” With regard to “countries emerging from conflict and mass violence” FHAO offers “educators … a focus on bystander behavior and the possibilities for positive participation or upstander behavior.” The major benefit of using the Holocaust case study in Rwanda “is that the distance participants have from this history allows them to make powerful connections to what they have experienced themselves. In the case of Rwanda, this meant that connections could be made safely, that comments which would not otherwise be made out of fear, were allowed.”  FHAO has worked with the Human Rights Center at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Rwandan Ministry of Education to develop the curriculum, titled “The Teaching of Rwanda: A Participatory Approach.” Broken into four historical modules designed to teach the long history of Rwanda and where the genocide fits, the study presents historical sources and materials on the Rwandan history rather than simply writing the “History” of Rwanda and we used the “facing history and ourselves foundation” methodology, which is critical, and at the same time encourages the participation of the researcher or student in the personalized development of interpretation judged as the most appropriate in relationship to the reality and the truth of facts in order to find their causes and consequences.

The Rwandan Ministry of Education has undertaken significant work to rebuild the school infrastructure, introducing an “advanced secondary” history curriculum that includes the Rwandan genocide, a “political education curriculum” that incorporates human rights education, and an “ordinary level” curriculum that touches on the rise of the Nazis and the Rwandan genocide.  It is unclear how far this instruction has been disseminated in Rwanda. As Rwandan Holocaust and genocide scholar Assumpta Mugiraneza has pointed out, Rwanda suffers both from a shortage of teachers in general as well as enough teachers trained to become “parties prenantes,” or “stakeholders,” in the reconciliation process.  Further, students still do not have access to the resource books about the genocide and “there appear to be tensions between a commitment to introduce more democratic, student-centred teaching methods in schools (which would permit debate of multiple versions of the past) and the Government’s attempt to impose a singular ‘official’ narrative of Rwanda’s history … . Many analysts caution that these attempts to foreclose historical debate are unlikely to succeed and are detrimental to the reconciliation process, which remains fragile.”

The other major NGO involved with Rwandan reconciliation is the British-based Aegis Trust. Stemming from the work of the Holocaust Memorial and Educational Centre in the United Kingdom, Aegis funded and developed the major site devoted to remembrance in Rwanda, the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre. The Centre opened on the tenth anniversary of the murders. In 2008, Aegis began funding its own genocide education program, titled “Building Peace, Reconciliation and Unity on the Lessons of Memory.” The program consists of outreach through the museum, bringing students from across the country to Kigali as well as providing housing for “young destitute genocide survivors to support them back to independence.”  In addition to Aegis Trust, the following foreign NGOs have supported genocide education in Rwanda. Yad Vashem organized a seminar in partnership with the Belgian-based Rwanda NGO Nyamirambo. The seminar introduced Holocaust survivors and survivors of the Rwandan genocide. Similarly, the University of Southern California’s Shoah Foundation began its own genocide education program, hosting a workshop for educators in summer 2012. Using video testimony of survivors and witnesses, participants discussed the connections between Holocaust history, the Rwandan genocide, and South African apartheid.

Promising local efforts to further awareness of the genocide and of its connections to the Holocaust exist as well. Since 2004, the Interdisciplinary Genocide Studies Center (IGSC) in Kigali has hosted foreign scholars of Rwanda for academic programs. The Center screens films and invites survivors to share their stories. It has also established a library on genocide literature. Currently, the IGSC features a three-week summer exchange that enables “teachers and students … to develop narratives that engage questions of social justice, conflict resolution, and peace building. The program has involved theater artists, filmmakers, academics, researchers and students from various disciplines and countries, whose practice engages questions of peace building.”  Executive Director Aloys Mahwa has pointed to the relevance of the Holocaust for Rwanda, asserting that many Rwandans think about the relationship “not necessarily as a comparison between the Holocaust and the Tutsi genocide … but more as a dialogue.”  Finally, since 2009, the Center for Conflict Management at the National University of Rwanda has offered a graduate degree in comparative genocide studies and prevention as well as short-term trainings for civil society and other political leaders.


GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES ON HOLOCAUST EDUCATION: Trends, Patterns, and Practices,  a publication of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and  the Salzburg Global Seminar, 2013
Download PDF


Archival Documents


Aegis Trust

Facing History and Ourselves, Rwanda

UNESCO:  Why Teach About the Holocaust?


Hilker, Lyndsay M. “The Role of Education in Driving Conflict and Building Peace: The Case of Rwanda.” Background Paper, UNESCO Education for All Global Monitoring Report. 2011.




Charles Kenge, Trainings and Summer Programs Advisor, Interdisciplinary Genocide Studies Center (IGSC)


Charles and his organization is working to create an African Initiative for Genocide and Holocaust Education. 

Freddy Mutanguha and Aloys Mahwa

Freddy Mutanguha and Aloys Mahwa, together with Tali Nates, Richard Freedman, have piloted a course in South Africa and Rwanda on combating extremism through education, and how to promote pluralism through learning about the Holocaust, Rwandan genocide, and Apartheid. More information here: