Salzburg Global mourns loss of “extraordinary” young Fellow

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Feb 20, 2016
by Tanya Yilmaz, former Salzburg Global Intern
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Salzburg Global mourns loss of “extraordinary” young Fellow

Katlego Bagwasi, two-time Fellow, passed away following a short illness at the age of 29 Katlego Bagwasi speaking at the session 1814, 1914, 2014: Lessons from the Past, Visions for the Future

When Katlego Bagwasi walked through the gates of Schloss Leopoldskron in 2014, she was determined to make a mark on the world and be part of international dialogue. Although she died all too soon at the age of 29, she certainly left an impression on all those who met her at Salzburg Global Seminar.

As a young child growing up in Botswana, she dreamed of becoming a better person, wanting to give more of herself to the people around her and to her country. She was driven to make any contribution she could to global change.

Katlego’s infectious smile and her unique ability to light up a room is something Salzburg Global Fellows and staff have been remembering after hearing the news of her sudden death on February 12 from a lung infection.

She was a participant in two Salzburg Global sessions in 2014; firstly Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention: Sharing Experiences Across Borders, which she attended thanks to a scholarship program for Rhodes Scholars, and then later, the joint session with the International Peace Institute on 1814, 1914, 2014: Lessons from the Past, Visions for the Future.

Katlego attributed her interest in international humanitarian law and human rights to the Rwanda Genocide, which she said “was her sole motivation to read law and pursue a career in international criminal justice.” Just eight years old at the time, Katlego grappled with how humanity was capable of such atrocities – and during the Holocaust education session she spoke openly of her experiences.

Marie-Louise Ryback, Program Director of that session, says: “I remember Katlego as being one of the brightest young stars at the session and a truly lovely young woman. With sessions there are always people who make a lasting impression and Katlego was one of them. She loved her work and was so committed to promoting human rights and bringing justice to victims of mass atrocities. It's a great loss for us, for Botswana, and really for the world. I am sure she would have gone on to be a leading figure in the world of international humanitarian law.”

Salzburg Global Senior Program Advisor, and former speechwriter for UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Edward Mortimer said of Katlego: “She made a tremendous impression on all of us. I really thought she might be one of the great African leaders of the future. What a terrible loss.”

Fellow participant David Howell, professor of religion at Ferrum College in the US, added: “Katlego was in my working group during our week together, and this sad announcement brought to memory her quick smile, hearty laugh, and insightful comments in Salzburg.

“As I read the messages from others in our session, I share in the memories and sense of loss of someone so young and vibrant. But I also experience a sense of gratitude for the gift of spending a week with Katlego, learning from and with her, as well as time spent with each of you.”

When Katlego wrote to the HDH Wills Charitable Trust to thank them for the opportunity to participate in the Salzburg Global program, she said she was “still on a journey of self-discovery.” She added that the week-long trip had helped her to discover that her work at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon at The Hague, where she worked in the Appeals Chamber, “was her small contribution to world peace.”

As a Rhodes Scholar, she was awarded the opportunity to study at the University of Oxford where she gained an MSc in Criminology and Criminal Justice. Before that, she taught Public International Law in the Law Department at the University of Botswana where she was also the Legal Clinic Coordinator. From 2009 to 2010, she was a practicing attorney at Monthe Marumo & Company.

Less than two months after her first session, Katlego was invited to return to Schloss Leopoldskron on the recommendation of Salzburg Global Fellow Ivana Hrdlickova, the President of the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon. In August 2014, she joined world leaders – many of whom she looked up to – for session 1814, 1914, 2014: Lessons from the Past, Visions for the Future.

And the future was something for which Katlego had no shortage of hope – an attribute that has stayed in the hearts of people she met at Salzburg Global, including President Stephen Salyer who met her in 2014. He said: “What an extraordinary young women she was. It’s tragic to lose one with so many gifts at so young an age.”

Clare Shine, Salzburg Global Vice President and Chief Program Officer, added: “Our Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention team did such a wonderful job in identifying Katlego’s passion and talent. Salzburg Global’s mission is to bring present and future leaders together to solve issues of global concern, and Katlego really demonstrated the transformative power of next generation changemakers. She made a memorable contribution at our joint session with the International Peace Institute, and we even tried to bring her back for further events. What a great loss.”

After Salzburg, Katlego returned to Botswana, continuing her work to make change. She was due to present a panel proposal for the International Network of Genocide Scholars in June.

The last time I spoke to Katlego, after interviewing her when I was an intern at Salzburg Global Seminar, she told me to follow my dreams because she was on a path to achieve hers. She was an inspiration, a trailblazer and, as she hoped, “part of the solution for maintaining world peace.”

She leaves her husband and family in Botswana, as well as many friends worldwide.


Katlego Bagwasi - February 23, 1986 to February 12, 2016

 

Klaus Mueller, Session Chair, Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention: Sharing Experiences Across Borders
“I’m very sorry to hear about her death. I remember her so vividly, and find it hard to imagine that she has gone. What a tremendous loss, so sad.”

Don Markwell, former Warden of Rhodes House
“She was the embodiment of warm and irrepressible enthusiasm, with so much to offer. Of all the delightful Rhodes Scholars of my time as Warden of Rhodes House, she was truly one of the most delightful - her radiant smile and an encouraging word always at the ready. It is so hard to believe, and even harder to accept, that she is gone."

Sebabatso Manoeli, Fellow 1814, 1914, 2014: Lessons from the Past, Visions for the Future
"Always radiating warmth, Katlego left an impression on her peers at Oxford. Her passion ignited hope in many of us. It was delightful spending time with her chatting over meals, studying together at Rhodes House, and going on retreats. I am grateful to have also had the chance to spend a week with her at the Salzburg Global Seminar, where we reflected on how the international system can best meet the needs of this century. Her contributions were valuable in and out of the seminar rooms. Her deep love and loyalty for her family and friends, her ambition and her vibrant spirit will serve as a guiding light to all of us in her absence. She will be sorely missed."

Asya Darbinyan, Fellow, Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention: Sharing Experiences Across Borders
“What a tragedy, I can't believe it. She was such a bright and kind young woman. My thoughts are with her family.”

Pinar Dost-Niyego, Fellow, Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention: Sharing Experiences Across Borders
“It is unbelievable. She was my first friend from Botswana. I am deeply sorry. I won't forget her big and warm smile.”

Charles Kenge Iruta, Fellow, Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention: Sharing Experiences Across Borders
“This is really sad news. She was still young with a very promising future. We will hold to the memory of her smiling face. May she rest in peace and God give comfort to her family.”

Louise Hallman, Editor, Salzburg Global Seminar
“I’m often in awe of the Fellows who come to our sessions, especially when they’re younger than me and already so poised and accomplished. Katlego was definitely one of those Fellows. I was honestly looking forward to the day I could brag that I had known her when she was just in her 20s. A great loss indeed.”