Joseph Sebarenzi: Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau

Joseph Sebarenzi

Speaker of the Rwanda Parliment 1997-2000 & Author

Joseph Sebarenzi lost his parents, seven siblings, and countless other family members when 800,000 Tutsi were brutally murdered over the course of 90 days in 1994 by extremist Rwandan Hutu ‐‐ an efficiency that exceeded even that of the Nazi Holocaust. Sebarenzi returned to Rwanda after the genocide and was elected speaker of Rwandan parliament, only to be forced into exile once again.

Outbreaks of ethnic violence had been occurring in Rwanda since colonial times when the Belgians ruled the region. As a child, Sebarenzi twice hid with his mother during episodes of killing, narrowly escaping with his life. When he was a teenager, his father sent him away to school in Congo, telling him, "If we are killed, you will survive."

Returning to Rwanda after the 1994 genocide, Sebarenzi rose through the ranks of Parliament, eventually becoming Speaker, third in power only to the country's president. In this role he represented his country all over the world, including as a speaker at the United Nations, the European Union Assembly in Belgium and France, the Inter‐parliamentary Union in Egypt, and the U.N. Human Rights Commission in South Africa. Forced to resign, and informed of a plot to assassinate him, he fled Rwanda and found exile in the United States. He still champions a broad process of restorative justice in Rwanda as the country struggles with its history.

His memoir, God Sleeps in Rwanda: A Journey of Transformation, is a harrowing tale of survival and reconciliation. The poetic title of the book is taken from an old saying, "God spends the day elsewhere, but He sleeps in Rwanda," but this African nation is not alone in having had a shameful history of ethnic violence. God Sleeps in Rwanda demonstrates how horrific events can occur when the rest of the world stands by and does nothing. It also shows us how the lessons of Rwanda can prevent future tragedies from happening in that country and other parts of the world.

At the podium, Sebarenzi tells his unforgettable and remarkable story while imparting a message of peace and forgiveness. Audiences will be inspired by the eloquence and wisdom of a man who has every reason to be bitter and hateful, but chooses instead to live a life of love, compassion, grace and forgiveness.

Today Sebarenzi speaks about reconciliation and conflict management to thousands of people at high schools, colleges, universities, and fundraising events across the United States and Canada. He has also provided expert commentary on NPR, BBC, and the Voice of America on matters related to genocide, reconciliation, and restorative justice.

In addition, Sebarenzi serves on the faculty at the School for International Training in Vermont, teaching reconciliation and conflict management courses. He holds a master's degree in international and intercultural management from the School for International Training and is a doctoral candidate in international human rights law at the National University of Ireland.

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  • A Message of Peace and Reconcilliation

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