Genocide survivor pursues justice through education


Johnson Mutibagirana is a student, a lawyer and a hopeful future judge. But few know what drives his ambition for education.

“In my country we faced a horrible history, which ended up in a genocide,” Mutibagirana said.

In April 1994, Rwanda was divided by two different ethnic groups: Tutsi and Hutu. Both groups shared a common language and culture, but were viewed as very different by Hutu extremists who were supported by the government.

Mutibagirana was nine years old when he first experienced ethnic tension in school. He attended a government-owned school, where he faced discrimination for being Tutsi.

Mutibagirana began noticing that something was going on.

“Towards the middle of April, militias came home one day in the morning and asked everyone for their ID,” he said.

At that time in Rwanda, any person 16 years of age or older was required to have identification. Mutibagirana said militias asked his mom, aunt and other people from his living compound for identification.

“Every ID shows whether you are a Hutu or a Tutsi,” Mutibagirana said. “Tutsis were the only people targeted at that time.”

Mutibagirana said militas tore the IDs apart.

“My grandma was lucky because she was in the restroom and she stayed there once she heard the militias were in the home,” Mutibagirana said.

“We heard insults and horrible words,” he said. “They took not only my family—they took every Tutsi people who were living in that area.”

Mutibagirana said militias took 40 people to a spot in front of a house and gunned them down. All before his eyes.

He lost his mother and later found out that his father, who had previously escaped, had also become a victim of the genocide.

“I was really sad, but I didn’t cry,” Mutibagirana said. “The only thing I had in mind was to go back and witness what had been done with my family.”

The Rwandan Genocide took the lives of nearly one million people in three months.

This genocide transformed Mutibagirana’s view of education and the world. He uses his life experiences as a motivating force in the pursuit his goals.

As a student of the TCU Intensive English Program, he wants to perfect his English in order to bring his knowledge back to Rwanda.

“I saw many people who were hurting each other and many horrible things in my life,” Mutibagirana said. “Once I become a judge I want to guarantee justice, which was my people’s loss for many years.”


An update was made to the video on 9/26/14 at 1:15 p.m. to correctly address the donors of the Carl and Teresa Wilkins Scholarship. The couple has agreed to lend their name to the scholarship but the scholarship is fully funded by TCU donors.