Furman Students in a Mock Trial

Jonathan Kubakundimana '16

Hometown: Kigali, Rwanda

Major: Political Science

On college campuses across the U.S., April is a time to start celebrating the arrival of another carefree summer break. In Rwanda, April is a time to somberly commemorate one of the worst atrocities in history—the Rwandan genocide.

Reconciling those radically different worlds wasn’t easy for Jonathan Kubakundimana.

“When April 7, 2013, came along I remember walking around and thinking that this was just another day to most students here, of no fault of their own, but I made a promise to myself I would do something . . . to sensitize the Furman community or raise awareness for this tragedy,” he said.

Few Americans know the United Nations named April 7 as a Day of Remembrance for the 1994 murders of more than 800,000 Rwandans, but after Kubakundimana approached History Professor Courtney Tollison in April of 2014 asking for help changing that, she agreed to help him organize the first of three April presentations for students where he shared his family’s experience.

“I didn’t expect people to come out in the first year, and it was packed,” he said. “It’s given me more of a confidence to speak about these kind of issues, because I think at the time I had a very cynical outlook on the world.”

Around the same time, Kubakundimana was gaining the “intellectual tools to grapple” with questions of justice and morality from political thought classes taught by Political Science Professor Benjamin Storey, his mentor. Participation with the Riley Institute and Furman’s nationally ranked mock trial team led to an internship with a federal judge where he realized that he wanted to advocate for those who “don’t have a seat at the table.”

Currently a Justice Fellow with Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, Kubakundimana plans to pursue J.D. and a Master’s in International Relations at the Hertog Political Studies Program in Washington, D.C.