Rwandan genocide survivor sees laptops as key to country's future

Samuel Dusengiyumva, the son of a pastor and a nurse, was 13 years old in the spring of 1994, when more than 800,000 Rwandans were slaughtered in a 100-day killing spree of unthinkable proportions. His family — mother, father, siblings — was wiped out by the Rwandan genocide.

Dusengiyumva recalls being stopped with a younger brother at one of the roadblocks set up around the country.

"I tried to run with my brother but he couldn't make it," he says. "And they took him and killed him. I had aunties and grandfathers and they were all killed."

Afterward, he spent a long time thinking about whether he would be "a useless person," kill himself or "try to lead a real life."

Dusengiyumva chose to put his life back together through education — finishing school and studying to become a lawyer — and that decision led him to his current role: country manager for a computer program that aims to put a laptop in the hands of every school-age child in Rwanda.

Dusengiyumva, who visited Miami recently, sees building a knowledge-based society as a way of healing Rwanda.

So far, 65,000 rugged, child-size computers — which can be powered by solar panels or crank and pedal attachments — have been distributed to Rwandan kids ages 5 to 12 through the Miami-based One Laptop Per Child Association, and another 40,000 are on the way.

President Paul Kagame, a former rebel leader who is credited with ending the genocide, is aiming for 2.2 million laptops to serve every primary-school-age child in the country, said Rodrigo Arboleda, chairman and chief executive of the OLPC Association.

The association handles logistics, finances and training for the One Laptop Per Child Foundation, which was created by Nicholas Negroponte and others at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab.

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