Rwanda Forum eyes what 'lies ahead' for country

By Paul Davenport
March 14, 2013

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RwandaContributed photo
Dr. Cynthia Kenyon of the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry celebrates with the first graduation of BSc Nursing program at the Kigali Health Institute (KHI), Rwanda's nursing school, in February 2010.

The Friends of Rwanda Forum will be launched 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Thursday, March 21 in the Great Hall at Western. The event is open to the public and all are invited. The program will include:

  • A welcome from Western professors David Cechetto, master of ceremonies, and Joanna Quinn, director of the Africa Institute at Western;
  • Progress Starts in the Mind, two panel discussions on higher education and health education in Rwanda, involving scholars and officials from Canada and Rwanda;
  • The Honorable Edda Mukabagwiza, Rwanda High Commissioner in Canada, who will officially launch the forum as its honorary guest speaker. I will have the honor of introducing her. The founding of the Forum would not have occurred without the leadership and commitment of Mukabagwiza.

So, how did all this get started, and what does the forum hope to do?


Western has had active partnerships with Rwanda since 2000, when Cechetto, of the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, began working with Rwandans to improve health care delivery and education. Cechetto’s pioneering work has been followed by dozens of Western students, faculty and staff, from a variety disciplines, all committed to helping Rwanda realize its goals of justice, dignity, sustained development and peace. I was one of those who followed Cechetto’s lead. I became an advisor on higher education to the Minister of Education in Rwanda, and was named by President Paul Kagame to his President’s Advisory Council.

The primary objective of the forum is to promote a better understanding of Rwanda today among Canadians, support strengthened relations between Rwanda and Canada, develop more partnership projects, encourage travel to Rwanda by Canadians and travel to Canada by Rwandans and disseminate information on articles and conferences focused on key issues facing Rwanda. The forum will seek funding to support public lectures by distinguished speakers, as well as conferences devoted to Rwandan history, cultural affairs, economic development and current affairs.

The Friends of Rwanda Forum website will promote the exchange of views, information, articles and forthcoming conferences which focus on Rwanda.

The website goes live today at Please have a look to learn more about the launch, the forum and for interesting articles on Rwanda and Canadian involvement in Rwanda. I will serve as the initial editor and I need the help of all friends of Rwanda. Send your comments or suggestions to

The Executive Council of the Forum will determine policy and priorities for the organization. The council consists of individuals from many backgrounds, all of whom have a commitment to Rwanda and Africa:

  • The Honorable Edda Mukabagwiza, Rwanda High Commissioner to Canada, honorary chairperson;
  • Paul Davenport, Western president emeritus, chairperson;
  • David Cechetto, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Western, vice-chairperson;
  • Helen Burt, professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences and associate vice-president (Research and International), University of British Columbia;
  • Steven Davis, philosophy professor emeritus at Simon Fraser University and executive director of Academics Without Borders;
  • William Deluce, president of Wicklow Consulting, Toronto;
  • David Kilgour, former MP and minister from Edmonton;
  • Sir David King, FRS, chemist, professor emeritus at Cambridge University, former Chief Scientific Advisor to British prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown;
  • John Lemieux, lawyer specializing in business and international law, Montreal;
  • Larry Lynd, professor of pharmaceutical sciences and associate director of the Collaboration for Outcomes Research and Evaluation, University of British Columbia;
  • Susan McGrath, professor in the School of Social Work at York University and director of the Centre for Refugee Studies;
  • Bill Smith, Honorary Consul for Rwanda in Edmonton and former Mayor of Edmonton; and
  • Josias Semujanga, professor, University of Montreal, specializing in literature of Francophone Africa.

The spirit of the forum was summarized by President Kagame in a speech in Kigali last December, which he concluded with these words:

“Let our celebrations today remind us of how far our country and our continent have come. Let this important milestone re-invigorate us for what lies ahead because the struggle for dignity and prosperity of Rwandans and Africans as a whole is not yet over.”

His words will inspire the work of the forum.

Paul Davenport, who served as the ninth president of Western University, serves as chairperson of the Friends of Rwanda Forum Executive Council.

Rwanda2Contributed photo
Rwandan president Paul Kagame, right, and Western President Paul Davenport share a laugh during Kagame’s visit to campus on April 24, 2006.




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