Advocate for African democracy, survivor of assassination attempt to speak at UNT-Dallas
DALLAS – Former Burundi diplomat Jean-Marie Ngendahayo will speak at the University of North Texas Dallas Campus on the issue of human rights and democracy in Africa at 1:30 p.m. May 4.
The public and media are invited to attend.
In the visit encouraged by State Rep. Richard Peña Raymond of Laredo (District 42), Ngendahayo will also talk about his personal experiences in the government of Burundi. In a letter to UNT System Chancellor Lee Jackson, Raymond called Ngendahayo “a man who combines clarity of thought and experience with a profound and courageous commitment to democracy and human justice” in his homeland and across Africa.
Born in 1956 in Burundi, one of Africa’s smallest nations, Ngendahayo is of royal lineage but has been an advocate for democracy over the course of his political career, according to a biography written by former U.S. Senator Robert Krueger, who also served as ambassador to Burundi and Botswana. During the conflict between the minority Tutsi regime and the Hutu majority, Ngendahayo joined the Hutus in calling for free and fair elections in 1993.
Melchoir Ndadaye, the first democratically elected president, named Ngendahayo to his cabinet as his minister of communications and government spokesman. He also served as a member of the Burundi parliament. Ndadaye was assassinated on his 100th day in office, after which Ngendahayo served in an United Nations-constructed coalition government as the country’s foreign minister and chief peace negotiator.
In 1995, Ngendahayo and U.S. Ambassador Bob Krueger were investigating the massacres of Hutu villagers by the Tutsi militia when their convoy was ambushed by the Burundi army. Two persons were killed and eight wounded, and the car carrying Ngendahayo and Krueger was struck by gunfire. Ngendahayo fled to South Africa and later Finland with his family.
Ngendahayo represented opponents of the military regime in Burundi in peace talks chaired by Nelson Mandela, and the resulting constitution and governmental structure allowed Ngendahayo to return home to Burundi in 2005.
He became head of Burundi’s foreign relations committee and a member of parliament, but in 2008 Ngendahayo again spoke out against corruption within his own political party and on the part of the president. He and 19 others were stripped of their government posts and salaries. Following the arrest of two of his counterparts and threats of violence, Ngendahayo fled the country again – this time acquiring asylum in the United States.
Ngendahayo is currently a visiting scholar in residence at Texas Lutheran University in Seguin, where he teaches courses on African politics, religion, government and culture.
Following his visit at the UNT Dallas Campus, Ngendahayo will call on leaders of the Dallas-Fort Worth World Affairs Council. He will also lecture at UNT in Denton on the following day.
The UNT Dallas Campus operates under the authority of the University of North Texas in Denton, the state’s fourth largest university, and is a component institution of the University of North Texas System. The Campus currently offers junior-, senior- and graduate-level courses leading to bachelor’s and master’s degrees. The Campus plans to become freestanding by 2010 and will be named UNT Dallas, the city’s first and only public university.