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Rwanda's Kagame to deliver Compton lecture Sept. 18

His Excellency Paul Kagame
His Excellency Paul Kagame

Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who as a boy had to flee his homeland to escape ethnic violence, will present the Karl Taylor Compton Lecture 18 from 3:30-5 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 18, in MIT's Kresge Auditorium.

Kagame became president of the Republic of Rwanda in 2000, six years after the country was wracked by ethnic violence that left more than a million people dead. He had been the leader of the guerrilla Rwandan Patriotic Front, whose invasion of Rwanda helped end the Rwandan genocide of 1994.

Born a Tutsi in 1957, Kagame and his family moved to a Ugandan refugee camp in 1960 to escape the violence of a revolt sparked by the Belgian military and carried out by the Hutu population. Kagame later was among those launching a five-year liberation war in Uganda in 1980. In October 1990, Kagame returned to Rwanda after 30 years in exile to lead the Rwandan Patriotic Army. In 2000, he was elected president by the Transitional National Assembly; in 2003, he won Rwanda's first democratically contested multiparty elections.

Kagame has been lauded for his effort to bring stability and peace to Rwanda; his honors include the 2003 Global Leadership Award by the Young Presidents' Organization, the Andrew Young Medal, the Information and Communications Technologies Africa Award, the African National Achievement Award, the African Gender Award, and several honorary doctorates. He also received international recognition for outlawing the death penalty in Rwanda in 2007.

Kagame, who has pushed for initiatives in business, communications, energy and gender equity, will use his lecture at MIT to address the "Imperative of Science and Technology in Accelerating African and Rwandan Development."

The Karl Taylor Compton Lecture Series was established in 1957 to honor the late Karl Taylor Compton, who served as president of MIT from 1930 to 1948 and as chairman of the MIT Corporation from 1948 to 1954. The purpose of the lecture series is to give the MIT community direct contact with the important ideas of our times and with people who have contributed much to modern thought. Recent Compton speakers include U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico and former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw.

The lectures are sponsored by the MIT president, in conjunction with the Office of the Provost.

This event is free and open to the public. No tickets are required. For more information, please visit

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 17, 2008 (download PDF).

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