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Highlands University Flies Rwandan Flag at Half-Staff

New Mexico Highlands University lowered its Rwandan flag to half-staff April 7 in memory of a Rwandan student’s family and others who died during the Rwandan Genocide. The death toll for the 1994 genocide, which lasted from April to July, was between 800,000 and one million people. “I wanted to remember my family who died and to pray for them,” said Highlands student Jean Paul Mwiseneza. “All my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins died in Rwanda during the genocide — too many to count. I want to thank Highlands for accepting my request to lower the Rwandan flag for my family and for all the others who died.” Mwiseneza’s immediate family survived because they were refugees in Burundi at the time. His father, mother and seven siblings live in Rwanda now. Mwiseneza, 26, is the oldest child in his family, which is also raising children orphaned in the genocide.”Having the Rwanda flag ceremony for Jean Paul shows respect for his culture and the history of his country,” said Tina Clayton, director of Highlands’ International Education Center. “It also helps brings awareness to the community about what’s going on in the world. We’re lucky to be at peace here at home in our own country.”Mwiseneza came to Highlands University in 2008 as a transfer student from the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology in the Rwandan capital of Kigali. Mwiseneza is a math major.”I found out about Highlands from a friend who went to college in Texas and from the Internet,” he said. “I like Highlands. I’ve made friends here with other students. Some are also from Africa.”A fellow Highlands University student and friend who joined Mwiseneza at the Rwanda flag ceremony is Nicaise Kazingo from Burundi. Kazingo is also a math major and is on the university’s cross country team. Mwiseneza said he hopes one of his younger sisters will also be able to attend Highlands, perhaps as early as fall semester.The International Education Center is sponsoring a free movie, “Hotel Rwanda,” April 14 at 5:30 p.m. in room 129 of Burris Hall, 903 National Ave. The 2004 film is based on the true story of a hotel manager who sheltered more than 1,000 Rwandan refugees during the 1994 genocide.