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Survivor Profiles: Kizito D. Kalima

The reason I want everybody to learn about genocide is because we need prevention. We need to prevent them before they start because it affects generations forever... if you see signs, get involved, intervene, make sure that it doesn't happen, because there's no positive results after genocide.

Kizito D. Kalima


Kizito D. Kalima was born in 1979 in Nyanza, Rwanda, to Denis and Cecilia Kalima. He is the youngest of ten children, nine of whom survived the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. His father was an administrator/teacher for local schools and his mother served as a health advisor to the surrounding community. As Tutsis were stereotyped to be taller than Hutus, Kizito’s height (6’9”) was the subject of considerable racist mockery among his Hutu classmates.

The Genocide against the Tutsi began on April 7, 1994. The Kalimas were separated, and many in the family – including both of Kizito’s parents – were killed. After surviving a massacre (in which he was hacked with a machete and left for dead in a pile of bodies) and several other close calls, Kizito managed to survive the genocide with a few of his relatives by hiding in swampland until being liberated by the Rwandan Patriotic Front in late July 1994.

Displaced by the genocide and without knowledge of surviving family members, Kizito found refuge in sports. He played basketball in surrounding African countries. His preternatural basketball ability was noticed by a Ugandan amateur team, and a basketball tournament in 1998 gave him the opportunity to travel to the United States, where he would remain to attend high school and college.

Kizito is the Founder and Executive Director of the Peace Center for Forgiveness & Reconciliation, an active public speaker, and an advocate for genocide survivors. Kizito has spoken at a variety of schools, churches, community gatherings, and events, including the United Nations 20th Commemoration of the Genocide in Rwanda in 2014. He has written two books about his experiences during the Genocide: Interventions Divine! Angels in the Life of a Genocide Survivor, and My Forgiveness, My Justice: Overcoming the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda.

Kizito now lives in Indianapolis with his daughter and has two adopted Rwandan daughters, themselves genocide survivors. His story is represented in the Spagat Family Voices of Genocide Exhibition at Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center.


USC Shoah Foundation Testimony Peace Center for Forgiveness & Reconciliation

Photo credits: Kathleen Hinkel

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