Jon Sawyer, Pulitzer Center
Alison des Forges, the Human Rights Watch researcher and Rwanda scholar who was killed in the crash of a commuter plane near Buffalo last Thursday night, touched so many people in so many different ways. For those of us who did not know her in person perhaps the best tribute we can give is to learn her story, to understand the profound difference one individual can make, and to follow her lead.
Illuminating obituaries were published in The New York Times and The Washington Post. On the very day she died, ironically, The Post published a front-page article on Rwanda's military incursion in the Democratic Republic of the Congo that quoted des Forges extensively and that exemplied her tough-minded insistence on accountability from nations and individuals alike. Human Rights Watch itself has become the repository for a remarkable collection of tributes and reflections.
One of the individuals inspired by des Forges is journalist Michael Kavanagh, currently on assignment for the Pulitzer Center in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. His appreciation of des Forges was published Monday in Slate.