Throughout his academic life, Antoine Rutayisire excelled. As a student, he was brilliant and well-behaved, almost always reaching the top of the ranks. He even did quite well in sports as a running athlete. No wonder he made himself a successful career preaching the word of God in an accessible manner and becoming a champion of reconciliation in a country that was shattered by a history of genocide.

In his youth, Rutayisire never dreamed of becoming a politician (or at least that's what he says); his true passion was in the teaching profession. So when he graduated from the National University of Rwanda in the early eighties, he hoped to become an assistant professor there (This was during a time when the university was actively recruiting high-achieving native students to replace expatriate professors). He met the qualifications and got the job. But not long after, perhaps a year later, he was reminded that he was Tutsi and could no longer teach at the national university. He was then sent to teach at a secondary school in a mountainous district in the northern part of the country.

In his memoir, “Reconciliation Is My Lifestyle” (Pembroke St. Press), first published in 2021, Rutayisire offers a vivid account of his upbringing in Eastern Rwanda amidst the ethnic conflicts that led to the genocide and the mass killing of Tutsis in the mid-nineties. He recounts his efforts to assert his right to rejoin the faculty, only to see the depth of the injustice he faced. “I was heartsick with bitter disappointment,” he writes. “If somebody had come around recruiting a rebel army to fight the system in place, I would have been an easy recruit.”

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