Governor Gregory Wayne Abbot of Texas has appointed Rwandan-born Providence Umugwaneza to the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission according to a statement issued by his office. She will join the commission for a term set to expire on February 1, 2025. Providence Umugwaneza is joining Gilbert Tuhabonye as the second Rwandan on the 15 member commission.
The Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission (THGC) is comprised of 15 commissioners that are appointed by the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Speaker of the House. Five commissioners are appointed by the Governor, five by the Lieutenant Governor, and five by the Speaker of the House. The Lieutenant Governor appoints a member of the Texas Senate and the Speaker of the House appoints a member of the Texas House of Representatives to serve as advisors to the THGC.
THGC commissioners all serve on a volunteer basis and come from all parts of Texas. The commissioners meet once every three months at quarterly meetings in different parts of the Texas to review current projects and to discuss budget and future collaboration opportunities with entities throughout the state.
The commission ensures that resources are available to students, educators, and the general public regarding the Holocaust and other genocides, as well as compile lists of volunteers, survivors, liberators, scholars, and members of the clergy for educational program opportunities. The commission also coordinates events around the state.
Providence Umugwaneza of San Antonio is the founder of the Kabeho Neza Initiative. She is a survivor of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, where she lost her parents, five siblings, and numerous extended family members. Two of Providence’s uncles and their entire families were victims of the Rwandan Genocide, thus she lives to be their voice and speak about what they endured.
Providence volunteers with fellow Rwandan Genocide survivors to advocate for the women and girls, who were assaulted and infected with HIV/AIDS during the genocide, and currently leads educational programs in the United States to educate and raise awareness.
Providence received a bachelor’s degree in Administrative Science from the University of Kigali in Rwanda.
Gilbert Tuhabonye is an accomplished runner, motivational speaker, and philanthropist. He is the author of This Voice in My Heart: A Genocide Survivor’s Story of Escape, Faith, and Forgiveness (HarperCollins Publishing, 2006), the harrowing tale of his courageous escape from one of the massacres in the long Tutsi-Hutu war of Burundi.
In October of 1993, members of the Hutu tribe invaded Tuhabonye’s high school and captured more than 100 Tutsi children and teachers. Most of the captives were killed with machetes; the rest were burned alive. After spending nearly nine hours hidden beneath the burning corpses of his classmates and suffering burns over much of his body, Tuhabonye managed to escape and seek medical attention.
By 1996, his running skills took him to the United States as part of an Olympic training program. He obtained a track scholarship at Abilene Christian University and was a national champion runner. Tuhabonye is the award-winning coach of Gilbert’s Gazelles Training Group in Texas. In 2006, he co-founded the Gazelle Foundation, a non-profit organization whose mission is to improve life for people in Burundi without regard to tribal affiliations.
Commissioner Tuhabonye sits on the THGC’s Strategic Planning and Human Resources Subcommittees.