By Edouard KAYIHURA
Rusesabagina should not be awarded, as a hero, as it is indicated in the press release (a reference to a Press release about the upcoming speaking engagement at the ARMENIAN HERITAGE FOUNDATION in Boston, MA where Rusesabagina has been invited to speak on October 20, 2011.)
Paul Rusesabagina was depicted in the movie as “… having single-handedly prevented the slaughter of more than 1,200 refugees at the Milles Collines Hotel during the Genocide against Tutsi from April to July 1994,”
I was in the hotel. Mr. Rusesabagina did not save my life. Mr. Rusesabagina saved less lives than anyone who was in the hotel. If anything, Mr. Rusesabagina imperiled our lives and exploited our lives, and continues to do so today.
Who really saved us? It must first be noted that the hotel was a UN protected site. The UN flag flew over our compound. Diplomats from around the world such as Bernard Kouchner of France, a founder of Doctors Without Borders, visited us frequently and were the ones who really stood up to the genocidal brutes who wished to kill us. Since then, though, Paul Rusesabagina has taken full credit for things that others have done. One could not even add that Mr. Rusesabagina assisted these truly heroic men. In fact, he impeded their efforts.
Mr. Rusesabagina cut phone lines, cutting us off from the outside world, and forced us to pay for rooms and food, and those who had no money to pay were removed from their rooms. He had even sold the food we got from NGOS such as Red Cross. I personally and my roommate paid him to stay in the room.
These tales and more are finally beginning to come out because in spite of the fact that the movie came out in 2004, Mr. Rusesabagina has become an industry onto himself. We, the other survivors of the hotel, have stood by largely silent, as Mr. Rusesabagina has profited obscenely from his movie, but as time has gone by, his thirst has only grown stronger. Today, as he speaks at venues, he does so not only for profit, but for political power, power which may result in as many Rwandan deaths as occurred in 1994.
“Hotel Rwanda” portrays Rusesabagina as an insider who knew many of the most powerful people in Rwanda, yet who himself remains apolitical. The real Rusesabagina was not only politically active in Rwanda, but an active member of the MDR party, which became MDR-Power (“Hutu Power”) to carry out the genocide — facts that are conveniently obscured by his characterization in the movie. At the time the genocides ensued, he was manager of the Hotel Des Diplomats, which had become the de facto headquarters for the Hutu Power extremists—the movement that had been planning the genocide for several weeks prior to the downing of the president’s plane on April 6, 1994. Given his proximity to these radicals, it is reasonable to conclude that he knew more about the events to come than the movie would suggest.
Far more disturbing is the fact that Rusesabagina has used his platform to champion and reinvigorate those same ethnically divisive Hutu Power politics, raising money for causes that have less to do with helping survivors than revenge against the government of Rwanda today. In speech after speech he has shown no compunction for contradicting certain facts portrayed in the movie—not to mention his own memoir, published in 2006—to suit his agenda. Most flagrant is his attempt to paint the murders committed by the Hutu Power extremists as simply a byproduct of civil war and not genocide.
In short, Mr. Rusesabagina has gone on record as either denying that what took place in 1994 was a genocide, or that there was something he sometimes refers to as a “dual genocide” – that each side committed genocide against the other — negating the term “genocide” entirely. This is revisionist history at its worst.