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Light on many of the inaccuracies recounted in the movie, Hotel Rwanda, including the misrepresentation of Paul Rusesabagina as a hero

Hotel Rwanda was a Hollywood blockbuster movie which highlighted the atrocities that took place during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. No doubt, many have watched it and applauded the brave actions of the so-called heroic character Paul Rusesabagina portrayed by Don Cheadle, and his efforts to protect and free the Tutsi who were cornered in Hotel des Mille Collines.

However, the story told in the award-winning movie is pure fiction and does not provide the real and accurate picture of the events that occurred between April and June of 1994. Needless to say that it was not a live documentary, neither a witness caption of the events.

Paul Rusesabagina is Rwandan, born on June 15th, 1954. He worked at Hotel des Mille Collines during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. He claims to have rescued 1,200 Tutsi who had sought refuge in the hotel.

Paul Rusesabagina gained fame after his 2004 film Hotel Rwanda. In the film, he is portrayed as a brave man who tried all he could to save the threatened Tutsi who had sought sanctuary in the hotel.

 

However, this is far from the truth according to accounts by the survivors whom he claims to have rescued. They instead regard him as an opportunist who pursues fame and personal gains. According to testimony by the survivors, Rusesabagina did not play any role in their survival, instead a combination of factors including the intervention by United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR), protection by the French troops since the hotel housed the French army communication unit, and there’s pressure from Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) against the government forces.

 

Rusesabagina took charge of the hotel from April 16th, 1994, a week after the genocide had started. He consolidated all authority around himself where he could allow in or reject whoever he wishes. He selectively allowed accommodation to his allies and others who managed to pay for accommodation while he chased those who were unable to pay, defying the call by the president of Sabena Hotels who urged him to accommodate all refugees without charging them.

In his book “The Hotel Rwanda: The SurprisingTrue Story… and Why It Matters Today, BenBellaBooks, March 25th, 2014”, Edouard Kayihura one of the survivors, and others who had hidden in the hotel recount how Rusesabagina subjected them to awfulness acts. In his first meeting with the staff after becoming hotel manager, he instructed that all refugees who couldn’t afford to pay for room be evicted from hotel rooms and cheques as surety.

During his tenure as hotel manager, he had a good relation with leaders of Interahamwe including its president at national level Mr. Robert Kajuga and army officers including Gen. Augustin Bizimungu, Army Chief of Staff and Col. Theoneste Bagosora who was Cabinet Director to the Minister of Defence who served as acting Minister of Defense while the Minister was on mission to Cameroon. Col. Bagosora is considered as one of architects of the genocide in Rwanda. He was sentenced to 35 years in prison by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

That relationship between Rusesabagina and some top officials of the government that planned and executed the genocide existed before because Rusesabagina was used by the president’s office for collecting intelligence information while posturing as an ordinary civilian [Edouard KAYIHURA, The HotelRwanda: The Surprising True Story… and Why It Matters Today, BenBella Books, March 25th,2014].

 

If Rusesabagina is really a hero who saved Tutsi as he claims, how can he at the same time go all over denying the same genocide that threatened the lives of the people he claims to have saved? How can a man who professes to have rescued Tutsi during genocide turn around and collaborate with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a terrorist organization under UN sanctions which comprises of perpetrators of the genocide and continues to wreak havoc in DRC?

He has done all this with an aim of soliciting funds for his Rusesabagina Foundation and his political party PDR-Ihumure.

It’s against this background that Ibuka, the umbrella of genocide survivors’ associations said of RUSESABAGINA: “he has hijacked heroism. He is trading with the genocide. He should be charged.”