Paul Rusesabagina: a Hero or a Villain?

Under the guise of being a humanitarian and after amassing hefty sums of money from the movie “Hotel Rwanda”, Rusesabagina swiftly changed his carrier and became a politician hoping to topple the Rwandan Government. He has invested in the PDR-Ihumure party, composed of Rwandan subversive elements, and he is progressively portraying himself as the only choice. Most among his targeted supporters are nostalgic of Habyarimana’s regime that committed genocide, and who do not recognize the current Rwandan government. To win their trust and support, Rusesabagina has become a champion and a vanguard of their ideology.

Paul Rusesabagina.Photo(Internet)

The Hollywood-fabricated hero Paul Rusesabagina is using ethnic divisionism as a political tool designed to achieve his personal ends. He has embarked on a campaign aimed at pitting Tutsis against Hutus in order to gain more sympathizers among those opposed to the Rwandan Government. He has been touring the world, especially targeting naive media groups, Universities and Colleges where people are not well conversant with the Rwandan history. His message is intended to reverse the history of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi by making people believe that there was a double genocide. He claims that the Tutsis also committed genocide of the Hutus and that the current Government of Rwanda is planning another genocide against the Hutus. 

Who is Paul Rusesabagina and what are his intentions?

Rusesabagina was portrayed as a “hero” in the movie “Hotel Rwanda”, in a bid to represent composite heroic characters of some Hutus who showed their courage in saving their compatriots sometimes at the expense of their lives.

The movie enjoyed unexpected fame so did the “hero” of the movie, Rusesabagina. Though in the beginning the portrayed hero was humble to recognize the genocide, by the effect of megalomania, Rusesabagina misappropriated the composite characters built in him and deliberately put confusion between facts and fictions surrounding the movie, by claiming that he saved more than 1,268 people at the Mille Collines Hotel.

His claims have been rebuffed by the Genocide survivors who were in the Hotel including those portrayed in the movie. Rusesabagina did not play any role in helping people survive at the Mille Collines Hotel. He simply helped some of his few friends to get to the Mille Collines Hotel and later exploited the misery of the Hotel inhabitants for his personal enrichment; a motivation that still characters him today.

In a move to clarify the controversy surrounding Rusesabagina’s portrayed heroism in the movie, a Rwandan private radio station Contact FM organized, on February 5, 2006, a show wherein Rusesabagina had agreed to debate with some survivors of the Mille Collines Hotel.  At the last minute, Rusesabagina decided not to participate in the debate. In the “Crossfire” show, the survivors rebutted the “heroism” of Rusesabagina:

  • Pasa Mwenenganucye, a survivor who worked at the hotel recounts: “after taking the hotel keys from me, Rusesabagina started charging money from people camping in the hotel… He immediately cut off all telephone lines in the hotel leaving only one in his office for which he would charge people making calls…
  • Rusesabagina is also said to have thrown out of hotel rooms people who could not afford to pay. Senator Wellars Gasamagera, also a survivor at the Hotel recalls: ” He charged me Frw 180,000 (US$1,509 then) for four days in a single room I shared with 23 family members. I later decided to get out of the room and stay in the hotel corridors,” the Senator said, adding that he arrived at the hotel on April 18, 1994.

After his arrival at the Hotel on 15 April 1994 during the genocide, Rusesabagina cut off the free phone service that was helping people to call for rescue. He only spared one phone and fax machine in his room which would be used by either his friends and relatives or the rich”. He also began to throw out those who could not pay the hotel.

  • Rusesabagina availed rooms in the hotel to a few of Kigali’s well-to-do who could afford to pay him,” Senator Odette Nyiramirimo, a survivor at the Hotel who was also a personal friend to Rusesabagina revealed.
  • Senator Odette Nyiramirimo revealed that she personally paid for her stay at the hotel. She said that she signed a cheque of US$600 from her Rwanda Commercial Bank (BCR) account, and she realized that the amount was transferred from her account to the account of the hotel after genocide.
  • Rusesabagina himself in his autobiography agrees that some people signed cheques promising to pay Sabena (owner of the Hotel): “Some guests of mine who were wealthy came to me with a proposal that they would sign a letter of guarantee promising to pay Sabena when the trouble was over, and I accepted this.” (Paul Rusesabagina, An Ordinary Man, p. 137).
  • If they were not asked money, why should they volunteer to sign letters promising to pay Sabena? The proposal of signing letters resulted from pressure exerted on them by Rusesabagina to pay in cash.

Rusesabagina rebuffs all the facts surrounding his role at the Hotel Mille Collines, and considers them as mere allegations concocted by the Rwandan Government. He disregards doubt over his claims shown by other individuals.

  • Rutaganda Georges, the ICTR inmate and Rusesabagina’s close confidant and business associate during the genocide as depicted in “Hotel Rwanda”, revealed in a testimony made in March 2005 that Rusesabagina didn’t play any special role at the Mille Collines Hotel.
  • Linda Melvern, a British investigative researcher, in her correspondence of May 23, 2006 to The New Times, confirmed the above factors that led to the survival of people in the Hotel and commented on the content of Rusesabagina’s book, “An Ordinary Man”: “The version of events described in this book [An Ordinary Man] and concerning the genocide in Kigali seems to deviate from the facts as I have researched them. I do not understand the claim that Paul Rusesabagina was responsible for saving the lives of those Rwandans trapped at Hotel des Mille Collines”. Linda Melvern is an investigative researcher who published books on the 1994 genocide, including A People Betrayed, and Conspiracy to Murder. (For her comments, see the following link:

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