The Truth Behind Hotel Rwanda and Paul Rusesabagina
By: Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation
Writer, Hotel Rwanda
When I was researching and writing HOTEL RWANDA (a process that took over 4 years), I constantly double checked what I was doing with numerous sources and scholars, including Alison Des Forges, who at the time was the preeminent scholar on Rwanda. She worked for Human Rights Watch, had lived in Rwanda for decades, and wrote probably the most detailed and definitive book on the genocide called LEAVE NONE TO TELL THE STORY.
After the genocide, Des Forges along with other Human Rights Watch investigators, UN investigators, and Rwandan investigators who were part of Kagame's regime looked into what happened at the Mille Collines Hotel because it was such an anomaly. The story of the Rwandan genocide is mass slaughter—everywhere—
Des Forges clearly stated that if Paul had done anything remotely wrong, he would have been arrested and locked up back then, given the level of scrutiny the hotel received, and that any rumor of "bribes" was just that—rumor…
Keep in mind that around 1,000 people sought refuge in the hotel. Not all came into contact with Paul nor had any idea of what he did. But Paul did do everything in his power to make sure the interhamwe didn't storm the hotel and murder every man, woman, and child there.
The idea that Paul actually turned Tutsis over to the Interhamwe to be slaughtered and yet escaped all scrutiny seems even stranger to me. In all my research, I never came across anyone who even made that accusation.
Kagame praised the film when it screened in Rwanda in 2005. It was only after Paul became critical of Kagame and a potential political threat that the smear campaign against Paul and the veracity of the film began. Kagame's animosity for Paul has only grown over the years.
I don't think the important question today is what happened at the Mille Collines 26 years ago. The important question is what's happening to Paul right now. But this is the intent of authoritarian rulers and their propaganda: to put us on our heels defending what is right.
Co-Author, An Ordinary Man Professor of English, Chapman University Politics Editor, The Los Angeles Review of Books
Our book was fact-checked line-by-line prior to its publication by one of the foremost scholars of the 1994 genocide. It was proclaimed truthful in every regard.
Neither Kier nor Philip Gourevitch came across anyone during their on-the-ground research who said Paul "took bribes," "turned people over to the Interahamwe,"
No factual challenge of Paul's actions arose until after April 4, 2005 when the movie was screened (with Kagame's approval) in Amahoro stadium to an audience of over 10,000 was responded positively. It was after that point that the relationship between the two men deteriorated.
I believe Kagame viewed Paul a rival for power. Paul also began sharpening his criticism of the regime in his public comments, and took aim at Kagame in one incendiary paragraph in his autobiography.
That's when the smear campaign against him began, and negative stories about Paul began to run almost daily in the state-run media. People emerged (who had never come forward before) making all sorts of allegations out of left field.
We can debate whether Paul used his platform wisely after he attained widespread recognition, but I believe his actions during the genocide were exactly as he and multiple witnesses described them prior to his vociferous criticism of Rwanda's authoritarian president.
Since 2004, the Rwandan government has pressured people who were with Paul at the Hotel Milles Collines to change their stories. The told the truth after the genocide, and now they are forced to tell Rwandan lies.
It's unreasonable to think Paul could have helped each individual personally when there were more than 1,000 of them. Not all came into contact with Paul nor had any idea of what he did. But he did what he could do to make sure the interhamwe didn't storm the hotel and slaughter them. The mere fact that they're alive and making these statements is a testament to that.