TO : EVENT ORGANIZERS
SUBJECT: CONDEMNATION OF YOUR INVITATION TO NOTORIOUS GENOCIDE NEGATIONIST, PAUL RUSESABAGINA
We, the members of the Rwandese community in the USA, including survivors of the 1994 Genocide, are writing to express our utter indignation at your invitation of Mr. Paul Rusesabagina to speak at your University. Mr. Rusesabagina, the Hollywood-fabricated “anti genocide hero”, has become the notorious flag-bearer of that very genocide negationism.
As you would no doubt agree, genocide negationism and revisionism raise universal issues of prejudice, propaganda, and morality, with deniers operating as agents of the original perpetrators, hounding victims from time to time. Through these agents, the perpetrators reach out once again to the lives of the victims long after the latter’s escape from the perpetrators’ physical clutches.
Many countries including USA view genocide negationism and revisionism as a very serious crime, punishable by maximum prison sentences. Towards this end, a whole catalogue of laws has developed to protect genocide survivors against genocide negationists/revisionists who are nothing but “killers of remembrance”. Acts punishable under such laws extend to attempts to distort genocide’s historical background, or seeking to justify or minimize genocide by depicting its victims as just the unfortunate fatalities of a civil conflict in which both parties (RPF and the former genocidal regime) are allegedly, equally guilty. A brief review of Mr. Rusesabagina’s statements provides ample evidence of his denial and revisionism of the 1994 attempt at the total extermination of Rwanda’s Tutsi. However, besides the legal implications, we wonder whether the organizers of this event and the sponsors of the programme to which Mr. Rusesabagina has been invited to speak, have adequately considered the moral and other implications for giving a platform to a genocide denier, whose notoriety is growing day by day. It is worth noting that Mr. Rusesabagina, besides being a genocide negationist and revisionist, is a complete fraudster, whose “hero” status is, as far as the overwhelming majority of the Genocide survivors are concerned, more of a cynical fabrication than a reflection of the reality they are best placed to know. Like many of his kind, Mr. Rusesabagina and his sponsors are masters of cleverly mixing a little measure of fact with a very large measure of fiction in order to pass him off as among the “just, a humanist and a savior of genocide survivors”. As the Tutsi survivors of the genocide who were present in the hotel famously portrayed in the film Hotel Rwanda will attest, virtually all of them had to pay a heavy price in order to be allowed to stay in the hotel for their survival. His was, in other words, a flagrant example of genocide exploitation, facilitated by his undeniable close links with a number of high-ranking officials among the organizers and perpetrators of the genocide (see as a matter of r example, page 154 of the French edition of his own book, Un homme ordinaire: Une autobiographie (Broché)). The praise that is being attributed to Paul Rusesabagina is an unfortunate fate of circumstances at best, emanating from the award-winning movie on the genocide, Hotel Rwanda. Paul Rusesabagina is enjoying the windfalls of this Hollywood success, coupled with an audience in the international community that is either naive or deliberately willing to accept the Hollywood picture for reality if this might in some way help take away some of the guilt of having failed to act when Rwanda desperately needed help. Please allow us to outline a few reasons why we think that Paul Rusesabagina, portrayed in the movie Hotel Rwanda is little more than pure Hollywood fiction, certainly a far cry from the reality of the course of events in those three months in Kigali.
RUSESABAGINA’S REAL ROLE IN HOTEL DES MILLE COLLINES
The Hotel Rwanda 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 friends to get to the Hotel Mille Collines. 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 in the genocide, he 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 reject 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 the genocide. Rusesabagina himself in his autobiography agrees that some people signed cheques promising to pay Sabena: “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. At hotel Mille Collines, Rusesabagina started charging people and chasing out of rooms those who were not capable to pay. Some of those who fell victims include; Jean Pierre Muligo, Chantal Mugabushaka and Isidore Mulindahabi (all are still alive). Mr. Christopher Shamukiga said that on the April 30, 1994 while at Hotel Mille Collines, he discovered large stocks of food and drinks in the Hotel basement. He started distributing this food to the hungry refugees. When Rusesabagina learnt of it, he summoned him to his office and charged him 500,000 Rwandan francs. He never supplied food or drinks to the refugees at the hotel as he claims. Instead, he tried to hinder food supplies by NGO’s in an attempt to sell the stock of food left in hotel and make money”, says Tatien Ndolimana, a genocide survivor. On May 18, 1994, Mr. Michel Houtart, the President of Sabena hotels instructed Rusesabagina to stop rejecting those who could not afford payment. He however refused and instead hosted those who could afford to pay. The rest were chased away. The family of the Late Anselme Sakumi (who died during the genocide), spent over two hours outside the hotel pleading with Rusesabagina to be allowed into the Hotel. He refused them entry until someone called Muvunyi gave him a cheque as a guarantee of payment. He also got cheques from different people, which cheques he would withdraw from Banque de Kigali – Gitarama branch as testified by Louis Kigerinyange who used to work with the bank. Rutaganda Georges, the ICTR inmate, revealed in a testimony made in March 2005 that Rusesabagina didn’t play any special role at the Mille Collines Hotel. According to many witnesses even present in Switzerland, the survivors at the hotel were not saved by Rusesabagina. On the contrary, Rusesabagina strives to present himself as the single hero during the genocide and downplays the role of other individuals and forces in saving people. He refuses to recognize various factors that led to the survival of people in the Hotel, among others: The Hotel Mille Collines was declared the UN protected site. In addition, the visit at the Hotel by international high ranking officials such as José Ayalala-Lasso, the then UN high commissioner in charge of human rights and Bernard Kouchner, the then French militant on humanitarian action at the hotel turned the attention of the international community on the Hotel. The Sabena Company business interests in the Hotel, coupled with some members of the international community who occupied the Hotel were major factors which spared the Hotel from the attacks of the Interahamwe militia. The Sabena group put a lot of pressure on the extremists to spare the Hotel. The genocidal forces, confronted by the military triumph of the Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA), had ulterior motives in maintaining a number of Tutsis in a known site like the Hotel des Mille Collines, so that they may use them as the ransom and bargaining power for possible negotiations with the Rwandese Patriotic Front since the RPF had captives from the genocidal regime in its hands. Therefore, Tutsi were strategically maintained at the Hotel and their lives were saved for this purpose.
PAUL RUSESABAGINA’S CLOSE RELATIONSHIP WITH GENOCIDAIRES
Considering Rusesabagina’s close relationship with dignitaries of the genocidal government, such as Théoneste Bagosora and Gen. Augustin Bizimungu, the circumstances in which he helped his friends should not be considered as extraordinary. In any case, he never risked his life in saving people since he was not the target of the genocide. Some people tend to believe that he should be considered like a hero because he didn’t kill any body whereas he had every possibility to kill or deliver victims to the killers. Should people praise him for not having done so as if killing a Tutsi was legitimate? Given his friendship with the genocide masterminds who, at a given extent, contributed to his fame, it is not surprising that Rusesabagina has become their advocate and that he tries to minimize the magnitude of their crimes or discharge them from the genocide. Rusesabagina created a political party known as PDR-Ihumure which is largely composed of Hutu extremists. The top leadership of this political party is composed of people suspected for their role in the genocide or people who have relatives detained for their role in the genocide. While traveling for public speaking events, Paul Rusesabagina always take the opportunity to meet genocide suspects to bring back confidence among them and to assure them that he will use his public speaking events to ensure that they will not be prosecuted. Rusesabagina is a close buddy and associate to some of the cream of genocide architects, who designed the plan that was to guarantee the extermination of a section of Rwandans. Some of such genocidaires include; Georges Rutaganda, Augustin Bizimungu and Théoneste Bagosora. He admitted this himself in an interview at Borders Bookshop in North London, May 25, 2006. In his interview offered to the VOA TV, he said that he “never saw Gen. Bizimungu killing people, that he instead saw him saving people.” In a conference held at the Concordia University, on 12 January 2006, he expressed his readiness to go to the ICTR to defend Gen. Augustin Bizimungu. He has also conducted numerous meetings with members of FDLR, a group which conducted the 1994 genocide and listed among international terrorist groups. To illustrate this, one could mention the meeting held in Cape town (South Africa) in January 2007 where he promised that he will get military support for them; and the numerous affidavits he signed for genocide suspects hiding throughout the world (the most recent being on Emmanuel Munyambuga held in the United Kingdom). Rusesabagina’s political party (PDR – IHUMURE) has been actively lobbying through the media to prevent the arrest of genocide suspects. Rusesabagina has also created a network composed of political allies based in the US and Belgium whose main role is to tarnish the image of Rwanda and to distort facts in the media. This network is led by people such as Providence Rubingisa and Pio Ngilikesha, well known genocide negationists. While traveling for public speaking events, the leader of PDR –
IHUMURE, Paul Rusesabagina always takes the opportunity to meet genocide suspects (mainly FDLR members) to win back confidence
among them and to assure them that he will continue lobbying to avoidtheir arrest and subsequent prosecution. His speeches as well as those
of his sympathizers have mainly rotated around reviving hatred of Hutus against Tutsis like it happened slightly before the 1994 genocide. Rusesabagina has also been meeting defense attorneys of genocide suspects held in Arusha. The most recent is a secret meeting held in Philadelphia on 11th February 2007 with Peter Erlinder, president of ICTR defense attorneys. The meeting was meant to exchange ideas on how they can lobby for the extension of the mandate of the ICTR. He also works closely with Charles Onana and Pierre Péan, well known for their negationism and who are in close contact with all the people behind PDR – Ihumure. The motive behind their close association is to deny the preparation of the genocide, and depict genocide as a mere result of popular furor caused by the death of President Habyarimana.
RUSESABAGINA’S HIDDEN AGENDA
Today, Rusesabagina continues to take a stand for humanity as he travels the world seeking to raise money and awareness allegedly to end the suffering of the people left in Rwanda. He started the Rusesabagina Foundation purportedly to bring hope and aid to Rwandan widows and orphans. When Hotel Rwanda was being worked on, Paul Rusesabagina promised to avail 6% of its profits to Rwandan genocide survivors. This support has not been availed up to now. 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 current regime in Rwanda. He has invested in the PDR-Ihumure party, composed of genocidaires, and he is progressively portraying himself as the only choice. The real intention behind his public speaking events is to prepare for future election campaigns in Rwanda. He has undertaken a marathon of public appearances so that the publicity surrounding him could make him the official spokesperson of the Rwandan opposition. The movie Hotel Rwanda may have helped to raise public awareness of the Rwandan genocide, and that is a good thing. But it remains a movie nonetheless, a product of Hollywood in which some characters may be real or fictitious. We must be careful to make the distinction and not be quick to move with the wind. It is sad that Reverend the event organizers in general would be swayed by the fray of Hollywood fame and media hype to the extent of working with and inviting an obscure individual whose acts are questionable in many respects. We are requesting those involved in organising this event to deny individuals like Rusesabagina an opportunity to destroy the enormous strides achieved by Rwandans so far by keeping away from their manipulations. Their dirty political tricks are clearly destructive and should be condemned in the strongest terms possible.
We fervently believe that such an individual lacks the minimum moral standing required to address any distinguished forum organized by people of international prominence. We therefore dare to hope that this will indeed no longer be the case.
The Rwandese Community of USA