I write on behalf of the Rwandan Canadian Community of London (RCCL) to express our opposition to the entry of Hotel Rwanda hero, Paul Rusesabagina who is scheduled to speak at the We Day Conference in Winnipeg later this month. Rwandans are outraged that a man who is currently engaged in denying the Rwandan genocide, and other activities that may bring tensions among the Rwandan people would be allowed entry into Canada !
Paul Rusesabagina gained fame from the award-winning movie Hotel Rwanda, in which he is depicted as a selfless man that used his influence and connections to save more than 1200 Tutsis and moderate Hutus who had sought refuge at the Hotel des Mille Collines(“Hotel Rwanda”).The movie was based on his autobiography, An Ordinary Man. While many in the international community have, perhaps mistakenly, bought into this picture, the vast majority of Rwandans know otherwise. We know Rusesabagina as a genocide denier, a callous opportunist and an imposter in the events attributed to him.We know too well that much of the depictions of the movie were more fiction than fact. Yes, people who managed to get into the hotel survived the genocide, but this had little to do with Rusesabagina’s efforts. If the killers had wanted to attack, just like they did in cathedrals, churches and schools elsewhere in the country, they could have done so at the hotel and Ruseasabagina would have been utterly powerless to prevent them. The following are among the more likely reasons people at the hotel were spared:
1. Hotel des Mille Collines had been declared a UN protected site, and had UN military personnel on site at all times.
2. A French security detachment stayed in the hotel
3. There were international figures visiting Rwanda and staying at the hotel, including José Ayala-Lasso, the then UN High Commissioner in charge of human rights.
4. The Rwandan Army which was complicit in the genocide knew that they could use the Tutsis at the hotel as bargaining chips for prisoner exchange with the then rebel RPF army, a fact that indeed came to bear.
Aside from the fact that Paul Rusesabagina‘s “saving” attributes are based on fiction, there are other disturbing aspects about what actually happened at the hotel. Here below are some examples:
Exploitation of victims
Rusesabagina charged the refugees large sums of money, usually in US dollars even after the president of Sabena Hotels, Michael Houtart had instructed him otherwise. Witnesses have come forward among those that were chased away because they did not have the money. These include Jean Pierre Muligo, Chantal Mugabushaka and Isidori Mulindahabi to name a few of those still alive. The family of late Anselme Sakumi testified that they spent more than two hours outside the hotel, pleading with Rusesabagina for admission, until another refugee by the name provided a cheque on their behalf. These are living testimonies which Rusesabagina cannot rightfully deny. In fact, he too admits that he did take payments for admission at the hotel (An Ordinary Man, p. 137).
The Canadian government may well be aware that Paul Rusesabagina went into self-exile and formed his own political party, the PDR- Ihumure (Democratic Party of Rwanda). What is perhaps less obvious to many are the activities related to this party and its leader some of which aim to undermine and destabilize an elected Rwandan government. For example, there are serious allegations that money may have exchanged hands with militant groups operating in the eastern regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo which are notorious for some of the worst human rights violations in the region.Rusesabagina is currently under investigation in Belgium for this allegations.
Rusesabagina currently enjoys innumerable public appearances at which he is always postures as someone advancing the cause of peace and reconciliation. He is currently on the list of eminent guests to speak at the “We Day “youth conference on November 23 in Winnipeg to give more than 16, 000 expected youth some inspirations! Yet, true to character, Rusesabagina will almost certainly find a way to use his platform deny, trivialize and minimize the Rwandan Genocide albeit indirectly.
Rusesabagina is on record suggesting that the term “genocide” was imposed on Rwanda by the Security Council, and that perhaps “another resolution” will be needed! In many of his public appearances, Rusesabagina consistently portrays the Rwandan genocide as a tribal conflict, echoing the propaganda of Hutu extremist ideologues and Rwanda ’s hate media during the genocide. His speech at Saint Sabena Church in Chicago on the 8th of July 2007 would testify to this.
Genocide denial is outlawed in Canada , and we think that persons who engage in this commission in whatever manner or form must be brought to the scrutiny of book. Therefore, Honourable Minister, we humbly urge that a revaluation be made of Rusesabagina’s quest to enter Canada .
President, Rwandan Canadian Community of London (RCCL)