The Lantos Foundation’s insistence on doubling down on its wrongheaded decision to award Paul Rusesabagina with a peace prize based on the work Don Cheadle did portraying him in a wildly historical inaccurate movie is an unmitigated PR disaster for an otherwise distinguished organisation.
After protests from survivors who knew exactly what Rusesabagina was up to during the genocide, foundation chief Katrina Lantos Swett decided that attack was the best form of defense by claiming that the prize in actually for the “courage” he has shown by “speaking out” against the Kagame government since the 1994 genocide.
I wonder what kind of “speaking out” Lantos-Swett is referring to?
When Rusesabagina accuses the Rwandan Patriotic Front of genocide against Hutu but resolutely refuses to apply the word to the actual genocide (where 800,000 to one million mainly Tutsi deaths over 100 days in 1994 at the hand of Hutu forces, government and militia)?
When Rusesabagina describes the Gacaca courts that have delivered community-based justice for genocide perpetrators and are widely credited as a key to the nation’s reconciliation journey as “a state sponsored crime against Hutus”?
When his badgering of the International Crimes Tribunal of Rwanda (ICTR) regarding bogus allegations against President Kagame led the UN-backed court to write “he offered nothing more than “hearsay” information that is of no value in our work” and prompted the US Embassy in Kigali to add (via Wikileaks):
RUSESABAGINA has taken upon himself the task of communicating with the ICTR (and the Queen of England, among others) regarding alleged offenses by Rwanda’s current government, during the 1994 genocide and at other times. He does so with great fervor and less than perfect accuracy; the above communication from the ICTR shows that the Tribunal is tiring of his claims to be conveying useful information of any sort.
And in another diplomatic cable uncovered by Wikileaks, the US Embassy had this to say about the so-called hero:
RUSESABAGINA’s increasing participation in the fractured world of expatriate Rwandan politics appears to be as great a motivator for action as any wish he may have to see justice done in Rwanda.
Was it when Rusesabagina “spoke out” as a so-called expert witness for four genocide suspects appealing extradition in the UK, leading the presiding judge to say this of him:
In reality what [his testimony] did was expose the background to this evidence and show that the evidence was not that of an independent expert, but rather that of a man with a background strongly allied to the extremist Hutu faction, ‘and as such cannot be considered as independent and reasoned. In the light of the bias displayed, I am satisfied that no weight can be attached to this evidence
Did you catch that?
no weight can be attached to this evidence
But don’t believe me.
Don’t believe the UK courts.
Don’t believe the US Government.
By all means, ignore the ICTR who long ago worked out that Rusesabagina is a fraud.
But it seems fair to ask this much: before awarding this man a human rights award, at least give the survivors the right to be heard.