Who is Paul Rusesabagina, ‘Hotel Rwanda’ Hero?

Paul Rusesabagina is a Rwandan politician, human rights champions and referred to as ‘Hotel Rwanda’ hero.

He is known for his lifesaving efforts during the 1994 Rwanda genocide, which was a culmination of long-running ethnic tensions between the minority Tutsi community and the majority Hutu. Over the course of 100 days, about 800,000 lives were lost which was estimated to be up to 20% of Rwanda’s population.

During the genocide, Paul worked as the manager of the Hotel des Mille Collines in Kigali. He housed over 1,000 Hutu and Tutsi refugees, and saved them from being hurt or killed.

As a result, his heroism inspired the film Hotel Rwanda in 2004 starring Don Cheadle and Sophie Okonedo. The film won international acclaim, being nominated for 3 Academy Awards.

On the other hand, Rusesabagina received the Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award from US President George Bush in 2005.

However, some genocide survivors accused him of using their suffering to make himself look heroic. “He dramatized his deeds in a film and won awards he did not deserve” said Naphtal Ahishakiye, the Executive Secretary of Genocide Survivor Organization.

Following his newly found international fame, he became a public speaker, mostly touring universities in United States and campaigns for the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation, which he founded in 2006.

As his profile rose, he increasingly spoke out against Kagame regime, whose 2 decade long rule has been credited for bringing stability and development to the mineral-rich nation but who has been blamed for cultivating an environment of fear for his political opponents both at home and abroad.

In 2006, he founded the PDR-Ihumere political party and his the president of the Rwanda Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD), a foreign based opposition group to the Rwandan Government and believed to have an armed wing called the National Liberation Front (FLN), which Rwanda has labeled a terrorist organisation.

Moreover, Rusesabagina has publicly expressed his support for FLN’s “liberation struggle” in a widely disseminated video online. The group claimed responsibility for terrorist attacks in 2018.

On August 31 2020, he was arrested in Dubai on nine charges including financing terrorism, murder as an act of terrorism, formation of an irregular armed group, and membership of a terrorist group, among others.

Alongside Rusesabagina, 20 other defendants were tried included Callixte Nsabimana, popularly known as Sankara, a spokesman for the FLN.

Paul Rusesabagina, on September 9 was convicted of terrorism related charges and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

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