Hotel Rwanda

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I decided to surf the internet in search of inspiration, and I found it on the website. Robert Benjamin's article "Hotel Rwanda and the Guerrilla Negotiator" definitely caught my eye…particularly since I had checked the DVD out from the library last Friday but hadn't yet watched it. Benjamin's article piqued my interest enough to do some additional research on Rwanda, and passion was born.

While a colony of Belgium, Rwanda was separated into two tribal groups which many say was based on physical characteristics such as the wideness of the nose: the common Tutsi (majority), and the upper-class Hutu (minority). For many years, the Tutsis were powerful and mistreated the Hutus. In 1962, Rwanda gained its independence from Belgium, the power shifted to the Hutus, many of whom wanted to exact their revenge on the enemy Tutsis.

In 1993, Canadian General Romeo Dallaire was put in charge of the United Nations Mission to Rwanda to facilitate implementation of the Arusha peace accords after they were signed by the Hutus and the Tutsis. That mission was derailed when the Hutu president's plane was shot down by Tutsi rebels. The president's assassination was the precipitating event of what would become known as the genocide in Rwanda.

"When people ask me, good listeners, why do I hate all the Tutsi, I say: read our history. The Tutsi were
collaborators for the Belgian colonists, they stole our Hutu land, they whipped us. Now they have come back. We will

squash the infestation."
-- ITLM Hutu Power Radio

Then, I watched the movie.

In a recreation of actual events, we are taken to Kigali, Rwanda's capitol, shortly before the 100-day genocide began. Ultimately, at least 800,000 – some say over 1,000,000 – were killed.

Paul Rusesabagina is the central figure of the story and Benjamin's designated Guerrilla Negotiator. Rusesabagina managed the exclusive Hotel Des Milles Collines (owned by a Belgian company) and developed a network of powerful allies (including a crooked Hutu army general) – plying them with bribes with the hope they would be available should he ever need a favor. A Hutu married to a Tutsi, and the father of three young children, Rusesabagina initially refused to believe the rumors of increasing hostility and brutality against the Tutsis (routinely called cockroaches by the Hutu rebels). When Rusesabagina can no longer ignore the growing violence, his wife compels him to include Tutsi relatives (those who can be found), neighbors, and friends in their exodus to the safety of the hotel. As the UN refugee camp reached overload, Rusesabagina is continually asked to provide sanctuary for more Tutsi refugees. Through continued wheeling, dealing, and manipulation, Rusesabagina is directly responsible for saving the 1,268 lives. He and his wife adopted two surviving nieces and now reside with them and their own three children in Belgium.

Benjamin points out that almost every scene in the film showcases the power of negotiation "as a means of survival even in the face of vile and irrational human behavior", adding "there is much to be gleaned from the gritty style of negotiation that is compelled in those circumstances." Benjamin calls this "guerrilla negotiation", adding "borne out of necessity, not ideology, he or she operates solely by their own wits, earning credibility and trading on their ability to convey a personal sense of authenticity."

Armed with Benjamin's perspective in my mind, I found it easy to spot the ongoing negotiation he noted…and just as easily realized I probably wouldn't have categorized it as such if I hadn't read the article first.

Clearly, Rusesabagina reads people exceedingly well, recognizes what it will take to get what he wants/needs from them,...
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