27 May 2011
Paul Rusesabagina: Hero or Opportunist In the film Hotel Rwanda, we see the portrayal of events at the Hotel Des Mille Collines as they were described in Paul Rusesabagina’s book titled “An Ordinary Man,” which talks about his experiences in Rwanda during the genocide committed by the Hutu people in 1994. The Hutu people went on a killing spree, massacring over 800,000 Tutsi natives in the span of two months. In the film, Rusesabagina is made out to be a hero of the people who saves over 1200 Hutu and Tutsi refugees from being slaughtered by the rebel group known as the Interahamwe. With the help of some powerful friends, payoffs, and manipulation of officials, Rusesabagina allegedly held out for two months in the Mille Collines hotel. The movie portrays Rusesabagina as the savior of these people, a hero deserving of honors, but the public opinion of the events sometimes tells a different story that causes me to question the authenticity of Rusesabagina’s claims. With an outcry of liar, genocidaire, extortionist, defender of mass murderers, and opportunist being screamed from so many different sources, can we truly take Paul Rusesabagina at face value? Was Paul Rusesabagina truly the hero he was made out to be in the film, or was he the opportunist who fooled the world? Hotel Des Mille Collines: Two Tales
In the film Hotel Rwanda, Paul Rusesabagina shelters over 1200 refugees from the Tutsi and Hutu tribes in the hotel for two months while war wages right outside the gates. In the film, Rusesabagina continues to charge the guests in the efforts to make it look as though the hotel was functioning like normal. In the film Rusesabagina is quoted saying, “Good day. Here is your bill for the last week. If you cannot pay, or think you will not be able to pay, go to the ballroom. Zozo will take care of you.” After this scene nothing more is ever mentioned about money, and I assumed that the refugees were allowed to stay. There is never anything in the movie to cause you to believe that refugees were evicted for not being able to pay their bill, which further gives the impression that Paul Rusesabagina was doing the right thing, and should be labeled a hero for his actions.
Unfortunately, the reality of things paints a darker and more ominous picture of Paul Rusesabagina, and shows him in the light of the opportunist and extortionist. There are reports from of actual survivors of the Mille Collines, stating that Rusesabagina forced them to write and sign checks in order to be allowed to remain in the hotel, otherwise facing eviction into the chaos that was in the streets. Senator Gasamagera Wellars (left), a member of Rwanda Parliament, tells his story of an encounter with Rusesabagina, ““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” (Indignation of Rwandese Community). According to survivors of this atrocity, Rusesabagina did not stop with just charging people for rooms, but also claim that he disconnected all phone lines but the one in his office and began charging guests for its use, as well as charging money for food that was stored in the hotel. “Christopher Shamukiga, one of the hotel employees, discovered food in the basement of the hotel, and doing what anyone in their right mind would do, he began passing it out to hungry refugees. Afterwards Mr. Shamukiga was called in to Rusesabagina’s office, “When Rusesabagina learnt of it, he summoned him to his office and charged him 500,000 Rwandan francs” (VirungaNews.com). With so many people speaking out against Paul Rusesabagina’s portrayal of events at the Mille Collines, I cannot help but wonder if the hero of the hour is truly a scam artist who is profiting off of the...