Uganda Genocide: Rwanda Hero

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Pittsburgh, PA., Dec. 1—The Rwanda hero whose exploits to rescue fellow citizens from Genocide was told in the film Hotel Rwanda blames Uganda’s president for genocide in Acholi region and faults the U.N. for ignoring mass killings around the world.

Paul Rusesabagina, a man who helped save many Rwandese from the butcher hands of militias during the Rwanda genocide spoke yesterday to an overflowing auditorium –Soldiers and Sailors' Hall—of students at the University of Pittsburgh. He blamed the U.N. and the International community for abandoning Rwanda when the genocide started. He said both the U.N. and the International community refused to recognize that there was genocide going on in Rwanda until after the genocide was over leaving close to one million Rwandans dead.

With respect to northern Uganda, where a war has been going on since 1986 with over 25,000 children abducted by rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), Rusesabagina said the international community and the U.N. have both ignored the plight of the Acholi people in northern Uganda. He blamed the genocide there and the over four million deaths in Democratic Republic of the Congo on the government of Yoweri Museveni of Uganda. Uganda invaded Congo in an attempt to topple the late Laurent Kabila and Museveni has favored a military solution to the Uganda insurgency problem of the vicious Lord’s Resistance Army. “The situation in northern Uganda is a disaster,� Rusesabagina said. “There are over 1.6 million Acholi in camps and the world has ignored them. This is a serious issue.�

Rusesabagina also apportion blame for the conflicts in Africa on colonialism and neo-colonialism. He said behind every conflict in Africa, there is always a super power behind it. He singled out the U.S. and European countries as the perpetrators. He related the wars to children's Nintendo video game in which he said the images in the games are created and manipulated by someone else and the kids playing the game have nothing to do with what's in the video.

Discussing the Rwanda genocide, whose estimated victims range from hundreds of thousands to over 1 million, he said: "In Rwanda in 1994, the international community was trying to escape from its responsibility. They even never called the Rwanda genocide  a genocide until when it was over."  Rusesabagina added, attracting a deafening applaud from the audience: "The United Nations do not make peace. And even do not keep peace…Unless the U.N. peacekeeping formula is changed, otherwise, the world will continue to butcher itself to death."

Rusesabagina has been hailed worldwide as a hero for saving more than 1,000 people at a hotel he managed in Rwanda in 1994. His story was portrayed in the critically lauded movie Hotel Rwanda, starring Don Cheadle. Although is story is widely known now after the movie, Rusesabagina does not consider himself a hero. He said there were many other Rwandans who helped save others from being killed although their stories may never be heard.

Rusesabagina recalled his ordeal in Rwanda before, during and after the genocide and said he had lost hope in life and had sacrificed himself to die with the people or help save them from being massacred by Hutu militias. He said the U.N., the Belgians and all other Westerners evacuated all their people leaving the Rwandans to die in the blood bath. "Even if they abandoned us, we never gave up," he said. He said he kept telephoning and faxing all the people he knew both in Rwanda and abroad for help but help never came.

"Each and every day had its own face," Rusesabagina painfully remembered. "Each and every day had its own problems. A day was like a year," he added. Rusesabagina was by then the manager of the Belgian-owned Mille Collines, a luxury hotel in Kigali, the Rwandan capital. It is from this hotel that the movie also got its name "Hotel Rwanda."

When the 1994 genocide broke out, ethnic Hutus began killing Tutsi Rwandans and Rusesabagina who is a Hutu married to a Tutsi woman used his hotel as a refugee camp for over a thousand escaping Tutsi and moderate Hutus. Already abandoned by the U.N. and the international community Rusesabagina bribed Hutu soldiers with beer and cash so they could not kill the refugees in the hotel.

The hotel Rwanda movie has since its release sold to millions of audiences earning millions of dollars. On Wednesday, November 9, 2005 U.S. President George Bush honored Rusesabagina with the prestigious U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Nation's highest civil award established by Executive Order 11085 in 1963. As a result of the success of the movie, Rusesabagina has also founded the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation (HRRF) which provides support, care, and assistance to children orphaned by, and women abused during, the genocide in Rwanda.

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