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Hotel Rwanda or the tutsi genocide as seen by Hollywood

105 pages
When the Rwandan genocide started in early April 1994, over a thousand of Tutsi rushed to one of the capital's biggest hotels, Hôtel des Mille Collines. What did these poor people really find within its walls ? This book distinguishes between the facts as they really happened inside Hôtel des Mille Collines and the story as it was told eleven years later in the film "Hôtel Rwanda" released in 2005.
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Acknowledgements we would like to thank all the people who made a contribution to the realisation of this book. we wish to acknowledge especially the contribution made by servilien sebasoni and James Vuningoma. thanks are also due to several people who read the manuscript and made a number of invaluable comments. of course, this book could not have been realised without the constant and willing support of the survivors of the Hôtel des mille collines. thank you for enduring the questioning, the probing, and the interviewing that were no doubt taking you back to the most painful days of your lives. we wish to reiterate that this book is primarily written for you as you seek to give the world the true picture of what really happened to you at that “concentration camp”. we are also indebted to those of you who allowed us access to some of the documents you preserved and which date back to April, may, and June of 1994. thank you especially tatien ndorimana miheto for the invaluable documents you kindly passed onto us. we would also like to pay tribute to the publishers of this book. they understood the essence of the work at hand and did not hesitate to give their consent to publish it. Although we endeavoured to present a research-based and factual account of the topic in question, we naturally retain responsibility for the errors of fact or interpretation that may be in this book. Finally, we must point out that we endeavoured to acknowledge the sources of the material we have borrowed. If, however, one or two slipped through without the proper recognition of the source, we would like to apologize. the authors


Introduction...................................................................... p. 9 Chapter I : A Hollywood myth....................................... p. 16 Chapter II : The witnesses take the floor.......................... p. 41 Chapter III: The three facets of manipulation.................. p. 70 Chapter IV: From heroism to negationism....................... p. 83 Chapter V : The Narcissus complex................................. p. 91 Notes ...............................................................................p. 100


“the great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie – deliberate, contrived and dishonest – but the myth – persistent, persuasive and unrealistic”. John F. Kennedy


The whole world now knows that the large-scale massacres that took place in Rwanda in April, May and June 1994 fully qualified as genocide. The Hutu extremists who savagely attacked Tutsi men, women and children with machetes set out to exterminate them simply because they were Batutsi. The only crime of these unfortunate souls was existing. During the hundred days of killing frenzy over one million seventy four thousand persons were massacred in horrifying conditions as an indifferent international community stood by and watched. In the turmoil of the Rwandan capital a hotel had stayed open: it was called the Hôtel des Mille Collines and it was protected by the forces of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR). When the massacres began in the capital, panic-stricken people ran to the hotel trying to find refuge in what seemed to them to be the only haven of security in the city. Soon over 1200 refugees had crowded into the hotel, men, women, children, the elderly and the ill, lacking nearly everything, encircled by a mob of assassins apt to break into the building any minute, not knowing whether they even had a chance of surviving the next twenty-four hours. Yet these poor souls survived. How? Thanks to whom and what circumstances? The dreadful situation they found themselves entangled in for weeks had all the elements of a Hollywood screenplay: hundreds of innocent people terrorised, short of all the basic needs, stuck in an enclosed space, encircled by hordes of implacable killers just waiting for the opportunity to force their way in and slit their throats. What help could these refugees hope for? Would United Nations soldiers appear suddenly at the last minute, like cowboys in a Western? One human figure seemed to rise above this sea of misery and distress, crystallizing everyone’s hopes – and questions : one man who would determine the outcome of this predicament. But would it be death or salvation? This central character was the man acting as the interim manager of the Hôtel des Mille Collines. He and he alone had the keys, the food supplies and the only working telephone. Clearly, all the ingredients of the type of American suspense thriller Hollywood is so good at producing came together in Kigali during those harrowing days in April, May and June 1994. The film


industry was quick to understand the benefit it could reap from the dramatic events, moreover, and equally quick to get hold of the story so as to make it known to the general public. To comply perfectly with the laws of the genre, they simply had to make sure that the main character appeared as a real hero and that he would be unequivocally credited with the happy end – because after all, God wanted there to be a happy end. But could this be the start of the fabrication of the truth? The filmmakers turned for advice to a certain Paul Rusesabagina, a taxi driver in Brussels. This man was the acting manager of the Hôtel des Mille Collines at the time of the dramatic events. It is he, at the end of the day, who created the screenplay based on his memories. It is he, at the end of the day, who told his own story, at the same time erecting his own statue. In the eyes of the world this Paul Rusesabagina now appeared as the man who had saved the 1,268 Batutsi seeking refuge from the genocide in “his” hotel. Was this the truth? Today it is essential to ask the question. For, if the memory of the genocide is to be kept intact and alive to ensure that such atrocities never happen again, the truth must first be established. Yet the whole truth has not been told, far from it. All the more reason not to allow falshoods to be created; they can only add to the confusion and insult the memory of the victims. It is the truth and nothing but the truth that must be told about the victims, their history and their suffering; the truth about the survivors of the genocide, their obsessive fears, their trials and tribulations and their quest for justice; the truth about the honest Bahutu, some of whom, unfortunately, were indifferent witnesses but who were not criminals; the truth about the Bahutu who proved themselves upright and heroic and who carried out extraordinary acts of courage in very difficult circumstances. Telling the truth about what happened to our loved ones is more than an obligation, it is an unconditional duty. Denouncing fabrications, lies and manipulation to the point of revisionism or even the negation of genocide is another, equally imperative, duty. It is for this reason that we decided to write this book. We refuse to allow the entertainment industry, the machine for making money