Rusesabagina’s story questioned during speech at University of Central Florida

Posted: May 30, 2011 in Uncategorized
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By Meisha Perrin, Special to the Orlando Sentinel

Paul Rusesabagina, whose efforts during the 1994 Rwandan genocide were portrayed in the Academy Award nominated film “Hotel Rwanda,” spoke at the University of Central Florida (UCF) Feb. 15 about what it was like to be “face-to-face with the devil” — and ended up being face-to-face with critics and naysayers.

Seventeen years ago, between the months of April and June, an estimated 800,000 Rwandans were killed in the Rwandan genocide.

Government-trained militia carried out the mass murders, which began in the capital of Kigali after the April 6, 1994, assassinations of then-presidents Juvénal Habyarimana of Rwanda and Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi.

Amid the tragedy that befell Kigali after the assassinations, hotel manager Rusesabagina said he was able to safely house about 1200 Rwandans in his hotel, the Hôtel des Mille Collines.

According to Rusesabagina, “The genocide came like a car in slow motion going to hit a kid [sic]. And instead of just jumping and grabbing the kid, we closed eyes, we closed ears, we turned backs and we did not want to get involved.”

Rusesabagina and the 1200 refugees stayed in the Hôtel des Mille Collines for 76 days — 76 days of which an average of 100,000 Rwandans were killed, according to Rusesabagina.

Patrick Karuretwa, a 32-year-old Rwandan native who openly questioned Rusesabagina during the question-and-answer segment, claimed to have lived with a survivor from the Hôtel des Mille Collines whom he said disagrees with Rusesabagina’s story.

“I have not met a single survivor who agrees with his version,” he said. “And wouldn’t it be appropriate to have survivors as part of the foundation or presentation who can talk about their experience?”

Karuretwa was residing in a neighboring city of Butare during the 1994 genocide.

Willis Shalita, a representative from a Rwandan Diaspora, also questioned Rusesabagina in the question-and-answer segment. He was skeptical of Rusesabagina’s speech and story.

“He has made a fortune from this genocide,” he said.

According to Shalita, Rusesabagina allegedly supports the same “terrorist” organization that started the genocide and still believes in the Hutu/Tutsi divide.

“Rwanda has moved on,” he said. “People have forgiven each other.”

Shalita also challenged Rusesabagina’s version of the story and thinks his claims are “outlandish.”

“I challenge him to find survivors from the hotel that he helped,” he said.


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