Anthony McIntyre 🔖 recently my wife drew my attention to a Sunday Times article she felt would interest me. It certainly did.

It was about a man who was abducted in Dubai by the intelligence services of Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, and forcibly repatriated to a Kigali prison before being jailed on terrorism charges 'after being subjected to a trial widely condemned as a sham.' He has since been freed after a robust campaign waged by the daughters (his biological nieces) he saved during the slaughter.

Nothing too surprising there. Rwanda's president, Paul Kagame, is one of the African continent's strong men dictators, whose regime has been responsible for many abuses since displacing and seizing power from a multiple times more vile dictatorship, that of Hutu Power. Although pandered to by the West, Kagame's regime has a more atrocious record than even Saudi Arabia in the field of visiting harm to those critical of the regime.

What caught my attention was that the kidnapped man was Paul Rusesabagina. He was the manager of the Hotel des Mille Collines during the Rwandan genocide, acquiring international iconic status for saving the lives of more than a thousand people lodged in its rooms, conference halls and hallways while the mass murder raged.

In his book written with Tom Zoellner, Rusesabagina narrates his time as manager of the complex that was later turned into a film, Hotel Rwanda. The hotel was also the the site for the late Gil Courtemanche literary great, A Sunday At The Pool In Kigali. Over a three month period more than five lives per minute were snuffed out by the Hutu Power government and its murderous militia, the Interahamwe. No Holocaust status for the victims there. The Israelis ignored their plight:

Israel and its representatives knew for decades about the murderous, racist, and corrupt character of the Hutu regime in Rwanda.

It was fortunate for those ensconced within the hotel that Rusesabagina was not killed in the first days of the genocide. He had been an outspoken critic of the president, Juvenal Habyarimana, whose assassination was the signal for the genocide to commence. He survived to wage what might better be described as a barter rather than a battle, his everyday trading in brandy and cash with the officers in charge of the murder machine, considered a profitable exchange if no one died.

Throughout the book Rusesabagina emphasises the power of words. The words spread by Radio Hate that led to so many of the killings. His own ability to trade words - and cognac - with some of the monsters of the genocide kept people safe. The US and UN failure to use the word genocide out of political convenience fed into the international strategic inertia that in so many ways allowed the genocidaires to carry on responding to the edict do your work. In a country so small that it was difficult to write its name, Rwanda - signifying its location - on maps of the continent, that work was carried out in a ruthlessly efficient manner. The Tutsi victims were cockroaches, 'a term as pernicious and dehumanising as the American word nigger.' Their children were to be exterminated as well, justified as 'a cockroach cannot give birth to a butterfly.'

Rusesabagina protected his flock while clergy were slaughtering theirs. He tells his story replete with unsavoury characters, from the uniformed colonels who daily despatched the gangs of machete wielding killers, to the suit attired bureaucrats who found every excuse for doing a perfect ten nothing.

A perhaps objectionable point is the mild criticism levelled the way of Roméo Dallaire, the Canadian general who incessantly complained about international inaction. An Ordinary Man fails to recognise the extraordinary efforts Dallaire went to, just to be frustrated at every turn by the Clinton administration in the US and that of Kofi Annan in the UN. Dallaire's own efforts are documented in his lengthy Shake Hands With the Devil. The devil in question was the late Théoneste Bagosora, the prime Hutu Power mover driving the genocide. Bagosora died in prison after more than two decades locked up. Rusesabagina had to speak to him by phone knowing painfully well that the same man with the same phone was orchestrating Hutu Power crimes against humanity on each of the thousands of hills throughout the country, explaining his willingness to talk to such people as the only way he could save lives;  words not war.

Not claiming to be the most detailed account of the Rwandan horror, and certainly not the definitive, An Ordinary Man all the same opens a window into the minds of those who made machete murder happen while telling what really happened to people when the international duty to protect was abandoned.

Paul Rusesabagina and Tom Zoellner, 2006, An Ordinary Man: The True Story Behind 'Hotel Rwanda'. Bloomsbury ISBN-13: 978-0747583042

Follow on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre.


An Ordinary Man

Anthony McIntyre 🔖 recently my wife drew my attention to a Sunday Times article she felt would interest me. It certainly did.

It was about a man who was abducted in Dubai by the intelligence services of Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, and forcibly repatriated to a Kigali prison before being jailed on terrorism charges 'after being subjected to a trial widely condemned as a sham.' He has since been freed after a robust campaign waged by the daughters (his biological nieces) he saved during the slaughter.

Nothing too surprising there. Rwanda's president, Paul Kagame, is one of the African continent's strong men dictators, whose regime has been responsible for many abuses since displacing and seizing power from a multiple times more vile dictatorship, that of Hutu Power. Although pandered to by the West, Kagame's regime has a more atrocious record than even Saudi Arabia in the field of visiting harm to those critical of the regime.

What caught my attention was that the kidnapped man was Paul Rusesabagina. He was the manager of the Hotel des Mille Collines during the Rwandan genocide, acquiring international iconic status for saving the lives of more than a thousand people lodged in its rooms, conference halls and hallways while the mass murder raged.

In his book written with Tom Zoellner, Rusesabagina narrates his time as manager of the complex that was later turned into a film, Hotel Rwanda. The hotel was also the the site for the late Gil Courtemanche literary great, A Sunday At The Pool In Kigali. Over a three month period more than five lives per minute were snuffed out by the Hutu Power government and its murderous militia, the Interahamwe. No Holocaust status for the victims there. The Israelis ignored their plight:

Israel and its representatives knew for decades about the murderous, racist, and corrupt character of the Hutu regime in Rwanda.

It was fortunate for those ensconced within the hotel that Rusesabagina was not killed in the first days of the genocide. He had been an outspoken critic of the president, Juvenal Habyarimana, whose assassination was the signal for the genocide to commence. He survived to wage what might better be described as a barter rather than a battle, his everyday trading in brandy and cash with the officers in charge of the murder machine, considered a profitable exchange if no one died.

Throughout the book Rusesabagina emphasises the power of words. The words spread by Radio Hate that led to so many of the killings. His own ability to trade words - and cognac - with some of the monsters of the genocide kept people safe. The US and UN failure to use the word genocide out of political convenience fed into the international strategic inertia that in so many ways allowed the genocidaires to carry on responding to the edict do your work. In a country so small that it was difficult to write its name, Rwanda - signifying its location - on maps of the continent, that work was carried out in a ruthlessly efficient manner. The Tutsi victims were cockroaches, 'a term as pernicious and dehumanising as the American word nigger.' Their children were to be exterminated as well, justified as 'a cockroach cannot give birth to a butterfly.'

Rusesabagina protected his flock while clergy were slaughtering theirs. He tells his story replete with unsavoury characters, from the uniformed colonels who daily despatched the gangs of machete wielding killers, to the suit attired bureaucrats who found every excuse for doing a perfect ten nothing.

A perhaps objectionable point is the mild criticism levelled the way of Roméo Dallaire, the Canadian general who incessantly complained about international inaction. An Ordinary Man fails to recognise the extraordinary efforts Dallaire went to, just to be frustrated at every turn by the Clinton administration in the US and that of Kofi Annan in the UN. Dallaire's own efforts are documented in his lengthy Shake Hands With the Devil. The devil in question was the late Théoneste Bagosora, the prime Hutu Power mover driving the genocide. Bagosora died in prison after more than two decades locked up. Rusesabagina had to speak to him by phone knowing painfully well that the same man with the same phone was orchestrating Hutu Power crimes against humanity on each of the thousands of hills throughout the country, explaining his willingness to talk to such people as the only way he could save lives;  words not war.

Not claiming to be the most detailed account of the Rwandan horror, and certainly not the definitive, An Ordinary Man all the same opens a window into the minds of those who made machete murder happen while telling what really happened to people when the international duty to protect was abandoned.

Paul Rusesabagina and Tom Zoellner, 2006, An Ordinary Man: The True Story Behind 'Hotel Rwanda'. Bloomsbury ISBN-13: 978-0747583042

Follow on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre.


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