Do not distort Rwanda’s history

A month ago, precisely on July 8, 2007, Paul Rusesabagina attended a Sunday service at St. Sabina Church in Chicago, USA and addressed a congregation of approximately 3,000 people.

A month ago, precisely on July 8, 2007, Paul Rusesabagina attended a Sunday service at St. Sabina Church in Chicago, USA and addressed a congregation of approximately 3,000 people.

From the time he attained his new found “fame” as a “hero” from the producers of the movie Hotel Rwanda – to whom he sold an incorrect story – Rusesabagina has launched an unrelenting attack on the Government of Rwanda at all forums he has had the opportunity to address.

Though in the beginning the portrayed hero was humble to recognize the genocide, by the effect of megalomania, Rusesabagina misappropriated the composite characters built in him and deliberately started to rewrite Rwanda’s history by outrageously distorting otherwise well-known facts.

In a despising manner for his audience, which he inconsiderately takes for pure ignoramuses, he goes on to mislead them on Rwanda’s history. He says, “Before the colonial era, Tutsis ruled the country and Hutus, who were the majority, were just slaves,” he said.

 “You understand what I mean by slaves: Hutus were ruled by their masters, Tutsis.” Anyone who knew the facts and listened to Rusesabagina’s speeches would be shocked to hear someone – most of all a Rwandan – making such an absurd statement. Indeed, nobody, not even the worst anti-Rwanda individuals, or even the genocide ideologues, would go that far in their utterances. From the early Belgian Catholic priests who thought their ethnocentric idea of Rwandans according to which “the Hutus constitute the majority of the Rwandan people and are the true Rwandans; they have created the country by cultivating it; the Tutsis are Nilotics who came later with their cows and their arrows and spears and took advantage of the natural humility of the poor Hutus to dominate them…”;

To Mgr Leon Classe’s explanation to the colonial administrator that “the Tutsi belong to a superior race born to command…”; to recent genocide masterminds who encouraged the killers to “send the Tutsi back where they came from (Abyssinia) by the shortest route (River Nyabarongo), none of them dared to present the world with such a gross lie as of “enslavement of the Hutus by the Tutsis.”

Knowing that, as Americans, the audience has a direct and quite traumatizing experience of slavery in their own country, Rusesabagina chooses to use the cliché to gain their sympathy and easily convey his negative portrayal of the current Rwanda.

Having prepared their mind, he convinces himself he can make them believe whatever lies he will tell them.

 Thus he continues that “In 1959, Hutus said no, this cannot last forever and then there happened what was called the Hutu revolution.

 Through the revolution, Colonialists went back to Europe and unfortunately, our fellow Rwandans, the Tutsis, had no any other choice other than fleeing the country to neighbouring countries….”

Rusesabagina, by this statement, creates the impression that the going into exile was by the Tutsis’s own design; he was about to say that the million of them killed later in 1994, chose to die or committed suicide. 

  In fact, the Rwandan history demonstrates that there had been harmony between Hutu and Tutsi for more than eight centuries of the known Rwandan history.

The factors of this harmony were, among others, the awareness that Rwandans formed a united nation governed by a monarchy that stood over tribal cleavage and was a bond of unity.

There was also the fact that all Rwandans had the same culture, spoke the same language, and had intermarriages that made a population intertwined in close relationships.

 Hutu and Tutsi shared life problems and struggled to solve them, each one contributing to the welfare of the other and bringing in what was specific to their skills in terms of farm work, cattle breeding, pottery and entertainment. My life experience as a child through story tales and culture taught me that all Rwandans were friendly people across all ethnic groups.

Stories told indicate that until 1959, nobody among schoolmates or neighbours had either a strong or even a slight feeling of being different from, or antagonist to, one another. None presented themselves as Tutsi, Hutu, but all knew they were Rwandans. Rather, all identified themselves according to the 15 Rwandan family clans and their totems, which cut across ethnic groups.

From 1959 to the 1994 Genocide, Hutu leaders, put in place by the Belgian rule in a last ditch attempt to remain in Rwanda, implemented a policy of establishing a Hutu power with a total exclusion of the Tutsis.

 All the Tutsis then were considered enemies and a serious threat to their monopoly of power.

 To ensure the success of this policy, they introduced a national identity card explicitly indicating each one’s ethnic group. With this policy solidified, Tutsis were, since 1959 marginalised and killed in successive pogroms, and survivors were successively forced to exile in neighbouring countries.

Having lived in Rwanda until his self-imposed exile in 1996, Rusesabagina obviously knows this pretty well but he prefers to tell the story in a way that suits his current political ambitions.

Indeed, it has now appeared that he has got a long term agenda, in which, from a mere hotel manager, an ordinary man according to his own words, he has embarked in a smear campaign against current Rwanda’s leadership.

 By tarnishing the country’s image in the international community, by brandishing around farfetched, utterly fabricated facts on current Rwanda, he hopes to rally people behind him and later, be presented as an alternative to the current regime in Rwanda.Ends

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