In 1954 when Rupfure Thomas and Nyirampara Keziya were blessed with the birth of a bouncing baby boy in their remote Nkomero home of south-western Rwanda, in the wildest of their imaginations they had no inkling that this bundle of joy would one day shake the hand of the most powerful man on earth.
That miracle came to pas but, unfortunately, they were not there to witness it. Paul Rusesabagina did not only get a handshake from the president of USA, he also got a medal of honour from him, to wit.
That medal, however, may prove to be his undoing in the end. It may be the culmination of his string of strokes of luck and triumphs of calculated gamble-games but may also have given him the hubris that has had many a real hero fall disgracefully.
Those gambles have been many: junking a carrier in theology: playing front office manager; hotel manager; ‘king’ and seeking to go even higher.
In his biography, he says: “My kingship came not as a heavenly birthright but from the personnel department of Sabena”.
This is in reference to the management of Mille Collines Hotel, which belonged to the then Belgian airline company, Sabena, and which Rusesabagina had taken over.
Seeing that the Belgian managers had left Rwanda in the face of the 1994 genocide, he quickly calculated and turned himself into the management department of the hotel.
This way, he did not need to join the then fleeing Sindikubwabo government and troop south to Gitarama town.
The hotel was protected by UN troops as it was sheltering UN officials and personalities from Western countries. 1270 refugees had also taken advantage of this protection and sought refuge there, as maniacal génocidaires and the now Sindikubwabo army (no longer Habyarimana’s) were pursuing them.
So, Rusesabagina started exercising his “kingship”, which involved four main tasks. First, he started charging money to all the refugees in the hotel, even if only a few had been able to secure rooms and a majority of them ‘camped’ (without camping equipment) in the sprawling gardens of the hotel, around the swimming pool.
Second, he started evicting the refugees who were unable to pay and barring those who were seeking refuge without money, thus turning them into fodder for the machetes of the génocidaires lurking at the gates.
His third task was to shut off all the telephone lines (which provided the refugees with a lifeline to the outside world) as well as supplies of food and drinks to those who could not afford to buy them.
Last but by no means least, he set about entertaining lavishly while informing on the refugees to the hate radio (RTLM) that was broadcasting their whereabouts to the roving, raving slaughterers.
That ‘royal entertainment’ involved liberally dishing out the hotel drinks to Sindikubwabo soldiers in the evening, after a day’s hard work of butcher and bedlam.
However, every day is not Christmas and the ‘royal’ days finally came to an end when RPF (Rwanda Patriotic Front) took over and stopped the mayhem and genocide.
The new RPF government brought order and peace and now it was time for our ‘royalty’ to shift base. He set up camp in Brussels and did odd jobs, including ferrying passengers around the city for a fee.
His star had not faded, though, and Hollywood smiled upon him and now he has become a ‘hero’! As ‘hero’, after turning the Mille Collines Hotel story into one of heroically saving those victims of his vicious treatment from slaughterers he entertained, he is setting his sights higher.
As he makes the rounds of universities and fundraises for his foundation, he continues to amass funds from Americans who have unwittingly swallowed the ‘Hotel Rwanda’ hero line.
His unsuspecting audience does not know that the money they are sympathetically dishing out is channelled to the jungles of D.R. Congo to finance the terrorist group known as FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda).
Those who are donating to his foundation, Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation, should also know that their money is not reaching the orphans and widows it is purported to benefit.
The list of the so-called beneficiaries was made for him by a Mister Kabalisa Pacifique and they are names of known children and widows in Gitwe, Rwanda, who are nonetheless unaware of its existence and of the fact that it is financing a terrorist group.
Apparently, though, he is seeing no chance of the group’s eventual success in triumphantly leading him home to Rwanda after an armed struggle. For this reason, he is changing strategy and seeking to sanitise the terrorist group in the eyes of the international community.
By that gamble, he hopes the international community will bear down on the government of Rwanda for it to allow the return of these rapists and murderers without them having to answer for their sins.
In the scheme, he is teaming up with the fugitive foursome of Kayumba, Karegeya, Gahima and Rudasingwa, who seem to have been rejected by other genocide-promoting diehards despite their effort.
This foursome is doing everything to please, with Rudasingwa singing to high heaven for amnesty for all the génocidaires and ex-FAR who are ensconced in the jungles of D.R. Congo or holed up in foreign cities.
Not to be outdone, Gahima has been camping in the house of late President Habyarimana’s widow in a spirited effort to win over her backing.
On their part, Kayumba and Karegeya are working the South African circuit, smoothening the way for the grand entrance of ‘Lord’ Rusesabagina! With the visit, they hope to win over the ruling ANC. A pipe dream for the quintet I haven’t seen grander!
Not only you, venerable Rupfure, but they were lucky all parents who departed before being witness to this bizarre concoction of mixed marriages of convenience.