Genocide survivors groups have petitioned a US organization, Lantos Foundation, following plans to award Paul Rusesabagina with a rights prize come November 16, because they believe he is an extremist masquerading as a humanitarian activist.
The Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice, earlier this month, announced that Rusesabagina will be the recipient of this year’s Lantos Human Rights Prize.
According to Ibuka, the Umbrella of survivors of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, and Avega-Agahozo, an association of ‘Genocide widows’, Rusesabagina is actively raising funds not to help the victims of the Genocide, as he publicly professes, but to finance the subversive activities of the remnants of Genocide perpetrators still holed up in the DRC.
The president of IBUKA, Prof. Jean-Pierre Dusingizemungu, told The New Times, on Tuesday, that the two associations have written a letter to the American organization explaining why Rusesabagina is not worth the prize.
The groups have also created a Facebook page called ‘the Truth about Rusesabagina’, which has attracted comments denouncing Rusasabagina and his nomination for the award.
Ibuka and Avega-Agahozo say Rusesabagina has and continues to enjoy the windfall of the success of the film Hotel Rwanda as he enriches himself and his family, in the name of a character he never was, during the Genocide.
Rusabagina established a support fund for widows and orphans of the Genocide, however, none of the supposed beneficiaries have received any support from the Fund.
The Genocide survivors also accuse Rusasabagina of depicting a false image of his role in the situation at the Mille Collines through the award-winning Hotel Rwanda film, featuring Don Cheaddle.
In the movie, he claims to have saved more than 1000 lives at Hotel des Mille Collines, where he was a manager, while those who were in the hotel say he extorted money from them, claiming to protect them, yet the hotel was guarded by foreign troops whose countries had interests in the Hotel.
The French military had a communication unit on the 5th floor of the hotel, and the Belgian owners of the hotel (Sabena) sought to protect their assets.
“We wish to bring to your attention that Paul Rusesabagina is not an humanitarian hero, but an opportunist who has worked closely [with] genocide perpetrators including Colonel Bagosora who has been sentenced in 2010 to life imprisonment by the UN’s International Criminal Tribunal – ICTR – and General Augustin Bizimungu who received a 30-year sentence (for whom Rusesabagina was a defense witness in his ICTR trial),” the petition extended to Lantos Foundation, read.
Ibuka and Avega-Agahozo requested for the immediate withdrawal of the nomination noting that it is both an unforgivable insult to the victims of the Genocide, and an affront to the dignity of the survivors.
By press time, The Lantos Foundation had acknowledged receiving inquiries from The New Times, on the matter, but had not readily responded.
In a posting on the Facebook page created by the petitioners, Evode Mudaheranwa, wrote: “The respected Lantos Foundation can’t be the one awarding this self made Hero! Rusesabagina remains a very polarizing and divisive figure among the Rwandan people.”
The Rwandan prosecution has previously said it has evidence that Rusesabagina wired money to FDLR rebel outfit, a group blacklisted by the US as a terrorist organization, and whose senior leaders are among those blamed for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.