An online petition to convince Lantos Foundation to rescind the decision to award Paul Rusesabagina with a human rights prize had already collected 1,416 signatures as of 10:30 p.m. Sunday.
The petition was sent out by Groupe des Anciens Etudiants Rescapés du Génocide (GAERG), an association of Graduate student survivors of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi.
The online petition, http://www.petitiononline.com/GAERG94/petition.html, received a lot of attention, after Genocide survivors expressed concern over Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice’s decision to award Rusesabagina.
The foundation announced that, on November 16, Rusesabagina will.recieve the annual Human Rights Prize award in honour of former Congressman Tom Lantos.
The petition addressed to the New Hampshire organisation, titled “Paul Rusesabagina, an impostor without equal” is calling on Lantos Foundation to research more on Rusesabagina before according him the award.
“Paul Rusesabagina’s fame came only in December 2004, when Hotel Rwanda, a Hollywood type movie inspired by a history of fiction and invented from scratch, hit the world of movies.
“However, Mr Rusesabagina did not save any Tutsi from being killed in 1994 because: firstly, he arrived at the hotel one week after the Genocide had begun (16th April 1994),” the petition reads.
The petition further indicates that Rusesabagina was an employee of Sabena Hotels and he charged refugees for their stay or sent out those who did not have the money.
To support their argument, the survivors say Hotel Milles Collines was protected by UNAMIR, as the French army had its communication base on the 5th Floor and that there are testimonies of Milles Collines survivors gathered in a book “Hotel Rwanda or The Tutsi Genocide as seen by Hollywood”.
“Mr. Paul Rusesabagina whom you intend to honour by awarding him a prize on 16th November 2011, is one of the staunchest supporters of FDLR, a terrorist organisation whose members participated in the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.
“…and which continues up to this day to kill people and rape women in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The leaders of this organisation are undergoing court trials in Germany and at the International Criminal Court (ICC),” the petition asserts.
The Executive Secretary of FDLR, Callixte Mbarushimana is currently on trial at ICC while Ignace Murwanashyaka and Straton Musoni, the president and vice president of the militia group respectively, are in detention in Germany over similar charges.
According to Marie Claire Gatayire, the GAERG coordinator, Rusesabagina is no hero in the eyes of most Rwandans and Genocide survivors in particular.
“He is regarded in all perspectives as a usurper, an impostor who peddles and spreads the genocide ideology, and this is justified by the numerous declarations which he makes in conferences around the world,” she said.
“We sent out this petition on Friday for signatures. So far, the response we are getting is positive. We were targeting over 1,000 over the weekend and we have achieved that. We are going to forward them to Lantos Foundation and we hope they will reverse the decision,” Gatayire said.
The petition urges Lantos Foundation to carry out “deep and thorough investigations” especially among genocide survivors who were at the Hotel des Milles Collines before they award Rusesabagina.
Meanwhile, Rwandans in the United States say they are shocked by the foundation’s decision
The president of the New York and New Jersey Rwandan Community Jean-Baptiste Rudatsikira said that the award would be of great value if it only went to the right people who assisted, protected, and defended victims of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsis.
“It is ironic that the Lantos Human Rights prize is to be awarded to a person who is under a growing cloud of suspicion about his role during the Genocide,” Rudatsikira said.
Edouard Kayihura, a Genocide survivor who was at the hotel at the time said recorgnising Rusesabagina is like stabbing the wounds of the survivors and mockery to the victims.
“The award to Rusesabagina is more like killing us twice,” Kayihura said.