The umbrella of Genocide survivors Ibuka has vowed to continue pursuing the truth despite the decision by The Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice to go ahead and award Paul Rusesabagina with the 2011 Tom Lantos Human Rights and Justice Award.
The US-based organisation has said that it will go ahead to award the 57-year old who inspired the Hollywood movie “Hotel Rwanda” but survivors of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi have questioned the authenticity of the story.
The award to be handed out on November 16 is based on the claims in the movie, which survivors say is fictitious, that Rusesabagina saved over 1,200 at Hotel des Mille Collines, but survivors petitioned Lantos Foundation, referring to Rusesabagina as an ‘impostor’.
In a shocking response, the president of the foundation Katrina Lantos Swett, disregarded the protests of the survivors, referring to them as ‘absurd’ and an attempt to ‘smear the good name’ of Rusesabagina.
Swett, who refused to meet the president of Ibuka, Jean Pierre Dusingizemungu, who is currently in the United States, went on to say that Lantos will go ahead and award Rusesabagina.
Dusingizemungu who led a team of delegates to the US said that Lantos decision will not deter the survivors from exposing the truth, observing that Lantos Foundation might disregard the truth but it will always prevail.
“We have met groups here which know the truth about the Genocide, including the Shoah Foundation Institute, which has agreed to write a letter to its counterpart over Rusesabagina revisionist and terrorism activities,” Dusingizemungu said.
“We also had an opportunity to meet Gen. Romeo Dallaire and held discussions on Mille Collines and he really knows the truth of what transpired there, and it is not different from what we know,” he added
Dusingizemungu added that the decision by Lantos Foundation to go ahead and award Rusesabagina will not discourage the survivors, adding that Rwandan communities and survivors in North America are planning a massive demonstration against the award.
Demonstrations in US and Canada are being planned by survivors of Mille Collines and Rwandans in the Diaspora.
Victor Munyarugerero, who now lives in Canada, said he forked out US$ 35,600 and gave it to Rusesabagina to provide shelter to 220 Tutsis at the hotel.
“Rusesabagina made money from many people who stayed at that hotel, there is no way he should receive this award for what he has done to his own people,” Munyarugerero said
Despite paying exorbitant fees for protection, Munyarugerero said Rusesabagina abandoned the over 800 people hiding at the hotel who were forced to drink the dirty swimming pool water because they lacked food.
During a recent conference held in Kigali, survivors told stories of how Rusesabagina extorted money out of them and never supplied them with logistics. Some died at the hotel while those who failed to pay were thrown out to be killed by the marauding militias.
Shockingly, Swett, the Lantos Foundation president has defended the fact that people who sought refuge at the hotel had to pay in order to have food, but survivors deny ever receiving any food from Rusesabagina who was cashing in on the desperate people.
“Money was needed to feed the 1,200 people living in the hotel and to bribe the ever murderous gangs that prowled outside the hotel gates,” Swett said.
Rwandans from all walks of life were riled by Swett’s remarks, terming them as ‘absurd and derogatory.’ A list of people who paid Rusesabagina has been drawn. Earlier this week, protests in Canada led to the cancelling of a visit of the so-called hero.
According to Janvier Forongo, the Executive Secretary of Ibuka, Lantos Foundation mixed up issues, observing that it was misled by the movie Hotel Rwanda, without bothering to verify facts.
“We know Lantos Foundation does not know the truth and we are therefore not disappointed, but we believe that one day, the truth will come out,” he said.
“Lantos Foundation deliberately ignored our explanations and the voices of the real survivors who were at the hotel. They failed to notice because all they know about Rusesabagina is what they saw in the movie,” Forongo said.