Survivors’ associations yesterday came out to condemn Lantos Foundation for disregarding their petitions to go ahead and honour Paul Rusesabagina.
During a joint news conference yesterday organised by the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG), Ibuka, the Associations of graduate students (GAERG) and Genocide widows (AVEGA), expressed dismay towards the American foundation.
Ibuka is the umbrella organisation of all Genocide survivors associations.
According to the Executive Secretary of Ibuka, Janvier Forongo, survivors were offended by Lantos Foundation’s insensitivity, particularly, by not considering the testimonies of survivors at the Mille Collines Hotel during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
“We were involved in a number of activities through our associations. Ibuka sent a letter contesting the award which was given to Rusesabagina on Wednesday, and so did many other people,”
“Ibuka and its member associations believe that the Lantos Foundation did not conduct any survey or consultations on Paul Rusesabagina before nominating him for the award,” Forongo said.
He noted that regardless of the factual information presented to the foundation, it persisted to intentionally honour Rusesabagina who is considered by Genocide survivors as an impostor rather than a hero.
Forongo, who was flanked by officials from GAERG, AVEGA and CNLG, said that it was unfortunate that the Foundation ignored petitions, including some from foreigners who were in Mille Collines at the time and knew the whole truth, which makes it absurd.
“Rusesabagina is not known to be among the voluntary saviours during the Genocide. We have drawn a full list of them, basing on testimonies of survivors and Rusesabagina is not among them. Those he saved say he did because of purely financial reasons.
“Today, Rusesabagina is known to be a revisionist and a negationist of the Genocide perpetrated against the Tutsi in 1994. More so, he supports the FDLR, a terrorist organisation whose members participated in the Genocide,” Forongo said.
Apart from denying that Rusesabagina ever saved any people, the survivors said that today he goes around claiming to be assisting Genocide survivors, especially students, pointing out that he continues to amass wealth in their name.
Aristarque Ngoga, the Executive Secretary of GAERG, said that Rusesabagina does not sponsor any student survivor and there is no record of such. It was observed that the money is instead diverted to divisive and subversive activities.
“We had included all these in our online petition which was signed by 2105 people and was dully delivered to Lantos. It was signed by survivors and friends of Rwanda who knew the truth, it is unfortunate that Lantos ignored our efforts,” Ngoga said.
The groups argued that Rusesabagina did not commit Genocide but insist that he is no hero and never saved anyone out of compassion.
Jean Loup Denblyden, a retired Belgian Lieutenant Colonel was in Rwanda at the time, said that Lantos Foundation made a huge mistake awarding Rusesabagina.
“I was around at the time and I kept in contact with the foreign forces that were at Mille Collines and throughout this period, there was nothing like Rusesabagina saving people. This was a huge mistake,” said Denblyden yesterday.
The Belgian national, like the survivors, believes there is a political agenda hidden behind the award and Lantos Foundation, observing that in this case, survivors were meant to have the final say.
Despite protests and controversy, Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice went ahead to award Paul Rusesabagina with the 2011 Tom Lantos Human Rights and Justice Award.