Inside the Hotel Rwanda
The Surprising True Story… and Why It Matters Today
by Edouard Kayihura and Kerry Zukus
Book Review by Kam Williams
“Hotel Rwanda was ‘promoted as a story about ‘the quiet heroism of one man, Paul Rusesabagina, during the Rwandan Genocide.’ I knew Paul Rusesabagina. All the people who survived inside the hotel… knew Paul Rusesabagina.
No one among us has ever thought of him as altruistic, let alone heroic. On the contrary, of all the people who were within the hotel during the genocide, he would quite possibly be considered the furthest from a hero…
Rusesabagina had been a war profiteer, a friend to the architects of the genocide, a man willing to starve those without money while hoarding piles of food, drink and riches for himself.”
Excerpted from the Introduction (page xxx)
In 2004, the film Hotel Rwanda received widespread acclaim for its heartrending account of how one man had singlehandedly shielded over a thousand Tutsi refugees from certain death during the Rwandan Genocide by hiding them in the hotel he managed. Don Cheadle earned an Academy Award nomination for his powerful portrayal of Paul Rusesabagina, an apparent modern-day saint suddenly mentioned in the same breath as Oskar Schindler, the German factory owner who had saved so many Jews from the Holocaust during World War II.
Rusesabagina was subsequently celebrated by Amnesty International and other organizations as he embarked on a world tour during which he collected countless prizes and honorary degrees, including the Wallenberg Medal, the National Civil Rights Museum Freedom Award and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, to name a few. And, to this day, he’s remained in demand as a revered icon and inspirational speaker sought to recount his uplifting tale of unparalleled bravery in the face of ethnic cleansing.
What a difference a decade makes! Over the intervening years, telltale cracks gradually appeared in the image Rusesabagina had so carefully cultivated with the help of Hollywood and the human rights community. Those swirling rumors came out into the open when Rwandan President Kagame referred to the supposed paragon of virtue as a total fraud.
Now, Hotel Rwanda survivor Edouard Kayihura has collaborated with journalist Kerry Zukus to set the record straight once and for all. Their book, “Inside the Hotel Rwanda: The Surprising True Story… and Why It Matters Today” painstakingly deconstructs Rusesabagina’s self-serving myth about what transpired.
Truth be told, he was never a hero but rather a Hutu sympathizer and war profiteer who had extorted money from the frightened folks seeking refuge on the grounds of his hotel. According to Kayihura, “He treated… us as his personal cash register… Refugees were refused entrance unless they could pay him.”
Furthermore, “The hotel was protected by UN peacekeepers and any attempt to kill was aborted by them… Paul Rusesabagina had absolutely nothing to do with any of this.“ Kayihura‘s damning assertions are supported by the recollections of many of his fellow countrymen who had sought refuge at the hotel for the duration of the bloody conflict.
Assuming this eye-opening opus is accurate, a debt of gratitude is owed Kayihura and Zukus for belatedly exposing a very slippery character as a shameless charlatan.