April 2016 is the 22nd anniversary of the events that inspired the film “Hotel Rwanda.”
Interview: by John Wisniewski
In Inside the Hotel Rwanda, survivor Edouard Kayihura tells his own personal story of what life was really like during those harrowing days within the walls of that infamous hotel and offers the testimonies of others who survived there, from Hutu and Tutsi to UN peacekeepers.The book exposes the Hollywood hero of the film Hotel Rwanda, Paul Rusesabagina, as a profiteering and politically ambitious Hutu Power sympathizer who extorted money from those who sought refuge, threatening to send those who did not pay to the génocidaires, despite pleas from the hotel’s corporate ownership to stop. Kayihura’s Inside the Hotel Rwanda offers an honest and unflinching first-hand account of the reality of life inside the hotel, exposing the man who exploited refugees and shedding much-needed light on the plight of his victims.
What made you wish to tell the story of the genocide at Hotel Rwanda, Edouard?
As a native Rwandan, I myself lived out the terrible 100 days of the genocide against Tutsi from within the walls of the Hotel Mille Collines, aka the “Hotel Rwanda”. Whenever I mention this to anyone they ask, “What was it like? Was it just like the movie?” The answer is no, and that is why I wrote the book to correct the history to tell the real story behind the Movie Hotel Rwanda.
What research went into writing your book?
The book is my personal story of how I was raised in a divided society until I survived the genocide. It is also the testimonies of the survivors of the genocide in the Hotel Mille Collines. I read some books on the genocide and Rwanda history which are quoted in the book.
Edouard, did the Hotel Rwanda film cause a controversy, as far as not being accurate?
I appreciate the film’s efforts to foster awareness of the genocide. The fact it made a fake hero that is what make it controversial. Once he became hero he started to rewrite the genocide against Tutsi history even denying it. He became apologetic of those who committed the genocide. Now he is someone who is painted as a humanitarian but who was an active politician before the genocide, during the genocide and after the genocide.
Are there many cases of torture and genocide, around the world, that many Americans may not be aware of? Is there enough reporting by the U.S. press on these kinds of subjects?
Yes, many cases of torture and genocide, around the world, are unknown to American people because there is not enough reporting by the U.S. press on these kinds of subjects. There is a Tutsi genocide which is happening now in Burundi, the neighboring country of Rwanda. How often does American media talk about it?
Many Americans are familiar with “Hotel Rwanda”, the 2004 Oscar-nominated movie that dramatized what happened during the 1994 Tutsi Genocide. Like many survivors, while I take exception to its portrayal of Paul Rusesabagina as a heroic figure, I appreciate the film’s efforts to foster awareness of this horrific event. Yet as we approach the 22th commemoration of the genocide in April 2016, even this terrible chapter in our history remains largely unknown to many Western countries.
Americans especially are uninformed about Rwanda and the entire African continent. I live in the U.S. now and often hear young people speak passionately of the genocide in Darfur. But when I ask them questions about it, I find that they know few if any details of that. Yes, they know that killing and genocide are bad, but beyond that, they have no idea who exactly is killing whom, where, and why.
Such lack of knowledge is unfortunate because it leaves young people susceptible to believing the many myths about the genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda that have been perpetuated since the release of “Hotel Rwanda”—particularly those propagated by the alleged hero of the movie, Paul Rusesabagina. Today the genocide is happening now in Burundi, the neighboring country of Rwanda. People are being killed because they are born Tutsi or known to others as Tutsi, especially the youth. They are being killed and put in common ditches like in Rwanda in 1994 and the years before. Not only is the USA, the whole international community is watching this. Even the UN Security Council has not agreed to deploy the peacekeepers to protect the civilians. They all aware about the genocide which is happening now in Burundi. But there is no political resolution to stop it. In the case of Rwanda, the genocide happened when political agreement (Arusha accord) failed or today there is only political solution on the table. Has the world learned any lessons from the Genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda? Look what is happening in Syria, Sudan, and Nigeria? It is a failure of the international community. Many cases of torture and genocide, around the world, are not aware of and there is not enough reporting by U.S. press on these kinds of subjects.
As a survivor, I hope my voice will be held I call all American people to mobilize and denounce the genocide which is happening now in Burundi.