The Belgium Police this week arrested and interrogated Paul Rusesabagina, in connection with planning and funding the rebel faction, Forces Democratiques de Liberation du Rwanda (FDLR).
Rusesabagina an ordinary hotel manager who rose to become an international hero after his actions during the 1994 Rwandan genocide were celebrated in the 2004 film ‘Hotel Rwanda’, was interrogated on Monday this week for more than three hours.
The move followed the request made by the Rwanda’s Prosecutor General, Martin Ngoga, who claimed that there’s damning evidence on how the ‘Hotel Rwanda star’ wired money through Western Union to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
The Belgium authority reviewed the evidence and finally concluded that Rusesabagina should be arrested and interrogated about these allegations.
According to reports from Belgium and Rwanda, two prosecutors from Rwanda witnessed the interrogation as required by the international law.
“It’s true, we have interrogated him…the next course will depend on whether the Rwandan authority will file a case against Rusesabagina.” Official from Belgium’s Foreign affairs ministry told The Guardian on Sunday over the phone.
After the interrogation, Rusesabagina was freed pending the next move by the Rwandan authority.
Last year The Guardian on Sunday exclusively revealed the plans by the Rwandan government to prosecute the ‘Hotel Rwanda’ hero after Kigali gathered what it described as compelling evidence proving that Rusesabagina has been wiring thousands of dollars to the commanders of the Forces Democratiques de Liberation du Rwanda (FDLR) over the past few months via Western Union in Dar es Salaam.
Before the end of last year, Rwanda’s Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga visited Dar es Salaam to gather more evidence from Western Union branches, gave an exclusive interview to The Guardian on Sunday, in which he revealed further details on Rusesabagina’s alleged funding of the rebel forces who have been active in Eastern Congo, near the Rwandan border.
“We have damning evidence that this Hollywood hero wired thousands of dollars to FDLR commanders via Western Union...and the money was collected in Dar es Salaam and Bujumbura by FDLR commanders,” Ngoga told The Guardian on Sunday last year said. “The money was wired from Texas where he owns a home...he did this himself and we have obtained evidence from Western Union in Texas.”
According to the chief prosecutor, although Rusesabagina has said he sent the money for orphans and widows, the available evidence shows that the recipients were senior FDLR commanders.
When asked about the amount of money wired, Ngoga would not specify, saying only that, “It’s not the amount that matters but the intention - in DRC you don’t need heavy artilleries, just hundreds of rounds of bullets.”
“The question should be how many rounds of bullets a thousand of dollars can buy and how many do you need to kill innocent civilians,” Ngoga said, adding that soon, Rusesabagina will face charges for financially assisting rebels who are killing thousands
Contacted this week to comment about the arrest and interrogation by the Belgium authority, Rwanda’s Prosecutor General confirmed the move by Belgium government adding that it shows that finally justice would be done to both sides.
If extradited back to Rwanda to face charges of assisting terrorism and threatening state security, Rusesabagina’s future would be suddenly shattered and his image tainted.
Though as time has gone, the authenticity of the story of ‘Hotel Rwanda’ has been questioned - namely for the lack of testimonials from those whom he saved - Rusesabagina has nonetheless enjoyed great respect at the international level.
Hotel Rwanda film
The film, Hotel Rwanda, which gave international fame to Rusesabagina, immortalised the story of Hutu hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina , who claims to have saved 1,268 Tutsi and moderate Hutus by sheltering them at the Mille Collines hotel in Kigali during the 100 days of massacre.
Though he is known in Hollywood and throughout the world as a hero, back home in Rwanda, Rusesabagina is seen by some as an imposter who took advantage of the information vacuum surrounding what really transpired in Rwanda to claim hero status and rake in millions of dollars.
One Thursday evening in April, more than a decade and a half ago, a single attack on a plane triggered a 100-day orgy of slaughter in the central African nation of Rwanda that left at least 800,000 people dead.
Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana, a member of the Hutu clan, and Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira were killed when their plane was shot down as it was about to land in the capital of Kigali.
The response was swift: The presidential guard murdered Habyarimana's political opponents and put into motion a preplanned campaign to slaughter rival Tutsi clan members.
The international community did little to stop the bloodshed, and it ended only when a Tutsi rebel group defeated the Hutu-backed government. Amid the stories of unthinkable, pitiless bloodshed, there were faint voices of hope.
Paul Rusesabagina, dubbed by some the "Oskar Schindler of Africa," claims to have resisted the madness that surrounded him and quietly sheltered more than 1,200 Tutsis and moderate Hutus within the walls of the luxury hotel he managed. Outside those hotel walls, mobs hunted down their victims and hacked them to death with machetes.
Born on June 15, 1954, Paul Rusesabagina, claims to have used his influence and connections as temporary manager of the 'Mille Collines' to shelter 1,268 Tutsi and moderate Hutu from being slaughtered by the Interahamwe militia. Rusesabagina's efforts were the basis of the 2004 Academy Award nominated film ‘Hotel Rwanda’ starring Don Cheadle.
Rusesabagina currently lives in Brussels, Belgium, with his wife, children, and two adopted nieces, but he also owns a posh home in Texas, United States, after making millions of the proceeds from the film.
Rusesabagina has been openly critical of Paul Kagame’s administration, and of the way that the aftermath of the genocide has been handled legally and socially in Rwanda and throughout the region.
On his website, Rusesabagina writes, “In the current situation, politics trumps the truth. While leadership in Rwanda and the region has changed since the end of colonialism, the politics has not.
Leaders create their own truths, and benefit from them, at the expense of the people.”
Rusesabagina formed the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation in order to prevent future genocides and raise awareness of the need for a new truth and reconciliation process in Rwanda and the Great Lakes Region of Africa, according to its website.
The Foundation advocates the creation of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) for Rwanda and the region, in order to insure Rwanda’s recovery and stability, and to assist the stability of others in the region by bringing out the truth in a way that will allow the people of Rwanda and the region to heal.
“Truth and reconciliation is not just about retributive justice,” Rusesabagina writes on his website. “Post-Apartheid South Africa, along with many other post-conflict settings, shows us that acknowledging the truth is often essential to moving forward in the worst conflict ravaged societies. To reach closure, victims and their loved ones need to be able to confront those who victimised them and be told the truth about what happened.”
According to Rusesabagina, while more conventional justice to punish the worst offenders may also be applied, it is only through a truth and reconciliation process that a society devastated by genocide and similar crimes can move forward into a more peaceful future.