Pinning an award on a wolf in sheep’s clothing

RWANDA. A Human Rights Award Based Upon An American Movie?

by Alan Simons

NOVEMBER 02, 2011 – Last month, The Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice announced that Rwandan Paul Rusesabagina will be the 2011 recipient of the Lantos Human Rights Prize. The formal presentation of the award will take place in Washington, DC on November 16, 2011.

According to the foundation, “Paul Rusesabagina is widely hailed as a hero of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. As a hotel manager during the time of the conflict, Rusesabagina was able to provide shelter to 1,268 people, both Hutus and Tutsis, ultimately saving them from certain death. His efforts were chronicled in the 2004 Academy Award nominated film Hotel Rwanda and his autobiography ‘An Ordinary Man.’ Today, Rusesabagina continues his efforts for truth, reconciliation and sustainable peace in Rwanda and the Great Lakes region of Africa through his work as President of the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation.”

Katrina Lantos Swett, President of the Lantos Foundation remarked, “We are so proud to award this year’s Lantos Prize to Paul Rusesabagina. I was raised on the idea that we are all our brothers’ keepers, and Paul is the living embodiment of that idea.”

It seems not all Rwandans share this view.  Léo Kabalisa, a Rwandan-Canadian school teacher, who managed to escape from Rwanda before the genocide began, lost his father, four brothers, twelve cousins and eight nieces during the genocide. Mr. Kabalisa is a respected and well-known advocate of human rights and is regularly interviewed by Canadian media on matters pertaining to Rwanda. In the past, he has also been a guest speaker at Toronto’s Holocaust Education Week.

Yesterday, in an emotional letter to the Lantos Foundation, Mr. Kabalisa decided to express his personal views about why Mr. Rusesabagina should not receive the 2011 Lantos Human Rights Prize. Here in part is what he had to say:

“After the genocide, my main concern has been that our people would be forgotten and their memory be erased. I worked with members of the Jewish Community through the Holocaust Center of Toronto Federation UJA and other organizations within the Jewish community to build a dialogue between survivors of the Holocaust and Tutsi genocide survivors. My aim was to support the education initiatives within the Jewish community and other Toronto-based organizations dedicated to the preservation of human rights in the hope that through building awareness and knowledge such atrocities could be prevented in the future. I have been invited to speak in schools, universities and have taken part in discussions which were broadcast on radio and on television over the years.

“Over the past few years I have been feeling that the world is betraying Rwanda again. We were betrayed when people were being butchered and the international community closed its eyes. Now, the genocide deniers have been given the public ear to practice revisionism and erase the genocide from history.

“I heard Paul Rusesabagina talking at York University [Toronto] a few years ago. He doesn’t deny completely the genocide, but he is the one who is promoting the theory of a double genocide which ironically turns the tables on the victims of the genocide… and casting deep shadows over the reality of their tragedy. When people like Rusesabagina are being recognized by the world as humanitarians without checking exactly who the person is, beyond the fictitious movie, shows how again the world does not care…”

Kabalisa adds:

“If Lantos would like to recognize people who helped our beloved ones survive, you can start by honouring General Roméo Dallaire, who stayed in Rwanda when his mandate was over. You can honour members of Médecins sans frontières, such as Dr. James Orbinski, who stayed at King Faisal Hospital to take care of the wounded. Among Hutus who protected Tutsis, I can name Damas Gisimba who saved more than 100 Tutsi using his own means, hiding them in his orphanage. These are just a few examples of many of the true heroes who deserve recognition.”

Kabalisa in his letter suggests the foundation go to Rwanda and talk to the people who live there about Rusesabagina and learn the truth. “Talk to Ibuka, the umbrella organization of the survivors of the genocide. Talk to the widows of AVEGA (the widows’ organization of Rwanda). Talk to the survivors of Hotel Mille Collines and learn more,” he says.

(Photo credit: indybay.org)

UPDATE!

NOVEMBER 08, 2011, (Columbus, OH) –  Genocide Survivors set to protest the upcoming Lantos Human Rights Prize to Paul Rusesabagina.

“On Wednesday, November 9th, 2011, survivors of the 1994 genocide against Tutsis in Rwanda and their supporters will gather in front of the offices of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice in Concord, New Hampshire to protest the upcoming presentation of the Lantos Human Rights prize to Paul Rusesabagina.

Survivors of the 1994 genocide against Tutsis in Rwanda were outraged to learn that the Lantos Foundation plans to award this year’s Lantos Human Rights prize to Paul Rusesabagina, a Rwandan, who was depicted in the 2004 Hollywood film, “Hotel Rwanda” as risking his life to save lives during the 1994 genocide. Genocide survivors have repeatedly said that Rusesabagina is nothing but a Hollywood-made hero, who has used the fame gained from the film to attempt to revise the historical account of the 1994 genocide. Survivors in Rwanda and abroad say that they are deeply troubled by Rusesabagina’s false narrative of the 1994 genocide as well as his alleged ties to the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a terrorist group based in the Democratic Republic of Congo and made up mainly of the masterminds of the 1994 Genocide.

A petition signed by over 2,105 survivors and their supporters, as well as letters from genocide survivors’ associations have already been sent to members of the Lantos Foundation calling on them to reconsider their decision to award Rusesabagina. The survivor groups remain confident that with thorough research on Paul Rusesabagina’s activities, the Lantos Foundation will realize that Rusesabagina does not deserve this noble human rights prize.

The Lantos Human Rights prize is named after Tom Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor who served as a U.S Congressman. The award ceremony is scheduled to take place on the evening of November 16th, 2011 in Washington D.C.”

NOVEMBER 07, 2011, (Toronto)- Rusesabagina under pressure cancels visit to Canada 

As reported this afternoon by QMI, a Canadian news agency, “Activist Paul Rusesabagina, who inspired the hit movie Hotel Rwanda, has bowed to pressure and cancelled a visit to Winnipeg where he was to join former U.S. vice-president Al Gore and other dignitaries. Last week, members of Toronto’s Rwandan community called on the federal government to deny Rusesabagina entry into the country. Rusesabagina, 57, was scheduled to attend a youth empowerment event – a We Day celebration – on Nov. 23.  Some of the other guests include actress and UNICEF goodwill ambassador Mia Farrow, wheelchair hero Rick Hansen and former prime minister Paul Martin. The high-profile activist has been dogged by fellow Rwandans who accuse him of being a ‘genocide revisionist and denier.’

“John Ruku-Rwabyoma of the Rwandese Canadian Association of Greater Toronto and others accuse Rusesabagina of charging fees for sheltering fleeing Tutsis and moderate Hutus at the UN-protected Sabena Hotel des Mille Collines during the genocide. ‘We are very pleased and delighted that he is no longer coming to Canada,’ said Ruku-Rwabyoma. ‘The community is healing and they didn’t want him here.’

“Event publicist Tamara Kaftalovich told the association that Rusesabagina will not appear as scheduled at the Free the Children event in Winnipeg.”

Reader’s Comments

Shalangabo Ntwali (Rwanda) says:

Rusesabagina took over the hotel management long after people had begun taking refuge there. He was managing another hotel called Diplomate. Mille Collines was managed by Belgians who fled at the height of the genocide. Rusesabagina is said to have assumed the management of the hotel after seizing the keys from a young receptionist. He then started demanding money from the occupants forcing those without liquid cash to sign cheques and other related documents. How can a so-called hero of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide stand in front of people all over the world and promote the theory of a double genocide? Probably he is joining the group of genocide deniers! So how could Lantos Foundation provide an award to a such kind of a person?

Janvier (Rwanda) says:

Thanks to Leo Kabalisa and many thanks to jewishinfoNews for the space allocated to this article. If the Lantos Foundation is willingly or unwillingly giving the stage to the Tutsi genocide denier, I really wonder what a Shoah survivor will feel once he/she learns that a [Holocaust] survivor’s organisation is giving an award to a pro-Nazi activist. Time will tell.  

Sixbert (Rwanda) says:

I myself can’t imagine how people make themselves blind and ignore the truth that even every mountain and even one of thousand hills of Rwanda can prove. People saying the truth may be a minority of one, but the truth is/remains the truth. And an error will not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor will truth become error because nobody sees it, although the truth about Rusesabagina is obvious. Thanks a lot Mr. Leo Kabalisa and many thanks to the jewishinfoNews for publishing this.
Time will tell!

Yves (Scotland) says:

Thanks to Leo Kabalisa. Lantos Foundation should take time and investigate the issue; simple! Even three testimonies cannot be representative for more than one thousand survivors!

Sam Sussman (Canada) says:

It pained me to see that the Lantos Foundation did obviously not vet this application properly. Awards of this nature should be greeted seamlessly and with universal appreciation. This is not the case here. This reminds me of that great UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim.  Shame.  A shame.  

Willis Shalita (USA) says: 

Like the so-called international community ignored Rwanda in 1994, and a million Rwandans were slaughtered, the Lantos Foundation is ignoring pleas of thousands of Rwandan genocide survivors not to honour Rusesabagina. In essence, the Lantos Foundation is trivilaizing the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. Yet, all we have asked them to do is look into the truth of the matter: where is the evidence that Rusesabagina saved people? I wonder how they would feel if we trivialized the Armenian genocide, the Holocaust, God forbid.

The opinions and comments presented in this editorial are not necessarily the views or opinions of jewishinfoNews, its editorial contributors, freelancers, associates or information providers. 

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5 comments on “Pinning an award on a wolf in sheep’s clothing

  1. Rusesabagina took over the hotel management long after people had begun taking refuge there. He was managing another hotel called Diplomate. Mille Collines was managed by Belgians who fled at the height of the genocide. Rusesabagina is said to have assumed the management of the hotel after seizing the keys from a young receptionist. He then started demanding money from the occupants forcing those without liquid cash to sign cheques and other related documents. How can a so-called hero of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide stand in front of people all over the world and promote the theory of a double genocide? Probably he is joining the group of genocide deniers! So how could Lantos Foundation provide an award to a such kind of a person?

  2. It pained me to see that the Lantos Foundation did obviously not vet this application properly.
    Awards of this nature should be greeted seamlessly and with universal appreciation. This is not the case here.
    This reminds me of that great UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim.
    Shame.
    A shame.

  3. Thanks to Leo Kabalisa. Lantos Foundation should take time and investigate the issue; simple! Even three testimonies cannot be representative for more than one thousand survivors!

  4. I myself can’t imagine how people make themselves blind and ignore the truth that even every mountain and even one of thousand hills of Rwanda can prove. People saying the truth may be a minority of one, but the truth is/remains the truth. And an error will not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor will truth become error because nobody sees it, although the truth about Rusesabagina is obvious. Thanks a lot Mr Leo Kabalisa and many thanks to the jewishinfoNews for publishing this.
    Time will tell!

  5. Thanks to Leo Kabalisa and many thanks to JewishinfoNews for the space allocated to this article. If the Lantos Foundation is willingly or unwillingly giving the stage to the Tutsi genocide denier, I really wonder what a Shoah survivor will feel once he/she learns that another survivor’s organisation is giving an award to a pro-Nazi activist. Time will tell.

    Janvier (Rwanda)

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