RWANDA: Rusesabagina. An imposed hero.


“We must remember that racism, madness and mayhem are not the norm from which we should be temporarily redeemed by an unexpected hero. They are an artificial and anti-human status quo created by people, institutions and actions. Our task is to fight the conditions that produce such evil, and we cannot do that when we glamorize heroes on the basis of fantasy. We must choose our own heroes on the basis of evidence, analysis and a firm belief that human dignity should be the norm, not a delightful surprise.”

– Dr. Wandia Njoya

Dr. Wandia Njoya

NOVEMBER 09, 2011On November 16, Paul Rusesabagina, on whom the Hollywood film Hotel Rwanda is based, will receive a human rights prize from the Lantos Foundation, named after former congressman Tom Lantos. The reward has been contested by survivors of the genocide against Tutsis, describing Rusesabagina in their petition as an “imposter without equal.”

“Since the release of the film, facts and survivor testimonies have been produced that challenge the glamorization of Rusesabagina. That makes the decision by the Lantos foundation surprising, and also not surprising.

“It is surprising because a foundation in honor of a survivor of Nazi labor camps and whose advisory board is chaired by Shimon Peres should appreciate the importance of truth in a matter as grave as genocide. But it is also not surprising in light of the racist attitude that presents African issues as lacking complexity. If  Hollywood says Rusesabagina is a hero, why question? Research? Verification? There’s no need: when it comes to Africa, the answers are obvious.

“Three years ago, I posted my reservations about the film in light of a critique in Alfred Ndahiro and Privat Rutazibwa’s book Hotel Rwanda: Or the genocide of Tutsis according to Hollywood. My basic argument was that Rusesabagina is not just an imposter; he is an imposed hero. The West chooses heroes for us on very anti-human criteria and then uses its media, awards and global networks to impose them on us…

“Paul Rusesabagina does not deserve the accolades he has received. Even if he did all the things that the film depicts him as doing, which I doubt, he owed it to humanity and to justice to do them. He may have spared the lives of Tutsis in the hotel, but he is not the one who gave them that life. It is Imana who gave them the life they still have, and the life that was taken away from so many others. And it is the Rwanda Patriotic Front, not unexpected heroes, which put an end to the madness. In fact, I suspect that the love for Rusesabagina is a means for Euro-America to mask its disbelief that it is Africans, not the UN or Euro-America, who decisively ended the slaughter by the Interahamwe.”

The full text of Dr. Njoya’s article can be read at:  An imposed hero

(Photo credit: lukestephens)

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