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Famed Hotel des Milles Collines reflects the struggles and progress of Rwandan nation.
In an April 7 speech, marking the 16th anniversary of the start of the genocide, Kagame dismissed Ingabire and her assistant Joseph Ntawangundi — who last month admitted to his role in the genocide and has since been convicted to 17 years in prison — as “hooligans.”
“For those who bring us a fight,” he promised, “we should be able to bring them a fight they’ll never forget.”
Kagame’s words might also apply to Paul Rusesabagina. A 2005 recipient of the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom, the “Hotel Rwanda” hero is now a prominent Rwandan dissident, whose foundation works to “prevent future genocides and raise awareness of the need for a new truth and reconciliation process in Rwanda.” Rusesabagina accused Kagame of covering up the killings of Hutu and of escalating a climate of fear and political violence.
Now based in Texas, Rusesabagina is persona non grata on his home turf — decried by critics as a swindler and opportunist, who extorted money from those he’s credited with saving and who has profited shamefully from his manufactured-in-Hollywood status.
“Rusesabagina's ill-gotten fame has opened new avenues for his avarice,” reads a March 15 editorial in The New Times, Rwanda’s official daily. “While he claims that his foundation is aimed at preventing future genocides, he is hobnobbing with Genocide deniers and defends Genocide criminals in various forums. … He goes around peddling his lies and hoodwinking unsuspecting westerners that they are actually dealing with a real life hero.”
Rather than Rusesabagina’s resourcefulness, critics contend, it was the efforts made by friends of well-connected refugees, along with U.N. peacekeepers guarding the hotel entrance, which saved the 1,200 lives.
When asked about this debate, Mille Collines’ current assistant manager Ntaganda said he has no strong opinion regarding his hotel’s controversial past. Instead, he stressed the tourist-friendly nation Rwanda has become, election-year politics notwithstanding.
“I wish people would come and see exactly what Rwanda is,” he told GlobalPost from the Mille Collines’ new terrace, as children splashed in the pool below.
“I know there are a lot of people thinking Rwanda is like a jungle or an unfriendly place because they’ve heard stories about the genocide. The genocide has happened but we are totally moving away from that.”