Rwanda claims to have evidence that links Mr. Rusesabagina to two money transfers paid out to terrorist groups. The exact amount has not been revealed, although, a previous report claimed that he wired $200 to two members of the FDLR rebel group. There are many loopholes to the allegations, and enough evidence to suggest that this is just a Machiavellian tactic aimed at character assassination.
Mr. Rusesabagina’s relationship with the Rwandan leader, Paul Kagame has been a little less than hostile. I do not know for a fact whether the two men have ever met in person. An op-ed by Terry George, the Hotel Rwanda director, published by the Washington Post in May 2006, suggests that their relationship was not always bitter. When Hotel Rwanda was first released, it was so powerful of an impact that even a diehard general like Mr. Kagame could not hold it back.
This is how Terry George explained the situation:
Last May I [Terry George] had the chance to meet Rwandan President Paul Kagame in Rwanda. I sat beside him as he and his wife and most of Rwanda's parliament watched the movie [Hotel Rwanda]. Afterward he leaned over to me and said the film had done much good around the world in exposing the horrors of the genocide. The next evening, I screened the film at Amahoro Stadium for some 10,000 people. It was the most emotional screening I have ever been at. I spent close to an hour afterward accepting thanks and congratulations.
A few months after Hotel Rwanda was filmed at “Amahoro Stadium for some 10,000 people”, the Rwandan leader, during liberation Day, denounced the movie as a work of fiction and Mr. Rusesabagina as a “[hutu] Hollywood hero”.
For any observer, it is clear that Mr. Kagame was never pleased with the idea of a Hutu man being feted and celebrated around the world for his heroism. He preferred, like many Tutsi extremists, the conventional story which described Rwanda in terms of good and bad. Such a narrative has long provided political windfall to the ruling RPF regime.
It is therefore not surprising that the political elites view Mr. Rusesabagina as a spoiler. From the start, Mr. Rusesabagina has been telling the Rwandan story as it is. In his biography, the Ordinary Man, he writes, “Rwanda is today a nation governed by and for the benefit of a small group of elite Tutsis...Those few Hutus who have been elevated to high-ranking posts are usually empty suits without any real authority of their own. They are known locally as Hutus de service or Hutus for hire."
In 2008, the government of Rwanda financed the publication of an anti-Rusesabagina book. The Book entitled, Hotel Rwanda or the Tutsi Genocide as seen by Hollywood alleges that Rusesabagina is a scum who uses his fame to make money at the expense of genocide survivors. The attacks did not stop here; they become more irrational and incessant.
In 2008, the New Times claimed that Rusesabagina along with Robert Krueger the former US Ambassadors to Burundi were purchasing arms to invade Rwanda. Like Rusesabagina, Ambassador Krueger is a long time critic of Paul Kagame. In August this year, reflecting on his past encounters with Kagame, Krueger wrote: “I knew there would be no equal justice or real democracy as long as Kagame held power.”
To be honest, Rwanda’s ruling elites are losing control of the narrative. For the longest time, they have gained undeserved legitimacy by playing the “victim vs. good guy’s card”. The recently released Mapping report that accuses Rwanda of possible genocide committed against Hutu refugees and Hutu Congolese is making it politically difficult for the ruling regime. They are quite sleepless and trying to stage every diversionary antic in a desperate effort to save the day.
As you all know, yesterday, Rwandan opposition candidate, Madame Victoire Ingabire was arrested.Interestingly, the charges are the same as those leveled against Mr. Rusesabagina. But it is unclear why Ingabire, let alone Rusesabagina, would have a desire to work with the FDLR.
The FDLR has been weakening for a number of years. It is classified as a terrorist group by the United States. How could, Mr. Rusesabagina, a man who owes his fame to the United States, stoop that low? Why would an internationally recognized human rights defender employ a marauding rebel group accused of raping women in eastern DRC? Is it not easier and smarter to try to change politics from Washington? After all, is the Rwandan state not entirely dependent on foreign aid?
Well, Rwanda will call anyone what they want. We cannot stop them. Whoever criticizes them for their apartheid-like policies must be ready to be called a terrorist. It is the same old tactic being used by China against the Dalai Lama or the Noble Peace prize winner, Liu Xiaobo. What is important is for the international community not to be deceived or cowed by this silly though dangerous game. We must continue to insist that Rwanda frees all political prisoners, including Madame Ingabire. Also, we must continue to pressure for the prosecution of all members of the RPF army accused of genocide in both Rwanda and the DRC.