His courage was recognized after the genocide

Beginning of July, the military victory of the RPF ends the genocide; a new government is put in place in Kigali. Rusesabagina goes back and starts cleaning up the two Hotels. The general director of the Hôtel des Milles Collines, who had been repatriated at the beginning of the genocide, comes back and is reinstated. Rusesabagina settles in the Hôtel des Diplomates that he tries to rehabilitate. However, security isn’t really guarantied with the new government. All around the country, a series of assassinations are targeting the Hutu. People are talking about revenge. In 1996, after having escaped several assassination attempts, Rusesabagina decides to go into exile and becomes a taxi driver in Brussels.

Since the end of the genocide, several journalists and human rights activists started gathering testimonies of the genocide. Several stayed in the Hôtel des Mille Collines, and they are particularly interested in the story of the place. All the survivors of the Hotel that they interviewed recount the exceptional courage of Rusesabagina1. Numerous foundations and Western institutions awarded him prizes for his courage and humanity. Thus, in February 2000, he received, from the hand of the famous republican senator, Robert Joseph “Bob” Dole, the Immortal Chaplains Prize for Humanity, from the American organism, The Immortal Chaplains Foundation. The Ambassador for Rwanda in Washington and a senior official for the Rwandan intelligence military service invited themselves to this ceremony. Indeed, the Rwandan authorities are interested in Rusesabagina, whose heroism during the genocide gained an international reputation. Despite his refugee status in Belgium, the Rwandan authorities are trying to make him an ally. They negotiate his return to Rwanda and offer him different posts: ambassador to the country of his choice, Prime Minister, etc. Rusesabagina isn’t interested by these political jobs; he prefers his self-employed job as a taxi driver. At the end of 2001, a Rwandan delegation managed by the ambassador for Rwanda in Germany informs Rusesabagina that the President wants to award him a medal of honour for his courage during the genocide, during the national ceremonies commemorating the genocide in April 2002. Rusesabagina accepts the invitation and prepares for his trip. However, he cancels it at the last minute, after several people claimed that it was only bait to buy his allegiance.

In the meantime, his life continues to interest several movie directors and writers. It inspires, for instance, in 2004, the movie “Hotel Rwanda” from the director Terry George. In February 2003, he goes to Rwanda with Rusesabagina and some technicians, to gather the stories of the survivors of the Hotel and examine the possibility to go on site. They stayed in Kigali for two weeks and gathered several videocassettes of testimonies, all corroborating the story of Rusesabagina2. Yet, the shooting was difficult: the wounds of the genocide are still open, the carrying out of the movie in Kigali risks shocking and waking up the trauma of the survivors. Furthermore, some episodes need huge crowds, that can’t gather in Kigali without paralysing the whole city. In the end, the will of the Rwandan authorities to tightly control what is said about the genocide and to tolerate only what they expect annoys the film crew.

Eventually, the movie is produced, beginning 2004, in Johannesburg, in South Africa. The American actor Don Cheadle plays the role of Rusesabagina. The movie is an enormous success and is nominated for three Oscars. Several characters and famous humanitarian organisations invite Rusesabagina. In November 2005, president Georges W. Bush gives him the Medal of Freedom, the highest civil honour in the United-States. The same year, Rusesabagina sets up the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation, especially aimed at helping the victims of mass crimes. In April 2006, he publishes his autobiography, Un homme ordinaire: L’histoire vraie qui inspira le film “Hotel Rwanda”.


1 African Rights: Rwanda, Death, Despair and Defiance, revisededition, August 1995, pp. 719-724.
Report from the FIDH and the Human Rights Watch, Leave None to Tell the Story, written by Alison Des Forges, Karthala, 1999, p. 960 ; Philip Gourevitch, We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families, editions Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1998. This book was translated in French in 1999 and published by the editions Denoël de Paris, undr the title: Nous avons le plaisir de vous informer que, demain, nous seront tués avec nos familles.

2 You can read the article by Terry George of the 4th of November 2014