Paul Rusesabagina

During the genocide, Paul Rusesabagina was able to protect the lives of 1268 refugees in the Hôtel des Milles Collines : none of them died, were injured, nor evicted from the hotel.

Housing many expats, the Hôtel des Milles Collines attracted many Rwandans threatened during the genocide, in 1994. The genocidal militia, the Interahamwe1, and the military, attacked it constantly. However, thanks to the exceptional courage of the manager of the Hotel, Paul Rusesabagina, no one was killed, wounded, beaten, tortured, nor extracted from the Hotel.

Rusesabagina struggled to find accommodation and food for all the refugees. When the water was cut off, the refugees used the swimming pool of the Hotel and once it was empty, Rusesabagina managed to get a tanker and went to fetch water every day. While there was no electricity in the capital Kigali, the Hotel’s generators continued to work. When they broke down, Rusesabagina managed to find some firewood and improvised a three-stone stove under a big tree, next to the pool, allowing the cooks of the Hotel to cook.

Although he had the opportunity to leave the country with his family thanks to his friendship ties with some high ranking military or his numerous contacts abroad, Rusesabagina refused to abandon the 1268 refugees and transformed the Hotel into a shelter. He warned them of the intentions of the killers and did everything to foil their plans. He intervened at each of their attacks, sometimes taking major risks. He stood up to them at multiple times, and managed to appease them thanks to his force of persuasion, sometimes also by bribing them.

With the help of the refugees, Rusesabagina tried to warn certain personalities and authorities that had the power to stop this nightmare. He protected the refugees tirelessly until their evacuation by the UNAMIR2, during exchange operations of refugees between the governmental army and the rebels of the Rwandan Patriotic (RPF).


1 The Interahamwe are a militia created in 1992 by the MRND, the party of president Juvénal Habyarimana. Interahamwe means “those who fight together” in Kinyarwanda, the Rwandan language. They are responsible for most of the massacres during the genocide in 1994.
2 The United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) was initially created to help implement the Arusha Peace Agreement by the Rwandan government and the FPR the 4th of August 1993. It’s term ended the 8th of March 1996.