Resistance to genocide

Unfortunately, Rusesabagina regularly runs into death threats from the militia and the military men that blame him for protecting the “cockroaches”. Some episodes are more trying than others. The 23rd of April, at 6 o’clock, a young officer of military intelligence comes to the reception of the Hotel and calls Rusesabagina’s room. He orders him to immediately gather all the refugees outside. Still in bed, Rusesabagina explains to his spokesperson that these people have nowhere to go, their homes have been destroyed and several relatives are dead. The young officer cuts him off: “It’s none of your business, each refugee has to go back home”. Rusesabagina is stunned. After a minute of silence, he asks for thirty minutes. The soldier accepts, without moving from the reception. On the roof of the Hotel, Rusesabagina notices that the building is encircled by soldiers and militiamen all-armed. Fortunately, the telephone still works. He starts to warn all his contacts in the army. He explains the situation to some influential refugees, so that they beg for the assistance of any important person or institution. Their efforts are repaid: in little time, the Chief of Staff of the national gendarmerie, accompanied by his body guards, arrives at the Hotel and convinces the young officer to leave.

Another day in April, a Rwandan journalist who took refuge in the Hotel, calls the editorial board of the French radio, RFI, for whom he is the reporter in Kigali. They ask him to fax the list of refugees, to encourage foreign governments and the UN to organize an evacuation. Rusesabagina lends him the fax from the Hotel. Other refugees contact their close family, friends and acquaintances outside of Rwanda to request the invitation letters.

Having heard of these actions, the radio RTLM names the Hôtel des Milles Collines the “nest of cockroaches”1. The morning of the 26th of April, considering that the refugees have nothing left to lose, the Rwandan journalist decides to agree to an interview with the RFI to explain to the whole world, for the first time objectively, what is happening in the country. He notably indicates that the governmental forces are gaining ground in favour of the RPF rebels that are already occupying some areas of the capital. His interview airs on many foreign radios. From then on, the journalist becomes the person to kill. The telephone from the Hotel is immediately cut down, but not the fax. Around eight o’clock, a colonel from the national gendarmerie of Kigali comes in person to get this “dog of a journalist”. Without trembling, Rusesabagina opposes the colonel, and negotiates, during two hours, before succeeding in changing his mind. But other killers are sent to execute the journalist. The atmosphere is so tense that some refugees, companions in misery of the journalist, insult him, tell him he’s irresponsible and ask him to leave the Hotel to avoid a massacre. Rusesabagina interposes himself: he asks the journalist to not give way to the threats, and especially to not leave the Hotel. He tells him he is in contact with the UNAMIR. The Senegalese captain Mbaye Diagne, a brave peacekeeper, comes to see the journalist and comforts him. Several refugees know the room of the journalist, Rusesabagina fears that his number will be divulged, so he changes his room and advises him to remove the number on his room. The journalist was finally evacuated the 29th of May 1994 in Kabuga, in the prefecture of Kigali-rural, controlled by the RPF. Rusesabagina saved the life of this journalist that he had only known for two weeks.

1 The Radio Télévision Libre des Milles Collines (RTLM) incited to the Tutsi genocide and the massacres of Hutu opponents that it qualified as cockroaches, to dehumanize them.