Dissident Paul Rusesabagina thanked the US for its efforts to release him from prison earlier this year. His made new criticisms of the Rwandan government in a video to mark the 61st anniversary of Rwanda’s independence.
Rwandan government critic Paul Rusesabagina, who gained recognition after the 2004 US movie “Hotel Rwanda“ depicted the role he played in saving lives during the 1994 Rwandan genocide, described his months long imprisonment as “hell.”
In a Youtube video released Saturday to mark Rwanda’s 61st anniversary of independence, Rusesabagina stressed the people of Rwanda were “prisoners in their own country.”
“Rwanda is an authoritarian government that has no rights for its citizens and doesn’t tolerate dissent for its citizens,” Rusesabagina said.
Rusesabagina spoke about his time in prison. He said he was “tortured, imprisoned and faced false charges that had nothing to do with me.”
What did Rusesabagina say about the US?
The Rwandan dissident, speaking from his home in San Antonio, Texas, thanked several players for advocating for his release. He named the European Union, NGOs, human rights groups and the press for keeping “my story alive.”
But Rusesabagina particularly singled out the US, for the role it played in securing his early release from prison.
“This is what made the difference. When the US government said that this cannot continue, Rwanda was forced to be realistic,” Rusesabagina said.
The government critic was arrested in August 2020, when a plane carrying him to Burundi was diverted to Rwanda. The US said he was “wrongfully detained,” while Rusesabagina spoke of his arrest in the Saturday video as a kidnapping.
Who is Rusesabagina?
During the 1994 Rwandan genocide, around 800,000 people, most of them from the Tutsi ethnic minority, were killed by the Hutu ethnic majority.
Rusesabagina was the manager of a hotel in the capital, Kigali, at the time the violence broke out. He is credited with helping to save the lives of at least 1,200 people by sheltering them in the hotel.
The Oscar-nominated 2004 movie “Hotel Rwanda,” which stars US actor Don Cheadle in the lead role, was inspired by Rusesabagina’s story.
However, Rusesabagina said that while it highlighted his role in saving lives, the movie also brought him unwanted attention from the Rwandan authorities.
“The government has attempted to silence me through politics, surveillance and violence since the movie ‘Hotel Rwanda’ came out in 2004,” he said.
Rusesabagina added that the US awarding him a Medal of Freedom in 2005 only further worsened his relations with the Rwandan government.