Paul Rusesabagina, An Ordinary Man, As A Prototype For Hotel Rwanda

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Paul Rusesabagina is a Rwandan Humanitarian who sheltered 1,268 Hutu and Tutsi people during the Rwandan genocide. His heroic deeds earned him multiple awards. He has a movie based off what it was like to be him at the time called Hotel Rwanda.

Keywords: Hutu, Tutsi, Rwanda

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An Ordinary Man

Paul Rusesabagina was born in Murama, Rwanda. He was one of nine children to a Hutu father and a Tutsi mother and he grew up on a small farm. By the age of 13 Paul was fluent in English and French. He also married his first wife at the age of 13. At a young age Paul wanted to be a minister and he moved to Cameroon with his wife to study siminery. In 1978 Paul and his family move to Kagali where he was offered a position to work at the Hotel Des Mille Collines. Later he was sent to Switzerland to study hotel management.

The distance caused him and his wife to separate in 1981. Paul gained custody of their three children. He later married Tatiana Rusesabagina and she adopted his kids as her own and they also had a child of their own. He was promoted in 1992 to assistant general manager to hotel associated with the Hotel Des Mille Collines called the Diplomats Hotel.

Paul’s life took a tremendous turn in the year of 1994. On April 6, 1994 the plane of the Rwandan Prime Minister was struck down by a missile. Along with the Prime Minister, ten Belgian UN peacekeepers and other political party members were killed. As a result of this, Interahamwe a Hutu paramilitary organization started hunting and killing Tutsi people. They would go house to house with machetes and guns shooting and stabbing them in the back of their heads. It was impossible for Paul and his family to escape the war due to the fact that his wife was Tutsi and his kids were considered mixed. Even as a Hutu man Paul was a target because his wife Tutsi. But due to a lot of favors owed by powerful people he was able to dodge death.

At the beginning of the genocide Paul still considered himself as An Ordinary Man despite all the chaos going on around him. He describes what it was like to see his close friends and neighbors being stabbed to death. Even the Hutu men he knew and grew up with were influenced by the Interahamwe’s actions. Eventually, his home gets targeted one morning. The Hutu rebels ordered everyone out of the house and soon realized that Paul was sheltering Tutsi cockroaches. He offered to pay them with whatever money he had in his pockets to spare their lives but he was told it was only enough to save one. Paul wouldn’t let that happen so he offered them more money. He told them that he worked at the Diplomat and that there is plenty of money in the safe. Paul packed his family and friends up in their van and they drove through the chaotic streets. There were people being torchered and dead bodies in the roads. Houses on fire and armed men drinking and parading around the streets. Once Paul gave them the money they wanted they let them go but they threatened that they would come for him again because he was a traitor to his own kind.

Paul knew it wasn’t safe to go back home so he took his family to the Hotel Des Mille Collins. As the 100 days of madness continued more people came to the hotel’s gates begging for help. Paul knew the risk of sheltering these people so he called for military security from the UN. They protected the gates but the main reason was that there were still white tourists who had no way of getting out. Paul tried his best to keep the UN guards for as long as he could. Once they left Paul looked for other options of protection. Whenever the rebels would come to the hotel he would make phone calls to a friend who owned him many favors and who was also a captain to the rebels.

Paul convinced the UN soldiers to come back and help him get all the people in the hotel to a refugee camp on the other side of Kagali. They made two attempts, the first time going wrong. A selected few were put on trucks to travel to the other side including Paul and his family. Paul didn’t leave he felt that he shouldn’t leave all those people behind. While on the way to the other side of Kagali the rebels got a phone call from a Hutu staff member telling them that the UN was trying to move Tutsi people. They bombarded the trucks and started tried to kill those on it. Luckily they were able to escape and get back to the hotel. The second time was a success and everyone in the hotel was able to be moved to the safe side. They thanked paul for not turning a shoulder on them. After the 100 days of madness Pauls house was destroyed by fire so him and his family moved back to Cameroon. Tatiannas brother and his wife was killed so they adopted their children.

After the genocide, Paul revived many awards for his heroic actions. He won the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the National Civil Rights Museum Freedom Award, the Peace Abbey Courage of Conference Award, and the University of Michigan’s Raoul Wallenberg Medal in 2005. His actions were also showcased in a movie called Hotel Rwanda in 2004. The main role played by actor Don Cheadle. The movie revived awards for Satellite Award for Best Motion Picture – Drama.

In conclusion Paul’s heroic deeds resulted in many lives being saved. It later got him noticed and recognized by many people. He now has many awards and is a public face for his county.




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