Human Rights Heroes

Paul Rusesabagina

If you saw Hotel Rwanda, you know who Paul Rusesabagina is. At the time of the Rwandan genocide, a 100 day period from April 1994 to July 1994, when up to 1,000,000 were murdered, Rusesabagina was working at a hotel manager at theHôtel des Mille Collines in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali. Putting his own life and his family at risk, he hid and protected 1,268 Hutu and Tutsi refugees in his hotel. None were hurt or killed during the attacks.

Rusesabagina himself had a Hutu father and Tutsi mother. His wife Tatiana was a Tutsi, the target of the attacks, and his children considered mixed. As a result, he was unable to leave the war zone with his family. He brought his family to the hotel for safety.

When the militia were approaching the hotel, Rusesabagina sent his wife and children in a truck to the airport to escape the country. By now more than 1200 refugees had sought shelter. He remained at the hotel to try and protect the people now in his care.

Tatiana’s mother and four nieces and nephews were killed in the genocide. Her father paid Hutu militia to be executed so he would not die a more painful death. Four of Rusesabagina’s eight siblings were killed. In his autobiography he comments that “For a Rwandan family, this is a comparatively lucky outcome”.

After staying in Rwanda for two more years, Rusesabagina applied for asylum in Belgium after receiving credible threats on his life. He and his family moved to Brussels in 1996. He continues to work on human rights issues.