The Rwandan genocide is one of the most chilling instances of politically-led violence of the 20th century. In 1994, the Tutsi people of Rwanda, along with those in solidarity with them, were brutalized and murdered by Hutu extremists for 100 days straight. This devastating incident inspired the 2004 Academy Award nominated film Hotel Rwanda, starring Don Cheadle, that tells the true story of Paul Rusesabagina, a Hutu hotel owner who bravely protects his wife, a Tutsi woman, and others who identify as Tutsis when the United Nations pulls out of this struggle. Rusesabagina hid 1,268 Tutsi refugees and those who were opposed to the extremism in his hotel, Hôtel des Mille Collines, and sheltered them from the targeted violence in Kigali, Rwanda. In 2005, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by former President George W. Bush for his heroism.
Today, it is Rusesabagina who is in need of courageous intervention to safe his own life. In a piece published in the Washington Post, his wife Taciana Rusesabagina spoke out on his behalf and is demanding justice and assistance in freeing her husband. Over a year ago he was kidnapped from their home in Texas and placed in jail in his home country of Rwanda as an attempt to silence his voice for his activism.
"Incapable of being muzzled and sought for political crimes, in August 2020, Paul was tricked by the government of Rwanda into boarding a plane in Texas, beginning a journey to a place he knew he could never safely go. Then he was wrongfully detained, tortured and subjected to lengthy periods of solitary confinement," Rusesabagina wrote. "He also endured a sham trial on completely false charges of “terrorism” to silence its most effective critic. Paul was given a 25-year sentence, a penalty that has been appealed by the Rwandan government as lacking in severity. It prefers life imprisonment. If my husband is guilty of any crime, it is that he has been an agitator for democracy and human rights."
Almost 30 years later since his initial act of valiancy, Rusesabagina was convicted of being in connection with terrorist group MRCD-FLN and sentenced to 25 years in prison. As an active proponent of civil rights and justice, he has consistently spoken out against unjust political leaders and instances of discrimination in the country which has historically been tightly controlled by the government. His family along with other supporters are advocating for his release and challenging the United States, specifically, to speak up as well.
Taciana Rusesabagina stated, "If the U.S. relationship with Rwanda is strong enough to be deserving of financial and trusted cooperation, then it is strong enough to push for the release of my husband on humanitarian grounds. When searching for strength in quiet moments, I can’t help but recall watching my husband rise from his seat on the White House stage to approach President Bush, as the announcer said: 'His life reminds us of our moral duty to confront evil in all its forms.'"