In an interview with Voice of America’s Eddie Rwema posted on February 4, 2016, political activist and self-proclaimed Hotel Rwanda ‘hero’ Paul Rusesabagina declared that he had ‘officially’ joined politics and that himself and allied groups would not rest until they overthrow the Government of Rwanda.
In the interview recorded in Washington DC, where he was to mobilise support, he proclaimed that they are at the ‘door knocking’ and will be in Rwanda anytime soon to liberate Rwandans from the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF-Inkotanyi) rule.
Fast forward in June 2018, the National Liberation Forces (NLF), an armed terrorist organisation created by the Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD), a coalition of political parties founded by Rusesabagina, former Prime Minister Faustin Twagiramungu and others, launched attacks on Rwanda’s Southern Province, entering the country from Burundi.
In July 2018, the then NLF Spokesperson Callixte ‘Sankara’ Nsabimana, appearing in different videos on Youtube, boasted that they had infiltrated Rwanda and that they were present in Nyungwe Forest National Park and other parts of Rwanda, where they had established bases, from where they would launch attacks to topple the Rwandan government.
The armed attackers raided Nyabimata Sector, Nyaruguru District in the Southern Province killing two and injuring three.
According to Rwanda National Police, among the injured was the Executive Secretary of Nyabimata Sector, Vincent Nsengiyumva, whose car was torched, while scores of civilians were shot or hacked with machetes in the late-night attack.
The armed assailants unsuccessfully tried to break into Nyabimata Savings and Credit Cooperative Organisation (SACCO) but they were repulsed by security forces. They also attacked a small trading centre in Rumenero and looted goods and consumables from various shops.
The rebels had launched another attack earlier on June 10, 2018, in Mukunge Cell in Ngera Sector, in the same district, injuring and robbing people in a small business centre in the same vicinity.
The last recorded attack by NLF was in December 2018 when the armed group, again entering from Burundi, ambushed three passenger service vehicles inside Nyungwe Forest, killing scores and injuring many, some critically.
They would later be repulsed by Rwanda Defence Force (RDF), in a scathing operation which saw them flushed out of the natural forest, sustaining many fatalities and casualties in the process. Normalcy was restored and tourists returned to the park.
From his U.S base, Rusesabagina, the protagonist in the controversial movie ‘Hotel Rwanda’, took responsibility of the attacks and casually admitted in different interviews recorded on video that his outfit was behind the violent attacks that claimed lives of dozens and mimed others.
“Since July 2018, the NLF launched a liberation struggle to liberate the Rwandan people, until today in 2019, it is imperative that we speed up the liberation struggle. Rwandan people can no longer stand the cruelty and all kinds of ill treatment directed to us by the RPF regime,”
“The time has come for us to use any means possible to bring about change in Rwanda. As all political means have been tried and failed, it is time to attempt our last resort,” Rusesabagina said in reference to the armed ‘liberation struggle’.
Rusesabagina went on to plead his “unreserved support to our youth” under the National Liberation Forces, who had launched an armed struggle against the ‘Kagame army’ in order to free the Rwandan people -in his own words.
“As Rwandans, we need to understand that this is the only way to bring about change in the whole country. For this fact, I call upon Rwandans, all political and civil society organisations to support these young women and young men who took the lead in this struggle and to mobilize, Rusesabagina proclaimed.
Just a couple of months after making the declarations, NLF’s Spokesperson Nsabimana was arrested and deported to Rwanda at the end of April, where he would face at least 16 charges which included terrorism and treason. His trial is ongoing.
Rusesabagina in several interviews first denied that Nsabimana, who was arrested on an international arrest warrant, had indeed been arrested in the Island of Comoros.
“All I can tell you is that ‘Sankara’ is safe and in good hands. He will appear when the time is right,” Rusesabagina maintained in an interview with Voice of America on April 22, confirming that the NLF was in Rwanda and would not leave until they achieve their mission of removing the sitting government.
A week later on April 30, the then Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Dr Richard Sezibera confirmed that Nsabimana was in Rwanda and would be presented in court soon to face a multitude of charges.
The arrest and deportation of Nsabimana sent shockwaves and panic among opposition and armed groups operating outside Rwanda, as the Rwandan government decisively took action to bring to book all those involved in activities aimed at killing Rwandans and destabilising the country.
In November 2019, following more attacks in October the same year, in Musanze and Burera districts, which claimed 14 people, President Paul Kagame issued a stern warning to all those who sought to destabilize Rwanda, pointing out that the cost would be very high.
“We are going to raise the cost on the part of anybody who wants to destabilize our security,” he said while officiating at the swearing in ceremony of newly appointed Ministers and heads of RDF.
“It is also the cost mainly those people who want to destabilize our country, are going to incur. It is going to be a very high cost, absolutely. And I mean it. I know you know that I mean it,” he said.
KT Press understands that an arrest warrant had been issued in March 2019 against Rusesabagina’s name through Interpol. It was one of the seven arrest warrants issued by the Rwandan government targeting heads of terrorist organisations operating in the region, especially in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
At the time, the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Dan Munyuza confirmed that Rwanda was working with Interpol to arrest some of the individuals who were behind attacks aimed at destabilizing Rwanda’s security.
The Prosecutor General at the time, Jean Bosco Mutangana confirmed that seven arrest warrants had been issued, targeting heads of terror organisations, but did not reveal the names, pointing out that it would jeopardise ongoing investigations.
Initial reports suggested that Rusesabagina, the leader of MRCD/NLF and Kayumba Nyamwasa, who had been confirmed to be the leader of the ‘P5 Coalition’ by a United Nations Group of Experts Report, were among those who were wanted.
P5 is a coalition of five political organisations including People’s Congress (AMAHORO-PC), Forces Démocratiques Unifées-Inkingi (FDU INKINGI), People’s Defence Pact-Imanzi (PDP-IMANZI), Socialist Party-Imberakuri (PS IMBERAKURI) and a faction Rwanda National Congress (RNC) led by Kayumba.
The arrest warrants included that of Nsabimana, who would be arrested and deported to Rwanda in April the same year.
Rusesabagina arrested, allies in disarray
After the arrest of the NLF Spokesperson Nsabimana, Rusesabagina, on May 1, 2019, said that the arrest of his armed group’s publicist had not weakened their cause. More than a year later, he also found himself in Kigali, where the two are most likely to appear in the same courtroom.
On Monday, August 31, Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) presented the 66-year old before the media in a brief session, revealing that he was arrested “through international cooperation” without revealing which countries helped in the process.
“Rusesabagina is suspected to be the founder, leader, sponsor and member of violent, armed, extremist terror outfits including MRCD and PDR-Ihumure, operating out of various places in the region and abroad,”.
RIB said Rusesabagina has been subject of an International arrest warrant, and is wanted to answer charges of serious crime including terrorism, arson, kidnap and murder, perpetrated against unarmed, innocent Rwandan civilians on Rwandan territory, including in Nyabimata – Nyaruguru district in June 2018 and in Nyungwe – Nyamagabe district in December 2018.
Dr. Thierry Murangira, the Acting RIB Spokesperson said that the countries or country which helped in apprehending Rusesabagina cannot be revealed at this point, in order not to jeopardise investigations.
“He was arrested in collaboration with several countries but we cannot mention them now in the interest of investigations which are still ongoing but when the investigations are over, we will reveal everything,” Dr. Murangira said, sending a warning to all those who are hellbent on destabilizing Rwanda’s security
“All we can say is that the long arm of the law will get to you. More will be arrested in the coming days. We have the capacity to do so and the will as well as international cooperation because no country would support the killing of citizens of another country. No one can kill Rwandans and get away with it,” he said.
If the arrest of Nsabimana was surprising, Rusesabagina’s was even more shocking -not even his closest allies like Twagiramungu know how it happened. Several countries and cities have been mentioned, but none, including his son Trésor, knows how it happened.
In a lengthy post shared on Facebook, Trésor Rusesabagina made a panicky appeal for his father but left out the key details of where he was or what he was doing at the time of his arrest.
Twagiramungu, his closest ally, in an interview said that they didn’t know when or where Rusesabagina had travelled to, saying that he was probably running personal errands, not related to their political party activities.
He however confirmed that he had learnt through someone else that Rusesabagina had travelled to ‘Africa’ but he has no idea where and why.
Twagiramungu said that for the last 6 months he had been in the U.S but confirmed that he was under investigation in Belgium where he also lived.
“What I can talk about are the events in Belgium. Some people came from Rwanda, from RIB, and interrogated Rusesabagina. They also searched his house but they did not arrest him,” Twagiramungu revealed in an interview with BBC.
In the revealing interview, Twagiramungu said how he was about to be arrested in Belgium but it appeared it never happened because he had Belgian citizenship. He said that since they didn’t arrest him, he thought the investigations were over. The developments happened 7 months ago according to the former premier.
“He thought the investigations were over. I only learned through someone that he had travelled to Africa some two days ago,” he said, expressing his lack of information on the developments.
Several audio clips of his allies circulating on social media suggest that they never saw Rusesabagina’s arrest coming while his backers and sponsors were also caught off-guard.
Hoodwinking the West
Analysts say Rusesabagina has for nearly two decades been able to hoodwink western countries to look at him as the ‘hero’ who saved more than 1,200 Tutsis at Hotel des Mille Collines, where he was a manager during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, based on the controversial 2004 movie ‘Hotel Rwanda’, despite genocide survivors debunking the storyline.
Genocide scholar and commentator Tom Ndahiro says that for many years, Rusesabagina has successfully been able to ensure that his backers in the west don’t pay attention to his other activities, continuing to see him in the mirror of a purported hero who saved hundreds.
“For many years they have failed to acknowledge the fact that Rusesabagina denies and negates the same genocide he became famous for, through his actions and speeches. It has been there for all to see. He has been doing it with so much impunity and nobody attempted to hold him accountable,”
“But the most perplexing scenario is that Rusesabagina has been openly declaring war against a legitimate government, took responsibility of violent armed attacks that claimed lives of innocent civilians in Nyaruguru district, left many without limbs, but he was still able to hoodwink the west to look at him as a hero,” Ndahiro said.
Ndahiro pointed out that it was just a matter of time for Rwanda and countries which value justice to take action and hold Rusesabagina accountable for his actions and make sure that he does not continue to enjoy the impunity he has been enjoying for years.
Rusesabagina, who scooped many awards for his role in the movie, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom given to him by President George W. Bush in 2005, has for many years been criticised for misrepresenting facts, especially by genocide survivors who say that his story that portrays him as the Oskar Schindler of Rwanda, is not true.
A book published in 2015 by Edouard Kayihura, one of the Mille Collines survivors, punched holes in Rusesabagina’s story, recounting stories of survivors who said that Rusesabagina, who was not the overall manager at the time as alleged and that he charged those who were sheltered at the hotel.
Witnesses said that those who didn’t have money were thrown out and left at the mercy of the killers who were combing the streets for Tutsis.
The book titled “Inside the Hotel Rwanda: The Surprising True Story…and Why It Matters Today” puts across revealing aspects of Rusesabagina’s story which were omitted in ‘Hotel Rwanda’, indicating how the hotelier profiteered from desperate people who were running away from marauding Interahamwe militias.
The stories in Kayihura’s book have been corroborated by ordeals of many Mille Collines survivors, including those of high-ranking figures such as former Senate President and Prime Minister Bernard Makuza, Amb. Wellars Gasamagera and deceased businessman Bertin Makuza, who in 2011 debunked Rusesabagina’s story.
Ndahiro said that Rusesabagina facing justice in Rwanda will be a long-awaited opportunity to expose the lies he has been peddling for close to two decades, dismantling the façade that has been hiding who the true Rusesabagina is for many years.