To borrow a term from social media, it is that time again, when there is pile on against Rwanda. The excuse this time, a self confessed extremist in the dock.
The arrest, and trial of Paul Rusesabagina for crimes of terrorism, crimes it should be noted, to which, rather inconveniently for any defence lawyer, the accused all about admits, has brought every anti Rwanda journalist, commentator and academic, out of the woodwork.
So far, so business as usual. But, now, somewhat bizarrely, and arguably unwisely, the film director Terry George, has also decided to answer the insistent call to jump onto the anti Rwanda pile on, punching, gouging and spitting venom.
The director follows the time honoured format for these regular occasions: attack Paul Kagame. Like his creation, the “Humanitarian Hero” George would save the “long suffering people of Rwanda” who, unknown to them, are under the thumb of Paul Kagame.
And if the poor people of Rwanda insist on their inexplicably unwavering attachment to their head of state, it has to be because they know no better. They too must be saved from their childlike naivety and instructed on what is best for them.
The film is of course, Hotel Rwanda. In it, the director allowed himself so much artistic licence, that his main character, based on a petty extremist, who was little more than the eyes and ears of his mass murderer masters, becomes today’s “Humanitarian Hero.”
In other words, his “composite character” becomes the near exact opposite of the nature of the person on which the character was based. In a grotesque twisting of events, the right hand man for the planners and perpetrators of the genocide against Tutsi, became “Africa’s Oskar Schindler.”
And yet, that, to use the director’s own phrasing, might have been that, had so many in the Western world not have been so determined to wilfully take fiction for fact.
The film did fairly well at the box office, and took several bows at the Oscars. No mean achievement for an African based story. For the director therefore, it might have been mission accomplished, and on to the next project.
But it seems he has a bit of time to spare, so why not go to battle for his work of art.
In his opinion piece in FP magazine, George gives the impression of a man who is convinced that because it is his opinion, it is therefore a fact. He makes a great deal of reminiscence that President Kagame liked the film when it was premiered in Rwanda.
He is not the first to triumphantly brandish this piece of information, as proof that it is only because Rusesabagina turned government detractor, that the film’s flaws came into question.
“I think the only value in Hotel Rwanda, is the fact that it keeps the Rwanda genocide alive, but as far as content, it’s Hollywood. When people use Hollywood in a pejorative way, it’s because they produce junk like that.” The verdict of lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire, whom Terry George will know as Nick Nolte.
Dallaire may as well have been speaking for President Kagame, in the assessment of the film. By the time of the making of the film, the pre-planned denial of the genocide against the Tutsi was already in full gear.
Acutely aware of the impact of a Hollywood film, the Rwanda head of state will have had little doubt about the wisdom of overlooking the film’s imperfections, for what it would achieve, in bringing awareness of the crime to the wider world.
Though now in civilian garb by the completion of the film, this was after all a man who had just hung up his uniform, as Commander of a group of fighters, who through unusually astute military strategy, had only recently defeated an army of far greater numbers, better armed, and buttressed by a nuclear power, like France. One imagines it took him all of a second to see the film’s strategic advantage.
Nor should any credence be given to the carefully woven narrative that President Kagame “turned against the film” when Rusesabagina begun to criticise him.
Not least because since criticism implies dispassionate judgement based on facts, describing Rusesabagina as a critic does rather distort the word. His Western cheerleaders may now be adding “Rwandan dissident” to “Humanitarian Hero” to his name, but Rwanda, least of all the country’s head of state, was not in the least bit interested in their pantomime. His often incoherent rambling depiction of Rwanda as an “open prison” were as water off the proverbial duck’s back.
He was just another one of the members and supporters of the genocidal establishment, who sit in Western capitals, in particular France, and Belgium, spewing invective at the man who led the forces that defeated them. Rusesabagina became a person of intense interest in Rwanda, when he decided to take murder and mayhem to his land of origin that he now seeks to disown.
The lives spared at Hotel de Mille Collins, were due to the advancing Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) forces, and Dallaire’s decision effectively to disobey the orders of his superiors at the UN Security Council, to pull out even the few remaining UN troops under him, and look away, while mass murder continued.
Dallaire and his men’s presence at the Hotel stayed the bloody hand of the genocidal establishment, which still believed it could conceal from the world the crime it was committing.
His efforts were hampered by the arrival of Rusesabagina at the Hotel, sent there by the master minds of the genocide, to be their man at the one place in Rwanda, where there remained some kind of international presence.
Terry George rounds on Rwanda’s Ambassador to America, Mathilda Mukantaba, when in an article also in FP magazine, she points out that contrary to specific instructions from Sabena, the owners of Hotel des Mille Collines, that people taking refuge at the Hotel were not to be charged, but Rusesabagina did just that, allegedly threatening to throw out anyone who did not, or could not pay.
“Most recently” he complains of the Ambassador, she “decided to rehash her government’s attacks on the veracity of the film…regurgitated arguments that Rusesabagina charged refugees for staying in hotel rooms during the genocide.”
“Of course, it was a hotel, they had to pay.” Rusesabagina’s own words when asked about whether he charged desperate people seeking refuge from killers. So, no argument there.
And with his own rehashing of the media lauding of Rusesabagina, Mukantabana may argue that between the two of them, it is not she who is guilty of regurgitating well-worn claims, or arguments.