Tue, May 30, 2006 - Page 6 News List

`Hotel Rwanda' manager warns of Darfur genocide

THE GUARDIAN , HAY-ON-WYE, UK

The real hotel manager behind the film Hotel Rwanda has warned that a genocide on the scale of the one that wiped out 900,000 Rwandans could happen in Darfur.

"The refugee camps in Chad are just like those in which exiled Rwandans were living in 1993, without food, shelter or education. And it was these people who in April 1994 went out on to the streets, took machetes, and killed people," Paul Rusesabagina told the Hay literary festival.

"Last year I went to Darfur and what I saw was exactly what I saw in Rwanda in the years 1990 to 1994," he said. "There were government-funded helicopters destroying villages. Militia armed by the government killing villagers. Two million people displaced and their homes completely erased."

Rusesabagina was a hotel manager in Kigali when the Rwandan genocide began in 1994. He saved the lives of 1,200 people, whom he sheltered in the Hotel des Mille Collines, an experience recounted in his autobiography, An Ordinary Man: the Story Behind Hotel Rwanda. The 2004 film starred Don Cheadle as Rusesabagina.

Rusesabagina described how he and his family hid at his home, gradually joined by neighbors. Through dialogue and negotiation Rusesabagina -- a Hutu officially through his father, but with a Tutsi mother and wife -- managed to keep the 1,200 who fled to his hotel alive for nearly 100 days, eating airline meals washed down with swimming pool water.

"I never realized I was a Noah," he said. "I believed what I was doing was not different from what many people were doing. I never realized that the killing field was as wide as it was."

Rusesabagina said he has met US President George W. Bush to discuss the genocide.

"When I talked to him he gave a very simple response: `Not on my watch' ... and yet these things are happening again and again ... it is time to join action to words."

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