Fri, Oct 29, 2010 - Page 6 News List

‘Hotel Rwanda’ manager investigated


The Rwandan hotel manager portrayed by Don Cheadle in the movie Hotel Rwanda could face charges by Rwandan authorities over allegations he sent money to opposition commanders, the nation’s top prosecutor said.

However, the former manager, Paul Rusesabagina, said on Wednesday he had not sent any money to Rwanda in years, and that the government was launching a smear campaign against him because he has opposed Rwandan President Paul Kagame in the past.

Rwanda’s top prosecutor, Martin Ngoga, said that Rusesabagina helped finance what he described as terrorist activities in Rwanda by helping fund commanders with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). No formal charges have yet been filed.

Ngoga said he was asking US officials for assistance in gathering evidence. Some of the financial transactions he alleges were criminal originated in San Antonio, Texas. Rusesabagina has a house in Texas, but said he had never sent money to Burundi or Tanzania as Ngoga alleged.

“Those who want to continue considering him as a hero can go on,” Ngoga told a news conference late on Tuesday. “We consider him a serious criminal suspect who has been financing FDLR, and we are challenging whoever speaks on his behalf to tell us whether he never sent money to these FDLR commanders we have in custody.”

After his story was publicized in We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families, the 1998 book by Philip Gourevitch, and the movie Hotel Rwanda, Rusesabagina was hailed as a hero around the world. Former US president George W. Bush gave him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005, the highest civilian honor in the US.

However, the government of Rwanda did not view him as a hero after Rusesabagina began criticizing the regime of Kagame, who has since called Rusesabagina a “manufactured hero,” according to Hotel Rwanda director Terry George.

Rusesabagina, 56, who was released from a hospital operation last week to find that his home in Brussels, Belgium, had been broken into and documents stolen, said he had done nothing wrong.

“It is the latest step in a -campaign against me by the Rwandan government that has included public insults, lies and physical harassment,” Rusesabagina said.

“My foundation is advocating for a truth, justice and reconciliation process to try to foster sustainable peace in Rwanda ... but anyone who opposes Kagame inside or outside the country is treated with this kind of harassment,” he said.

More than 500,000 Rwandans, mostly ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus, were killed in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide. Kagame, an ethnic Tutsi, has tried to downplay the role of ethnicity in post-genocide Rwanda, and people in the country rarely refer to themselves as Hutu or Tutsi and can face charges for speaking publicly about ethnicity.

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