Hotel Rwanda: Rusesabagina regains freedom as Kagame promises
Paul Rusesabagina, portrayed as a hero in the film “Hotel Rwanda,” was freed from a Rwandan jail on Friday, according to US authorities, after his sentence was shortened following vigorous US lobbying.
According to two senior Biden administration officials who briefed reporters in Washington, Rusesabagina, a US permanent citizen, was escorted by a US embassy official when he was transported from prison to the house of Qatar’s ambassador in Kigali late Friday.
“Hotel Rwanda” hero Rusesabagina was sentenced to 25 years in prison in September 2021 for his links to an organisation opposing Rwandan President Paul Kagame that includes an armed branch.
The Rwandan government stated early on Friday that Rusesabagina’s sentence will be commuted.
US President Joe Biden released a statement congratulating Rwanda and Qatar on Rusesabagina’s release and thanked them for making it possible.
“Hotel Rwanda” hero Rusesabagina will stay in Rwanda for a few days before flying to Doha and then to the United States, according to authorities.
“There was no specific concession made by us as the government here,” one US source said on condition of anonymity. “I think of this one as a series of steps worked out by the Rwandan government, the US government, and, of course, Paul himself.”
The issue has strained Washington’s historically tight ties with Rwanda, as have US charges, disputed by Kigali, that Rwanda has transferred soldiers into neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo and supports insurgents there.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s spokesperson, Stephanie Nyombayire, stated that the release was “the result of a shared desire to reset the US-Rwanda relationship.”
Boycott of Trial
“Hotel Rwanda” hero Rusesabagina, 68, is scheduled to be sentenced in September 2021. He rejected the claims and boycotted the trial, which he and his supporters derisively referred to as a political charade.
He also claimed to have been kidnapped in Dubai in 2019 and forcibly returned to Rwanda. Kagame denied any kidnapping but said Rusesabagina was duped into flying to Rwanda in Dubai.
Washington labelled him as “wrongfully detained,” in part because of a lack of assurances of a fair trial.
During a visit to Kigali in August, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Kagame and “spoke a great deal about the road map to Paul’s eventual release,” according to a U.S. official familiar with the case, adding that the intervention helped achieve the early release.
A US congressional staffer involved with the discussions, who did not want to be identified, said the case had ramifications well beyond Africa, adding, “I think it became clear to the Rwandans that this irritant was not going away.”
“Hotel Rwanda” depicts Rusesabagina’s achievement in saving over 1,000 people, including his family, during the 1994 genocide by sheltering them in his besieged hotel in Kigali.
“Hotel Rwanda” hero Rusesabagina, a strong opponent of Kagame, acknowledged leading an opposition party, the Rwanda Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD) but claimed involvement in assaults carried out in Rwanda by its armed branch, the Forces for National Liberation (FNL). (FLN).
The two wings of the gang were indistinguishable, according to the trial judges.
“Hotel Rwanda” hero Rusesabagina wrote to Kagame in a letter dated Oct. 14 and posted on Friday by the Justice Ministry, “I regret not taking more care to ensure that members of the MRCD coalition fully adhered to the principles of nonviolence.”
He stated that if he was pardoned and released, he planned to spend the remainder of his days in America “in quiet reflection.”
Nineteen additional people had their sentences reduced and are set to be released, according to government spokesman Yolande Makolo. According to Makolo, the underlying conviction remained in effect; the Justice Ministry stated that individuals whose sentences had been mitigated were effectively freed on licence.