Paul Rusesabagina on Rwanda in 1994 and DR Congo now

KPFA Evening News, 09.28.2013

President Barack Obama has suggested that the world's failure to act in Rwanda is a reason to take military action in Syria, but Rwanda in 1994 is a far more complex story than most of the world knows. KPFA spoke to Paul Rusesabagina, the author of An Ordinary Man, about how he tried to stop the genocide in 1994, and what he would do now to bring peace to Rwanda and its neighbor, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which has lost six million people to the warfare that followed the Rwandan Genocide.  


KPFA Evening News Anchor Sharon Sobotta: Yesterday President Barack Obama pointed to the 1994 Rwandan Genocide as a case in which the world failed to intervene in time as he discussed reasons why the U.S. might take military action in Syria. KPFA's Ann Garrison spoke to Paul Rusesabagina, the author of An Ordinary Man, about what he did to try to stop the genocide in 1994, while sheltering 1200 Rwandans inside the Kigali hotel that he was then managing. 

KPFA/Ann Garrison: Paul Rusesabagina, because I’ve read your book, I know that you didn’t like the government of Juvenal Habyarimana, the Hutu president who tried to make you wear a button bearing his image on your lapel pin. You didn’t like the Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front that invaded Rwanda from Uganda in 1990, and you were a member of a political party pushing for power sharing and political inclusion. I also know that you didn’t appreciate the foreign powers pulling the strings. So you tell a complex story, a very complex story, not the simple story most of the world's been told about the Rwanda Genocide. Could you say something about why that simple story keeps being told? 

Paul Rusesabagina: When we hear about this from outside, we take it like something that came out of nowhere and disappeared. The victors, the Rwandan Patriotic Front, told us that it had disappeared, which is not true, because killing, massacres, crimes against humanity, war crimes, kept repeating themselves, not only in Rwanda but also in the Congo.  

KPFA: The Western powers on the Security Council, did actually intervene in 1994 in some ways. For one, the Security Council imposed an arms embargo on Rwanda’s existing government as the Rwandan Patriotic Front Army advanced on the capital. And the U.S. trained the Rwandan Patriotic Front Army’s General, who is now Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame at Fort Leavenworth. You wrote in your book that the French were supporting the existing government in the civil war.   

But you appealed to the very powers waging essentially a proxy war, in Rwanda, to stop it. Could you explain how they could have?

Paul Rusesabagina: Well, as I always say, behind every dictatorship in Africa, and in developing countries, there is always a Western superpower which is manipulating what is going on on the ground. Their strategy was to get Rwanda to get into the Congo. It was a matter of changing their strategy by bringing both around the table.

I believe, as you read in my autobiography, in the powers of words. I believe that even today, the Rwandan government, one day, they will be forced to put down their guns and sit around the table and through words, through dialogue, resolve the conflict. 

KPFA: Professor Charles Kambanda wrote this week, in The Proxy Lake, that it's imperative for the Security Council to impose an arms embargo on Rwanda now to stop the conflict in Congo. Do you agree?

Paul Rusesabagina: I agree 100 percent.

KPFA: OK, President Kagame and particularly his Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo have been called upon to attest to the urgency of intervention in Syria, to as they say, “stop the next Rwanda.” Do you think this is sincere?

Paul Rusesabagina: I know Kagame, and I know Louise since she was a young lady. They are trying once again to distract the international community's attention, so that they forget what Kagame, Louise Mushikiwabo, the Rwandan government, the Rwandan army. is doing in the Congo, so that they can do what they do there without any attention, without any witness. 

KPFA: For Pacifica, KPFA, and AfrobeatRadio, I'm Ann Garrison.

A longer version of this conversation with Paul Rusesabagina will be available in the WBAI AfrobeatRadio archives, until 09.21.2013. To listen, click here, and choose the September 7th archive: 

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