A movie that from the first minute reminds me of Indonesia – with the all well-known conflicts and dissensions caused by ignorance, hatred, and corrupt system where everyone and everything have price tags, even friendship. Unconsciously tears welled up my eyes… I could feel the fear, the uncertainties, the hopelessness, the despair, all too familiar during the May 1998 riot in Indonesia… although what happened in Rwanda could be thousands times more horrified. In a three-month period of 1994 a million people died.
This movie is true-life story of Paul Rusesabagina, a hotel manager who housed over a thousand Tutsis refugees during their struggle against the Hutu militia in Rwanda.
Western world turned their deaf ears over atrocities so blatant and brutal. During the movie the emotion and feeling run high especially when we see all western countries with troops and buses come to pick up all white people and leave behind the blacks. It’s so sad to see how the US and France play major role in stalling the rescue process despite outcries of intervention from the Rwandans and the UN representative there. The image is still vivid… the desperation and hopelessness reflected on the eyes of those people that are left behind… the unimaginable atrocities of people toward their own folks just because they don’t share the same cultural/ethnic identity.
In Paul’s word about cultural identity: “I never understood. Because at home I didn’t even realize that my mother was Tutsi and my father was a Hutu. My father never talked about that. And my mother, never. I first realized there were Hutus and Tutsis in 1973 when the Tutsis were running away to Uganda, Burundi and Zaire. By that time I was grown up, I was 19.” On a certain level, I experienced this thing too as I grew up in Indonesia… about this rejection of cultural identity, amid Indonesia’s claimed unity in diversity (bhinneka tunggal ika).
Please go to see the movie, if you care… It’s one of the most heart wrenching, yet beautiful movies I’ve ever seen. I need a lot of Kleenex as I was overwhelmed for a large part of this movie.
The following are taken from various websites for Hotel Rwanda and Rwanda’s genocide. It’s long and packed with reference. The people of Rwanda want us to hear their stories… and I just do my small part to make their stories told and their voices heard.
Ten years ago, as the country of Rwanda descended into madness, one man made a promise to protect the family he loved – and ended up finding the courage to save 1,200 people. Hotel Rwanda tells the inspiring story of real life hero, Paul Rusesabagina, a hotel manager in Rwanda who used his courage and cunning to shelter over a thousand refugees from certain death. While the rest of world world closed its eyes, Paul opened his heart and proved that one good man can make a difference.
A Modern Genocide – The Story Behind the Film
The Rwandan conflict of the 1990s marked one of the bloodiest chapters in recent African history. The genocide was made all the more tragic by the fact that most of the world chose to ignore the conflict and the plight of the Rwandan people. While occasional reports about “tribal warfare” in Rwanda were carried by international news agencies, the horror of the conflict, instead of causing international outrage, seemed to be written off as another “third world incident” and not worthy of attention.
Over the course of 100 days, almost one million people were killed in Rwanda. The streets of the capital city of Kigali ran red with rivers of blood, but no one came to help. There was no international intervention in Rwanda, no expeditionary forces, no coalition of the willing. There was no international aid for Rwanda. Rwanda’s Hutu extremists slaughtered their Tutsi neighbors and any moderate Hutus who stood in their way, and the world left them to it.
“Ten years on, politicians from around the world have made the pilgrimage to Rwanda to ask for forgiveness from the survivors, and once more the same politicians promise `never again,'” says director Terry George. “But it’s happening yet again in Sudan, or the Congo, or some Godforsaken place where life is worth less than dirt. Places where men and women like Paul and Tatiana shame us all by their decency and bravery.”
Wars have always provided fertile ground for the emergence of heroes and supreme acts of heroism by ordinary people. Rwanda was no exception. Amidst the horrendous violence and chaos that swept the country, one of the many heroes to emerge was Paul Rusesabagina, an ordinary man who, out of love and compassion, managed to save the lives of 1,268 people.
Terry George had long been interested in doing a film set in Africa, but it was Paul Rusesabagina’s story that finally brought him to the continent. “When my co-writer Keir Peirson introduced me to the story, I immediately knew I wanted to do it,” says George. “I flew to Belgium and met Paul and learned of his life: how he became a hotelier, how he rose through the ranks of employees in the various Sabena hotels he worked in, and how he ended up at the Hotel Mille Collines in Kigali.”
It was the remarkable human element of the story that struck a chord with Hotel Rwanda producer Alex Ho. “This story is very close to my heart, and it’s the kind of story I really appreciate,” he says. “It’s about a normal man who, when prompted by his wife, is able to use his position to help others. In the course of doing that, he sets out on a journey that makes him a better man.”
An Unlikely Hero
Homage to A Brave Man: The Man Behind the Story
In January 2003, Terry George traveled to Rwanda to research the story and familiarize himself with the country. “I was also looking for answers,” says George. “Why the genocide? Why were so many people murdered in the space of 100 days, the fastest genocide in modern history? I also wanted to get a sense of the ordinary people of Rwanda and listen to their stories. George was accompanied on his visit by Paul Rusesabagina. It was the first time Paul had returned to Rwanda since the atrocities.
While in Rwanda they were able to travel, film the various locations and meet many of the people who took refuge at the Milles Collines hotel, including Odette Nyrimilimo, her husband Jean Baptiste Gacacere, and various members of Paul’s family. “It was a unique privilege to visit Rwanda with Paul,” says George, “to get a sense of the love and admiration people had for him. When we walked back into the Hotel Mille Collines, we met many of the survivors, cooks, cleaners, people Paul had sheltered. There was true joy in their eyes.”
Though many of George’s experiences in Rwanda were positive and he took inspiration from the many people he met, nothing could have prepared him for what he experienced when visiting one of the massacre sites. “We paid a visit to a former technical college at Marambi in Southern Rwanda,” says George. “I passed through rooms filled with the mummified skeletons of some of the 40,000 people who were massacred over four days in April 1994. As I listened to the sole survivor of that massacre tell of those days, I truly felt there was nothing more important in my life than to make this film.”
In visiting Rwanda, George was also able to see the incredible beauty of Rwanda and to investigate the politics of the extremist Hutu government, how their radio station RTML spewed forth hate and venom towards the Tutsi and how prejudice and fear drove ordinary people to believe that they had to massacre their neighbors in order to preserve their existence. “If I had to point to the one factor that sparked this genocide,” says George, “it was that radio station. We feature that radio station as a character in the film. I need people to understand the power of that propaganda.
When adapting Hotel Rwanda for the screen, it was important to George and Peirson that the film not be structured or perceived as a documentary, but rather an emotional distillation of the events and facts of Paul’s life that gives the audience an intimate, insider’s view of the events that took place at the Hotel Mille Collines at the time. “I find it most important to tell a story based on character and the evolution of that character, as well as the strengths of the character,” says George. “We have highlighted the particular events that formulated his triumph – his ability to succeed in the face of overwhelming odds. I enjoy my work best when it’s a project that will enlighten and hopefully invigorate people.”
Hotel Rwanda is, for the most part, a deeply personal story, and it’s uniquely focused on one building (the hotel), the people within it, and the relationships between them. The filmmakers deliberately avoided focusing on the overwhelming horror of the genocide itself. “When the film ventures outside into Kigali during the genocide, we tried to create this bizarre, surreal atmosphere, to let viewers feel the psychological terror of the genocide without going close on the slaughter.” Says Alex Ho, “This is a powerful human drama, not a horror story, and we believe it is important that the widest possible audience should see it.”
Stepping Into Character: Taking on the Role, An Actor’s Journey
Terry George’s passion for the story was what first impressed Don Cheadle and attracted him to the project. “Terry was very passionate about Hotel Rwanda and wanted to tell a story that, in his opinion, hadn’t been told before,” says Cheadle. “He thought it was a great opportunity to bring to the fore stuff that had been brushed under the carpet, and I really wanted to be a part of that.
“Terry has lived with this piece for years and it’s really affected him deeply,” continues Cheadle. “It’s important to him we tell this story with great care and great attention, and he was always committed to the emotional journey of the characters – and that’s the most important thing to me in the movie. I call Terry ‘the fearless leader.’ He’s also such a brilliant writer – things often had to change in the circumstances we were dealing with, and he and I could sit down, put our heads together, and come up with the necessary changes as well as track the ripple effect they would have and how they would affect what we’d shot and hadn’t shot. It was like putting a living puzzle together, and it was great working with someone who could do that.”
Having read the script about Paul Rusesabagina and his resilience in the face of all obstacles, Cheadle knew it was a role he wanted to play. “Paul kept his faith, his head, and his wits about him and orchestrated the survival of everyone who came to the Hotel Mille Collines. It’s an amazing journey,” says Cheadle. “He starts off being very concerned about his family, but ends up wanting to help others.”
Researching his role, Cheadle was amazed at some of the articles he read. “Given the subject matter, there are some very tragic, horrific stories,” he says, “but there are also many stories of hope and perseverance in the face of unimaginable odds. You ask yourself what you would do in a situation like that: could you endure the unimaginable in order to survive? It’s unthinkable, the things these people have seen and experienced.”
Though the film is based on real-life events, Cheadle focused on staying true to the script at all times, trusting the care and heart that went into writing it. “It was always our goal to tell this story in the most compelling and cohesive way that we can,” he says. “The story is structured very well in terms of the arcs of all these characters and the progression of the story. We tried to adhere to that. It was important we told the story we were committed to tell – an amazing and tragic story, tragic for the world it had to happen in the way that it did. It could have been an avoidable tragedy, had the world been involved.”
“When I first read the script I was gripped,” says Sophie Okonedo, who plays Tatiana. “It says a lot about the human spirit, about living in a traumatic situation, something to say about love. There’s a very strong bond between Tatiana and her husband, Paul, as they desperately fight to hold their family together through the growing horrors.”
In the film, when we first meet Tatiana and Paul, it seems their lives are perfect and everything they have worked towards has reached fruition. Tatiana was a nurse but now is a full-time mother, and Paul has got a well-respected career as a hotel manager. “Tatiana is very proud of Paul,” says Okonedo. “He’s a pillar of the community, and when people want advice they come to him. Paul and Tatiana’s lives seem ideal. Then, as the events of the genocide unfold, Tatiana taps into her inner strength. If you’d asked her in the beginning if she could cope with what would happen, she would have said no. But when push comes to shove, she’s incredibly tough and strong and has great compassion.”
The great challenge for Okonedo during her initial research was to find information about ordinary people and how they coped with the genocide. “I read a load of stuff, anything I could find on Rwanda,” says Okonedo. “The more I learned about the genocide, the more I felt I just needed to know how an ordinary Rwandan woman, living normally and looking after the children, would react to such horror. When I met Tatiana in Belgium, I didn’t really want to ask her any of these questions but rather just to get a sense of her.” Okonedo’s research also took her to the Holocaust Museum in Berlin.
Despite her considerable research into her character, however, when shooting began Okonedo dropped many of her preconceived notions of how she would portray Tatiana. “I opted to serve the script and found that my reactions became almost instinctive,” she says. “I was hardly aware of what I was doing, but will probably look back and in retrospect say, ‘I made those decisions.’”
For Joaquin Phoenix, who plays Jack, being part of telling this story was a privilege. “This story is a painful part of Rwanda’s history, but nevertheless, a story that has to be told,” says Phoenix. “Unfortunately, many people, including myself, didn’t pay attention and were unaware of the true gravity of the situation.”
In preparation for his role as Jack, Phoenix met with a number of journalists and cameramen to learn of their experiences. “I met with three different guys, and it was very insightful,” says Phoenix. “It was difficult hearing their stories and I think it was also very difficult for them to tell the stories, but we learned a lot about their experiences. These cameramen had covered thirty wars, but they said they had never experienced anything like the Rwandan genocide. One gentleman said a number of his friends had breakdowns after Rwanda, and he cried a number of times while telling me about the things he had seen and experienced in Rwanda. Obviously that helped us in really being aware of the full gravity of the situation.”
Phoenix has endless admiration for the cameramen who covered the war, but after hearing their stories he finds the idea of working in the field a bit overwhelming. “I don’t know how any of them made it,” he says. “I don’t believe any of them came away unscathed. One cameraman said, ‘The images I saw will never go away.’ It was a very powerful experience.”
After making the film, Phoenix considers Terry George to be the best person to have told this story. “He’s a phenomenal writer,” says Phoenix. “He really is able to document characters’ lives and elevate the mundane aspect of a character’s life. One of Terry’s strengths is his ability to bring together so many different factions of the story and somehow mold them all together coherently. It’s rare to find a writer who can stick to the truth and the honesty of the characters. He really cares about what he does and writes from his heart.”
It was the opportunity to work with George that attracted Nick Nolte to the project. “Terry found a unique way of telling the story through Paul, the hotel manager, and his family,” says Nolte, who plays Colonel Oliver. “My character is a composite character of fine Canadian officers who led the UN peacekeeping mission in Rwanda. Just as these officers did, Colonel Oliver quickly learns that his hands are tied by unsympathetic bureaucrats at the UN and around the world. His relationship with Paul is as a communicator who tries to get word out about what is happening in the country because it seems that the wider world is oblivious.”
Nolte’s research took him to Princeton University. “At Princeton we found numerous tapes covering the events of the genocide, extraordinary documentaries by Channel 13’s Frontline, the BBC’s Panorama, and Canada’s CBC. I was particularly moved and shocked by the tapes of General Dellaire, the Canadian commander of the UN forces in Rwanda, as he talked about the genocide to military staff and colleges,” says Nolte. “He would use a machete and a watermelon to illustrate the savage nature of the killing during this genocide.”
Casting the Film: Bringing Together International Cast
Hotel Rwanda brings together a stellar international cast. At the center of the film is the heart and acting talent of one man: acclaimed actor Don Cheadle. “Don is one of the best actors in the world, and we wanted him as our lead from the start,” says producer Ho. “When this project first came up,” adds George, “his name was in my head right away. When I was trying to sell the project in Hollywood I always mentioned his name first.
“Don Cheadle always turns in solid, thoughtful performances,” continues George. “He’s just a favorite of mine. He’s played such varied characters, from his great performance in Devil in a Blue Dress to Boogie Nights to The Rat Pack when he played Sammy Davis, Jr. He’s an incredible actor.
“Having worked with him so closely in making this film,” says George, “I now realize we couldn’t have made it without him. Don can take a scene, give you two or three versions of how that scene should be played out, and they’re all perfection, then you move on. He was on the set first, he coped with every curveball thrown at us, and he smiled through it all.”
Casting the character of Tatiana was a difficult task for the filmmakers, but, as George recalls, “Alex Ho and I saw Sophie Okonedo in Dirty Pretty Things and she immediately jumped out in that role. I watched some of her other work, and it became clear Sophie and Don could produce the necessary chemistry we needed between the two lovers, Paul and Tatiana. We were soon adamant about casting Sophie, and I am convinced her performance will more than validate that.”
With two exceptionally talented leads, the filmmakers needed to balance out the rest of the cast. “We heard Nick Nolte was interested in playing Colonel Oliver,” says George. “He’s one of Hollywood’s great character actors and his presence fills the screen, so it was a joy for us to discover he was going to be part of the ensemble we had.”
George considers Joaquin Phoenix to be another of the greatest acting talents in the world and was delighted when Phoenix agreed to do the film. “He’s one of those actors who has the capacity to completely disappear inside a role. You’re never sure what the performance will be, but it’s always going to be hypnotic,” he says.
“We’ve been so lucky with this cast,” George continues. “Everyone we asked was really willing to do the film. And when they arrived in South Africa, they were all team players and just got down to business.”
Director’s Statement: Terry George’s Passion
Three years ago Keir Peirson and I sat around a table with Paul Rusesabagina and listened as he told us his story. As he spoke, I did my best to hide two conflicting emotions: excitement and fear. Excitement because it was a perfect story to be told on film – a riveting political thriller, a deeply moving romance, and, most of all, a universal story of the triumph of a good man over evil. But fear was my predominant emotion. Fear of failure.
This was a story that had to be told, a story that would take cinema-goers around the world inside an event that, to all our great shame, we knew nothing about. But more than that, it would allow audiences to join in the love, the loss, the fear and the courage of a man who could have been any of us – if we ever could find that courage. I knew if we got this story right and got it made, it would have audiences from Peoria to Pretoria cheering for a real African hero who fought to save lives in a hell we would not dare to invent.
It was a very scary challenge for all of us involved with Hotel Rwanda, but that same challenge seemed to invigorate everyone who worked on the film, from our great cast and crew to the extras who rose at dawn in Johannesburg’s townships of Alexandra and Tembisi to join us in telling this enormous story. I’m proud of everyone who worked on this film and honored to have had the chance to tell the story of Paul, Tatiana, their family, and the people of Rwanda. I only hope to have done his heroic deeds justice.
Rwandan Radio Announcements: How the Tragedy Began (Radio Netherlands Media Network)
Hate Radio: Rwanda
Fire broke out on Friday 2 April 2004 at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) based in Arusha Tanzania, destroying documents used in the trials of people accused of taking part in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
The fire was quickly brought under control by the Arusha fire brigade who responded within ten minutes. UN and Tanzanian security officers were busy sifting through the charred-out remains as UN employees were gathered in groups outside looking in disbelief. There were no casualties.
Audio recordings destroyed
Remains of burnt-out files and audio cassettes lay scattered outside an entrance that leads to prisoners’ holding cells and the evidence unit. The evidence unit is where all gathered evidence of the more than fifty detainees is kept. Among the partly destroyed evidence in view was a folder with the name ‘Barayagwiza’ written on it and audio cassettes of Radio Télévision Libre de Mille Collines (RTLM). Jean Bosco Barayagwiza is one of the three accused in the so-called ‘hate media’ trial who were sentenced to life imprisonment December 3, 2003.
RTLM is the most widely reported symbol of “hate radio” throughout the world. Its broadcasts, disseminating hate propaganda and inciting to murder Tutsis and opponents to the regime, began on 8 July 1993, and greatly contributed to the 1994 genocide of hundreds of thousands.
RTLM, aided by the staff and facilities of Radio Rwanda, the government-owned station, called on the Hutu majority to destroy the Tutsi minority. The programmes were relayed to all parts of the country via a network of transmitters owned and operated by Radio Rwanda. After Rwandan Patriotic Front troops drove the government forces out of Kigali in July 1994, RTLM used mobile FM transmitters to broadcast disinformation from inside the French-controlled zone on the border between Rwanda and Zaire, causing millions of Hutus to flee toward refugee camps where they could be regrouped and recruited as future fighters.
It is widely believed that RTLM was set up to circumvent the ban imposed on “harmful radio propaganda” to which the Rwandan government had formally committed itself to in the March 1993 Dar-Es-Salaam joint communiqué.
The West Fails to Act
Initially, RTLM was not taken seriously by western governments and diplomats. Although RTLM clearly qualified as harmful and attacked even members of the diplomatic corps in Kigali, there was no decision to take forceful measures to silence it. The western donors limited themselves to making representations to President Habyarimana who responded by promising to look into it, but not taking any action. Both the French and the American ambassadors opposed any action against RTLM. The US Ambassador at the time claimed that it was the best radio for information and that its euphemisms were subject to many interpretations.
As the then Canadian ambassador, Lucie Edwards, later said: “The question of Radio Mille Collines propaganda is a difficult one. There were so many genuinely silly things being said on the station, so many obvious lies, that it was hard to take it seriously… Nevertheless, everyone listened to it – I was told by Tutsis (sic) – in a spirit of morbid fascination and because it had the best music selection.”
Bringing the Guilty to Justice
The process of bringing to justice those responsible for the broadcasts of RTLM is now well under way, though some are still at large. On 22 July, 1996 journalist Ferdinand Nahimana, described as the director of RTLM, was indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. He was charged with genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide and crimes against humanity. The initial court appearance was made on 19 February 1997 and he pleaded not guilty. The trial of Nahimana and two others began on 21 Oct 2001.
The indictment alleged that:
- In or around 1993, Ferdinand Nahimana and others planned and created RTLM S.A. RTLM was an integral part of RTLM S.A. RTLM operated within the territory of Rwanda during the time of the events alleged in the indictment. In addition to being involved in the creation of RTLM S.A, Ferdinand Nahimana was instrumental in the establishment of RTLM.
- Between 1 January 1994 and approximately 31 July 1994, RTLM was used to broadcast messages designed to achieve interethnic hatred and encourage the population to kill, commits acts of violence and persecutions against Tutsi population and others on political grounds.
- During this period, Tutsis and others were killed and suffered serious bodily or mental harm as the result of the RTLM broadcasts.
- From a date unknown to the prosecutor through the period alleged in the indictment, Ferdinand Nahimana, by himself and with others planned, directed and defended the broadcasts made by RTLM.
- He knew or had reason to know of the broadcasts and the effects of the broadcasts on the population. He could have taken reasonable measures to change or prevent the broadcasts, but failed to do so. He failed to take the necessary measures to punish the subordinates.
The prosecution completed its evidence on 12 July 2002. Nahimana began testifying in his own defence in September 2002. He said that RTLM was set up to counter the propaganda of Radio Muhabura, operated by the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF). “We felt that there was need for more voices in the discussion of the Arusha accords, to counteract the RPF radio and to explain to the people the effects of the war.”
“There is a sense in which when one says we were criticising the RPF, it is understood to mean that the person was against Tutsi. I think this is terrible and I must ask you not to approach matters this way. We felt it was important to have a discussion on the issues that were obtaining at the time and this is what we did,” said Nahimana.
According to Nahimana, the Movement for the Democratic Republic (MDR) controlled the Ministry of Information, and had signed a memorandum of agreement with the RPF that resulted in unbalanced coverage of the ‘war’ in the national media. “If the RPF had not set up its own station and proceeded to broadcast propaganda on which basis the government was to blame for the war, RTLM would probably not have been set up. A lot of people were unhappy with the coverage of Radio Rwanda,” Nahimana said.
Nahimana said that while he was involved in the radio’s initial formation, he was not involved in its day-to-day running. He added that a manager named Phocas Hahimana was in charge of RTLM’s daily activities. Nahimana maintained that, contrary to prosecution allegations, he did not have editorial control over RTLM broadcasts, and claimed that only Gaspard Gahigi, the editor in chief, held such powers.
Haimana went on to claim that a radical section of the founding members of RTLM hijacked the radio station and used it for a killing campaign. “What happened in Rwanda is revolting, thousand, hundreds of thousands of Tutsi were killed for no other reason than they were Tutsi and this happened largely in areas controlled by the transitional government. In areas controlled by the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) in eastern Rwanda, thousands of Hutu were killed because they were Hutu, it is truly revolting,” Nahimana told the court.
Prosecuting attorney Simone Monasebian produced excerpts of various documents, including portions of the Kangura Newspaper published between 1990-1994. She noted that Kangura had published a photograph of Nahimana, together with RTLM editor Gaspard Gahigi with the caption “RTLM, no chance for the Tutsi” and challenged Nahimana to show if he had ever contested this portrayal of the station. Nahimana admitted that he had not protested, but said that Kangura had published a lot of other things that he did not agree with, and which he found unacceptable.
Monasebian noted that RTLM officials attended meetings in which they were criticised by the Ministry of Information and the Ministry of Justice in Rwanda and accused of inciting ethnic hatred. She played a videotape of former Minister of Information Faustin Rucogoza, who stated that RTLM had turned into a political party and a mouthpiece of the extremist Council for the Defense of Democracy (CDR) party. She noted that during this time Nahimana “acted as the director of the RTLM or at least held himself up as such.”
Nahimana said that he had never at any time been the director of RTLM, and that this was a post held by Phocas Habimana. Nahimana added that some prosecution witnesses designated him as an RTLM founder rather than its director.
“Trauma and Drugs Were to Blame”
On 18th October, Nahimana turned to another line of defence, and started claiming that trauma and drug use explained the extremist conduct of the RTLM journalists. “Some journalists started drugging themselves and this only started happening after 6 April,” said Nahimana. He lamented the fact that the editor-in-chief and director of the station did not spot this and put a stop to it. Nahimana also named individual journalists whom he said had suffered personal trauma, which “explained” some of the things they said on the air.
After three years of testimony, the trial reached its climax in August 2003 when the tribunal retired to consider its verdict. The prosecutor demanded the maximum sentence, life imprisonment for all the accused. Their lawyers, on the other hand insisted that the prosecutor had not proved his case beyond all reasonable doubt and demanded an acquittal.
In early December the court announced its verdict. RTLM Director Ferdinand Nahimana was sentenced to life imprisonment, and Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza to 35 years, reduced to 27 years because of the time he has already spent in jail.
Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) welcomed the life sentence passed against Nahimana. “We are pleased that this case has finally reached a conclusion despite countless procedural delays and obstacles,” RSF Secretary-General Robert Ménard said. “This is the first time that journalists have been sentenced to life imprisonment for incitement to murder and violence in their reports,” he added.
“We hope these sentences are seen as a warning to the many journalists in Africa and elsewhere who also stir up hate in their writing,” Ménard said. “Even if no country today is in a situation comparable to Rwanda’s at the time of the genocide, these sentences should serve as a call to order to all the publications that constantly flout the most elementary rules of professional ethics and conduct.”
In April 1998, Giorgio Ruggiu, an Italian-Belgian accused of incitement to genocide and of crimes against humanity, in connection with the massacre that occurred in Rwanda between April and June 1994, went on trial in Arusha. According to the charges, he broadcast on RTLM an appeal to the Hutus to destroy as many Tutsis as possible. “What are you waiting for? The tombs are empty. Take up your machetes and hack your enemies to pieces”, he was reported as having said at the time.
In May 2000, Mr Ruggiu was given two concurrent sentences of 12 years each, after admitting to direct and public incitement to commit genocide and persecution as a crime against humanity. He admitted that he “incited murders and caused serious attacks on the physical and/or mental well-being of members of the Tutsi population with the intention of destroying, in whole or in part, an ethnic or racial group”.
“These are events which I regret, but they are the reality and I decided to admit them,” Mr Ruggiu told the court. “I admit that it was indeed a genocide and that unfortunately I took part in it,” he said.
The Rwandan government has protested at the sentence, saying that it “did not measure up to the crimes for which Ruggiu had confessed”.
Wanted Posters: Those Responsible
In June 2002, the US State Department announced the Campaign to Capture Fugitives indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. The campaign started by offering a reward of up to $5 million for the capture of former RTLM President Félicien Kabuga. Mr. Kabuga is a wealthy businessman who is accused of using his vast assets to propel the Rwandan massacres, firstly, by affording a platform to disseminate the message of ethnic hatred through the radio station, Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM), and secondly, by providing logistic support such as weapons, uniforms and transportation to the Interahamwe militia group of the Mouvement Républicain National pour le Démocratie et le Développement (MRND) and the militia of Coalition pour Défense de la République (CDR).
Rwanda: A Brief History of Events
1918: Rwanda-Burundi is made a U.N. protectorate governed by Belgium. The minority Tutsi ethnic group is favored over the majority Hutus and given privileges like western-style education.
1926: The Belgians introduce a system of ethnic identity card differentiating Hutus from Tutsis.
1961-1962: The Belgians withdraw and Rwanda and Burundi become separate, independent countries. A Hutu revolution in Rwanda causes thousands of Tutsis to flee.
1963: The further massacre or Rwandan Tutsis occurs in response to attacks by exiled Tutsis in Burundi. More refugees leave, and it is estimated that half of the Tutsi population is living outside Rwanda.
1973: The Tutsis are forced out of universities, and a fresh outbreak of killings begins. The army chief of staff seizes power, and Tutsis are restricted to 9% of all available jobs.
Oct. 1990: Guerillas from the Rwandan Patriotic Front invade Rwanda from Uganda; the RPF was mostly made up of Tutsis. A ceasefire is signed on March 29, 1991.
1990-1991: Thousands of Tutsis are killed in separate massacres around the country, and the Rwandan army forms and trains the Hutu-dominated Interahamwe militia (“those who stand together”).
Nov. 1992: Dr. Leon Mugusera, a Hutu extremist, appeals to the Hutu to send the Tutsis “back to Ethiopia.”
Aug. 1993: Rwandan President Habyarimana (a Hutu) and the RPF sign a peace accord, and 2,500 UN troops are deployed to implement it. A month later, the president has still not implemented the regulations of the accord.
April 6, 1994: President Habyarimana and the president of Burundi are killed in a plane crash orchestrated by Hutu extremists to stop the implementation of the peace accords. The organized murder of all high-profile Tutsis and moderate Hutus begins that night.
April 7, 1994: Thousands of Tutsis are already dead but the UN peacekeeping troops (UNAMIR) “stand by” so as not to breach their “monitoring” mandate.
April 9, 1994: Foreign governments send troops to evacuate their citizens from Rwanda. No Rwandans are rescued.
April 11, 1994: The Red Cross estimates that tens of thousands of Rwandans have already been murdered during the first few days of the conflict.
April 21, 1994: The UN Security Council votes uninamously to withdraw most of the UNAMIR troops.
April 28, 1994: State Department spokeswoman Christin Shelley renounces the term “genocide” when asked about the attacks.
April 30, 1994: Tens of thousands of refugees flee Rwanda into Tanzania, Burundi, and Zaire.
May 3, 1994: President Bill Clinton signs a Presidential Decision Directive that limits US military involvement in international peacekeeping operations.
May 11, 1994: State Department spokesman Mike McCurry says the state department has not made any egal determination as to whether the events in Rwanda are considered genocide.
May 13, 1994: The UN Security Council prepares to vote on restoring UNAMIR’s strength in Rwanda; the vote was delayed for four days by Madeleine Albright.
May 17, 1994: The UN Security Council resolution commits to sending 5,500 troops and admits “acts of genocide may have been committed.”
Mid-May 1994: The International Red Cross estimates 500,000 Rwandans have been killed.
June 22, 1994: UN forces still have not been sent to Rwanda, so the Security Council authorizes the deployment of French forces to create a “safe area.” Regardless, the killing of Tutsis still continues.
Mid-July 1994: The Tutsi RPF forces capture Kigali and the genocide is over. Over a period of 100 days, almost one million Rwandans were murdered.
Teacher’s Guide: Engage Students with Activities and Lessons [pdf file].
Reference: More Information on the Rwandan Tragedy
- “Ghosts of Rwanda” by PBS.ORG – Frontline
- “Triumph of Evil” by PBS.ORG – Frontline
- The United Nations Refugee Agency
- Amnesty International
- International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda
- AVEGA-AZOZO The Association of Genocide Widows
- Remembering Rwanda – The 10th Anniversary Project
- US Department of State Report on Rwanda
- Business Council for Peace
- BBC Radio 4 “It’s my story – Defying Rwnada’s Killers” Paul Rusesabagina returns to Rwanda Post Genocide with journalist Steve Bradshaw
- “Hotel Rwanda” Portrays Hero Who Fought Genocide – National Geographic News Dec 9, 2004
- Rwandan Information Exchange
- Rwanda Tourism Council
- The Rwanda Crisis: History of A Genocide. Gérard Prunier, Columbia University Press, ISBN 023110409X, 1995.
- Witness to Genocide: The Children of Rwanda: Drawings by Child Survivors of the Rwandan Genocide of 1994. Richard E. Salem (Editor), Hillary Rodham Clinton (Forward). Friendship Press, ISBN 0377003301, May 2000.
- Rwanda and Genocide in the Twentieth Century. Alain Desztexhe, Alison Marschner (Translator), William Shawcross. New York University Press, ISBN 0814718736, 1996.
- Season of Blood: A Rwanda Journey. Fergal Keane. 1999.
- The Lion, the Fox and the Eagle: A Story of Generals and Justice in Rwanda and Yugoslavia. Carol Off. 2000.
- Me Against My Brothers: At War in Somalia, Sudan and Rwanda. Scott Peterson. 2000.
- We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families: Stories from Rwanda. Philip Gourevitch. 1998.
- The Graves Are Not Yet Full: Race, Tribe, and Power in the Heart of Africa. Bill Berkeley. 2001.
- A People Betrayed: The Role of the West in Rwanda’s Genocide. Linda Melvern. 2000.
- Leave None to Tell the Story: Genocide in Rwanda, Human Rights Watch. Alison Des Forges. 1999.
- Rwanda: Death, Despair, and Defiance. African Rights. 1995.