Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry


Hotel Rwanda

  • 12th Jan, 2006 at 1:54 PM

Last night, I stood in line outside of Concordia's Hall building for a good hour or so. dcoombs and I ate our dinners standing there, which was a fairly good plan because if we arrived any later, there wasn't any chance of us getting in. The line snaked all the way around the building, but the auditorium wouldn't fit us all.

We managed to chat with a girl who seemed like a perfectly normal anthropology major until she launched into an extended description of her D&D character. And then we met a girl in a fuzzy white cap who talked to us about the long lineup. Finally, we met a woman who was studying teaching and was quite upset that we didn't get into the theatre.

Oh, did I mention that we didn't get into the theatre?

Instead, we went up two escalators and climbed up four flights of stairs. The little old lady in front of us looked like she might collapse. We eventually made our way into a room with a bunch of chairs. Someone had set up a laptop that was hooked up to a projector, and we would be watching the webcast from inside the building.

Man, I could have stayed at home for that.

After some more waiting, the lecture began. The video was choppy and blurry, but it was possible to see what was going on. Now, you're probably asking, why did we wait over two hours to see someone speak?

Paul Rusesabagina was the general manager of the Hôtel des Diplomates in Rwanda when civil war broke out. He described the situation in 1994 and his time spent during the Rwandan Genocide.

His oration was not particularly compelling as he seemed to gloss over the horrors he had witnessed. Perhaps this was because English was not his first language? Perhaps it was because he did not want to focus on the deaths. It was strange to see him talk calmly about his son discovering his neighbours slaughtered on their front lawn. It was disconcerting to hear him describe the remains of his mother-in-law, and her family, and her house. And you could tell that he still was unable to comprehend just how his neighbours and friends could commit such atrocities. Even after all this time had passed.

He took his family to stay at the Hôtel des Mille Collines, where he phoned the management and convinced them to make his temporary manager. There, he offered shelter to over 1200 refugees from the hostile militia and army who patrolled the streets. And he told us about problems of daily survival: the constant telephoning for aid, the rationing of water which they got from the swimming pool, the lack of electricity, and the constant threat of violence. Even when he was offered evacuation, he refused to leave the hotel behind because there would be no-one to protect those he left behind.

I was most impressed by his story of a young man who barged into the hotel demanding to see a journalist who had taken refuge there. You see, that reporter had just published a news story about the situation in Rwanda and this man wanted to kill him. I am still amazed at what Mr. Rusesabagina did: he invited this kid into his office and talked with him for many hours. And at the end of their discussion, the gunman left peacefully. He is now studying journalism in Minnesota.

Mr. Rusesabagina was not a man of hubris. He told us how he didn't believe he could ever do such noble acts and that it was his god that was using him as a tool. Nor did he accept praise, but rather spoke to us all very humbly. Near the end of his talk, he pleaded that we demand that world leaders notice atrocities being committed right now, around the globe. Because even though we always say, "never again" to genocides and holocausts, we don't really mean it.

Do we?


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
12th Jan, 2006 19:21 (UTC)
I didn't know the speech was happening, or I would have lined up to get inside too... I have the movie, but there is probably so much more he had to say that wasn't in the movie.
14th Jan, 2006 16:50 (UTC)
Have you read Romeo Dallaire's book? It was very compelling.
14th Jan, 2006 22:20 (UTC)
No, I'm afraid not.

But it seems like it would be a good thing to put on the reading list.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )