'No amount of intimidation can work here,' Rwandan President Kagame tells foreign diplomats

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Rwanda's President Paul Kagame. (Ben Curtis, AP)
Rwanda's President Paul Kagame. (Ben Curtis, AP)

  • President Paul Kagame says foreigners get it wrong about his country's history and human rights.
  • Pleas by Hollywood actors for the release of Paul Rusesabagina, who inspired the Hotel Rwanda movie, have fallen flat.
  • Kagame accuses the foreigners of efforts to change victims to be the perpetrators.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame has warned that being a celebrity cannot put one above the country's laws.

He was speaking at a dinner he hosted for foreign diplomats accredited to Rwanda on Tuesday night.

This he said in apparent relation to the case of Paul Rusesabagina, who inspired the Hollywood film Hotel Rwanda. It was adapted from his life story when, as the manager of the Hôtel des Mille Collines in Kigali, he protected 1 268 Hutu and Tutsi refugees from the Interahamwe militia during the Rwandan genocide in 1994.

The 67-year-old Rusesabagina, now an opposition figure, was handed a 25-year sentence for terrorism last year. Even after an appeal, the sentence was upheld. Early this month, the Robert F Kennedy Human Rights group held a panel to urge Rusesabagina’s release.

On the panel was Hollywood actor Don Cheadle - who played Rusesabagina in the movie - and Anaise Kanimba, Rusesabagina's daughter.

Responding to the attention coming from Hollywood, in his address at the dinner, Kagame said:

He said:

You are aware of 'bringing celebrity status' and 'hero status' in our history, and people manufacture it through a movie, through a film, and take that even above the law. It's absolutely surprising that people who have hundreds of years of history of this sort of thing, I'm talking about of justice, democracy, human rights and so on, sometimes rightly give us lessons, getting it so wrong in this particular case.

Kagame added that they were not just getting it wrong, "but looking down upon us".

He added that a "person's" fame and popularity were the creation of foreigners.

"They are the ones who created the 'celebrity status' of this person because they wanted to create their own narrative about Rwanda," he said.

READ | 'We are not trading humans,' say Kagame on Rwanda's deal with UK over refugees

Therefore, "their effort was about changing victims to be the perpetrators", he said.

But Kagame said truth-telling played a big part in addressing their problems, particularly the genocide of April 1994.

"This is the month of April when we have all kinds of problems, when we try to remember the tragic history. You cannot overcome that history unless you emphasise the truth and facts and interpret that in the right way," he said.

Throughout his address, Kagame maintained that he was leading a country of strong-willed people who looked for solutions, rather than shifting blame, and that "no amount of intimidation can work here".

The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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