By Joan Karera
Former member of the East African Legislative Assembly, Dr. Odette Nyiramirimo, who is one of the people who sought refuge at Milles Collines Hotel during the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi and one of the characters in the Hotel Rwanda movie has reacted to the arrest of Paul Rusesabagina and shed light on the movie, in an interview with Ukwezi TV. This follows the arrest of Rusesabagina who is facing 13 charges that include terrorism, kidnap, murder among other crimes, perpetrated against unarmed and innocent civilians on Rwandan territory in 2018 by by Rusesabagina’s National Liberation Front (FLN).
“Based on what the filmmakers told us, the film was shown as a fiction not a documentary. They wanted the people (foreigners) who watched it to get to know that genocide had happened in Rwanda, they wanted to show how the international community abandoned people, and to show that not all Hutus participated in the killings. So, they told this story through Rusesabagina,” said Nyiramirimo in the interview.
Highlighting how fictional Hotel Rwanda was, Nyiramirimo mentions how she is portrayed in the movie as a mother who was taking care of children that were brought to the Hotel by the Red Cross. “Honestly, Red Cross never brought any children to the hotel, I didn’t take care of any children,” she said. “Terry George who did the scripting wanted to tell the story of all the people who carried out acts of rescue during the Genocide.
“If there was a priest in Ruhango who saved children, they added it to the Rusesabagina role! If there was a parent who took care of orphans they portrayed it as if it was Nyiramirimo who did it,” she added, going through many of the ways the movie was a work of fiction.
After the movie was premiered, Rusesabagina went around the world giving lectures and claiming it depicted what really happened, which later brought his way a Presidential Medal of Freedom. “That shows how Rusesabagina is so dishonest!” a scandalized Nyiramirimo remarks. “Rusesabagina knew very well that the movie was a work of fiction but attributed everything in it to himself.”
In fact, according to a witness familiar with the events at the Mille Collines in those dark days reveals, “people wanted to give Nyiramirimo a medal too, as a heroine that took care of children, but she refused it because she knew very well that the movie was fictitious.”
Despite rumours by Rusesabagina’s family and most of the media that “he fled from Rwanda in 1996 due to “threats from the government”, Nyiramirimo during the interview stresses that those are lies, throughout. For instance, Rusesabagina came back to Rwanda in 2003, where he attended the presidential campaign and was even present in Nyiramirimo’s party after she had been sworn in as a senator. This shows there never was such a thing as the government threatening Rusesabagina’s life, she said.