Date of Birth : 15th June, 1954.
Place of Birth : Central - South region of Rwanda
Spouse : Tatiana Rusesabagina
Children : Roger, Diane, Lys and Tresor
Occupation : Humanitarian
Education : Graduated fron the Hotel Management Program from the Utalii College in Nairobi, Kenya.
The Story before the Genocide
After completing his studies when Paul returned to Rwanda, he was employed in the Hôtel des Mille Collines as the assistant general manager. Very soon he rose the ranks and became the manager in another hotel of the same company that went by the name of Hôtel des Diplomates. Both of these were situated in Kigali, Rwanda. On the personal front, Paul had divorced his first wife Ester Rusesabagina when he joined the Mille Collines. He met his current wife, Tatiana in 1987 and arranged for her to move to Kigali by using his contacts in the ministry. Soon after he married Tatiana.
The Rwandan Genocide
Now, let me tell you why this genocide actually occured. There are two types of natives of Rwanda. The first category, considered to be elite, the tall dark and handsome kind, were the tutsis. The other, which comprised of the general Rwandan public who considered themselves oppressed, were the Hutus. Paul was a mixed breed. His father being a Hutu and mother a Tutsi. But as the caste was decided majorly on the basis of your paternal heritage, he was considered a Hutu. Tatiana, his wife on the other hand was a tutsi. The fight between Hutus and Tutsis was a fight of supremacy over the other caste. There was an armed force established by the Hutus, called the Interahamwe. This force was being fought by the Tutsi rebels. The genocide was started by the Interhamwe as they started slaughtering Tutsi people and even the Hutus who showed an inkling of helping the Tutsis. They went door to door to find all the Tutsis and mercilessly murdered each one of them.
Rusesabagina's Story during the Genocide
The genocide started on 6th April, 1994. Though Rusesabagina, being a Hutu was considerably safe, this was not the case with his wife and children who were considered a mixed breed. For their safety, Paul moved his family to the Mille Collines hotel. He got a letter faxed from the authorities of the hotel appointing him as the manager as most of the foreign staff, including the manager had already left. Here, in this hotel, he sheltered 1268 Tutsi and Hutu refugees. Such a huge no. of refugees were built within a few days as the genocide was in full flow outside the walls of the Hotel. The United Nations were of no help at all as they just evacuated the european and american guests from the hotel and left the natives there itself to be slaughtered. It was Paul's contacts and his quich wittedness that kept them alive. He had to constantly bribe the police to provide protection to the hotel and it's residence. He also contacted the heads at Sabena who were able to prevent a slaughter but only for the time being. After days on end trying to keep his family and the refugees safe, relief came one day when selected influential families were allowed protection by the UN and were scheduled to leave the country. At the last moment, Rusesabagina decided to stay back himself and just send his family as he had to take care of the refugees. But, unfortunately he was not even allowed a sigh of relief as the truck carrying the families to the airstrip was stopped by the Interahamwe and the passengers badly beated up before the police was able to interfere. The truck had to return to the Mille Colline due to the hostile circumstances and nobody was able to leave to safety in the end. After another bout of challenging living that including drinking water from the swimming pool, finally all the refugees were taken to the other side of the country which was under the control of the tutsi rebels. The rebels were on the rise now and soon they were successful in pushing the Interhamwe back to the border of Congo.This spelled relief for Rusesabagina as he no longer had to worry for his, his family's or the refugees' safety.
So this is how Paul Rusesabagina, a very ordinary man, saved more than a thousand lives by showing courage and calmness during times of crisis. Even after being denied help by the UN he did not give up and did his best to support the refugees by using his resources and contacts to the fullest. The Interahamwe finally left more than a million corpses behind in Rwanda but 1268 less thanks to one great man.
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