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Why did the Government of Rwanda fail to impose its narrative in the case of Paul Rusesabagina?

Why did the Government of Rwanda fail to impose its narrative in the case of Paul Rusesabagina?

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken will be in Rwanda on August 10-11 to discuss, among other things, the “wrongful detention of U.S. Lawful Permanent Resident Paul Rusesabagina”. A clear and firm statement from the Government of the United States, poles apart from the narrative of the Government of Rwanda, who has been portraying Paul Rusesabagina as a “terrorist”.

One can hardly see how both parties will bridge the gap and while we wait for the press conference following the meeting, let’s look at the possible reasons why the Rwandan Government has failed, this time, to impose its narrative despite a fierce and expensive public relations campaign.

A Stronger Reality

One of the first reasons, and most obvious one, is that the no one truly believed that the hero of Hotel Rwanda, Paul Rusesabagina, had turned, overnight, into a ruthless terrorist as Kigali was painting him. Usually, when Kigali depicts its critics as terrorists, genocidaires, traitors, etc. only a few dare to challenge, as they usually do not know a lot about the target. In the case of Paul Rusesabagina, the world had already heard about him and his extraordinary story. An ordinary man who saved hundreds of Rwandans during the 1994 genocide and who has been advocating for Human Rights ever since, gaining multiple recognition worldwide up until the US Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.

Attempts from the Rwandan Government to change or reverse this reality have simply failed, thanks to, among other reasons, the resilience of Paul Rusesabagina’s family who stood still and defended his reputation all over the world. The so-called trial that was supposed to reveal undisputable evidence against the Hotel Rwanda real-life hero, turned out to be a complete fiasco as the vast majority of observers qualified it as unfair and unlawful.

In short, where the Rwandan Government wanted the international opinion to see Paul Rusesabagina as the “Rwandan Bin Landen”, it is the “Rwandan Mandela” that has emerged, illegitimately sentenced to 25 years of prison for daring to oppose one of the worse dictatorships of the planet.

The Double Standards

Another reason why the Rwandan Government failed to impose its narrative against Paul Rusesabagina, is because its narrative was full of double standards.

Everyone knows that the ruling party in Rwanda, the RPF-Inkotanyi, is a former rebellion that took weapons in 1990 and attacked the then Government of Rwanda in a civil war that lasted 4 years.

Hearing the RPF-Inkotanyi and Paul Kagame accusing of terrorism anyone else who advocates for the same liberation path, is the worst double standards argument that can be used. 

People are not fools. You cannot praise former rebels for “liberating” a country, and at the same time label “terrorists” anyone who would like to liberate the country from the same rebels…

There is an issue of credibility between the narrative and the narrator, and ultimately, the RPF-Inkotanyi, a former rebel movement, is destroying its own legitimacy to rule Rwanda.

No Link with The Victims 

One of the preferred methods of the Rwandan Government to impose its narrative, is to use victims’ stories to inhibit any counter-argumentation. In the case against Paul Rusesabagina however, the link between what he was accused of, and what happened to the victims was so far-fetched that no one truly believed he could be held responsible for it. The Rwandan Government went as far as to hire a local actor, Alice Kayitesi, to play Rusesabagina’s victims during the trial.

There is no doubt that Paul Rusesabagina decided to give his political voice through MRCD-FLN to encourage people to stand up against Paul Kagame, but does it make him guilty or responsible of attacks against civilians on the ground?

For the international community, including Anthony Blinken, the US Secretary of Sates, the answer is clearly no, as they all declared his arrest, trial and detention were illegitimate and unlawful.

While everyone respects and sympathizes with the victims and their families, no one wishes to condemn an innocent man simply for speaking against a dictatorship.

Unless Anthony Blinken comes forward with a brilliant solution, the question that will be answered in the coming days is quite simple; which Paul will the United States give-up? Paul Kagame, the rebel, or Paul Rusesabagina, the hero?

Gustave Mbonyumutwa



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