Rwandan President Paul Kagame Tuesday night told foreign diplomats accredited to Rwanda that being a celebrity cannot put one above the country’s laws.
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:
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.
He added that Hollywood created the ‘celebrity status’ of Rusesabagina “because they wanted to create their own narrative about Rwanda”, therefore, “their effort was about changing victims to be the perpetrators.”
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”.