On Monday, Rwandan President Paul Kagame revealed that there were ongoing discussions aimed at “resolving” the situation of Paul Rusesabagina. Rusesabagina was famously portrayed as a hero in the Hollywood movie “Hotel Rwanda,” but he is currently serving a 25-year jail term in Rwanda on terrorism charges. He was sentenced in September 2021 for his association with an organization that was opposed to Kagame’s regime. Rusesabagina has denied all charges against him and refused to participate in a trial he deemed a political charade.
The United States has designated Rusesabagina as “wrongly detained,” partially due to the perceived lack of fair trial guarantees. The former hotel manager is also a US permanent resident, which has contributed to Washington’s interest in the case.
While Kagame has previously stated that his country would not be pressured regarding Rusesabagina, he appeared to suggest a willingness to find a compromise during a video interview at the Global Security Forum on Monday. “We don’t get stuck with our past. We move into the future,” Kagame said. “So there is discussion, there is looking at all possible ways of resolving that issue without compromising the most fundamental aspects of that case.”
In August, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken shared his concerns with Kagame about the Rusesabagina trial. Rwanda maintains that the trial was conducted within the bounds of the law.
Rusesabagina’s portrayal by actor Don Cheadle in the 2004 film “Hotel Rwanda” earned him global fame. The movie depicted him as a hero who risked his life to shelter hundreds of people during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Rusesabagina, a vocal critic of Kagame, has admitted to having a leadership role in the opposition group but denies responsibility for the armed wing’s attacks. However, the trial judges ruled that the two were indistinguishable.
Rights organizations have criticized Rusesabagina’s imprisonment as an example of Kagame using authoritarian tactics to silence political opposition and maintain his grip on power. These accusations have been denied by the president.