Kigali, Rwanda: Paul Rusesabagina, portrayed in the film Hotel Rwanda as a hero who saved the lives of more than 1200 people from the country’s 1994 genocide, has been arrested by the Rwandan government on terrorism charges, police announced on Monday.
A well-known critic of President Paul Kagame, Rusesabagina had been living outside Rwanda since 1996 and police did not say where he was apprehended. He had been living in Belgium and then in Texas in the US.
In handcuffs and a face mask, Rusesabagina, 66, was shown to the press in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, on Monday by police. He has not yet been formally charged in court.
“Through international co-operation, the Rwanda Bureau of Investigation wants to inform the general public that Paul Rusesabagina has been arrested,” police said in a statement on Monday.
“Rusesabagina is suspected to be the founder, leader, sponsor and member of violent, armed, extremist terror outfits including the Rwanda Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD) operating out of various places in the region and abroad,” police said.
There was an international arrest warrant for Rusesabagina to answer charges of serious crimes including terrorism, arson, kidnap and murder, perpetrated against unarmed, innocent Rwandan civilians on Rwandan territory, police said. Police said that investigations against Rusesabagina will continue and more information will be released about his alleged activities.
Rusesabagina has previously denied the government’s charges that he financially supports Rwandan rebels.
Rusesabagina has been a prominent critic of Kagame’s government, calling it a dictatorship and urging Western countries to press the government to respect human rights.
Government supporters reject Rusesabagina’s criticism, saying Kagame’s leadership supports democracy and economic growth.
Rusesabagina has won numerous international honours including the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom, which President George W. Bush awarded him in 2005.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame disputes Rusesabagina’s story about saving survivors at a hotel in Kigali, the capital, during the genocide, in which more than 800,000 Tutsi and Hutus who tried to protect them were killed by Hutus.
“Rusesabagina has been among the most prominent critics of the Rwandan government and an opponent to President Kagame. His arrest will definitely weaken those who oppose Kagame’s leadership,” Gonza Muganwa, a Rwandan political analyst said.
The 2004 film Hotel Rwanda showed Rusesabagina, a Hutu married to a Tutsi, as using his influence as a manager of the Hotel des Mille Collines to allow more than 1200 Tutsis to shelter in the hotel’s rooms. In the film, Rusesabagina was played by actor Don Cheadle.
Naphatal Ahishakiye, executive secretary of Ibuka, a Rwanda survivors’ organisation, said that Rusesabagina’s arrest is good news for survivors of the genocide. Ahishakiye said Rusesabagina had charged people money to be able to survive in the hotel.