Hotel Rwanda is a novel authored by Mr. Paul Rusesabagina. Paul Rusesabagina is currently serving as a diplomat to his country Rwanda as well as other countries. Back in 1994 when the most heinous massacre took place in Rwanda, Paul was serving as a hotel manager in the Capital Kigali. The hotel was the four-star Hotel Mille Collines. Hotel Rwanda is a novel written by Paul Rusesabagina attempting to paint with clarity the exact events that threatened the extinction of a tribe with over a million members. I will attempt to analyze this novel from different perspectives including that of critics, international bodies like UN as well as Rusesabagina's view himself. In connection to this, we may ask, what do we need to save or change the world? Is it high positions in the corporate world, is it celebrities or is it governments? No, not at all! All we need to change the world is ourselves. I will analyze this statement using the psychoanalysis approach.
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Hotel Rwanda tells the story of not a massacre in Rwanda but of courage, hope and determination by one man to survive for yet another day, protect his family as well as strangers, perform as a hotel manager and still keep his sanity just to mention but a few. In the first quarter of 1994, tensions started brewing in the small Eastern Africa country of Rwanda between the two tribes - Hutu the majority and Tutsi the minority. The situation on the ground was further aggravated when the then President of Rwanda Habyarimana's plane was shot down. The president's death saw the start of the war. In about 100 days from the start of the war, over a million Tutsis had been brutally butchered. Scores of children were orphaned, thousands of women sexually assaulted, families members scattered and homes reduced into ashes. The roads were impassable, the hospitals emptied, homes deserted and churches burnt to the ground. Forest and rivers were filled with bodies of the old, the children, the youth and the teenagers. No site seemed real anymore. But amidst all this evil madness, there was good in Rwanda. A husband and father of two who doubled up as a hotel manager had to manage more than just these two entities. He was now forced to manage villages under the perimeters of his hotel. Paul Rusesabagina, the hotel manager tried innumerable times to get the different organizations that sojourned in his hotel once in a while to lend a helping hand to the situation but with little or no yield.
Paul housed thousands of Tutsi refugees and a couple Hutu members in the hotel. He ensured that whatever little resources they had, were well utilized. He tried to keep supplies now delivered by the military to the hotel still coming in quantities enough to sustain the refugees, medication and nursing services provided to the sick and the wounded. Eventually Paul and his family manage to get behind a Tutsi rebel line with thousands of Tutsis, a place of refuge for them all. Being a Hutu married to a Tutsi, one may want to quickly conclude that the man's actions were merely out of his love for his wife or that the wife pushed him to act as he did (Roger Ebert. Hotel Rwanda. December 22, 2004. Web.)
The Bishop of Gikongoro, Monsignor Augustin Misago who wrote a book about the Kibeho apparitions, told me that Valentine's suggestion that "the killing of Tutsi was approved in heaven" struck him as "impossible - a message prepared by politicians." But then, the messages sent by church leader frequently carried a political edge during the killings. In fact, Bishop Misago was often described as a Hutu Power sympathizer; he had been publicly accused of barring Tutsis from places of refuge, criticizing fellow members of the clergy who helped 'cockroaches' and asking a Vatican emissary who visited Rwanda in June 1994 to tell the pope "to find a place for Tutsi priests because the Rwandan people do not want them anymore." (Philip Gourevitch. We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families. First Edition. Great Britain. Picador, 2000. Print. )
The above excerpt goes ahead to show just how the grave the matter at hand was, that even those viewed as being on the frontline of advocating for peace uttered words filled with hate, prejudice and malice. So why then did Rusesabagina act as he did? How do we explain his actions as a Hutu not towards his wife but towards hundreds of Tutsis that his fellow tribe's men referred to as 'cockroaches'?
Paul comes off as a man with a strong humane side. He remains calm amidst all this chaos. He ensures that the refugees in his hotel are not just safe but they also get their daily bread. He still commands his servants in the hotel, some of whom are Hutu and they constantly keep threatening him against providing a safe haven for the Tutsi or they will blow the whistle. In short he maintains sanity in an environment where only madness seems to thrive. Paul makes several calls to foreign countries seeking help from them but to no avail. It is more poignant when the United Nations - an international body and peace keeping advocate whose employees spent at Hotel Mille Collines during the good days - turn their backs on the then burning Rwanda. The whole world seemed to be too busy with other much important stuff to recognize the tiny weeping nation of Eastern Africa. But Paul still stays focused and tries to remain the father figure to family, employees and thousands of strangers by giving a sense of direction and stewardship.
Paul Rusesabagina is also portrayed as a leader. As a leader, it is your duty to lead your subordinates towards the achievement of the organization goals. Now it is very hard to point out what the goals of Hotel Mille Collines were at the time of the turmoil, but one thing strongly comes out - service to humanity. Rusesabagina courageously gets his employees provide normal hotel services to the refugees in terms of room services, emergency calls and food service. At some point when one of his Tutsi female employee approaches him and tells him they need to flee before they all die under the same roof and she tries to point fingers at some of her Hutu colleagues whom she has heard 'talking', Paul firmly retorts "The only thing you will hear in this place is my voice." Such situations create fear and panic but Paul with the spirit of a true leader stands out and keeps everything in place. Paul together with a couple of his subordinates make several calls to prominent people across the world and try to shed light of the country's situation as they call for help. He ordered these employees and coordinated the activities of the hotel with utmost decency. Even though, outside the hotel's perimeters everything was amiss and Paul would occasionally see smoke bellowing from houses of people he very well knew, he would make several trips to and fro his home before things took a turn for the worst and he moved into the hotel with his family.
Paul is also portrayed as an optimist. He has hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Everyone else is acting in a frenzy manner. The country is out of order, over a million souls lost in less than three months and yet here is a man who believes it is going to be okay. He has made hundreds of phone calls to the Diaspora in search of help but no one heeds his call and still he holds on to his hope that everything will be fine. At some point in the thick of things, Paul manages to sneak out of the hotel with his driver one misty morning and after half an hours drive on their way to see some general for help, the road becomes bumpy all over a sudden. Paul instructs his driver to halt when he feels the turbulence is too much. They both step out of the car to see exactly what it is causing the turbulence. Paul is immediately nauseated by the macabre site of dead bodied sprawled on the road and surrounding field. He instructs his driver to turn the car around and they head back to the hotel. One can't help but wonder, after such a scene, how does Paul still hold on to his sanity and believe that everything is going to be okay. He had to ban the new occupants of his hotel from listening to the local radios that were spreading inciting messages by now.
The International bodies such as UN and many other developed nations that were in a capacity to assist Rwanda remained silent over the matter. The UN at some point brought in a team to pick all the expatriates in Rwanda and take them home to safety. As for the Rwandese, well, let's just say every man for himself. Paul notes with anger and confusion in his heart why all of a sudden, friends had turned foes. The chief of the United Nations in Rwanda at the time and a personal friend to Mr. Paul Rusesabagina, Mr. Colonel Oliver pays Paul an abrupt visit to inform him that the situation is out of his hands now and that he has received orders from above to evacuate all white Americans and expatriates from the country. A general of the army in Rwanda and who had paid several courtesy visits before everything fell apart no longer answered Paul's calls after he warned Paul of his 'genius idea' to keep 'cockroaches' in the hotel. Why did the world remain silent over the matter? Why was Rwanda neglected at its point of need? Thousands fled into neighboring countries of Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and even Burundi which was on the verge of war. Reviewer Stefanie Jackowitz points out the white Americans in Rwanda as "...the tourists who forcefully pry their way out of the country in a selfish effort to distance themselves from any sort of controversy (Stefanie Jackowitz. Hotel Rwanda, 2005, Web)."
In the movie Hotel Rwanda, close family members also do not seem to be reading from the same script. Paul's blood brother and a prominent radio presenter in Kigali incited the Hutus by telling them "The inyenzes (cockroaches) have taken what we had and now it is time for us to take it all back. We will crush the inyenzes and wipe them out completely". It is hard to understand how one can utter such words yet their very own sisters-in-law fall victim to the same words. What about their nieces and nephews? They do possess Tutsi traits in them in as much as their father is Hutu. Why would one claim property taken from them referring to government positions? When does a given tribe own a parliamentary seat? The involvement of the media in matters of state is very significant considering the media's influence on a given people.
The media is single-handedly responsible for providing news updates and information to the mass, with time the mass is able to associate with the media. What the media says becomes gospel truth and no one dares question that! Young Hutu and Tutsi militia were recruited daily and trained by army men, handed guns, rifles and machetes and sent on a killing spree. Your loyalty to the tribe was measured by the number of men from the other tribe that you failed. In a short while the roads were filled with gun wielding young boys who created hell. These young men whose judgments were by now impaired by small amounts of money and false promises turned into nothing but breathing and walking killing machines.
The media aggravated the situation by now dishing out information of hate and inciting messages to their listeners. The repercussions: women raped, homes burnt, schools and hospitals evacuated and ultimately scores died. In the early stages of the film, as the ruthless annihilations are just beginning, Rusesabagina meets Jack a journalist. Jack has captured video footage showing the wild madness taking place across the country. An excited Rusesabagina say, "sure that this footage will bring help and intervention from around the world." But Jack knows better and says to Paul, "If people see this footage, they'll say, 'Oh my God, that's terrible,' and they'll go on eating their dinners." (CNN Review: 'Hotel Rwanda', Amazing, gripping, 2005. Web.)
The use of words such as 'cockroaches' in reference to fellow country men and women that you now consider a threat to your claim of your share of the country goes on to show how one's wrong mentality could jeopardize the existent of an entire group. The majority Hutu were determined without a doubt to obliterate all Tutsis. But would they have gained back their so called 'property'? The bloodshed in Rwanda's genocide will forever remain etched in the brain of the world, no doubt! Critics have even compared genocide in Rwanda to the unfortunate happenings in Poland and referred Mr. Rusesabagina as the Schindler of Africa - a man who heeds a call to stand out alone and act against the 'flow'. As a hotel manager, Paul tries to keep the hotel that way.
He has bribed many with stock in his hotel, for instance he issued the best of scotch in his hotel to a couple of generals so they would leave the refugees camping in the hotel alone or as he bought time and tried to get more powerful people on the line to stop the imminent catastrophe. He also gave fine Cuban cigars to several people including a couple of his subordinates who had turned rogue and threatened to lead Hutu militia into the hotel. One of these subordinates even went further as to move into one of the presidential suites and ordered for the best of service the hotel had to offer from his Tutsi colleagues else he would lead the firing squad right to where they were.
The military is also seen as a body of highly trained individuals who will answer to their commandants any time but with limitations. These limitations clearly come out when Hutu commandants ask their subordinates to take out their Tutsi commandants in the execution style and they will then be promoted to fill those vacant positions. The soldiers are also asked to train 'rookies' who are then sent to the killing fields as front men. They drive on state vehicles chanting in local dialect words are translated to us as "Kill the inyenzes (cockroaches)."
Hotel Rwanda does depict in a clear manner the atrocities that were committed in Rwanda. Today 16 years later, stories are still being narrated on what happened in different parts of the country. Stories that emanate hope of a brighter tomorrow and strong words saying' "never again shall it happen to us." But more importantly, Hotel Rwanda tells the story of a man who trounced against all odds to create hope in total darkness. At a time when the country had no sense of direction, at a time when rape and murder were the orders of the day and at a time when chaos was in charge. It tells the story of Rusesabagina trying to stay positive and not think like everyone else, getting help for Colonel Oliver and his UN team who later could not contain the situation and fled. It tells of the stories in many other African Nations and hope for a better tomorrow. Mr. Rusesabagina was definitely not telling his own story, but calling upon so many other heroes in different parts of the world to make a difference.
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