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Paul Rusesabagina Picks The Seven Most Powerful Africans


Paul Rusesabagina is president of the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation. His personal story as a hotel manager during the Rwandan genocide was depicted in the film Hotel Rwanda and in his autobiography,An Ordinary Man.

In Africa, power usually has a very negative connotation. But this does not have to be true. There are many people who influence Africa in very positive ways, bringing hope and inspiration to people in a country, a region, or even across the continent. The following list includes politicians, business leaders, philanthropists, and a few non-Africans who are important leaders on the continent. These individuals each have exceptional power to influence others, and have chosen a path that will inspire and lead Africa to a better future.
Paul Rusesabagina (Kinyarwanda: [ɾusesɑβaɟinɑ]; born 10 June 1952) is a Rwandan humanitarian who, while working as a hotel manager at the Hôtel des Mille Collines in Kigali, Rwanda, hid and protected 1,268 Hutu and Tutsi refugees from the interahamwe militia during the Rwandan Genocide. None of those refugees were hurt or killed during the attacks.
Rusesabagina's efforts were the basis of the Academy Award-nominated film Hotel Rwanda (2004), in which he was portrayed by American actor Don Cheadle. He currently lives in Brussels, Belgium, with his wife, four children, and two adopted nieces. Rusesabagina founded the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation to fight for global human rights.Image result for Rwandan images
Rusesabagina was one of nine children born to a Hutu father and Tutsi mother in Murama, Rwanda. Rusesabagina's parents sent him to school in a town near Gitwe run by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. By age 13, he was fluent in English and French. He married his first wife, Esther Sembeba, on September 8, 1967. By the end of his adolescence, Rusesabagina had decided to become a minister. He and his wife moved to Cameroon where he studied at seminary.
In December 1978, he, his wife, and two children moved to Kigali. While there, a childhood friend, Isaac Mulihano, invited Rusesabagina to apply for an opening to work at the Mille Collines. He was offered a position and was later sent to Switzerland and Brussels to study hotel management. Due to distance and his commitment to work, he and Esther legally separated in 1981. Rusesabgina was granted full custody of their three children: Diane, Lys, and Roger.Image result for Rwandan images
In 1987, he was invited to a wedding where he met Tatiana, the maid of honor and a Tutsi nurse in Ruhengeri. Rusesabagina obtained a favor from a frequent customer of the Mille Collines, a Minister of Health, to transfer Tatiana to a job at Central Hospital in Kigali. Tatiana and Paul married two years later and she adopted his children. Later, they had a son, Trésor.
In 1992, Paul Rusesabagina was promoted to assistant general manager of the Diplomates Hotel, an affiliate of the Mille Collines.

The Rwandan Genocide[edit]

In Rwanda, while Paul was receiving education in NairobiSwitzerland, and Brussels, the Hutu-dominated government of President Juvénal Habyarimana faced pressure from a Tutsi-led rebel force as they tried to maintain their power. Machetes were ordered and brought to the capital and given to the Interahamwe; while Tutsi were being discriminated against, a rumour brought on by a radio station RTLM explained that the Tutsi wanted to kill all the Hutus.Image result for Rwandan images
On April 6, 1994, President Habyarimana's plane was shot down by surface-to-air missiles as it approached the Kigali Airport for landing. On board the plane with Habyarimana were the President of Burundi Cyprien Ntaryamira, the Rwandan Army Chief of Staff Déogratias Nsabimana, and Colonel Elie Sagatwa, the head of presidential security. The wreckage landed in the garden of the presidential palace and all on board were killed. The Rwandan Genocide started on April 6, 1994. On April 7, 1994, the Presidential Guard assassinated Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana along with many other ministers, mainly those from political parties different from that of the assassinated Habyarimana and those slated to play important roles in the transitional government that had been planned to be instated on April 8. Ten Belgian UN peacekeepers were also killed. Image result for Rwandan images Interahamwe hunted down Tutsi and began killing them at the start of the genocide. Though Rusesabagina was Hutu (his father was Hutu and his mother Tutsi), his wife Tatiana was a Tutsi and his children considered mixed. Due to this, he was unable to escape from the war zone with his family.
When the violence broke out, Rusesabagina brought his family to the Hôtel des Mille Collines for safety. As other managers departed, Rusesabagina phoned the hotel's corporate owners, Sabena, and secured a letter appointing him the acting general manager of the Mille Collines.

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When a murderous Hutu militia threatened to enter the Mille Collines, Rusesabagina ensured that his wife and children fled safely in a truck past the militia's roadblocks. The truck set out for Kigali airport so they could flee to another country. He remained in the hotel to tend to the refugees. Tatiana and her children were specifically targeted within the convoy by radio messages, and returned to the hotel after being attacked.
Tatiana's family faced extreme tragedy. Her mother, brother and sister-in-law, and four nieces and nephews died in the genocide. Her father paid Hutu militia to be executed so he would not die a more painful death:
 We all knew we would die, no question. The only question was how. Would they chop us in pieces? With their machetes they would cut your left hand off. Then they would disappear and reappear a few hours later to cut off your right hand. A little later they would return for your left leg etc. They went on till you died. They wanted to make you suffer as long as possible. There was one alternative: you could pay soldiers so they would just shoot you. That's what her [Tatiana's] father did.
— Paul Rusesabagina in Humo, nr. 3365, March 1, 2005
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The Interahamwe left nearly 1 million corpses behind. Tutsi rebels pushed the Hutu militia into the Congo in July 1994, after over half of the Tutsis in Rwanda had been murdered. Rusesabagina took orphans from the camp behind Tutsi rebel lines with him to Tanzania, to keep them safe and away from Rwanda. By the end of the massacre, four of his eight siblings remained alive. He comments in his autobiography that "For a Rwandan family, this is a comparatively lucky outcome".
Rusesabagina, his wife and children, and the refugees eventually managed to escape to Tanzania, thanks to the Rwandan Patriotic Front. After staying in Rwanda for two more years, Rusesabagina applied for asylum in Belgium and moved to Brussels with his wife, children, and his two nieces in 1996 after receiving credible threats on his life.
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Awards received[edit]

  • 2000 – Receives Immortal Chaplains Prize for Humanity.
  • 2005 – Receives Wallenberg Medal of the University of Michigan
  • 2005 – Receives National Civil Rights Museum Freedom Award
  • 2005 – Receives Presidential Medal of Freedom
  • 2007 – Receives Honorary Doctorate of Law from the University of Guelph
  • 2008 – Receives Honorary Degree from Gustavus Adolphus College
  • 2009 – Receives Honorary Degree from Loyola University Chicago, at the Bachelor of Arts Commencement
  • 2011 – Receives the 2011 Tom Lantos Human Rights Prize from The Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice

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