President George W. Bush exchanges a glance with Paul Rusesabagina during the presentation of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in the East Room Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2005. Paul Rusesabagina demonstrated remarkable courage and compassion in the face of genocidal terror. During the Rwandan genocide in 1994, he risked his own life to shelter more than 1,000 fellow Rwandans targeted for murder. White House photo by Paul Morse

What Happened to Paul Rusesabagina, the ‘Hotel Rwanda’ Hero?

On August 27th Paul Rusesabagina flew from his home in Texas to Dubai. Three days later, he mysteriously appeared in Kigali, Rwanda, where authorities proudly proclaimed his arrest.

How he ended up in Kigali from Dubai is very murky, but piecing some details together Human Rights Watch has concluded that he was the victim of a crime in international law called “enforced disappearance.”

He would not be the first person whom the Rwandan government has targeted this way —  but he is arguably the highest profile.

In 1994 Paul Rusesabagina was the manager of a high-end hotel in Kigali, Rwanda as the genocide unfolded. He used his position to save many lives in acts of heroism that were dramatized by the actor Don Cheadle in the film Hotel Rwanda.  In 2006, President George W Bush conferred on him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Paul Rusesabagina has been a fierce critic of the post-genocide government of Rwanda This includes, in 2018, posting a YouTube video in which he expresses support for an armed insurgent group seeking the overthrow of President Paul Kagame.  That insurgent group has conducted attacks resulting in civilian deaths.

On the line with me to discuss this situation is Lewis Mudge, the Central Africa Director of Human Rights Watch. We kick off discussing what we know about the circumstances surrounding Rusesabagina’s arrest, including how he ended up in Kigali. We then discuss how this government action against Rusesabagina’s fits into larger patterns of how the regime of Paul Kagame has targeted dissidents abroad, including assassinations of former officials and opposition leaders on foreign soil.

Rwanda is a country that has experienced great progress on social and economic development over the past decade, even as the government becomes more and more repressive. And we do discuss that phenomenon toward the end of this episode.

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