published Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

'Hotel Rwanda' manager speaks

Paul Rusesabagina, a Hutu who saved more than 1,000 people during the Rwanda genocide, is interviewed Tuesday at Cleveland State Community College. He spoke on campus after screening of the 2004 movie Hotel Rwanda, inspired by his actions.
Paul Rusesabagina, a Hutu who saved more than 1,000 people during the Rwanda genocide, is interviewed Tuesday at Cleveland State Community College. He spoke on campus after screening of the 2004 movie Hotel Rwanda, inspired by his actions.
Photo by John Rawlston.
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Paul Rusesabagina saw a spear shoved from the top of a person's body to the bottom; he saw another person tied to a tree with his own intestines.

And he's trying to tell the world that such atrocities still are happening.

"I am a messenger. I am the voice of the voiceless who are still suffering in that kind of jungle of Africa in the Congo where approximately 45,000 people die every month and the people don't seem to be involved," he said Tuesday during an interview at Cleveland State Community College.

Rusesabagina told students at Cleveland State -- and anyone else who will listen -- to write their government and ask political leaders to learn of the atrocities happening in Africa and to help end them.

"Students here like elsewhere, they are tomorrow's leaders. They're the ones who can shape the world differently," he said. "I'm inviting young people to get involved, to ask the government, the U.S. administration, their elected representatives to get involved in what is going on in the rest of the world."

From April through July of 1994, nearly 1 million people were slaughtered in his home country of Rwanda, while the United Nations and the U.S. government did little, according to news reports.

But nearly 20 years later, the killing in Africa hasn't stopped and most of the world still does nothing, Rusesabagina said.

And he knows one man can make a difference. He's done it. During the killing in Rwanda, he helped save more than 1,200 people by hiding them in his hotel, the Hotel des Mille Collines, where he was general manager. The Academy Award-nominated movie "Hotel Rwanda" was based on his efforts.

Rusesabagina is the first speaker for Cleveland State Community College's 5th annual Multicultural Week. The festival will culminate with a multicultural fair on Saturday.

Tracey Wright, the college's director of special programs and community relations, said Rusesabagina was chosen to speak because his life exemplified a message of doing what was right and attempting to bridge gaps even with the threat of death.

Rusesabagina is a Hutu. His wife and many of the people he helped to save are Tutsis, the people who the Hutus in power were killing in 1994.

Tim Patterson, a sociology student at Cleveland State, was among a handful of students watching a 3 p.m. showing of "Hotel Rwanda" at the school auditorium.

"You look at the news and just get a hint of what's going on. Unless you have another outlet of news you're not going to know, because our news doesn't get to that stuff until it's all blown up and then you get 15 minutes," he said.

Patterson said he could relate to the story of genocide because his grandfather was Jewish and spent time in a concentration camp. He criticized the U.S. government for not being more involved in saving the lives of people in other countries.

"The government needs to quit being so [weak]," he said. "It's like if there's no economical investment, our government doesn't care if you're killing off your own people."

about Yolanda Putman...

Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...

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