By DARRYL HOLLIDAY Staff Reporter email@example.com
|Rwandan humanitarian Paul Rusesabagina participates in a protest outside the Hyatt Regency at 151 E. Wacker where Rwandan president Kagame is stayi|
The man who inspired the award-winning film “Hotel Rwanda” led local Rwandans and others in a protest Saturday of Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s visit to Chicago for a conference.
More than 100 Rwandan, Congolese and American protesters gathered at the Hyatt Regency Chicago to voice their anger over human rights violations committed by Kagame, including the killing of tens of thousands of Rwandans since he came to power in 1994 after the Rwandan genocide, according to a 2010 United Nations war crimes report. Leading the protest was Paul Rusesabagina, whose brave actions during the genocide were the basis for the movie “Hotel Rwanda.”
Though Kagame is given much of the credit for stopping the genocide, reports from the UN, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have all detailed violent abuses in the years during his regime.
“In Rwanda we say that the dancers have changed, but the music is the same,” Rusesabagina said. “I’m very much worried as I was [in the lead up to the 1994 genocide] because nothing has changed.”
Rusesabinga is well-known for his actions during the genocide when he saved 1,268 Rwandans from death by hiding them in the hotel that he was managing.
He has since made the transition from hotelier to activist.
“Today we have all gathered to tell the world that a dictator who has shed blood in Africa is now visiting the homeland of President Obama,” Rusesabagina said. “We preach equal rights and then reconciliation.”
According to many of the protestors, the event was held to raise awareness among Americans, and Chicagoans in particular, of the ongoing struggles facing the Congo and Rwanda. They said Kagame’s presence in the United States is an effort to legitimize his actions, which, according to United Nations Security Council, include driving a deadly proxy war for Congolese minerals.
Congolese protestors also denounced the rapes of more than 400,000 female soldiers from 2006 to 2007, as detailed in a report in the American Journal of Public Health, that they say were committed by Kagame’s troops with impunity.
“This is not a political party, this is a civil society,” said Patrick Ntula, 38, a Congolese-born resident of Chicago. “These are people expressing themselves to say enough is enough.”
Meanwhile, a counter-protest took place across the street as attendees of the Rwanda Day conference that Kagame attended came out to defend their president.
Rwandan, but separated by allegiance, the two groups echoed a plea for unity while disagreeing over fundamentals.
“I support Rwandans,” said 34-year-old Francis T., a Rwandan businessman, “But this protest is nonsense.”
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