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Interview With Paul Rusesabagina

Aired May 4, 2010 - 00:00:00   ET



BECKY ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Rwanda will always be associated with the violence that encompassed the country in 1994, when decades of ethnic tensions exploded into genocide. The slaughter lasted for three months, killing an estimated 800,000 people. In 2004, the horror was captured in dramatic detail in the film, "Hotel Rwanda".

Actor Don Cheadle won an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of real life her, Paul Rusesabagina, who, at the time, managed one of Kigali's most elite hotels.

With the help of the UN, Rusesabagina is credited with saving the lives of more than 1,200 refugees that he sheltered at the hotel. More than a decade later, Rusesabagina is currently campaigning against violence in the Congo.

From a national tragedy comes an heroic tale. Paul Rusesabagina is your Connector of the Day.


ANDERSON: A savior, a survivor, a ceaseless campaigner. I spoke to Mr. Rusesabagina a little earlier.

And I began by asking him what he is hoping to achieve now, as he campaigns for Congo.

This is what he said.


PAUL RUSESABAGINA: I'm raising awareness for the Congo, trying to save the Congo and save Rwanda and Burundi, as well.

ANDERSON: We've got lots and lots of viewer questions for you today.

Katie has written in. She says: (ph) "Paul, was there ever a point during the genocide that you thought you wouldn't make it out?"

RUSESABAGINA: Well, rather there was a point at a given time that I realized, before I am killed, let me do a small thing so that I would be on the safe side with my own conscience. So I kept on going like that until the end.

ANDERSON: RCM has written in and says: (ph) "Just how close was the movie to the real thing?"

RUSESABAGINA: The real life was much more violent than what people see on the screen. And you can never make a movie about a genocide and expect people to come and watch it from the beginning to the end. It is more or less impossible.

ANDERSON: Herp has written to us and he says: (ph) "If you believe the genocide could repeat itself at any time in the future, how do you think it can be prevented from happening?"

Effectively, what does the world need to do now?

RUSESABAGINA: There was a lack of sincere and honest dialogue. What do we need today is what my foundation has been advocating for. My message is very simple and clear -- let us come around the table. Talk. And through a dialogue, we bring the whole truth on what has been happening to us, who is responsible for what.

And then, serious reconciliation will be made possible and a sustainable peace will follow not only in Rwanda, but also in Burundi and the Congo and the whole region. We need, I believe, to solve our problems together.

ANDERSON: Paul, David Fitzpatrick has written to us. A question for you. He says: (ph) "Do you believe that the U.N. and countries such as the US, France and Belgium should be held responsible for their inaction?"

RUSESABAGINA: Not only those three countries should be held accountable, but also the United Kingdom should be held accountable because, you know, it shouldn't have -- the British -- the taxpayer is now fueling this proxy war -- the conflict mineral war that has been going on in the Congo since 1996.

ANDERSON: You make that allegation. I'd say you're going to have to support it. Tell us why. Tell us how. Tell us how the British taxpayer is to blame.

RUSESABAGINA: Well, the United Kingdom is donor number one to the Rwandan government. Then, this Rwandan government is taking many people to prisons by the main door and through the back door, under military supervision, taking these people to work in mines for warlords in the Congo. These people are never paid.

And this has brought back slavery.

ANDERSON: Artiem has written in: (ph) "I hear what you say." He or she says: (ph) "Why do you stay away from politics in Rwanda?"

RUSESABAGINA: I prefer to stay away because once you take a side I politics, wherever it happens in the world, it means that you are not in the middle. You are not -- well, you are not supposed to -- to be the brother -- the voice for the voiceless. You will be speaking for the people who follow you and your politics. But you won't be speaking for those voicelesses who are on the hills of Rwanda and mountains, the forgotten ones.

If I was to be involved in Rwandan politics, I wouldn't be able to sit here today and be working with the (INAUDIBLE) Congo raising awareness about the Congo. I would be -- I would be rather interested in promoting my political party.

ANDERSON: Mike K. (ph) has written in. And he said that there are some allegations that you charged people money during the genocide to stay in the hotel.

What's your response to that?

RUSESABAGINA: People who came to the Mille Collines Hotel, they came to a hotel. They were expecting to pay. And this money was not cashed by Paul, but by the Mille Collines Hotel.


ANDERSON: Paul Rusesabagina with a real story to tell.

And remember, this is your part of the show -- your chance to connect with people around the world making some noise.

And tomorrow, your Connector is Jody Picoult, the best-selling author of "Nineteen Minutes" and "Change of Heart," born to write, penning her first book at just five years old. Head to, send us your questions. We'll put them to Jody tomorrow.