Paul Rusesabagina biography

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Paul Rusesabagina
Photo: Paul Glass

Paul Rusesabagina

Paul Rusesabagina Biography

Paul Rusesabagina is the former general manager of the Mille Collines Hotel in Kigali, Rwanda. He grew up on a farm in the town of Murama about 50 miles south of the capital. He was educated at the Faculty of Theology in Cameroon and studied hotel management at Kenya Utalii College in Nairobi.

In 1984, Rusesabagina became assistant general manager of the Belgian-owned Mille Collines. In November 1992, he was promoted to general manager of the nearby Diplomat Hotel. Confronting killers with a combination of diplomacy, flattery, and deception, Paul Rusesabagina managed to shelter more than 1,200 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in his hotel, while homicidal mobs raged outside with machetes during the Rwandan genocide. Finally, threatened with harm for his role in shielding 1,268 Tutsis and moderate Hutu from near-certain death over 100 days during the Rwandan genocide, he sought asylum in Belgium and found work driving a taxicab.

An Ordinary Man is his autobiography, telling the story of the life that was made famous by Oscar-nominated Don Cheadle in the film Hotel Rwanda. Bringing the reader inside the hotel during those 100 days, relate the anguish of those who saw loved ones hacked to pieces, and describe Rusesabagina's ambivalence at pouring the Scotch and lighting the cigars of killers in the Swimming Pool bar, even as he was trying to cram as many refugees as possible inside the guest rooms upstairs. The book explores Rusesabagina's inner life as he discusses the racial complexity within his own life (he is a Hutu married to a Tutsi) and his complete enstrangement from the madness that surrounded him during the genocide.

Rusesabagina now owns a trucking company operating in Zambia and lives with his wife Tatiana and their four children in a suburb of Brussels.

This biography was last updated on 05/30/2016.

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Interview

An interview with Paul Rusesabagina about the Rwandan genocide and his memoir, An Ordinary Man

Your book suggests that you did nothing extraordinary: "I was doing the job I was entrusted to do by the Sabena Corporation—that was my greatest and only pride in the matter." Do you think you are understating the exceptional courageousness and intelligence of your work during the genocide?

Not at all. If I was able to save lives, it was only because I had some useful tools at my disposal. I had a five-story building in which to hide people. I had a cooler full of beer and wine with which to bribe the killers. I had some cash to spread around when alcohol wouldn't work. And I had ten years worth of friendship with some of the perpetrators of the killings. So they knew who I was and were willing to listen to my line of reasoning. Anybody else with this kind of advantage could have done what I did.


You describe standing on the hotel's roof at dawn and preparing for your likely death. What effect did moments like that have on your decisions at the time, and how have they affected your life since the genocide?

They made me realize just how short life is, and how precious the small ...

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An Ordinary Man jacket
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