My dad was a hardworking man. He worked over the top hours as a hotel manager in order for my mum, my siblings and I to live a comfortable life. My dad’s name is Paul Ruseabagina. He was a very quiet, and humble man. My father is a Hutu man married to my mum Tatiana whom is a Tutsi lady. Times were definitely tough now with the Hutus and the Tutsi’s not getting along. A million members of the Tutsi tribe were killing many members of the Hutu tribe in a massacre that took place and it seemed like things were only going to get worse here on out.
“I will see you all after work” Dad shouts out as he makes his way towards the door and away he goes. Today he is headed off to Kigali airport to pick up some supplies from the supplier for the hotel. He walks outside to Zozo, the porter and driver who is in his early thirties sitting at the driver’s seat waiting for him. “Good morning girls!” he yells out. “Good morning Zozo.” They wave goodbye to us and reverses out the driveway.
Dad and Zozo arrive at Kigali airport and head towards the tarmac but is however stopped by a policeman. “Good morning Mr Rusesabagina” says the policeman. “Good morning” my father replies and brings extends out his arm outside the door to shake his hand while exchanging money. With a nod to the guards patrolling the gates to the tarmac they open it up and allow Dad and Zozo to enter.
They park up the van by the runway tarmac. African music is playing on the radio, while Dad is drumming his fingers against the dashboard checking his watch at the same time. Zozo is sitting next nervously next to him looking at his time and looking around the tarmac. An airport baggage handler approaches the van. “I’m sorry sir” he says to dad, “the flight is delayed one more hour.” Dad couldn’t wait another hour. “Thank you for that information.” He turns around to Zozo, “let us go to Rutaganda’s place.”
Zozo looked suddenly worried. “Are you sure? You are Hutu, you will be safe there, I won’t be” Zozo says uncertainly. “Zozo, listen to me. You will be okay. You are with me” Dad comforts Zozo. They reverse out of the tarmac and enter the Kigali streets and drive into the town. The town is packed with open air markets so Zolo works the horn and weaves in and out of traffic. Suddenly Zozo slows down the van. Dad looks up and sees a gathering on the side of the road. A large crowd of men dressed in exotically, yet identically coloured shirts. They are members of the Interahamwe (the Hutu military). They continue on driving until Dad suggests they turn off onto another road but unfortunately there was no other available road to turn on to. They slow down and pull up beside the Militia. Dads greets them and asks for directions. “
As they are driving through the town Zolo begins to question Dad about what it is like to fly on a plane. “It depends where you sit Zozo, in coach it is like the bus to Giterama. In business class, there are fine wines, linens and Belgian chocolates. “Boys, do you perhaps know the way to Mr Ratagunda’s warehouse please?” some more Militia arrived and all of a sudden they became friendly and helpful. As the van pulled away and with the directions received, they head towards Ratagunda’s home.
Upon their arrival, Ratagunda was sitting in front of his with a fan facing towards him. He was in his late thirty’s with huge gold chains around his neck, a rolex watch on his write looking like an African mafia boss. As Dad and Zozo enter they start-talking business meanwhile his workers were fill the white van with cases of beer. As Dad and Ratagunda make their way outside to the van, the forklift driving past them accidently hits one of the crates next to them. The crate falls down, slides off and crashes onto the floor. To Dads shock, hundreds of machetes and guns spill out. Ratagunda looks at Dad shockingly and quickly begins to justify himself. “There were a bargain buy, from China. I brought them for two cents.” Dad was not paying attention. All he wanted was to get out and with a terrifying Zozo they left.
They exit back onto Kigali streets and the van speeds through traffic. More traffic jams appear and Zozo does his best to edge and drive on the sidewalk. As they come up closely to the middle, they pull through to an intersection. It is the interahamwe parade. It was a mass gathering of young men and women, most in the same colourful uniform. Line after line, waves all performing the wave dance, in wild hypnotic sync, many wave sticks, spears, and wooden imitation guns. A large banner read, “Hutu Power.” Zozo begins to look nervous and sicks down blow behind the wheel. “Sit up and smile, Zozo” dad says. “Whatever you do, do not draw attention to yourself.” Zozo replies, “Boss, some of these people or these men outside are my neighbours whom will know I am a Tutsi.” As Zozo was speaking, the parade passes them. Dad takes out a stash of cash from his pockets peels of a few dollars and hands it over to Zozo. “Here, Zozo. I am sorry for your trouble.
The van turns off the street and into The Milles Collines Hotel driveway and honks twice as it pulls down a short drive lined with tall palms. An armed guard rushes from his booth and lifts the gate. Perfectly timed as the van zooms straight inside without having to slow down. As Dad and Zozo arrive into the hotel grounds, the surroundings are beautiful. Lush tropical gardens, peacocks wand the wall maintained lawns; it was really an exotic African paradise.
As they pull up to the front, the workers automatically run over to help take the crates into the kitchen. One crate is hefted onto a counter. The top lid is taken off and a crowd of cooks gather around Paul and Zozo as they peer in. They hoist up another crate and lobsters spill out into the sink and some onto the counters. Dad leaves the lobsters and the food to the kitchen staff as he heads back outside to check on the guests.
When special guests come to the hotel, Dad likes to give them a souvenir as a token of appreciation to say thank you, usually this is in a form of highly expensive wine or champagne bottles. He makes his way to the front desk and asks the coat check, “Did General Bizimungu bring a briefcase?” he asks. “Yes, sir” replied the coat check. “Good. Take it to the bar storeroom and put three bottles of Glenmorangie into it” and he walks away to go and check on his guests.
The next morning Dad arrives into work and is greeted by the US Ambassador. “Sir, I thought you meant to be leaving today” he asks the ambassador. “No, unfortunately not. Our trip back has been cancelled” he replies. “I am really sorry to hear sir; the Tutsi’s are far away from the border. Soon there will be peace and everything will return to normal” Dad assures him.
We are playing in the backyard when we hear a van pull into the driveway. It is Dad whom has arrived home from work. “Daddy!!” my sister and I both scream and yell in delight. We always looked forward to his arrival every single day. “Hello, girls! It is so nice to see you both, especially after the day I have had” he said in exhaustion. We could tell he was very tired and stressed looking.
“Welcome back home, love” mum greets dad. “Hi love. Good to see you. Your brother here too?” he replies. “Yes, with Fedens and the children, he wants advice from you” she says. Not long after it was time for us to have dinner. My brother Roger was eating his food so fast that Dad noticed how much of in a hurry he was in. “Why the hurry Roger?” Dad asks him. “Simon has a new pet that I really want to go and see if that is OK please.” Dad looks at Roger with a stern face, “you know what your mum and I think when you go off visiting and this time. Have you completed your homework?” he asks. “Yes, I have.” “Wash your things and be back soon” dad says as he nods in agreement. Roger takes up from the kitchen table and runs off. He runs to a wooden fence, gets down, moves two boards and squeezes through into a path, almost a tunnel in dense reeds. He crawls through along the path to a gap. Roger shoots through into the wide open of the neighbor’s yard and runs to a back window of the house and taps on it. His friend Simon opens up and together they go off to play with the dog.
Meanwhile back at the house, Mum and Dad are getting ready to say good bye to my uncle and his wife. Dad nods to the old guard to open our gate when Roger comes running back with eyes and mouth wide open like he had just seen a ghost. “There are soldiers on the street” he says. Dad nods to Mum to take Roger inside and Aunty and Uncle grab my sleeping cousins from the car and all come inside. Dad goes to our big metal gates and peer through the two-inch gap between the gate hinge and the gate post. There he saw a group of Hutu soldiers, clustered around jeeps, as they whisper and point, it’s a raid. Mum comes rushing out asking what is happening. She looks and sees the soldiers, dragging a middle aged man onto the street. He is crying and pleading like a whipped dog. They notice that it is their neighbour. “Oh goodness! It’s Victor” she sadly says. They watch as Victor is beaten to the jeep. It was a horror site to see.
Mum is scared and she looks at Dad. “You need to do something” she says. “You need to call your friends in the army, call someone and tell them that Victor is harmless. This is a mistake.” Dad looks at her, not knowing what to say. “Please be quiet, we need to stay out of this.” Mum moves towards the gate handle and prepares to open it, “We must do something. I am going to talk to them.” Dad takes her by the arm and leads her into the house. “No, we must stay out of it and look after ourselves.”
The next day Dad goes back to work, business as usual. On his way home in the evening as he turned into our street the houses are dark, windows shuttered, gates closed. Dad stops before our gate and honks his horn twice but the gate does not open. He hops out of his car and opens it with a key. Gives it a push and pauses as he heads back to the car. He hears the far off sound of gunfire and explosions light the night sky. He continues to drive home and notices the compound is curiously dark. He arrives home and whistles for the dog but nothing. He walks to the front and opens up the door. He searches the house but finds no one. He searches the kitchen but only finds food on the stove, and the table is set. He walks into his bedroom and scans the room but sees no one, however he swears to hear voices coming from a closet. As he moves closer and opens it up, he sees so many faces, faces of his neighbours and to his relief there we were all sitting there squashed together. “Our house has been burned” our neighbour Jean tells him. “Our president has been murdered, by the Tutsi rebels” Mum adds. Dad quickly goes and switches on the radio just in time for the announcement. “Our great president is murdered, by the Tutsi cockroaches. They tricked him, then they killed him. We must cleanse this country, good Hutus of Rwanda!”
Mum and Dad look at each other, both not knowing what to say. Although my siblings and I were young, we were smart enough to know and understand what was going on. Rwanda was basically unsafe, and the next few days and possibly months, my family and I would need to be safe in order for us to survive.
In 1994 in Rwanda, a million members of the Tutsi tribe were killed by members of the Hutu tribe in a massacre that took place while the world looked away. “Hotel Rwanda” is not the story of the massacre, but the story of a hotel manager who did all that he could to save the lives of many.
My rewrite was a build up to what actually happened, however it was enough to give a sense of what was going to happen and what the Hutu people were expecting. During this time, people were looking for places to either hide or escape to because killings were taking place every day and very rapidly.
In reference to Lears’ (1985) discussion based on cultural hegemony theory, this was evident in the film and in the events during this crucial time. The Hutu’s influenced their own people into believing they were right, and this caused great contention among the people, plotting them against one another.
This rewrite focuses on the lives of the people of Rwanda and how this ordeal shaped the way people thought, and how they lived. They lived in fear not knowing what was to happen next.
According to Said’s (1978), there are three categories of colonialism and how it can have impact on different levels. Firstly on the world, secondly the nation, and thirdly on the person. The third level which is impact on the person relates to the events that occurred during the Rwanda Genocide and what the people needed to do to protect themselves. This refers to dehumanization of oneself, inability to protect self and family and lastly self doubt. This is exactly how Paul (the father) felt. He was worried about the hotel, the guests and his family that he was unsure how he could protect and look after everyone.
Hotel Rwanda explores genocide, political corruption and the repercussions of violence. All three mentioned were evident in the film with the mass killing of innocent people but especially children. Government or those in higher places were taking their time to act on what needed to be corrected and those who sought violence that listened to their leaders received nothing in return.
I felt that by narrating the film through Pauls daughter, we are able to read events from her point of view and have a glimpse as to what she and her family were put through, especially her and siblings at such a young age.
Lears, T. J. (1985) The concept of cultural hegemony: Problems and possibilities. The American Historical Review (9), 1, 567-593.
Said, E. (1978). Orientalism. New York: Pantheon.