CHICAGO – Jan. 13, 2021 – Paul Rusesabagina, the humanitarian hero and human rights activist whose true story of saving 1,268 people during the Rwandan Genocide inspired the film Hotel Rwanda, continues to suffer from medical maltreatment as he is detained in Kigali, Rwanda. Rusesabagina was kidnapped during a trip to Dubai, taken to Rwanda on a private charter, and then held in an unknown location, tied up and blindfolded, for three days. He has been jailed since that time in Rwanda while he is tried in a corrupt and illegal proceeding.
Now Paul Rusesabagina is facing an imminent health crisis. He has told his family that his high blood pressure has gotten so bad that he fears he will have a stroke. He said, “I think I am going to die.” This has led the family to renew an urgent call for his immediate release.
The activist and cancer patient was refused medical bail on September 17th and has been denied the right to be evaluated by an independent doctor. Photos released in the Rwandan media have shown a startling and visible deterioration of his health. In recent conversations with his family he has also complained of dizziness, headaches, and faintness, probably caused by uncontrolled high blood pressure and the conditions of his confinement.
Paul’s family understands that he has downplayed his health issues to the authorities because he does not want to upset his Rwandan captors. Paul’s daughter Anaise Kanimba said, “We know that our father is speaking under duress, and we also know that Paul Rusesabagina’s state of health is of extreme concern. He is not someone who is given to voicing complaints. He will say he is fine when he is not.”
On January 7, 2021 he informed his lawyer, Maitre Gatera Gashabana, that he thinks he will die from a stroke and is in grave fear for his life. He has lost a dangerous amount of weight, estimated at 50 pounds since August 28, 2020. Paul suffers from high blood pressure, for which he has been taking prescribed medication since 1996.
Paul’s fear that he will die from a stroke corroborates the indication from his treating doctor in Belgium, who wrote on September 18, 2020 that interruption to, or modification of his current treatment would pose a risk of a severe hypertensive surge and complications such as a stroke. His treating doctor in Brussels wrote on September 18, 2020: “The interruption or modification of antihypertensive treatment and intense stress of all kinds carries a risk of severe hypertensive attacks and complications such as a stroke. It is reported to me that his hypertension is currently severe despite a triple antihypertensive, requiring management in a specialized center.” (English translate from French)
Paul’s prescribed medication was provided by the Belgian Embassy in Kigali to the Rwandan prison authorities on September 17, 2020. His medications have never been given to him. The medication Paul has received while detained (the details of which he has not been told) has resulted in his blood pressure remaining high, and he suffers daily from extreme headaches and significant dizziness.
Rusesabagina is an internationally renowned human rights activist and genocide prevention educator. During the Rwandan Genocide, Rusesabagina sheltered 1,268 people at the Hôtel des Mille Collines, where he was the manager, saving them from certain death. He fled the country to Belgium in 1996 after an attempt on his life, and was granted political asylum and eventual citizenship there. He has dedicated his life to educating people about the Genocide to ensure that never again means never again and advocating for an internationally sanctioned truth and reconciliation process for Rwandan and the Great Lakes region of Africa. A legal permanent resident of the US, Rusesabagina lives in San Antonio, Texas. In 2005, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush, the highest civilian honor awarded by the United States.
Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame has a history of cracking down on dissidents, engineering sham trials, and mistreating prisoners. He has forced Rusesabagina to use government-appointed lawyers, denied him access to his international counsel, and has not allowed him any unsupervised contact. Rusesabagina is a cancer patient in remission, has a cardiovascular blood pressure condition, and requires daily medication. He has lost at approximately 50 pounds during his detention so far, and has apparently required hospitalization three times, yet the Rwandan government has refused to share records and details of those incidents with Rusesabagina’s physicians in Belgium. Despite his precarious health issues, the illegal circumstances of his kidnapping and detention, and the raging COVID-19 pandemic moving through Rwanda, Kagame has resisted calls to release him.
Paul’s family is once again leading calls for the US and Belgian governments to intervene on behalf of their citizen and resident so that he may be brought home safely.