Dr. Biden, please speak out for Paul Rusesabagina
Dr. Jill Biden, First Lady of the United States
Paul Rusesabagina needs our help.
Known for being the hero depicted in the film Hotel Rwanda, he has been a voice for oppressed people everywhere. After he saved 1,268 people during the 1994 Rwandan genocide, he said that he "did not survive to stay silent." Since then he has been a tireless champion against oppression and mass atrocities across the globe.
We are asking Dr. Jill Biden to use her voice to help Paul because, as an educator herself, she understands the importance of Paul's life and actions as examples of how we all can do good in the face of real evil. Paul's film and his autobiography, An Ordinary Man, are used all over the globe to teach this lesson. We need her to speak out now.
Rusesabagina has also been a vocal critic of President Paul Kagame's regime. In Rwanda, freedom of speech and of the press doesn't exist. It is illegal to "embarrass" any government leaders. The punishment is up to five years in prison.
In October, Yvonne Idamange, a 42-year-old mother of four, was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison for posting videos on YouTube that were critical of Kagame. Her videos "accused President Kagame and his government of having set up a dictatorship, of instrumentalizing the 1994 genocide without sufficiently helping the survivors, or of having turned the genocide memorials into tourist attractions."
But the threats to Rwandans extend outside of that nation's borders. Rwandan nationals who live in other parts of the world are often made to take loyalty oaths to Kagame's government. When someone refuses, their family in Rwanda is often subjected to kidnapping or are killed. According to the BBC, "Leaked footage of a controversial "oath" ceremony at the Rwandan High Commission in London has fuelled allegations of an aggressive global crackdown on dissent by the authoritarian government of the small East African nation, dubbed the new "North Korea" by its critics."
Paul Rusesabagina may be the most famous of Kagame's targets but he is neither the first nor the last. We need the United States to stand up for human rights, democracy, and freedom and against autocracy and oppression.
Thank you again for your help. Together, we can bring Paul home.
Alyson Chadwick, Digital Campaigns Strategist
No Business with Genocide
For more information about Paul Rusesabagina and the situation in Rwanda:
- PBS's "Dictatorial governments are reaching beyond their borders to silence critics"
- Washington Post's "Opinion: My husband risked it all to protect hundreds in Rwanda. Now, he needs our help"
- Grio's "‘Hotel Rwanda’ hero’s wife calls for U.S. intervention to free husband from prison"
- The Clooney Foundation for Justice report
- The American Bar Association report
- The Freedom House report on Rwanda
Dr. Jill Biden, First Lady of the United States
From: Alyson Chadwick
Dear Dr. Biden,
We urgently ask you, a leading educator, to help us save Paul Rusesabagina. He is the international hero who inspired students worldwide by facing down genocide. He has languished in prison for nearly a year and a half and was put there by a dictator determined to silence him.
The hero of the movie Hotel Rwanda, Rusesabagina saved 1,268 people – both Hutus and Tutsis – during the Rwandan genocide of 1994. He used his wits, voice, contacts, and courage. He could have left the Hotel des Milles Collines to save himself and his family but he refused to abandon the people who sought refuge in his hotel.
Rusesabagina has said that he did not survive the genocide to become silent. Since then, he has been a tireless advocate for oppressed people everywhere. For his courageous actions, he was awarded the U.S. Medal of Freedom in 2005 by then-President George W. Bush.
The Paul Kagame regime has been a brutal one. Not only have human rights violations continued under his rule, but they have worsened. Rwanda is not a democracy. The freedoms of speech and of the press do not exist there. Anyone who dares to speak out against President Kagame is harassed, assaulted, jailed, exiled, or killed. This is the reason Paul Rusesabagina has been in Kagame’s crosshairs.
In August 2020, lured Rusesabagina to Dubai where he boarded a plane he thought was headed to Burundi. He was instead taken to Kigali where he was arrested, tortured, thrown in jail, and convicted of crimes he never committed in a sham trial. Both the American Bar Association and the Clooney Foundation for Justice have denounced the trial.
Rusesabagina will only be freed if countries like the United States demand it. If we are serious about supporting human rights, democracy, and justice this is a stand we must take. He is a permanent United States and citizen of Belgium. If the leader of one nation can kidnap and imprison the citizen of another with impunity, the implications are immense. No one will be safe.
We write this petition to you in the hopes that you might intervene with the U.S. government and that you may see this as an opportunity to rally educators around the country. Paul’s movie and book are regularly taught in classrooms because they inspire students. Paul’s story is one of personal heroism from an ordinary man, who stepped in because it was the right thing to do. Each day, his family and his foundation hear new stories from those who saw the movie or heard Paul speak, and who chose to use him as an example in their own lives.
Dr. Biden, please use your voice to speak out for Paul Rusesabagina. He is a man who has fought for others all his life and now he is voiceless. Your support is desperately needed.