During the 1994 Rwandan genocide, Paul Rusesabagina reportedly saved over 1,200 Rwandans by sheltering them in the hotel he managed. It’s a story that was made famous by the movie “Hotel Rwanda” in which actor Don Cheadle played Rusesabagina. Rusesabagina was praised and received humanitarian awards for his effort, but hasn’t always been celebrated in his home country. He and his family have had to divide their time between Brussels and San Antonio for over a decade, partly because of a political rivalry with Rwanda’s longtime president Paul Kagame.
Now, Rusesabagina is back in Rwanda, but apparently not on his own terms. Rwandan officials say he’s been arrested and charged with crimes including terrorism, arson and murder. His family and friends say he’s been kidnapped by the Rwandan government. They’re lobbying the U.S. State Department to intervene.
Kathleen Tobin Krueger is a New Braunfels resident and longtime friend of the Rusesabagina family. Her husband, Bob Krueger, is a former ambassador and U.S. senator from Texas.
Tobin Krueger told Texas Standard that it’s unclear how Rusesabagina ended up in Rwanda. He had attended a meeting in Dubai last week. Soon after, images of him in Rwandan custody appeared online.
“We are still trying to determine where Paul was kidnapped, how was he transported to Rwanda,” Tobin Krueger said. “That is a big, black hole in our knowledge right now. In a sense, it’s not our top priority to find that out, but we certainly are very curious to know.”
Tobin Krueger said the last communication Rusesabagina had with his family was when he was in Dubai, when he called to wish his son a happy birthday.
Officials in Dubai say the United Arab Emirates government was not involved in Rusesabagina’s transfer to Rwanda, but that he left the country on a private plane last Friday. Rwandan officials say there was an arrest warrant for Rusesabagina, and that he was extradited.
“We and my team cannot find any evidence on Interpol or anywhere else that there actually was an arrest warrant for Paul Rusesabagina,” Tobin Krueger said.
Rusesabagina got to know the Kruegers in 2006 when Oprah Winfrey introduced them by phone. Bob Krueger had been U.S. ambassador to Burundi – the Central African country that borders Rwanda – during Burundi’s own period of genocide in 1994 and 1995.
“What the world doesn’t know very well is there was a counter-genocide led by President Paul Kagame,” Tobin Krueger said. “I saw with my own eyes Rwandans fleeing his torture and killing.”
Tobin Krueger said she and her husband began an “affectionate friendship” with Rusesabagina and his family. Rusesabagina’s wife asked Tobin Krueger to be her godmother.
“We’re actually the same age, but her original godmother was killed in the genocide in Rwanda,” Tobin Krueger said.
When Rusesabagina appeared before cameras in Rwanda, his daughters, who live in Washington, D.C., called Tobin Krueger to ask for help.
“Everything in my world disappeared except for trying to help with his release,” she said. “And I joined instantly with a team from across the country who know and love Paul – with connections, with legal expertise, humanitarian experts – and we just started working.”
Tobin Krueger said the team believes Rusesabagina is alive and in prison, and is able to take medications he was carrying with him. She said Rusesabagina is not guilty of the crimes for which he was charged.
“There is zero evidence that Paul Rusesabagina is a terrorist or an arsonist or a murderer,” Tobin Krueger said. “It’s ludicrous. … The president of Rwanda says he has arrested a terrorist. No he hasn’t; he has kidnapped a global hero.”