(Washington) Paul Rusesabagina, fierce opponent of Rwandan President Paul Kagame and hero of the film Hotel Rwanda, arrived in the United States after his release on Friday and his passage through Qatar, the White House announced on Wednesday.
“I am delighted to welcome Paul Rusesabagina to the United States. We are happy to have him back on American soil, and reunited with his family and friends who have been waiting for this day for a long time,” said Jake Sullivan, National Security Advisor.
“I am grateful to those we have worked closely with in the Rwandan government to make this possible,” he added.
After more than 900 days in prison, Mr. Rusesabagina was released under an agreement between the US and Rwandan governments with help from Qatar, where he had arrived on Monday before leaving for the United States.
Formerly the manager of a hotel in the Rwandan capital, Mr. Rusesagabina saved hundreds of people during the Tutsi genocide in 1994. His story was made famous by the film Hotel Rwanda, released in 2004.
He later became a fierce opponent of President Paul Kagame, and created his own political party.
Talks on his release had started at the end of 2022 and a breakthrough occurred last week during talks between President Kagame and the Emir of Qatar, said a source familiar with the matter.
Mr. Rusesabagina had lived in exile in the United States and Belgium since 1996, before being arrested in Kigali in 2020 in murky circumstances when he got off a plane he thought was bound for Burundi.
The opponent was tried from February to July 2021 on nine counts, including that of “terrorism”, for attacks carried out by the FLN, an organization classified as terrorist by Kigali, which had killed nine people in 2018 and 2019.
Paul Rusesabagina admitted to having participated in the founding in 2017 of the Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD), of which the FLN is considered the armed wing, but he has always denied any involvement in the attacks.
In a letter dated October 2022 published Friday by the government, he assured that he would henceforth stay away from political life.