Most of us have seen the movie Hotel Rwanda, directed by Terry George and starring Don Cheadle as Paul Rusesabagina, the hotel manager who saved about 1200 tutsis by housing them in his hotel. It’s a moving, raw, emotional depiction of what happened and for many of us, our main reference point for the 1994 genocide.
During my time in Kigali I visited the hotel to try and imagine what its walls had seen and learn about the history it held. What I found was the luxurious Hotel des Milles Collines, or The Hotel of a Thousand Hills. A modern hotel with all the amenities required to ensure a comfortable stay. At the time of the genocide, Rusesabagina bribed the Hutu militia with money and alcohol to keep them from killing the tutsi refugees he was holding in the hotel. He also managed to provide the refugees with food and water, even using water from the swimming pool to sustain them.
Today the four start hotel offers 112 rooms, has a bar and cafe under lapa, restaurant, a tennis court and swimming pool. It is conveniently located 5 minutes walk from the city centre yet lies is large attractive grounds. The rooms and bathrooms have recently been upgraded. I sat next to the pool and ordered tea and apple pie. A Rwanda man was patiently giving swimming lessons to a couple of young girls, further enhancing the tranquil setting.
Before I visited I’d read something that Director Terry George had said whilst making the movie – “It’s simple, … African lives are not seen as valuable as the lives of Europeans or Americans.” How he had sought to bring the story of Rusesabagina’s humanitarian acts to life.
Today Paul Ruseseabagina heads up his Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation raising awareness and doing work to prevent future genocides. This is a great option for a more luxurious stay in this leafy area of the city. On the website, they highlight services and amenities but make no mention of the history. I quite like that.