Sunday, November 05, 2006

Hotel Rwanda

Last night I watched the film 'Hotel Rwanda'. The film is set in the 10 weeks of madness in Rwanda when the Hutus tried to kill the Tutsi population, and left between half a million and a million dead. It ended when the Tutsi resistance got itself together and drove out the Hutus (that might be a story that still needs to be told). The Hutus then fled into Congo and a number claimed political asylum elsewhere. The butchery was very barbaric, as also described in the book 'A Sunday afternoon by the poolside in Kigali' - the two documents triangulate quite well. The second one is a thinly disguised piece of fiction, the first is a dramatised version of real events.

The local manager of the Milles Collines Hotel, owned by the now defunct Belgian airline Sabena, is a Hutu married to a Tutsi. First he brings his family and neighbours into the hotel, then other people begin to hear about it and in total he shelters and feeds over 1200 people in a hotel built for 100. He constantly has to make deals with the local military, police etc to keep them off his back, and has to pay black market prices for food. When the water is turned off, they have to use the swimming pool water for drinking water. The UN is powerless, and although some European soldiers come in briefly, they are all evacuated. So the hotel owner is on his own, not helped by one of his staff who betrays secret plans that are made....

It is a harrowing film, even though it does not show the full gruesomeness of the events as they occurred there. It clearly shows the total impotence of the UN and other international organisations in the face of this level of barbarity and genocide. The situation in Darfur is probably not all that different - just the genocide is slower - and we have been watching for over two years.