The Chicago Journal

Paul Rusesabagina makes his way back to the US after release

Image Commercially Licensed from: DepositPhotos
Image Commercially Licensed from: DepositPhotos

Paul RusesabaginaLast Week, Rwandan human rights activist Paul Rusesabagina was freed from a Kigali jail.

He returned to the United States on Wednesday.

According to a State Department official, the man who inspired the Don Cheadle-led movie Hotel Rwanda had landed at the United States Army’s Brooke Army Medical Center at Joint Base San Antonio.

The return

On Wednesday, an official published a statement proclaiming Paul Rusesabagina’s safe return.

“The US government is focused on ensuring that Mr. Rusesabagina and his family’s well-being are prioritized, and that all assistance available is offered in an appropriate and timely manner,” the official said.

In order to preserve the family’s privacy, the official also declined to offer any details.

Carine Kanima, Rusesabagina’s daughter, also confirmed her father’s return online.

“PAUL RUSESABAGINA IS FREE,” she tweeted, sharing a photo of her father smiling in an airplane.

“Dad has just arrived in San Antonio, Texas.”

“Thank you to EVERYONE who worked soooo hard to bring home,” she added.

“Our Family is finally reunited today.”

Rusesabagina and his release

This Monday, Paul Rusesabagina was released from a Rwandan prison when President Paul Kagame commuted his sentence.

On Friday, senior US officials told reporters that he had been transported to Kigali and was living at the home of the Qatari diplomat.

“He will be spending a limited period of time hosted by the Qataris, likely a couple of days,” said one official.

They stated he will fly to Doha before returning to the United States.

According to a US congressional staffer acquainted with Rusesabagina’s case, he will participate in the Pentagon’s PISA program (Post-Isolation Support Activities).

Some recently freed US illegal detainees have taken part in the program, which has a maximum duration of 19 days.

The program is designed to help persons reintegrate into society.

Paul Rusesabagina was released after writing to President Kagame and asking for a pardon in October 2022.

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“If I am granted a pardon and released, I understand fully that I will spend the remainder of my days in the United States in quiet reflection,” he wrote.

“I can assure you through this letter that I hold no personal or political ambitions otherwise.”

“I will leave questions regarding Rwandan politics behind me.”

Rusesabagina is a dual Rwandan and Belgian citizen who was set to be released together with 19 other people convicted with him.

Upon the news of his release, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken released the following statement:

“It is a relief to know that Paul is rejoining his family, and the US Government is grateful to the Rwandan Government for making this reunion possible.”

“We also thank the Government of Qatar for their valuable assistance that will enable Paul’s return to the United States.”

The arrest and sentence

Paul Rusesabagina was detained by Rwandan authorities in 2020 while traveling abroad.

According to his family, the arrest was the consequence of an abduction.

Rusesabagina was convicted of terrorism-related charges in September 2021 and sentenced to 25 years in jail.

During his trial, he was accused of belonging to the terrorist organization MRCD-FLN, which was responsible for two deadly attacks in 2018.

According to the Clooney Foundation for Justice, the decision was a “kangaroo court.”

The conviction, according to the group, lacked the basic fairness assurances required by African and international norms.

A senior US official earlier indicated that no concession to the US government will result in the release of Paul Rusesabagina.

Instead, a strategy was developed in partnership with Rusesabagina, the Rwandan government, and the US administration.

It took months to come to an arrangement that was acceptable to all sides.