Жанр: Биографии и Мемуары » Paul Rusesabagina, Tom Zoellner » ← An Ordinary Man (страница 20)
I knew that he was afraid of the Interahamwe himself, and perhaps also of being accused of not supporting the pogroms that had recently become the law of the land. It seemed that such a perception could spell death in these times. But I kept at him.
“General, you know we are friends and will always be friends. You know that I would not ask this if I weren’t in great danger. Something must be done about that roadblock. You could send some officers to encourage those boys to move elsewhere. There doesn’t need to be bloodshed in front of my hotel.”
It continued on like this for a while, and he agreed he would help me. I wasn’t certain if he was going to come through. But within a few hours the roadblock had disappeared.
Having won that temporary respite, I turned my attention to another problem. I had to get hold of the master keys that opened everything in the hotel. These were the tools that a hotel manager cannot afford to be without.
Bik Cornelis had told me that he had entrusted the keys to the reception staff, and so I approached one of the supervisors there, a man I’ll call Jacques.
“Hello, ” I said. “It is now my responsibility to look after the hotel. I understand you have the keys?”
“Ah yes, the keys, ” he said. “I am not sure who has them right now.”
He made a show of asking his associate, who also denied any direct knowledge of their whereabouts. But these men had charge of the reception desk, which is where Bik had told me the keys could be found. It was immediately clear what was really happening, although neither Jacques nor I felt any need to say it outright.
I should pause here and explain what I mean. Despite its history of bloodshed and jealously Rwandan culture is rooted in an attitude of excessive politeness. Perhaps it comes from all the fear in our background, the heavy hand of the European masters pressed down on our ancestors, but nobody here likes to give a simple no. It is viewed as rude. So what you often get in response to a direct question is a rambling story in which the refusal is voiced through a very soft yes. Or you often get an outright lie. Important conversations can turn into exhausting set pieces. Ask an average Rwandan on the street where he is going that day, and he’ll be likely to tell you “Oh, I don’t really know, ” even though he knows very well. Elusive answers are a national art form; any man on the street here could easily work as a high-level diplomat. But both parties usually know what is being said without anyone having to say it out loud. We call this “the Rwandan no.” Occasionally it can be misread. But I was almost certain that Jacques was blowing smoke because he liked the idea of being in charge of the Mille Collines.
I soon found out that he was staying in the manager’s apartment with his girlfriend. He was also giving orders to the staff as though he was in charge of the hotel. He had taken several bottles of the best champagne and was having a party with his friends. I did not view this as an affront to my pride so much as I viewed it as a threat to my life and the lives of the refugees upstairs. I had no idea where his loyalties really lay. We were in danger of invasion and slaughter and I suspected that he was informing the thugs outside of what was happening in here and who was occupying what room. But I could not fire him without risking a staff coup d’?tat at this fragile time.
I got on the phone to the Sabena Corporation in Brussels to clarify that I had their support. I then asked them to fax me a letter naming me the interim manager of the Mille Collines until further notice. It came rolling through a few seconds later, bearing the signature of Michel Houtard. He always joked that I might become president of Rwanda, but for now I just wanted to take control of this hotel for a few more days, until the danger had passed.
Photocopies of the letter were immediately tacked onto employee bulletin boards all over the property. And then I went to Jacques again. This time there was no pretense of cordiality.
“I want the keys right now, ” I told him. “And I want this place in good order. If you agree with me, fine. If you don’t, then, please: good-bye.” I got my keys.
There were two main reasons why the Hotel Mille Collines was left alone in those early days even while churches and schools became abattoirs.
The first was the initial confusion-and even timidity-of the militias. Raiding the hotel would have been a fairly high-profile operation and one that surely would have angered a lot of people in power. The Mille Collines had an image of being linked with the ruling elite and was viewed as something not to be tampered with. This mind-set was not set in stone, however, and I’m sure it would have changed as the genocide wore on and the killers grew bolder.
The second reason we were able to get some breathing room is one I have already mentioned. We had five policemen standing outside thanks to my new friend, Commander Habyarimana. As fragile as this protection was, it was still much better than what we got from the UN, which amounted to just about nothing. They had a force of 2, 700 troops stationed in Rwanda when the president was assassinated, and the majority of them had been evacuated along with all the foreigners. But about 500 peacekeepers were to be left in
the country-God knows why-and 4 of them were staying as guests at the Mille Collines. They were well meaning but useless.
On April 16 I sent General Dallaire a letter informing him of our situation and asking him for some additional soldiers to safeguard our refugees. I heard later that he ordered the Bangladeshis to come help us but that their commander flat-out refused. Dallaire then rescinded his order. This was appalling to me, and I was not even a military man. This incident underlined what a later United Nations report termed “grave problems of command and control” within the mission and heightened my feeling that Dallaire could have and should have done more to put his men in between the killers and their victims.
This is not a condemnation of Romeo Dallaire as a person. I always liked him and felt he had a compassionate heart and a strong sense of morality. He had acted with honor and determination under extremely bad circumstances-and with a shameful lack of support from his bosses on the UN staff and on the Security Council. Early in the genocide he had insisted that with just five thousand well-equipped soldiers he could have stopped the killings, and nobody has ever doubted his judgment. Dallaire had also proved himself to be a shrewd commander of the media during the crisis, granting multiple radio interviews in an attempt to get the world to pay attention to what was happening here. I would gladly share a cognac with him today, and I would hope we could also share a laugh. But I still feel he should have disobeyed his foolish orders from New York and acted more aggressively to stop street murders from taking place. There is no doubt he would have taken more casualties and turned the UN into a third belligerent in the civil war, but I am convinced this action would have slapped the world in the face and forced it to do something about the unspeakable carnage here. At the very least it would have forced the UN to beef up its peacekeeping force and send us real fighters instead of inept draftees from nations who seemed more interested in collecting their per diem payments from the UN instead of doing anything meaningful.
If he did not have the stomach to do this then I think he should have made a spectacle out of resigning in protest of his hopeless job description. This, too, would have drawn some outrage to what was shaping up to be the most rapid genocide in world history. That he stayed in his job like a good soldier was a signal of a trust that the UN strategy of nonengagement was going to be a workable policy even though it appears despicable in retrospect.
In my opinion the UN was not just useless during the genocide. It was worse than useless. It would have been better off for us if they did not exist at all, because it allowed the world to think that something was being done, that some parental figure was minding the store. It created a fatal illusion of safety. Rwanda was left with a little more than five hundred poorly trained UN soldiers who weren’t even authorized to draw their weapons to stop a child from being sacrificed right in front of them. A total withdrawal would have been preferable to this farce.
The grounds of the Mille Collines were surrounded by a fence of bamboo and wire. It was about six feet high and intended by the architect to provide a visual sense of a snug compound, all the better for nervous foreign visitors to feel like their hotel was an island of safety embedded in the street grid of Kigali. If you pushed on the fence hard enough it would fall over. It provided an illusion of protection, nothing more.
From the corridor windows of the west wing, and from some of the room balconies, you could see over the top of this fence and also through the gaps. There were figures passing back and forth all day long on the other side, like backstage players making shadows on a curtain. Most were carrying spears and machetes. Some stopped to peer at us through the fence before moving on.
All the refugees, including my wife and children, were terrified of these shadows behind the bamboo. Tatiana’s family was living in a small town near the city of Butare, where the killings had not yet started but were imminent. She was terrified for them, terrified for herself and our children and me, and I cannot say I blame her. Everyone in the hotel felt a similar sense of dread. I felt terribly exposed here, but I did not see an alternative. If we left it would be a sign to the killers that the Mille Collines was being surrendered. Besides, where else could we go? Nowhere in Rwanda was safe.
This belief of mine was the subject of a bitter fight between us. My wife confronted me in the parking lot and insisted we drive to safety in my home area of Murama. To back up her argument she enlisted my friend Aloise Karasankwavu, an executive with the Commercial Bank who was also in fear of his life. He was a persuasive speaker, and we jousted.
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