About the Foundation
The Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation was founded by Paul Rusesabagina, the real life hero of the acclaimed film Hotel Rwanda. Rusesabagina, portrayed by Don Cheadle in the film, saved the lives of more than 1200 people during the Rwandan genocide and has been honored internationally for his heroism. The Foundation works to prevent future genocides and raise awareness of the need for a new truth and reconciliation process in Rwanda and the Great Lakes Region of Africa.
Building on the lessons learned from the Rwandan genocide, the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation strives to promote an understanding of the dangerous conditions which lead to misunderstanding, hatred, and violence–the seeds of future genocides.
By focusing on issues of injustice worldwide, the HRRF advances the idea that it is through truth, justice and reconciliation that those silenced voices can finally be heard, and only then can a nation be truly healed from the long-term effects of genocide.
The Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation, established in 2005, has provided educational assistance for the helpless orphans of Africa’s civil wars, genocide and AIDS epidemic. For many years, founder Paul Rusesabagina, whose efforts provided refuge for 1,268 people during the Rwandan genocide, has been speaking out about the genocide in Rwanda and other African nations. What started as a personal mission of education on the lessons of Rwanda has become an international movement to educate the world’s people and our leaders about the steps necessary to avoid future genocides.
Truth and Reconciliation for Rwanda and the Region
The Rwandan genocide of 1994 left behind an enormous number of victims. Women who were raped and widowed. Children who were orphaned. And a population left in even more severe poverty than existed prior to that time. The Hutu-elite government, along with the Interhamwe militias, took horrific actions against Tutsis and many Hutus during the 100 days of the genocide. Very few families in Rwanda at the time were not personally affected by the tragedy.
Today, unfortunately, many still feel the effects of the genocide and the civil war that led to that tragedy. While the leadership in Rwanda has changed, parts of the truth are still largely hidden from view of the public, and pushed aside in official documents both inside Rwanda and in the broader international community. So while the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda holds trials for some of the worst genocide suspects, many accused of war crimes during the period of the genocide are not investigated. And while the local gacaca courts are touted by the government as the way forward, both local and international observers question whether untrained and often politically biased local courts can actually provide justice.
In addition, the issues at hand stretch beyond Rwanda and into the neighboring countries of the Great Lakes Region of Africa. This involves the interlinked nature of Rwanda and neighboring Burundi, who share many characteristics, including their Hutu and Tutsi populations. It also includes traditional ties and rivalries between the current governments of Rwanda and Uganda. And most problematically for the region, it flows over into the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where accusations by the international community of proxy warfare to gain access to the resources of the Congo are evident, with a death toll over five million people and serious allegations of war crimes since 1994.
So not only do the scars of genocide still hurt the people of Rwanda, but continuing events stand in the way of development and prosperity for the majority of people in the region. Additionally, while Rwanda’s overall economy grows each year, income disparity grows with it, and the vast majority of the people are now as bad or worse off than they were before the genocide in 1994.
All of this is why the Rwandan people, and others in the region, need the truth to come out before progress can be made. Elites who committed crimes against the people, whether before, during or after the terrible genocide in 1994, must be brought into the light of day and have the charges against them examined. This is regardless of whether those elites are Hutus or Tutsis, as individuals of both ethnicities are culpable. War crimes and crimes against humanity must be examined, along with charges of genocide against many who have not yet been brought to justice.
In the current situation, politics trumps the truth. While leadership in Rwanda and the region has changed since the end of colonialism, the politics has not. Leaders create their own truths, and benefit from them, at the expense of the people.
This is why the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation (HRRF) advocates for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) for Rwanda and the region. In order to insure Rwanda’s recovery and stability after the horrors of the 1994 genocide, and assist the stability of others in the region, a TRC is essential to bring out the truth in a way that will allow the people of Rwanda and the region to heal.
Truth and reconciliation is not just about retributive justice. Post-Apartheid South Africa, along with many other post-conflict settings, shows us that acknowledging the truth is often essential to moving forward in the worst conflict ravaged societies. To reach closure, victims and their loved ones need to be able to confront those who victimized them and be told the truth about what happened. Also, those who committed crimes need to put themselves before the victims and ask for forgiveness. While more conventional justice to punish the worst offenders may also be applied, it is only through a truth and reconciliation process that a society devastated by genocide and similar crimes can move forward into a more peaceful future.
By hosting forums and town hall meetings around the world to raise awareness about current realities and the necessity for a TRC, the HRRF confronts the plight of Rwanda and the region, both past and present, in order to avoid another genocidal tragedy. In Rwanda, like many other post-conflict countries, the wounds of the nation often go unseen and unhealed. The long-term ramifications of these invisible scars can effect countless generations.
The future of the nation and the region will be significantly enhanced through a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. With your continued support the HRRF will be able to help Rwanda and the Great Lakes Region of Africa move forward towards healing the wounds of yesterday and planting the seeds of peace for tomorrow.
Our Leadership Team
Paul Rusesabagina, President
Paul Rusesabagina is the real life hero of the acclaimed film Hotel Rwanda and the President and Founder of the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation.
As portrayed by actor Don Cheadle in the film, Rusesabagina saved the lives of more than 1,200 people during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Rusesabagina served as manager of the Hotel des Mille Collines in Kigali and bravely risked his life to shelter Hutus and Tutsis who were seeking refuge from the genocide that killed more than 800,000 people.
Rusesabagina served as special consultant to United Artists and Lion’s Gate Films’ production of Hotel Rwanda, which also starred Sophie Okonedo, Joaquin Phoenix and Nick Nolte. His popular autobiography, An Ordinary Man, was published by Penguin Group (USA) Inc. in April 2006.
In order to further the mission of his foundation, Rusesabagina now tours the world speaking about social justice, human rights activism and the lessons learned from the Rwandan genocide, one of the worst tragedies of the 20th century. He has spoken to large organizations of journalists, educators, students, policymakers, business leaders and human rights advocates throughout Europe and the United States. Rusesabagina describes his experiences during the horrific genocide, the terror and the helplessness of the people he sheltered, and the ways in which governments, non-governmental organizations and ordinary people can work together to prevent genocide throughout the world.
In 2000, Paul Rusesabagina received the Immortal Chaplains Prize for Humanity. In 2005 he received the the highest civilian award in the United States, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, from President George W. Bush. That same year, Rusesabagina was also honored with the National Civil Rights Museum Freedom Award and the Humanitarian Award from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.
After receiving these honors, Rusesabagina formed the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation to help provide voice to victims of genocide and support peace efforts in Rwanda and throughout the world. What started as a personal mission to teach the lessons of Rwanda has become an international movement to fight genocide throughout the world.
The Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation raises public awareness about the need for an internationally administered Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Rwanda and the Great Lakes Region of Africa. The Foundation also works on issues related to the ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where more than 5 million have died. The Foundation is campaigning for an end to Rwandan military intervention in the Congo and against the deadly exploitation of conflict minerals in the region.
Paul Rusesabagina continues to be the President of the foundation, a 501c3 public not for profit charity, based in Chicago Illinois.
Sean Tenner, Executive Director
Sean Tenner became Executive Director of the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation following his successful tenure on the Presidential campaign staff of United States President Barack Obama. Tenner has worked on genocide issues with policymakers at all levels of government and is a recognized expert on the importance of African diaspora groups to the anti-genocide movement in the United States.
Tenner served as Vice-President and Chicago Office Director of M+R Strategic Services, the public policy firm that helped launch the Save Darfur Coalition, an alliance of more than 180 faith-based, advocacy and humanitarian organizations representing 130 million people of all ages, races, religions and political affiliations united together to help the people of Darfur. Tenner worked to help enact Illinois’ groundbreaking Sudan divestment legislation and other policy measures geared towards ending the genocide in Darfur.
As a member of the Board of Directors of the Sudanese Community Association of Illinois, Tenner works closely with the heroic “Lost Boys of Sudan” and Darfuri refugees in his home state. He secured passage of an innovative measure in the Illinois legislature which supported development of a first-of-its kind Sudanese Community Center, recognized the many contributions of Illinois’ Sudanese community and celebrated the unique role Sudanese refugees play in anti-genocide advocacy. Along with his Sudanese colleagues, Tenner has delivered presentations to thousands of students, educators, journalists, policymakers and community leaders about the African diaspora and tactics that can be employed in the fight against genocide.
Tenner is a graduate of Georgetown University in Washington, DC and a member of the University’s Admissions Interviewing Committee. He also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the Chicagoland Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the world’s largest breast cancer organization, the Keep On Keeping On Foundation and the R2 Foundation.
Brian Endless, Ph.D., Senior Advisor
Brian Endless is a faculty member in the Department of Political Science at Loyola University Chicago. He also founded and serves as the Executive Director of American Model United Nations (AMUN) International in Chicago, one of the largest collegiate Model UN organizations in the world. Additionally, he is the Senior Policy Advisor to the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation, working on post-conflict peace, truth and reconciliation issues in the aftermath of genocide in Rwanda and the Great Lakes region of Africa.
Brian has worked on United Nations and related issues, from both academic and policy perspectives, for over 20 years. This includes academic and policy research, as well as projects with UN agencies. He has also conducted interviews and met on a wide variety of topics with UN Ambassadors, Secretariat members of the UN and affiliated organizations, and NGO leaders from many organizations.
Among other accomplishments, he has acted as a consultant to the United Nations on educational issues, as well as consulting on UN issues for members of the U.S. House and Senate. He regularly teaches courses on international relations, international law, international organizations, international political economy and comparative politics. He is a frequent public speaker on a variety of topics, focusing on diplomacy, peace and security issues, the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, terrorism, human rights and the United Nations. Brian has been a speaker at the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations.
Kitty Kurth, Communications Director
Kitty Kurth is the President of Kurth Lampe, an international public relations, political consulting and strategy firm. She serves as Communications Director and as a Senior Strategist for the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation.
For more than 25 years Kurth has advised clients ranging from local community organizations and non-profit groups to Presidential candidates and international organizations. She has advised political candidates and non-governmental organizations in the United States and in countries throughout the world, including Indonesia, India, Uganda, Romania, and Croatia.
Kurth’s interest in Africa began with her work at UNICEF in the early 1980’s. She has worked with the National Summit on African, United Nations Foundation and the African American Council on Foreign Relations. She planned and executed media relations for former Vice President Al Gore during his travels to North Africa and is a founder of the Chicago Africa Working Group.
Kurth Lampe provides clients with wide ranging strategic communications services including public relations and communications planning for candidates, groups and corporations on a national and international level; campaign and media relations for local, state and federal campaigns; public affairs; and grassroots organizing.
Kurth has worked with every U.S. Democratic Presidential Campaign and Democratic National Convention since 1988. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia and has lectured worldwide on organizing, communications and politics for many groups and institutions including the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.