Rwanda opponent arrives in Qatar after release from jail: diplomats


Rwandan opposition figure Paul Rusesabagina, who inspired a Hollywood film on the country’s genocide, arrived in Qatar on Monday, three days after his release from prison, diplomats said.

The 68-year-old, whose 25-year prison term has been commuted by President Paul Kagame, was to undergo medical checks and rest before flying to the United States on Wednesday, the diplomats told AFP.

“He needs care but he will fly on to the United States on Wednesday,” one Doha-based diplomat said after the incident.

Rusesabagina was released late Friday after 938 days in prison under an agreement, brokered by Qatar, between the US and Rwandan governments.

Reportedly in fragile health, Rusesabagina stayed at the Qatari ambassador’s residence in Kigali before flying to Doha. Qatari authorities did not immediately confirm that he had arrived in the Gulf state.

Rusesabagina was a hotel manager who helped save hundreds of people during the 1994 genocide. His story was turned into “Hotel Rwanda” featuring Don Cheadle.

But Rusesabagina was a fierce critic of Rwanda’s longtime leader Kagame and founded his own political party.

Rusesabagina left Rwanda in 1996 for Belgium but his family said he was tricked into taking a flight in 2020 that was diverted to Kigali.

Rusesabagina was convicted in September 2021 of supporting an armed rebel group after a trial that his supporters declared a sham. He was tortured while in detention, according to his family.

Talks on a release began at the end of 2022 and the final details were finalized last week when Kagame met the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, in Doha, a source with knowledge of the negotiations said.

In an October 2022 letter released by the government on Friday, Rusesabagina promised to “leave Rwandan politics behind” and spend the rest of his life in the United States in exchange for clemency.

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