Can Rwanda live up to its promise as both a beacon of successful development, and as a model of reconciliation and genuine respect for the human rights of all its peoples?
The Peace Appeal joined with many in the world to welcome the news of the release and return of Paul
Rusesabagina to his family in the United States. Since his kidnapping and imprisonment by the Rwandan
government in 2020, and later conviction of terrorism charges by a Rwandan Court in a process
described as “deeply flawed” by the American Bar Association, his family, friends, international
diplomats and celebrities have worked tirelessly for his release.
After years of frustrated efforts to secure his freedom, behind the scenes negotiations yielded progress
this Fall. Mr. Rusesabagina was “encouraged” to write a letter to Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame
requesting a pardon. That letter written in October contained an acknowledgement of regret for any of
his associations with political movements that advocated or used violence, and a pledge to “leave
questions relating to Rwanda politics behind me.”- both sentiments which it is hard to imagine being
expressed by the recipient of the letter. Five months later, on March 24 th , the Rwandan government
issued a commutation of Rusesabagina’s sentence and those of 19 other related cases, along with
The politics and history of Rwanda are enormously complicated, and those complications and
ambiguities are perhaps nowhere better illustrated than the story of these two Pauls, the most well-
known Rwandans on the global stage today. Peace Appeal co-director, Derek Brown’s, “A Tale of Two
Pauls“, published in May of 2001 by InkStick Media, delves into those complexities for those interested in
With Paul Rusesabagina now home with his family and living in Texas, a key question will be whether the
other Paul, President Paul Kagame, shares the same aspiration which Paul Rusesabagina articulated in
his request for pardon, i.e. “I hope all Rwandans can find peaceful ways to overcome national
disagreements and bring Rwandans tougher through the power of words.” Lasting reconciliation in
Rwanda, and peace in the region, will eventually turn on whether such aspirations become embedded in
the fabric of their nation.