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NUTHIN' UP MY SLEEVE!: A cow moose rests Tuesday in 3 feet of snow beside the Logan River just west of Tony Grove. / Photo by Mike Sweeney

Today's word on journalism

Friday, March 10, 2006

Help Wanted: U.S. Defense Department Seeks Better PR Officers

"Our enemies have skillfully adapted to fighting wars in today's media age, but . . . our country has not adapted. For the most part, the U.S. government still functions as a 'five and dime' store in an eBay world."

--U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, on why al Qaeda is winning hearts and minds, in speech to U.S. Council on Foreign Relation (Thanks to alert WORDster Mark Larson) WORD Note: The WORD will take the next week off for Spring Break, sleeping in and seeking wisdom. Return: 3/20/06

Ordinary man, genocide survivor encourages youth to shape future

"AMAZING": Paul Rusesabagina addresses USU students Thursday. / Photos by Brianna Mortenson

By Camille Blake

February 3, 2006 | Please welcome Paul Rusesabagina. One, three, eight and then everyone stood Thursday afternoon to applaud the man who helped save more than 1,200 people from genocide in Rwanda.

"He was amazing," Christy Moysh said, a junior in family, consumer and human development. "He could tell his story without emotion or little emotion, in front of a different culture. That says a lot about who he is."

On April 6, 1994 the Hutu militia started killing Tutsi and some Hutu citizens. Rusesabagina said he was eating dinner with his brother Thomas and Thomas' wife at the Belgium owned Mille Collines Hotel, when his wife called distressed about the missiles she had heard. He and his brother rushed home, never to see one another again, Rusesabagina said.

"I never understood why people came to my house, why they trusted me," he said.

For three days, 26 strangers stayed with him and his family in their home. Rusesabagina said soldiers came for him because he had the keys to the cellars at the hotel. The captain told him he could take everyone with him to the hotel.

All along the way they passed dead bodies; some decapitated, some with bellies cut open and others mutilated, Rusesabagina said.

The threat of being killed by the militia was always present. Rusesabagina said he had to use many favors to get generals to pull the soldiers out of the hotel. The militia then created a roadblock so that no more refugees could enter and none could escape, Rusesabagina said.

The electricity was cut off, the generators broke down and all the phone lines were cut. Refugees were getting water out of the swimming pool and fire for light. Rusesabagina said he would go sit by the pool each night and slowly watch the water level fall.

However, one fax line was still intact. That was their life line, he said. He faxed every international contact he knew. Still, Rusesabagina said he was sure they were all going to be killed and it was up to each individual how they chose to die.

May 2, 1994 brought relief; Rusesabagina said U.N. trucks arrived with a list of names of those to be evacuated. He was to be evacuated but some would still be left behind.

"That night, I made the toughest decision of my life," Rusesabagina said. "I told my family that I was not going to leave with them."

He said he couldn’t live with the fact that people would be killed, left behind at the hotel, while he lived. While he helped load his family into the trucks, the Hutu media was reading the list of names over the radio, Rusesabagina said. Roadblocks were set up to stop the trucks and kill the "Mille Collines cockroaches."

The trucks returned with injured refugees and one dead U.N. soldier. Rusesabagina said his wife was bleeding and covered with others' blood. She gave him her wedding ring, went to her room and stayed there for four days, he said.

May 26, 27 and 28 refugees were evacuated and Rusesabagina said he still wished to stay behind for the same reasons.

"Five hundred meters away people were being killed in a church," Rusesabagina said. He was sure the hotel was going to be next. He said he begged for soldiers from the mayor of Kigali for protection, but the mayor turned his back and said there were no soldiers to send.

Finally, Rusesabagina said he was able to get General Bizimungu to provide safe evacuation for his family and the remaining refugees. He said he did not go to Tanzania like the movie depicts, but he is raising his brother’s daughters.

Talking about the corruption of dictatorship in Africa, Rusesabagina said, "Behind every African dictatorship is a western superpower." He told students to tell their elected leaders to send help to these countries where genocide is occurring. The youth need to shape their future.

"The basic need in life, to make men and women, is education," he said.

If there was more education, these wars would not be happening. No media is covering the wars in Africa, Rusesabagina said.

"When are we going to put action to our words?" he said.

Since he left to live in Belgium in 1996, another war has broken out in the Congo with four million killed, Rusesabagina said.


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