http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-shackled-mothers-20100718,0,6252497.story

Latiana Walton went through most of her labor at Stroger Hospital with an arm and leg chained to her bed, she remembers.

As contractions surged through her body, she could not move or change position to relieve the pain. A Cook County correctional officer repeatedly refused to remove the restraints, she said, even when a doctor objected, saying that he was unable to administer an epidural.

“I actually said to the guard, ‘Where am I going?’ I’m crying. I’m in pain,” recalled Walton, 26. “‘I’m not going to get up and run out of the hospital.'”

On Aug. 27, 2008, Walton, who had been arrested after she missed a court date on a retail theft charge, became one of an estimated 50 women who give birth every year while in the custody of the Cook County Jail.

Shackling women during labor is illegal; Illinois became the first state to ban the practice in 1999, and nine other states have followed suit. But more than 20 former jail inmates, including Walton, have filed lawsuits since 2008 against the Cook County sheriff’s office, which runs the jail, alleging that they were handcuffed by the wrist or shackled by the leg while giving birth. Most of these women, according to their attorney, had been arrested for nonviolent crimes and were awaiting trial. Last month, U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve granted the litigation class-action status.

Officials at the sheriff’s office say their policy follows the law. A pregnant woman can be restrained, according to the policy, until a medical official confirms that she is, in fact, in labor. “When does ‘labor’ begin? Our officers aren’t trained to know, the state law doesn’t say, so we rely on medical personnel to advise us,” Steve Patterson, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, wrote in an e-mail. “Once a medical person advises us someone is in labor, restraints of whatever sort are removed.”

But the plaintiffs’ attorney argues that restraints were, in his clients’ cases, removed too late or not at all. He contends that sheriff’s officials interpret “labor” as the moments immediately before birth, and that guards sometimes deny requests by doctors and nurses to remove the handcuffs and shackles. “When you talk to these women, they say, ‘Yeah, when I’m delivering and I’m pushing, that’s what they consider labor,'” said plaintiffs’ attorney Thomas G. Morrissey. “They remain in shackles and handcuffs until the baby is about to be delivered.”

As of April, only handcuffs are used on pregnant women in custody, according to Patterson, changing a policy that previously permitted the use of handcuffs, shackles and belly chains that circle the waist and attach to the other restraints.

In Walton’s case, she did not get an epidural and the guard agreed to remove the leg shackle only 10 minutes before she gave birth to her son, Darrion, she said. The handcuff remained on through the delivery, and the leg shackle was replaced immediately after the birth, she said.

“I couldn’t push the placenta out because I couldn’t position my legs,” Walton said. “It is not fair to treat a person like this. I did a crime … but I’m not willing to be treated like a dog. I was treated like I wasn’t human.”

No one tracks the total number of women who give birth while incarcerated in the U.S., but the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported in 2004 that 4 percent of women in state prisons and 3 percent of women in federal prisons had said they were pregnant at the time of their admission.

It remains unclear exactly when prisons and jails began shackling pregnant women. But historians believe that the practice likely became common in the 1970s and 1980s, following the civil rights and women’s rights movements, when criminal justice facilities adopted gender-neutral policies. Those policies resulted in the shackling of most prisoners — men and women, regardless of their condition — who were taken to or treated in a hospital. Shackling of pregnant women became more prevalent as greater numbers of women entered the criminal justice system due to mandatory minimum sentencing laws and the rise in drug-related prosecutions.

In Illinois, the first movement against shackling came in 1999, after a former inmate named Warnice Robinson testified before a group of female legislators, explaining how, while pregnant and imprisoned for shoplifting, she had been shackled to a hospital bed through seven hours of labor. “The women legislators kind of expressed disbelief because it was so horrifying,” recalled Gail Smith, director of Chicago Legal Advocacy for Incarcerated Mothers, who had helped organize the day’s testimony. “There was a minor disruption, because the women who had been formerly incarcerated started shouting, ‘Believe her!'”

That moment led to landmark legislation in Illinois, which ordered that “under no circumstances” should leg irons or shackles be used on any woman in labor or being taken to a hospital to deliver a child. The law also dictated that, upon the pregnant woman’s entry into the hospital, a correctional officer must be posted outside the delivery room. This reform changed what advocates say was then a standard practice of restraining women in labor and posting a guard at the bedside during delivery.

In recent years, a coalition that includes the ACLU and the Rebecca Project for Human Rights has lobbied for nationwide reform, helping to prompt the Federal Bureau of Prisons in 2008 to issue a policy that severely restricts the practice in facilities under its jurisdiction. “There’s clearly a growing trend to recognize the gross violation of human rights that this is,” Smith said.

Three federal courts have ruled that the unnecessary shackling of women in labor is a violation of the constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in 2007 condemned the practice, and last month, the American Medical Associationissued a resolution calling the practice “barbaric” and “medically hazardous.”

“Most of these women are low-level offenders,” said Diana Kasdan, an ACLU attorney. “You typically have two armed guards with weapons guarding a woman in the throes of labor and who is really not in a physical condition to overtake those guards and make a run for it. It’s hard to imagine that on top of that you need shackles.”

Jennifer Farrar, 25, felt the first shudders of labor at the Rolling Meadows Court Building during an appearance on check forgery charges in January 2009. She was rushed to Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights, where doctors and nurses immediately protested when they saw Farrar’s ankles shackled together and her arm handcuffed to the bed, Farrar recalled. Northwest Community Hospital officials declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.

It wasn’t until the final hour of labor, when it was time to push, that the guard removed the leg shackles, Farrar said. The handcuff remained on. “I was humiliated,” Farrar recalled. “I felt like I was nothing … like I had no rights.”

The plaintiffs’ attorney claims that guards sometimes reject doctors’ and nurses’ requests to remove restraints and, if there is no request for their removal, the restraints stay on.

Patterson, the sheriff’s spokesman, said he couldn’t comment on the circumstances of individual cases. But he said that, according to sheriff’s office policy, if a doctor doesn’t make a request, the restraints should be removed once a woman is in labor. Guards should not deny a doctor’s request, Patterson said.

Melissa Hall, 32, held on a drug possession charge, said that not only did she give birth in shackles in 2007 but, all through her labor, the guard sat next to her bed watching the NBA Finals, cheering and yelling at the television despite her repeated pleas that he leave.

“My legs were open, and my baby’s head was crowning,” she recalled. “And that’s when he walks out of the room.”

State law requires that a correctional officer be posted outside the delivery room. The policy of the sheriff’s office, according to Patterson, states that “an officer (preferably female) must provide security for the subject and be posted discreetly near the head of subject’s bed.” He contends that this policy does not violate the law because the law “does not say anywhere that an officer cannot be in the room.”

The experience of giving birth while shackled and handcuffed stoked powerful emotions, from shame to rage, among the women suing the sheriff’s office. Simone Jackson, 41, has struggled with whether she will tell her daughter, Trinity, now 2, about the day she was born.

Throughout the 12 hours of her labor, a guard repeatedly denied requests by a nurse and a doctor to remove the handcuff around Jackson’s wrist and the shackle around her ankle; those restraints remained on through the epidural and the birth, Jackson said.

“Is this what you’re going to tell your child?” said Jackson, who was being held on a burglary charge when she gave birth on May 3, 2008. “How would she live with herself if she ever found out that she was born in shackles?”

cmastony@tribune.com

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on July 15, 2010 9:01 AM

WASHINGTON-Former Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley Braun (D-Ill.), who also was a former ambassador to New Zealand and Samora, returned to Capitol Hill this week to highlight a bill banning antibiotics being given to animals we eat who are not sick.

Moseley Braun is the founder and president of Ambassador Organics, based in Chicago.

In Washington on Tuesday, Moseley Braun was volunteering her time on behalf of the PEW Charitable Trusts in support of legislation called “the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA)” originally introduced by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and now sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and on the House side, Rep. Louis Slaughter (D-N.Y.) The measure “seeks to phase out the nontherapeutic use of certain antimicrobial drugs in livestock and poultry.”

Among others, Moseley Braun met with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who has been working for years in the area of food safety.

I asked a Durbin staffer about the meeting and was told, “Of course, Senator Durbin and Ambassador Moseley Braun have a long standing friendship from their time serving together in the Senate. Senator Durbin is interested in hearing her views on food safety during today’s meeting. Senator Durbin is the author of the bipartisan Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510) which, for the first time in decades, would modernize FDA’s food safety responsibility and authority over 80% of our nation’s food supply. Senator Durbin hopes to bring the food safety bill to the floor in the very near future, potentially this work period.”

Also, Durbin’s office said, “Ambassador Moseley Braun will also be advocating for healthy eating. As you know, she is the founder and president of Ambassador Organics, a company that produces “premium organic foods made from the finest certified organic and Biodynamic® products and ingredients available in the world.” One of Ambassador Organic’s geopolitical goals is to provide small farmers with access to American markets to help sustain agricultural families and communities worldwide.”

Moseley Braun, elected in 1992, was the first African American female in the Senate. In 2004, she sought the presidential nomination. Her team with her in Washington included Chicago based consultants Kitty Kurth and Kevin Lampe.

http://blogs.suntimes.com/sweet/2010/07/carol_moseley_braun_returned_t.html

For Planning Purposes                 For More Information

Thursday, June 10, 2010            Kevin Lampe (312) 617-7280

MEDIA ADVISORY

Saturday

World Cup Games Live in Montrose Park

Large Screen Broadcast of USA vs England Live in Chicago

WHEN: Saturday, June 12, 2010

9:00 AM Argentina versus Nigeria

1:30 PM USA versus England

WHERE: Montrose Park   4400 North Lake Shore Drive Chicago, IL

WHAT: USA versus England will be broadcast live on Saturday, June 12, in Montrose Park at 1:30 PM  following Argentina versus Nigeria at 9:00 AM. The screenings will coincide with the opening matches of the Chicago Soccer Tournament, a World Cup in miniature, to be held in Montrose Park the same day.

BACKGROUND: The 2010 FIFA World Cup is, in a very real sense, Nelson Mandela’s World Cup. Without Nelson Mandela, it is highly unlikely that South Africa would be hosting the competition this year. The vibrant young democracy millions the world over will be experiencing over the coming month owes its birth, vitality and unity to Mr. Mandela. It was Mr. Mandela, more than anyone, who convinced FIFA to select South Africa as the 2010 host nation. It is therefore highly fitting that exactly one week after the final whistle blows on July 11, the world will be coming together again to celebrate what the United Nations has officially declared as Mandela Day.

Sport has played a decisive role in the building of South Africa’s democracy and in bringing together its once bitterly divided people after generations of racial oppression. Mr. Mandela has a profound appreciation for the healing power of sport. Soccer kept hope alive for Mr. Mandela and his fellow political prisoners on Robben Island. Of all the sanctions imposed on apartheid South Africa by the international community, few if any had as great an impact as South Africa’s exclusion from international competition. And nothing has done more to bring the nation together since the “miracle” election of 1994 when Mr. Mandela became the first South African president to be chosen in a genuinely democratic election.

As recounted in the recent film Invictus, Mr. Mandela seized the opportunity created by the chance of South Africa winning the 1995 Rugby World Cup to promote national reconciliation. The success of South Africa’s soccer team, Bafana Bafana, in the African cup of Nations the following year also contributed powerfully to the cause of nation building. Today, as they prepare to host the world’s most popular sporting event, South Africans are united as never before around a common flag and a common spirit, the spirit of Nelson Mandela.

-30-

For Planning Purposes                    For More Information

Thursday, June 10, 2010                 Kevin Lampe (312) 617-7280

MEDIA ADVISORY

Friday

Opening World Cup Games Live in Daley Plaza

Large Screen Broadcast of Opening Games Live in Chicago

WHEN: 8:15 AM Program Friday, June 11, 2010

9:00 AM South Africa versus Mexico

1:30 PM France versus Uruguay

WHERE: Daley Plaza

50 West Washington Street Chicago, IL

WHAT: The opening game, South Africa versus Mexico, will be broadcast live in Daley Plaza at 9 AM, followed by

France versus Uruguay at 1:30 PM.

BACKGROUND: The 2010 FIFA World Cup is, in a very real sense, Nelson Mandela’s World Cup. Without Nelson Mandela, it is highly unlikely that South Africa would be hosting the competition this year. The vibrant young democracy millions the world over will be experiencing over the coming month owes its birth, vitality and unity to Mr. Mandela. It was Mr. Mandela, more than anyone, who convinced FIFA to select South Africa as the 2010 host nation. It is therefore highly fitting that exactly one week after the final whistle blows on July 11, the world will be coming together again to celebrate what the United Nations has officially declared as Mandela Day.

Sport has played a decisive role in the building of South Africa’s democracy and in bringing together its once bitterly divided people after generations of racial oppression. Mr. Mandela has a profound appreciation for the healing power of sport. Soccer kept hope alive for Mr. Mandela and his fellow political prisoners on Robben Island. Of all the sanctions imposed on apartheid South Africa by the international community, few if any had as great an impact as South Africa’s exclusion from international competition. And nothing has done more to bring the nation together since the “miracle” election of 1994 when Mr. Mandela became the first South African president to be chosen in a genuinely democratic election.

As recounted in the recent film Invictus, Mr. Mandela seized the opportunity created by the chance of South Africa winning the 1995 Rugby World Cup to promote national reconciliation. The success of South Africa’s soccer team, Bafana Bafana, in the African cup of Nations the following year also contributed powerfully to the cause of nation building. Today, as they prepare to host the world’s most popular sporting event, South Africans are united as never before around a common flag and a common spirit, the spirit of Nelson Mandela.

-30-

For Planning Purposes For More Information

Wednesday, June 9, 2010 Kevin Lampe (312) 617-7280
MEDIA ADVISORY
Next Thursday – News Conference
South Africa Consul General to Announce World Cup Activities in Chicago

Ambassador Nomvume Magaqa Brings the World Cup Celebration from South Africa to Chicago

WHEN: 11:00 a.m. Thursday, June 10, 2010

WHERE: South African Consulate General

200 S Michigan Ave. Suite 600  Chicago, IL 60604

WHAT: Ambassador Nomvume Magaqa will conduct a news conference next Thursday to announce the variety of World Cup events in Chicago sponsored by South Africa.

BACKGROUND: The 2010 FIFA World Cup is, in a very real sense, Nelson Mandela’s World Cup. Without Nelson Mandela, it is highly unlikely that South Africa would be hosting the competition this year. The vibrant young democracy millions the world over will be experiencing over the coming month owes its birth, vitality and unity to Mr. Mandela. It was Mr. Mandela, more than anyone, who convinced FIFA to select South Africa as the 2010 host nation. It is therefore highly fitting that exactly one week after the final whistle blows on July 11, the world will be coming together again to celebrate what the United Nations has officially declared as Mandela Day.

Sport has played a decisive role in the building of South Africa’s democracy and in bringing together its once bitterly divided people after generations of racial oppression. Mr. Mandela has a profound appreciation for the healing power of sport. Soccer kept hope alive for Mr. Mandela and his fellow political prisoners on Robben Island. Of all the sanctions imposed on apartheid South Africa by the international community, few if any had as great an impact as South Africa’s exclusion from international competition. And nothing has done more to bring the nation together since the “miracle” election of 1994 when Mr. Mandela became the first South African president to be chosen in a genuinely democratic election.

As recounted in the recent film Invictus, Mr. Mandela seized the opportunity created by the chance of South Africa winning the 1995 Rugby World Cup to promote national reconciliation. The success of South Africa’s soccer team, Bafana Bafana, in the African cup of Nations the following year also contributed powerfully to the cause of nation building. Today, as they prepare to host the world’s most popular sporting event, South Africans are united as never before around a common flag and a common spirit, the spirit of Nelson Mandela.

-30-

Scandals spotlight lieutenant governors – David Catanese – POLITICO.com.

In Illinois, state Sen. Terry Link, who originally ran for the lieutenant governor post in February’s Democratic primary and has submitted his name for consideration as Democrats cast a wide net for a nominee to replace Cohen, said the intrigue in his state highlights the need for a change in the election process.

“I have always thought the governor and lieutenant governor should run as a team during the primary,” Link said. “If you’re teamed up in the primary, you know what the team is right from the beginning.”

Illinois is one of 24 states in which the governor and lieutenant governor run together — but that occurs only after the primary. Link said he expected a renewed push to change such arranged marriages during this legislative session.

Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has already signed a bill into law that will move the state’s primary back to March from February — and suggested that the nomination of Cohen might have been avoided in the first place if voters had more time to analyze the candidates.

“This is one of the reasons why Illinois has moved its primary. It was a shortened primary season, and many people weren’t paying attention to the race,” said Chicago-based Democratic consultant Kevin Lampe.

With smash-mouth, highly competitive gubernatorial and U.S. Senate primaries sucking up most of the attention, there’s now widespread agreement in Illinois that the candidates for lieutenant governor received cursory inspection.

“No one was paying much attention, and we had a situation where somebody who was self-funded and in a crowded field was able to get to the top of the pile. I think there’s going to be much more scrutiny of lieutenant governors the next time around — more scrutiny in Illinois than ever before,” Lampe predicted.

Link, who does not expect to be selected as Quinn’s ticket mate, said the media are partly to blame for the problem his party finds itself in.

“No offense, but the media wasn’t covering it. You had it in Illinois, New York, New Jersey. How many more states do you need?” he said, referring to states where scandals have ensnared governors.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0310/34967_Page2.html#ixzz0jCwUfHug

For Immediate Release        Contact: Kitty Kurth
November 20, 2009  Phone: 312-617-7288
Hotel Rwanda Hero Paul Rusesabagina to Speak to
Model United Nations Conference Sunday in Chicago

Paul Rusesabagina, real life hero of the acclaimed film Hotel Rwanda and the President and Founder of the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation, will speak to the American Model United Nations (AMUN) International conference on Sunday, November 22 at the 1:15 p.m. in the International Ballroom on the second floor at the Hilton Chicago Hotel at 720 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

The AMUN conference will be held at the Hilton Chicago Hotel from November 21 – 24, the second largest Collegiate Model UN Conference in the US (there are approximately 300 conferences across the US, with 25% at the college level and 75% high school) The conference, which is expecting 1,500 participants from 100+ schools, representing 140+ UN Member States. Participants are from across the United States and international locations, including Taiwan, India, Nigeria and Belgium. This is the 20th Anniversary conference, the first conference was held in Chicago in 1990, with 14 schools and 27 countries represented, and 200 participants.

Background on Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation

After the release of the movie Hotel Rwanda, Paul Rusesabagina formed the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation, which is based in Chicago. 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.

The Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation (HRRF) 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.

Background about Model AMUN
Model UN is a simulation of the United Nations, in which students take on the roles of diplomats from UN member states. Each school represents one or more countries, and students prepare themselves for the conference by studying that country and several topics of discussion that are then debated at the conference. When they arrive at AMUN, each student “becomes” the Distinguished Ambassador of their country, and enters into debate with other Ambassadors in an attempt to solve the problems facing the UN. As an academic activity, AMUN educates students about the United Nations and over 20 topics on the UN’s agenda, as well as providing lessons in public speaking, practical writing, effective communication, diplomacy, negotiation and compromise. AMUN’s goal is to provide the highest quality, most realistic simulation of the United Nations available anywhere.
Website for more information on AMUN: www.amun.org
AMUN contact email: mail@amun.org
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Posted by: Kevin Lampe | November 14, 2009

YouTube – Hotel Rwanda Ruseabagina Foundation

Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation working for peace and reconciliation in Rwanda and the Congo

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more about “YouTube – Hotel Rwanda Ruseabagin…“, posted with vodpod

 

Posted by: Kevin Lampe | November 11, 2009

Interview with Paul Rusesabagina

‘Hotel Rwanda’ subject reflects on country

Gretchen Weicker
The Herald-Zeitung

Published November 1, 2009

The name Rusesabagina means “a warrior who disperses his enemies.” This has powerful significance for the international hero, Paul Rusesabagina, and his wife, Taciana.

The Academy Award-nominated movie “Hotel Rwanda” chronicled their courage during 100 days of Rwandan genocide from April 1994 through mid-July of that year. Rueseabagina saved more than 1,200 people by sheltering them in the Belgian-owned Hotel Des Mille Collines, a luxury hotel in Kigali, Rwanda where Rusesabagina was the manager.

Rusesabagina and his wife visited the Herald-Zeitung on Wednesday, Oct. 21.

Herald-Zeitung: What is most important for us to know about Rwanda?

Rusesabagina: Its past and present are both complicated. Although genocide comes and goes within a finite time period, the seeds are sown over time by terrorism, revenge, reprisals and civil war. These are the triggering events. Yesterday’s victims become today’s oppressors. The dancers may change, but the music’s the same.

People like to look for someone to blame, but the Belgian colonial government just accepted the existing relationship between the Tutsis and Hutus. Slavery preceded colonialism, with the Tutsis as the ruling class. One of our Roman Catholic bishops even said, “The Hutus were never created to lead.” But actually my wife and I are a truly mixed couple. I’m Hutu because of my father, and she’s Tutsi.

For now, Rwanda is like a silent volcano waiting to explode again. The United Nations Resolution 955 established an international tribunal to prosecute the perpetrators of the 1994 genocide. Still, both parties had been warring since 1990. That’s why it looks like war criminals and terrorists are the “winners” and those who participated in the 100 days of genocidal massacre are the “losers.” Justice has failed, and the tribunal has spent around $26 billion dollars to convict about 30 people. Amnesty International’s annual reports describe these injustices and more.

For me, the most important thing in the U.N. resolution was their requirement that the tribunal establish a reconciliation commission to heal a wounded nation. When you have a history of endless revenge, only reconciliation can stop the killing. As a man in Belfast, Ireland said to me recently, “We’ve made huge steps. We can now look someone in the eye and say we hate them, but we don’t have to kill ‘em. We have to live together.”

South Africa’s commission is the most widely known successful one, but many nations have adapted this kind of thing to their own cultural problems. The primary focus of the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation is to “engage in a campaign to educate the world about the need for an internationally sanctioned Truth, Equal Justice, Equal Rights, and Reconciliation Commission for the Great Lakes Region of Africa, which includes Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.” http://hrrfoundation.org

HZ: How accurately does the film “Hotel Rwanda” tell your family’s story?

R: I worked with the filmmakers and the actors from the beginning until the final screening. I met for extended periods with Don Cheadle, who played me. I told the whole story to the director Terry George and his writers and was on the set during filming. I was offered an earlier film deal with a big firm, but I refused to do it. They seemed to want to focus on the killings and on what would sell. An independent filmmaker like Terry George did such a fine film because he had artistic freedom.

I wanted the message to be, “Do justice,” so that we could prevent these conflicts. The movie shows the worst in people, but also shows the best.

With the PG-13 rating, I knew the younger generation could see it, especially my own children. The film’s title gave a memorable name to the foundation. This is my legacy.

H-Z: Are you a hero?

R: I’m asked this all the time. People become heroes when they listen to their own conscience. The majority isn’t always right, but you know right from wrong. Listen to yourself.

At the hotel, I had done lots of favors for people. I never underestimated these connections. Really, they owed me more than I owed them and they remembered me. When the time came for me to save people, I just called in all my stockpile of favors.

Later, at the end of July 1994, Taciana and I made the decision to fight, but not with killing, even though I was tempted. We left the capital of Kigali to drive south to Taciana’s family home. We saw no living things except dogs and flies. The land was devastated and covered with dead bodies.

We found her older brother still alive and sheltering her sister, family members, neighbors and many children. Nearby homes had been burned to the ground. At her mother’s house, six grandchildren, a daughter-in-law, and her mother had been killed and dropped into a pit. Surviving family members were at another sister’s house. Small children, especially the frequently targeted young boys, were hidden. Yes, we cried and I just wanted to kill people, but since I was one of the few men alive, I had a duty to the living. We loaded up the brother’s car and ours and drove back to Kigali. Our home there became a crowded shelter for family and friends.

H-Z: Are you personally safe today?

R: I am a most wanted man. The first thing we did was send our children to boarding school in the United States. There are evidently people in Belgium who don’t like me. We have been living in Brussels for the last 15 years. My guardian angels had to work overtime there. Also, a big car with strong airbags helped when I was run off the road sandwiched between an 18-wheeler and a mysterious car.

Our home in Brussels was ransacked three times by “professional” invaders clearly hunting for documents about my whereabouts and that of others. My lawyers invested lots of time “disturbing the Belgian government” for protection.

The last invasion was this past March when I left home early to meet Taciana in Boston. It was then and there we decided to relocate to the United States. Since the current Rwandan government is supported by the U.S., we believe our attackers “will hold back.” We’ve moved to Texas. We believe we are safe here.

H-Z: We are honored by your presence here today and by your appearance on Saturday, Nov. 14, at the Bob Krueger Public Service Award Dinner.

R: Thank you. Just remember we will not give up and we will win. Believe this.


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