Rwanda's poor foot hefty hotel bill for president
The president of Rwanda, one of the world's poorest countries, faced criticism on Thursday night after he was reported to be staying in a $20,000-a-night hotel room in New York. Paul Kagame, whose country receives more than millions of dollars in foreign aid, is said to have been based in the Mandarin Oriental's presidential suite while attending the UN General Assembly.
A receptionist at the hotel said on Thursday that the standard nightly rate for the suite, including taxes and charges, totalled $20,664.50. The average Rwandan would need to work for 18 years just to be able to afford one night in the "luxurious two-bedroom suite", which boasts "panoramic views of Central Park and the city skyline". According to the hotel, it "is the perfect retreat with large living and dining area and separate wood panelled study". Spokesmen for Mr Kagame and the hotel declined to confirm he was staying there.
Sixbert Musangamfura, a spokesman for the United Democratic Forces (UDF), the Rwandan opposition coalition, told The Daily Telegraph: "It is a scandal. Rwanda is not a country that can afford to pay this much for hotels. People who have to survive on 40 cents a day will be disgusted."
The president typically travels with dozens of bodyguards and aides, who would also have been housed in hotel rooms with access to the UN headquarters. Most of New York's classiest hotel suites were packed with world leaders this week. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, is thought to have been housed in a $2,800-a-night room at the UN Millennium hotel. But Mr Kagame's reported room rate was extraordinarily high even for the busiest week of the year in Manhattan.
David Cameron stayed at the Barclay Intercontinental in a room with an adjoining office. Aides said the price was "certainly not in the territory" of Mr Kagame's, but declined to give a figure. Britain is Rwanda's biggest direct aid donor.
Labour party figures last month called for aid to be withdrawn amid reports that exiles in Britain had received death threats. The Rwandan High Commissioner in London dismissed the allegations as "bogus".
Source: The New York Time of September 22, 2011