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Cheadle Visits Hotel Rwanda

Don Cheadle has finally visited "Hotel Rwanda."

The 40-year-old actor toured the Hotel des Milles Collines in Rwanda's capital Kigali last month, speaking with several of the more than 1,000 people who were sheltered there during the country's 1994 genocide by manager Paul Rusesabagina, the character portrayed by Cheadle in the film.

"All of their experiences were the stuff of epic films, things they had to go through in those 100 days," Cheadle told The Associated Press in an interview this week. "It was amazing."

Cheadle, who earned an Oscar nomination for "Hotel Rwanda," had never seen the hotel because last year's film was shot primarily in South Africa. Through the movie, however, he developed a new passion for the vast continent.

"Once you've been touched by the people and meet these individuals, it's people that I know," he said. "I felt drawn to that area, and felt drawn in any way I can to bringing attention to the place, and any way that I can."

During his two-week visit in late July, he met with Rwandan President Paul Kagame, attended the premiere of "Hotel Rwanda" in Uganda and toured displaced-person camps in the country's northern provinces.

More than 1.5 million Ugandans have fled their homes to avoid a campaign of murder, rape and abduction waged by rebel group Lord's Resistance Army.

"You were meeting these children who had been in conflict for all their lives and most recently had been under the employ of rebel soldiers, who took girls 13 or 14 years old as wives," Cheadle said. "That was amazing, to hear these stories of these kids and what they had been forced to do, and trying to imagine. I don't have that frame of reference."

Cheadle said he's writing a book with John Prendergast of the nonprofit International Crisis Group about how individual Americans can respond to Africa's problems.

"It's really talking about my path out of apathy, and what people can do who are having the same questions and feelings," he said. "I had the same concerns and skepticism about sending aid to some shadowy situation where I didn't know if a warlord was going to get the money."

The actor said he was struck by many Africans' sense of hope.

"They believed there was an opportunity for things to get better, which was surprising," he said. "I think that's what's actually going to sustain them."

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