PARIS: Felicien Kabuga, one of the last key fugitives wanted over the 1994 Rwandan genocide, was in French custody Saturday after a quarter of a century on the run, and now faces likely trial at an international tribunal. French police arrested Kabuga, once one of Rwanda’s richest men, in a dawn raid in the Paris suburbs, where he had been living under a false identity, the prosecutor’s office and police said in a joint statement. Officers found an 84-year-old man “who has been sought by the judicial authorities for 25 years”, the statement said.
Around 800,000 people – Tutsis but also moderate Hutus – were slaughtered over 100 days by ethnic Hutu extremists during the 1994 genocide. Kabuga was arrested at his home in Asnieres-sur-Seine north of Paris, where he had been hiding with the help of his children. The police statement described him as “one of the world’s most wanted fugitives”. The news was hailed in Rwanda. “Capturing Felicien Kabuga is very welcome and a commendable act that serves justice… our wish as the umbrella body for genocide survivors is for him to be deported and tried in Rwanda where he committed the crimes,” Jean Pierre Dusingizemungu, head of the Ibuku association, told AFP.
Kabuga is accused of creating the notorious Interahamwe militia that carried out massacres during the genocide. He also helped create Radio-Television Libre des Mille Collines which, in its broadcasts, incited people to carry out murder. During his years on the run, Kabuga spent time in Germany, Belgium, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and Switzerland. Eric Emeraux, the head of the OCLCH, France’s agency for fighting crimes against humanity, told AFP renewed efforts were made to track down Kabuga two months ago after new intelligence emerged.
Olivier Olsen, head of the association of homeowners in the building where he lived, described Kabuga as “someone very discreet… who murmured when you said hello”. He said Kabuga had lived there for three or four years. Kabuga is accused of using his wealth and influence during the genocide to funnel money to militia groups as chairman of the Fonds de Defense Nationale (FDN) fund. According to the US State Department, which has offered a $5 million reward for information about him, Kabuga through the FDN “is alleged to have provided funds to the interim Rwandan government for the purposes of executing the 1994 genocide”.
‘Brought to account’
Kabuga was indicted by the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in 1997 on seven counts, including genocide. Among other things, it accused him in its indictment of having arranged the shipments of “an impressive number of machetes and other weapons to the Interahamwe militia, which were used in the massacres. The tribunal formally closed in 2015.
Its duties have since been taken over by the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT), which also deals with cases left over from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. “The arrest of Felicien Kabuga today is a reminder that those responsible for genocide can be brought to account, even 26 years after their crimes,” said Serge Brammertz, chief prosecutor of the MICT in The Hague. He was ordered to be remanded in custody until the judicial authorities can rule on whether or not he should be sent to The Hague to face justice. Kabuga is expected to be tried at the mechanism’s branch in Arusha in Tanzania, an official from the prosecutor’s office said.
Two more still at large
The son of peasants, Kabuga grew his business from selling cigarettes and second-hand clothes at markets in his northern home region of Byumba. He expanded by opening businesses in the capital Kigali and by 1993 was already part of the inner circle of then Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana, his daughter marrying one of the president’s sons. It was the assassination of Habyarimana on April 6, 1994 that unleashed the genocide. Along with former defense minister Augustin Bizimana and top-ranking military figure Protais Mpiranya – both still at large – Kabuga was one of the three most significant suspects still sought over the genocide.
France has long been known as a hiding place for wanted genocide suspects and French investigators currently have dozens of cases underway. The genocide has cast a long shadow over Franco-Rwandan relations. Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, a Tutsi, accuses France of having supported the ethnic Hutu forces behind most of the slaughter and of having helped some of the perpetrators to escape. Last year, President Emmanuel Macron announced the creation of a commission of experts to delve into the French state archives in a bid to set the historical record straight.- AFP