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Most-wanted genocide suspect arrested in France

May 16, 2020

French police have arrested Rwandan businessman Felicien Kabuga, believed to a key financier of the country's 1994 genocide. He was found living under a false name in an apartment near Paris after decades on the run.

French soldiers drive through a refugee camp near Butare, Rwanda, in 1994
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Felicien Kabuga, once one of the richest men in Rwanda, was detained by French security forces on Saturday morning. He had been pursued by international justice for 25 years over crimes allegedly committed during the country's civil war.

According to Rwandan prosecutors, Kabuga used his companies to import machetes and gardening tools knowing they would be used as weapons in the wave of violence that killed some 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutus in the East African country. He is believed to have established the notorious Interahamwe militia and provided training and equipment used in the massacres.

Read more: 20 years under Rwanda's 'benevolent dictator' Paul Kagame

"Felicien Kabuga is known to have been the financier of the Rwandan genocide," French police said in a statement. 

Kabuga was also behind the creation of Radio Television Mille Collines that broadcast propaganda to incite the violence during the deadly 100-day killing spree.

Most wanted man

The ethnic Hutu businessman had been living under an assumed name in a flat in Asnieres-Sur-Seine, just north of Paris, apparently with the help of his children.

On Saturday, French police said Kabuga "had with impunity stayed in Germany, Belgium, Congo-Kinshasa, Kenya, and Switzerland" since 1994.

Read more: Opinion: Rwandan genocide arrest offers solace to survivors

In 1997, the UN's International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda indicted Kabuga on charges related to conspiracy to commit genocide, persecution and extermination. He became Rwanda’s most-wanted man and is the subject of a $5 million (€4.6 million) bounty offered by the United States.

In 2015, the Rwanda tribunal formally closed and its cases have been given over to Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT).

Read more: 'If my family's killers apologized to me, I'd forgive them'

'Strength of determination'

Kabuga is now expected to be transferred to the custody of MICT and stand trial. Chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz said that his capture "underlines the strength of our determination."

"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 Brammertz.

The 1994 genocide was triggered by the assassination of then-president Juvenal Habyarimana. At the time, Kabuga was part of Habyarimana's inner circle and his daughter was married to one of the president's sons.

Two other top suspects linked with the Rwanda genocide - former defense minister Augustin Bizmana and military leader Protais Mpiranya - remain at large.

dj/mm (AFP, Reuters, AP)

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