The people that met genocide financier Félicien Kabuga

Kabuga is renowned as the financier of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, which claimed a million innocent lives in a period of three months.
Félicien Kabuga was arrested in France on May 16. Photo: File

A new documentary series released on US-based video streaming company Netflix this week highlights deliberate actions of how Félicien Kabuga crisscrossed different countries as he evaded justice for over two decades.

Kabuga, arrested earlier this year on May 16 in France, is renowned as the financier of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi which claimed a million innocent lives in a period of three months.

 

The doc-series reveals how countries and top leaders created a favorable environment for Kabuga to evade the justice system, despite huge efforts to bring him to book.

 

In the second episode of its first season, the World’s Most Wanted highlights series of events in which the genocide financier was supposed to be held but in vain, despite massive rewards and global investigations.

 

Louis-Gonzague Munyazogeye

In the beginning, Louis-Gonzague Munyazogeye, a survivor of the Genocide opens up about how he saw Kabuga arriving in Switzerland in 1994.

“Kabuga arrived here with two minibuses and a lot of suitcases,” he says, as he points to a complex which he says was a refugee registration centre back then, where Kabuga had gone to seek asylum for him and his entire family.

“So an unusual way of entering a refugee centre. The others usually came with a small backpack and nothing else,” he adds.

Kabuga apparently arrived in Switzerland on July 22, even though he was blacklisted by the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.

“One day, I get a call from a member of the Rwandan community in Switzerland telling me that Félicien Kabuga is in Switzerland with his family and that he applied for asylum,” Jacques Pitteloud, a former Swiss intelligence officer reveals.

“He arrives, most likely, by quickly attaining a visa for Switzerland because he had one previously, because he’s also a rich man,” Pitteloud says, describing the incidence as a political cowardice on the part of his government of the time.

The officer says he heard that Kabuga was about to be deported from Switzerland, so he called the director of the Federal Office for Foreigners.

“I remember telling him, you can’t let this war criminal leave.”

“And then a couple of days later, I learned that Félicien Kabuga had boarded a plane in Geneva,” he recalls.

In the subsequent scenes, Munyazogeye is seen on the entrance of UBS, a Swiss multinational investment bank.

“He [Kabuga] had his bank account here. It was a well-credited account, of course, that of a millionaire. And he was given time to completely empty his account,” he claims.

“He left Switzerland with all his money.”

Jean-Jacques Fontaine

After leaving Switzerland, Kabuga found another haven in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, according to Fontaine, a Swiss radio journalist, who disclosed how he tracked Kabuga in one of the biggest hotels in Kinshasa.

“Kinshasa is certainly a big city but with a few international class hotels. There were just two back then. So we thought we had one in two chances to find the right one, and we decided to try to find him,” he recounts.

Fontaine then appears in the footage heading to Intercontinental Hotel in Kinshasa, where he meets and interviews Kabuga in a hotel room with her family members.

The interview remains the only one on public record by Kabuga.

“He decides to speak in French and his daughter translates,” the reporter notes.

During the interview, Kabuga denies his role in the genocide but admits that he co-created RTLM, a radio known to have propagated hate speech and mobilized masses to participate in the Genocide.

William Munuhe (deceased)

When the US listed Kabuga on their Reward for Justice Programme, Kabuga in June, 2002, William Munuhe, a Kenyan journalist, became a victim of the powerful networks that the fugitive had established in Kenya to protect him.

The US government put up a $5 million bounty on his head and according to the documentary, Munuhe was committed to provide information about Kabuga, in return for protection.

He was killed while trying to help the US agents arrest Kabuga in Kenya.

In the documentary, Munuhe’s brother shows the last letter that his sibling wrote, recounting how he was kidnapped on a highway in Nairobi, and later found three men seated together with Kabuga.

The operation that Munuhe had helped set up with the US government to arrest Kabuga rather saw the journalist being killed on January 14, 2003 in a room where Kabuga was supposed to be.

According to Pierre-Richard Prosper, the former US Ambassador at Large for war crimes issues (2001-2005), Kabuga was connected at the highest level within the echelons of the Kenyan government, so he was always one step ahead of any operation.

The documentary also narrates Kabuga’s sojourn in Germany, which was only discovered after the arrest of his son-in-law, Augustin Ngirabatware, who was tried and sentenced by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

Ngirabatware, a former minister of planning in the genocidal regime, was arrested at an internet café and found with a flash disk, according to Stephen Rapp, a former ICTR Deputy Chief Prosecutor.

Rapp later served as the US Ambassador for War Crimes (2009-2015).

The disk had a copy of a Tanzania fake documents that were used by Kabuga to travel to Germany.

“There is no question, you know, that he was in Germany at that time,” Rapp reveals in the documentary.

Jean-François Dupaquier

French journalist Dupaquier is another person who knew the whereabouts of Kabuga. At the time, in 2010, Kabuga was staying in France.

Dupaquier narrates in the documentary that he learned one day that Jean Bosco Barayagwiza, a close friend of Félicien Kabuga had passed away, and that he was about to be buried in the Paris region.

He says that he learnt from his police sources that Kabuga was going to attend and that he would be arrested in the cemetery.

Kabuga did not show up, and instead, Duparquier and his cameraman ended up filming the dramatic arrest of Dominuque Ntawukuriryayo, another Genocide suspect who was wanted by ICTR.

He was also later released despite the ICTR having referred his case for trial in France.

It was until more than a decade later that Kabuga was finally arrested in the same city.

jbizimungu@newtimesrwanda.com

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