NAIROBI - Kenya could face international sanctions over failure to arrest Genocide fugitive Felicien Kabuga, a senior United States official has warned.
The US Ambassador-at-large for War Crimes, Stephen Rapp, delivered the message to the government in Nairobi on Thursday, saying the stern proposal would be presented to the United Nation’s Security Council in June.
A government’s invitation to the US and European nations to send their security officers to Kenya to hunt and arrest Mr Kabuga was automatically rejected, with Mr Rapp saying it’s the responsibility of Kenya to do so.
In particular, the US official is concerned that Kenya is sitting on vital information that if released to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), the arrest of Mr Kabuga would be fast tracked.
“We remain very concerned about the failure of Kenyan authorities to respond to requests of the ICTR, more specifically a letter delivered to the commissioner of police and director of public prosecutions last May, asking for certain files, certain bank information, pointing out the importance of that information, to prevent continued flight of Mr Kabuga,” Rapp told journalists after a meeting at the Foreign Affairs ministry.
Speaking at the same forum, the ministry’s Assistant Minister, Richard Onyonka, denied the claims of Mr Kabuga’s whereabouts and even challenged Mr Rapp to bring US agents to track him down.
“Kenya is even willing to allow other bodies such as the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigations) and M-16 (the UK intelligence service) and any other organisational body that may be willing to come to Kenya and put together an outfit that would chase and look for Kabuga,” he said.
He added: “The Kenyan government is ready and willing to work and make sure that we arrest Mr Kabuga if he is living or staying in Kenya. As far as we are concerned, he does not stay in Kenya. If he comes and leaves, we have not been receiving this information”.
However, the minister noted, the government considers the sovereignty of the State before deciding the information to give and which to withhold from foreign organisations.
In response, Mr Rapp said it’s mandatory for States under the UN to give information demanded by international tribunals.
Mr Onyonka said it is in the public interest to have Mr Kabuga arrested, considering the bi-lateral cooperation Kenya enjoys with Rwanda.
Mr Kabuga has been on the run for 16 years, and is wanted to answer charges of Genocide and other crimes against humanity he committed in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.
ICTR chief Prosecutor, Hassan Bubacar Jallow, is expected to seek sanctions against Kenya on June 23, when he makes his bi-annual submission to the Security Council in New York.
“The information that we have is that Kabuga uses Kenya as his base of operations. We continue to be provided with information about his presence here from sources and on the other hand, there are individuals who would be at great risk if they were to reveal their identities and are willing to share that information as the investigation develops on this matter,” said Mr Rapp.
The ICTR is struggling to finish its work by end of the year when its mandate expires.
Mr Rapp made a similar claim when he visited Kenya in November last year.
Since then, he said, the American Embassy has received information “on multiple sightings of Mr Kabuga and those sightings collaborate though some may not be true.”
Mr Rapp described the people who provided the information as “respected.”
“People who relay the information would be putting themselves at risk assuming it leaks out to those who would be giving him (Mr Kabuga) protection,” he added.
Foreign Affairs minister Moses Wetang’ula and his Internal Security counterpart George Saitoti have in the past asked those claiming Mr Kabuga is in Kenya to look elsewhere.