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The elusive Felicien Kabuga

For years now, Félicien Kabuga, the elusive Rwandan businessman, has been and still is the most wanted suspect of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Felicien Kabuga
Felicien Kabuga

For years now, Félicien Kabuga, the elusive Rwandan businessman, has been and still is the most wanted suspect of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

Charged of heinous crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), and of terrorism by the United States of America,  the man has always managed to elude the hands of international justice, even with a ransom of 5 million U.S dollars still hanging over his head.

This is a scenario worthy of a detective film - on one hand, four successive prosecutors, tens of investigators some of which come from the famous and prestigious American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

And on the other hand, a man, a mafia Godfather type, obviously covered on most fronts by some corrupt, influential bigwigs and of course possessing vast sums of money, the fruit of various fraudulent deals.

For a period of fifteen years, the criminal is still on the run, tracked - in vain up to now - by bloodhounds which decidedly, are not very smart.

The man is wanted by an international body of justice, a body endowed with great powers and capabilities. Yet, it’s literally under everybody’s very nose that Félicien Kabuga, accused by the Government of Rwanda and the ICTR for his active involvement in the Rwandan Genocide, continues his life... of businessman.

Indeed, some while ago, the Kenyan daily newspaper The Nation, quoting police sources announced that the most wanted suspect of the Rwandan Genocide has a palace in the country, from where he “manages his businesses” while he, in addition, “finances a church”.

This detail is of bad taste, for a man wanted for his role in the extermination of hundreds of thousands of people. Other sources say he is a refugee “somewhere in the Democratic Republic of Congo, surrounded by a bunch of militias on his pay”.

However, wherever he is, the fact remains that his arrest has proved to be difficult, in spite of all the efforts deployed.

In June 1997, in Nairobi, an enormous police net hauled in some of the major suspects of the Rwandan Genocide.

Among them: Jean Kambanda, former Prime Minister, now serving his sentence in Mali after he was condemned to prison for life.

One year later, Félicien Kabuga, who was supposed to be arrested at the same time as this group, escaped the net. It was learnt later on, that he was warned by a Kenyan police officer.

Also at the time, ICTR investigators and those of the NGO International Crisis Group were unanimous: Kabuga at that time was under the protection of the Kenyan President Daniel Arap Moi.

He was living in one of his villas in Nairobi, and he
travelled on a Kenyan passport. In 2000, he reportedly even travelled to Belgium where his wife lived.

In 2002, in a special programme intended to bring to book all suspects wanted by the law - a plan dubbed “reward for justice” - the American administration put the name of Félicien Kabuga on its list.

Five million dollars were put up for whoever would help with his arrest. At the same time, the Americans put the pressure on the Kenyan authorities, which they publicly accused of protecting him.

The accusation was matched with threats. At that time, the arrest of Kabuga seemed closer than ever, as the Kenyan investigators, supported by those of the FBI, succeeded in infiltrating the entourage of the “genocide financier”.

However, On January 17, that year, William Mwaura Munuhe, a Kenyan businessman, who had succeeded in infiltrating his hideout, was mysteriously assassinated, obviously by Kabuga’s henchmen.

Munuhe was killed only 24 hours before he was supposed to meet and thus lure Kabuga into the police net. 

Since then, having failed to arrest him, “we had to do with locating him”, indicates a source from the ICTR.

A UN Security Council resolution which was voted in August 2003, called member States to the need for collaboration in his arrest. But nothing came of it. Admittedly, investigators of the ICTR continue to work on Kabuga’s “case”.

Some time back, if one is to believe the daily newspaper The Nation, they went in the region of the Rift Valley, in western Kenya, where, it is said, Kabuga might have been living or might even have settled, but their find was not made known.

Very close to Juvénal Habyarimana (one of his daughters is married to the  former president’s son), Félicien Kabuga is wanted for having financed large purchases of crude weapons (machetes etc...) which were used by the killers during the genocide.

In particular, during the months preceding the genocide, the businessman bought more than half a million of dollars worth of machetes. He was also the principal shareholder and president of the infamous Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM).

During the genocide, the RTLM was not only satisfied with calling the population to massacre their compatriots, but it also gave them detailed information on the people to be massacred and where to find them.

In fact, the Director of the RTLM, Ferdinand Nahimana, together with Hassan Ngeze, the owner of the vitriolic KANGURA newspaper, has already been condemned to life by the ICTR in December 2003. Kabuga is also accused of having taken part, with others, in preparation and the execution of the genocide project.

By his various titles and especially by his profile of a big business tycoon, Kabuga is one among other fugitives still wanted by the ICTR as the one of the “presumed
biggest architects of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, including the likes of Bernard Munyagishari, Protais Mpiranya, Augustine Bizimana, Charles Sikubwabo and Gregoire Ndahimana  who, by the way, is the one who prompted me to write this piece about Kabuga.

Ndahimana was quite recently arrested at our door step in the D.R.Congo, a development which serves as a reminder to the killers, that they can run but that there is no where to hide.

As for Kabuga, he is an “architect of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide” up to now untraceable, and who, at 70 or 75, could even elude justice, forever.

In view of the anticipated completion of the mandate of the UN Tribunal, would this not be a shame and embarrassment to the UN ICTR for it to close shop in 2010 as it says it will, without having traced these men?

They were the ICTR’s raison d’être in the first place, and, as one of its senior recently remarked, “No stone should be left unturned in ensuring that these Genocide suspects are brought to account.”


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