FEATURE : When an individual ‘bought off’ a nation

When former Kenyan dictator Daniel Arap Moi played host to Agathe Kanziga, widow of former Rwandan military dictator Habyarimana in the 1990s, many people believed he was consoling her and giving her survival tips in life as a widow considering his decades experience as a separated old man. The case of Felicien Kabuga, however, has shown what money can do in that country.

When former Kenyan dictator Daniel Arap Moi played host to Agathe Kanziga, widow of former Rwandan military dictator Habyarimana in the 1990s, many people believed he was consoling her and giving her survival tips in life as a widow considering his decades experience as a separated old man.

The case of Felicien Kabuga, however, has shown what money can do in that country.

Felicien Kabuga, wanted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), bankrolled the genocide in Rwanda through his interests in the media, use of properties, military connections and social influence.

Félicien Kabuga was born in 1935 in Muniga, in the commune of Mukarange, prefecture of Byumba, northern Rwanda.  Related to then President Habyarimana by marriage, he amassed wealth through smuggling, monopolising whole sectors in import and export and tax evasion in Rwanda.

He was a member of the privileged core of persons that surrounded the all powerful wife of Habyarimana and her feared brothers in the army.

With the domestic agitation for multiparty rule and the Rwanda Patriotic Front/Army (RPF/A) scoring victories on the battlefield, the ruling party MRND allowed other political parties to be set up. Kabuga used his wealth to thwart the progress of these parties by buying off members of the opposition, to sow disunity and infighting in the hope of frustrating coherence and elongating the stay of MRND in power.

Faustine Mugenzi and Pauline Nyiramasuhuko who thwarted the efforts of the Liberal Party, leaders of extremist CDR, Robert Kajuga and Ephrem Nkezabera the national leaders of Interahamwe were on Kabuga’s payroll.

With real possibility of a peace settlement in negotiations in Arusha, he set up and directed the operations of Radio RTLM, urging that the station should become the official radio of Hutu Power and funded Kangura Newspaper that were instrumental in indoctrinating the Rwandan people with an extremist Hutu ideology based on hatred and ethnic violence, and urging people to “work” by hunting and killing ethnic Tutsis during the genocide.

From 1992, through his company “ETS” Kabuga imported and distributed hundreds of thousands of machetes from Kenya in preparation for the genocide. Kabuga provided logistical assistance to the Interahamwe by supplying weapons and uniforms, and by providing transport to them in his company vehicles easing their mobility, speed and scale of massacres.

On  April 25, 1994, in the prefecture of Gisenyi, Kabuga, and others reached an agreement to create the National Defence Fund (the Fonds de Défense Nationale-FDN) in order to provide assistance to the ordinary Hutu folks to kill Tutsis.

This fund was created in order to buy weapons, vehicles and uniforms for the Interahamwe and the army throughout the country.

Kabuga was appointed as President of the National Defence Fund’s Acting Committee. On May 20, 1994, Kabuga informed the Interim Government about the existence of this fund and counselled the government on how to manage and use it.

In June 1994, Kabuga and others held a meeting in Gisenyi, in which attendees made a list of Tutsis who had come from other prefectures to seek refuge in Gisenyi which lists, were given to the killers.

When the genocidal regime fell, Kabuga fled to Switzerland but was officially ordered to leave the country. He went to Kinshasa, Zaire before settling in Kenya under the protection of former dictator Moi, Zakayo Cheruiyot, a former civil service chief and one of Mr Moi’s closest advisers and one of his (Kabuga) nephews.

Even when under international indictments Kabuga collected rent from his villas in the Kenyan capital together with his wife Josephine Mukazitoni. The couple own shares and are directors in several companies registered in Kenya. The profits were transferred from a local bank to an account in Belgium registered in the names of the couple’s daughter.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda issued an international arrest warrant for Kabuga in August 1999, charging him with 11 counts, including genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, and complicity in genocide.
On August 28, 1998, a second Indictment was confirmed including Félicien Kabuga among other accused. On September1, 2003, before the trial in Karemera et al. started, the Chamber granted the Prosecutor’s Motion for Severance and Leave to Amend the Indictment with regard to Félicien Kabuga only.

According to Keriako Tobiko, Kenya’s director of public prosecutions “There is enough evidence showing Kabuga is using his substantial wealth, including that generated in Kenya, to avoid capture and assist other fugitives at large to elude capture,” adding  that Kabuga had used his money to “substantially interfere” with prosecution witnesses at the  (International) Tribunal.

In 2002 the US offered a reward up to US $ 5.000.000 for any information leading to the capture of Kabuga. In 1997, when Kenyan detectives raided a Nairobi townhouse where Kabuga was alleged to be hiding, they found only a note written by a senior Kenyan police officer, warning Kabuga of his impending arrest.

In 2002, 27-year-old businessman William Mwaura Munuhe reached the American Embassy in Nairobi willing to reveal the location of Kabuga ( after he and Kabuga had had a disagreement) but the involvement of senior Kenyan police left him lying on his bed with a bullet hole in his head.

Kenyan police confirm Munuhue was an associate of Kabuga and a senior government official linked to Moi. On June 3, 2008, a blog in Norway calling itself African Press International (API), possibly funded by agents of Kabuga to distract those searching for him in Kenya, reported that Editor, Sammy Kipterer Korir had interviewed Kabuga in an Oslo hotel room.

According to API, Kabuga travelled to Sweden to meet a Sudanese refugee but could not find the man. He heard that vice President Salva Kiir was visiting Norway so he (Kabuga) went to Oslo hoping the refugee might be in Kiir’s entourage but the refugee had travelled to south Sudan, so he (Kabuga decided to contact API so that they might help him negotiate with the Rwandan government for a conditional surrender.

According to API “to think or even imagine that the timing has any hidden agenda is uncalled for and primitive...”
In a speech given on August 28, 2006 during his visit to Kenya, then U.S. Senator Barack Obama accused Kenya of “allowing him (Kabuga) to purchase safe haven.”

The Kenyan government denied the accusation and described Obama’s statement regarding Kabuga as “an insult to the people of this country.” On Friday November 13, 2009 ICTR Chief Prosecutor Boubacar Jallow was likely to be in Kenya.

US Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Stephen J. Rapp, on Monday November 16, 2009, accused both the Kibaki and Moi governments of refusing to hand over the fugitive, with a price on his head, to the ICTR. Mr Rapp told a press conference in Nairobi that the US came closer to arresting Mr Kabuga in 1997, but the efforts were thwarted by the government of the time.

Mr Rapp, who served at the ICTR between 2005 and December 2006 and was also the chief prosecutor at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, said “Efforts were made to achieve cooperation but that failed.

It has remained so even after 2002” adding that, “The International Criminal tribunal for Rwanda holds that Kabuga is receiving refuge in Kenya. We also have to presume this man is still here in the absence of the government providing evidence.

However Kenyan Internal Security deputy minister Orwa Ojodeh stated that Kabuga was not in the country.  “Felicien Kabuga is not in the country” he said.

The question remains, how much did an individual pay to “buy off a nation” like Kenya for it to negate its international obligation? Considering the events immediately after the last general elections in Kenya, it seems some of the leaders in Kenya do not see the planned and deliberate attempt to wipe out an ethnic group as a crime and rather shield such a person from international justice. 

Ends