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The capture of Felicien Kabuga: 26 years after the genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda


By mid-morning on Saturday, the 16th of May 2020; the victims of the Genocide Against The Tutsi, Rwanda, Africa and the world were already reading and hearing of the news of the arrest of Felicien Kabuga who for over two decades was the Top Most Wanted African on the run on all global wanted list. The United Nations’ International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) released a press release via its website which read as follows:

Today, Félicien Kabuga; one of the world’s most wanted fugitives who is alleged to have been a leading figure in the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda – was arrested in Paris by French authorities as the result of a joint investigation with the IRMCT Office of the Prosecutor.


And the Chief Prosecutor of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) Serge Brammertz stated in reaction to the arrest that the arrest of Félicien Kabuga was a reminder that those responsible for genocide can be brought to account, even twenty-six years after their crimes. Our first thoughts must be with the victims and survivors of the Rwandan genocide.

He further stated that for international justice, Kabuga’s arrest demonstrates that we can succeed when we have the international community’s support. This result is a tribute to the unwavering commitment of the United Nations Security Council, which established the Mechanism to continue the accountability process in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

It is important to also recognize the many other partners whose contributions were essential, including law enforcement agencies and prosecution services from Rwanda, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Luxembourg, Switzerland, the United States, EUROPOL and INTERPOL. This arrest demonstrates the impressive results that can be achieved through international law enforcement and judicial cooperation.


The International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) statement stated that Felicien Kabuga was indicted by the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in 1997 on seven counts of genocide, complicity in genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, attempt to commit genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, persecution and extermination, all in relation to crimes committed during the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. Following completion of appropriate procedures under French law, Kabuga is expected to the transferred to the custody of the Mechanism, where he will stand trial.

And the statement concluded with the morning raid where French police arrested Kabuga in a sophisticated, coordinated operation with simultaneous searches across a number of locations.

For those who do not know who Felicien Kabuga (now 85 and who has been on the run since August 18, 1994) is; a US Office of Global Criminal Justice archived document listed him as wanted and that information leading to the arrest, transfer or conviction of Felicien Kabuga. Up to five million dollars was the reward for the above information or action that led to his capture.  

The wealthy business mogul Kabuga is widely known as the financial muscle cum financier of the Genocide Against The Tutsi. He was also known to have financed the training and equipping the Interahamwe militia. And also, he is said to have a major stake in the infamous radio station known by the acronym RTLM and he is accused of establishing the same hate radio, RTLM.


As the Guardian UK’s Jason Burke put it; Kabuga is accused of creating the notorious Interahamwe militia and equipping it with the machetes used in the majority of its murders. One of Rwanda’s richest men, he also ran the equally notorious Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines, which incited murder. The aforementioned US archived document states that moreover, Kabuga is alleged to have given logistical support ot the Interahamwe militiamen by issuing them weapons and uniforms and providing them logistical transportation support in his company’s vehicles.

French officials said Kabuga had been living in a third-floor apartment on the Rue du Reverend Pere Christian Gilbert in Asnières-Sur-Seine, north-west of Paris, which is regarded as a posh neighbourhood. The UN Prosecutor Serge Brammertz told Vanity Fair Magazine that ’if you have been living quietly in the middle of Paris, I imagine you are probably surprised when after so many years you are finally arrested. This investigation is still ongoing… But I am personally convinced that he has been in that apartment for many years. And, you know, he was rarely seen by neighbours. He very rarely went out for walks. So, he was living the quiet life of a retiree.’

From the initial reports of the close to three-decade search for him and his run; it is apparent; no poor or average individual could have been able to have or set up an effective system to shield and conceal himself anywhere he showed up. Succintly put, the reports seem to give an impression and indicate an extremely wealthy individual with solid connections anywhere he appeared (the different locations where it is believed he resided in; one recurring theme is that he didn’t stoop low in his living standards if not his affluence). 

As the news of his arrest trickled in, stories of how his family’s evacuation from Rwanda in 1994 was aided; were posted online. Stories of his sightings pre-May 16, 2020 began to resurface on social media. From a female asylum seeker who said she saw him at the same location in Switzerland to documents showing the Kabuga Family name on a list of evacuees from Rwanda to another neighbouring country in 1994.


Several questions are being re-echoed such as how could anyone; being on a World’s Most Wanted List but lived and travelled (if not settled in several countries)? It was later revealed by the head of the police unit who arrested him that French intelligence agents spied on his children to track him down. Also, reports quoting occupants who also live in the same building state that Felicien Kubuga was an occupant for between three to four years. 

How could a passport which could not have had his name on it be stamped with a visa which enabled him to reside anywhere until he was apprehended? It was later revealed that Felicien Kabuga whose arrest marked the culmination of close to three decades which spanned Africa and Europe had twenty-eight known aliases and when arrested on Saturday, May 16 2020; was using a passport from a yet to be named African country.

Another question being asked is, how could a known fugitive with a red flag to his name and possible to his known twenty-eight aliases be able to move around globally from 1994 to 2020 and in the few instances he was ‘accosted’; he was released or deported?

On Monday, the 18th of May 2020; the UN RIMCT Prosecutor Serge Brammertz told Rwanda’s national broadcaster that he had executed his promise of bringing one Rwandan genocide suspect, Felicien Kabuga to justice but also stated that more of genocide fugitives would be on the list soon. eg Protais Mpiranya.


The UN Prosecutor also stated that other cases are being worked on and the cases include that of Charles Sikubwabo, Charles Ryandikayo, Augustin Bizimana, Fulgence Kayishema, Pheneas Munyarugarama and Aloys Ndimbati. 

Buttressing the above, part of Interpol’s official statement which was posted days earlier; stated that a Red Notice for the now 84-year-old was issued by INTERPOL in 2001 at the request of the ICTR. Kabuga was also one of the men targeted by INTERPOL’s Rwandan Genocide Fugitives Project, run by its Fugitive Investigative Support unit. Created in 2007 to support the search of fugitives wanted by the ICTR and Rwandan Authorities, to date the project has assisted in the arrest of 12 fugitives.

The two men wanted by the UN International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals who are still at large, Protais Mpiranya and Augustin Bizimana both remain subjects of INTERPOL Red Notices, in addition to other individuals still wanted by Rwandan authorities.

And on Friday, 22nd of May 2020, it was revealed that the Augustin Bizimana died in Democratic Republic of Congo in 2000.

Another important question which made the rounds and still being debated is where should he be tried and if he can be tried in Rwanda? As the question still lingers on and as experts delve into the legal technicalities, I sought the views of two individuals (Mr Segun Jegede and Mrs Linda Melvern).

Mr Segun Jegede (a Nigerian legal practitioner who worked from 1998 – 2011 in several capacities as investigator, legal adviser and prosecutor with the UN Security Council’s established International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda which was located in Arusha, Tanzania and who shuttled between Kigali and Arusha) stated that ’a trial in Rwanda Is a possibility but will not happen because trials of perpetrators of Genocide like Kabuga is one of the principal reasons the Residual Mechanism was created. Moreover, I think it is better for Kabuga to have his day in court before a neutral tribunal than in Rwanda where he is already presumed guilty. Also, don’t also forget that the United Nations has spent several millions of dollars to set up and sustain the IRMCT (International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals) which had largely been inactive.


The British Investigative Journalist Ms Linda Melvern (author of seven books from A People Betrayed, Conspiracy to Murder; Intent to Deceive: Denying the Genocide of The Tutsi) stated that ‘I have no idea where he will be tried. But it has to be quick. The ICTR has a case prepared against him I understand. Whatever happens, the trial should be broadcast live’.

As the days go by what is now becoming clearer is that Felicien Kabuga capture had a lot of digital and data analysis, tactics and procedures from the counterterrorism world which were deployed to fish him out. e.g. pattern of life analysis, geolocating phones and phone calls of his family members, remote surveillance etc. And how Colonel Eric Emeraux’s men (who took part in the raid) had mounted a camera in a vehicle parked on Kabuga’s street which they monitored remotely using iPhones. They could see the street without being there. Surprisingly, the arrest was planned for Tuesday, May 19, 2020 but due to the fact that his family’s phones which were being geolocated had indicated some movements, they moved the operation to May 16, 2020. Kabuga had more than 20 different identities and three different passports.

When Kabuga was apprehended, he was using another identity. So, we believe there were four passports in all from different African countries. And the problem is that these passports were not fake or stolen. They appear to have been delivered by competent authorities with the correct stamps on them. That is probably the result of corruption or other forms of interference. Said Serge Brammertz.


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