A Rwandan genocide fugitive was arrested in South Africa
A Rwandan fugitive wanted for his role in the 1994 genocide against the country’s Tutsi population has been arrested in South Africa, said the UN tribunal, which seeks to track down those accused of inciting the mass murders.
Fulgence Kayishema was detained in the western town of Paarl, not far from Cape Town, almost three decades after he allegedly masterminded the killing of more than 2,000 refugees in a church during the genocide, a court heard on Thursday.
A joint operation by South African police and a UN team will give another boost to the international manhunt to track down Africa’s most wanted men and lock up victims of the genocide after some key successes in recent years.
“Fulgence Kayishema was a refugee for over 20 years. His arrest ensures that he will finally face justice for his alleged crimes. . . justice will be served, no matter how long it takes,” said Serge Brammertz, the tribunal’s chief prosecutor.
Kayishema’s search follows the 2020 arrest of Felicien Kabuga, the alleged financier of the murders, who is on trial in The Hague. The tribunal said last year that Protais Mpiranya, who led Rwanda’s presidential guard during the genocide, died in Zimbabwe after seeking refuge there. Because of Kayishema’s arrest, the tribunal is still at large against three fugitives.
His capture highlights how the final stages of the hunt for the last genocide suspects depended on local law enforcement in the African countries from which most are believed to have fled secretly.
In 2021, Brammertz criticized the government of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa for “some of the most serious cases of collusion that my office has seen” and suggested that Kayishema was hiding in the country. Ramaphosa’s government has promised better coordination in response.
Brammertz on Thursday praised the “exceptional skills, rigor and cooperation” of South African authorities and the “essential assistance” of the government of Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
“Kayishema’s arrest proves once again that justice can be served, regardless of the challenges, with direct cooperation between international and national law enforcement agencies,” Brammertz said.
South Africa is also under pressure to demonstrate cooperation in international legal matters since a global task force this year included it on a so-called “grey list” of countries lacking in the fight against financial crime.
The country has struggled to rebuild the police and prosecution expertise that was vacated under former president Jacob Zuma.
According to his international indictment, Kayishema oversaw the burning and bulldozing of the Nyangei church by militias in April 1994. He will stand trial in Rwanda after his case was referred to the country in 2012.
Before its closure in 2015, the former International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda indicted nearly 100 suspects and convicted dozens. His affairs were transferred to the “residual mechanism” managed by Brammertz.
More than 800,000 ethnic Tutsi and moderate Hutus were killed in 1994 before the massacre was halted by Kagame’s rebel army. Many suspected genocidaires fled and spent years on the run from Rwandan authorities and UN prosecutors.