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Felicien Kabuga: Who is He, Why Was He Wanted?

by Jean de la Croix Tabaro
8:28 pm

News of the arrest of Genocide fugitive Felicien Kabuga who is alleged to be the key sponsor of the Genocide was relief among the Rwandan community at large and the prosecution in particular.

Kabuga was arrested on Saturday in Paris – France by the gendarmery after several operations and in collaboration with Belgium Federal Police and Metropolitan Police of London, the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals and the Paris prosecution Office.

Kabuga’s life in the last 26 years was that of escaping from country to country, in support of several law enforcers and in some instances, government officials and in support of his own children.

Before talking about this life, who is Kabuga in the first place?

According to a brief from his case file, Kabuga was born in 1935 in Muniga, in the commune of Mukarange, prefecture of Byumba.

Neighbors in his extended family told KT Press that this address is currently Gatenga cell, Mukarange sector in Gicumbi district of Northern Province.

Called « the financier of the genocide », Kabuga was an extremely rich businessman who was closely allied to the family of President Habyarimana. He took part in the creation of the National Defence Fund’s Acting Committee («Comité Provisoire du Fonds de Défense Nationale – FDN») of which he became President, as well as becoming President of the RTLM’s Ruling Committee.

Kabuga was also a silent member of the ruling party, the National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development of President Habyarimana and its youth wing which largely executed the Genocide.

Kabuga was also key financier of these organs and an active supporter of their activities to prepare, finance and execute the Genocide, efforts that he intensified between 1990-1994.

“Amongst other elements, this plan in particular encouraged hatred and ethnic violence against the Tutsis, trained and armed the militia, and drafted lists of people to be murdered. Félicien Kabuga was said to have organized, ordered and participated in mass murders in the implementation of this plan,” his trial sheet reads in part.

Thus from April to early June, Kabuga’s order, in collaboration with interim government and Interahamwe  exercised control over the local authorities who exterminated the Tutsi accross the country.

“As from April 6,1994, these authorities and militia, together with the army, ordered and participated in mass murders against Tutsis and moderate Hutus throughout Rwanda. Kabuga was aware of these massacres but did not use his authority to intervene and put a stop to them,” the trial sheet indicates.

It is indicated that Kabuga and allies had strong communication channels in use to make their orders enforced; Radio Television Libres des Milles Collines(RTLM) and Kangura newspapers that were allegedly Kabuga’s own investments.

They were used to “indoctrinate the Rwandan people with an extremist Hutu ideology based on hatred and ethnic violence.”

“During a meeting organized to collect funds for the RTLM, Kabuga declared that RTLM should become the official radio of «Hutu Power». In November 1993 and February 1994, he was convened by the Information Ministry who urged him to stop the distribution of messages aiming at inciting inter-racial hatred but Kabuga is said to have held to his position concerning the programs broadcast by the RTLM.”

It is also reported that from 1992, Kabuga – through his company ETS – was reported to have bought massive stocks of machetes, hoes and other farm tools, in the belief that they would be used as weapons during the massacres. In addition, Kabuga was said to have provided logistical assistance to the Interahamwe by supplying weapons and uniforms and by providing transport in his company-owned vehicles.

In March 1994, in relation to the above, Kabuga was reported to have imported 50’000 machetes from Kenya.

In the middle of the Genocide, Kabuga is alleged to have continued to look for more funding, to continued with his plan.

He would, therefore, preside a committee that set up the National Defence Fund in order to provide assistance to the Interim Government to help fight against the Tutsi. This was on April 25, 1994.

Tje fund, says the report, 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 and had signatory power over the fund’s bank accounts.”

This was “kind” contribution to the interim government and Kabuga would present the report about the fund to the interim government as a “surprise donation” on May 20, 1994 where he also advised on its management.

Still in Gisenyi – June 1994, Kabuga would have collaborated with the ruling party to draw a list of Tutsi to be killed.

Confronted with the sure advance of the Rwanda Patriotic Front(RPF) Inkotanyi, Kabuga and his click fled the country.

Escaping Arrest Attempts for 26 Years

According to the document of legal procedures, on 22 July 1994, Kabuga sought asylum in Switzerland on a valid visa. He was deported on 18 August 1994 and was able to fly to Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo before Rwandan Associations in Switzerland could lodge a complaint against him.

The Swiss Confederation assumed the cost of departure for Kabuga, his wife and seven children for a total amount of 21’302 Swiss Francs.

“In addition, before taking off, it appears that he was able to go freely to the UBS bank subsidiary at Genève-Cointrin airport to withdraw money,” the document reads.

On 18 July 1997, Kabuga escaped the «Naki» operation in Kenya after being spotted in a villa in the residential district of Karen in Nairobi. A Kenyan police officer is said to have given Kabuga fair warning to allow him to escape.

According to ICTR investigators, Kabuga was reported to be protected by Kenyan president Daniel Arap Moi. In April 1998, according to the ICG (International Crisis Group), Kabuga was said to have been localized in a house owned by the nephew of President Moi and annexed to that of the President’s son.

According to a 1999 report of the United Nations Commission of Enquiry into arms purchases by the former militia of the Rwandan government, Kabuga was reported to have been seen in South-East Asia in September 1998. Finally, in 2000, he was said to have transited through Belgium, where his wife is reportedly living.

On 11 June 2002, the United States launched a large information media-campaign in Kenya aimed at capturing Kabuga. The «Rewards for Justice» American federal program was used to track down those accused by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former -Yugoslavia, but this was the first time it was used against those accused by the ICTR. A reward up to US $ 5’000’000 was offered for any information leading to the capture of Kabuga.

In December 2002, the United States accused the former Permanent Secretary for Kenyan National Security, Zakayo Cheruiyot, of having given sanctuary to Kabuga and of using governmental infrastructures to prevent him from being arrested The Kenyan authorities opened up an investigation into this affair.

In January 2003, Kabuga was able to avoid an attempted arrest led by both the Kenyan police and the FBI in Nairobi. On 17 January 2003, the police informer with the task of entrapping Kabuga, William Munuhe, was found dead.

On 28 August 2003, the United Nations Security Council urged all the States, Kenya in particular, to intensify their cooperation to find Kabuga and to bring him to justice (resolution 1503).

Furthermore,, the ICTR Prosecutor arranged to have Kabuga’s financial assets confiscated and to block access to his bank accounts in France, Switzerland and Belgium.

Kabuga was indicted by the ICTR in August 1998 and an international arrest warrant was issued in August 1999.

According to the act of indictment dated 21 November 2001, Kabuga is charged on 11 counts. He is accused of «genocide», «conspiracy to commit genocide», «complicity in genocide», and «direct and public incitation to commit genocide». Also, he is accused of «assassination as a crime against humanity», «extermination as a crime against humanity», «rape as a crime against humanity», «persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds as crimes against humanity» in addition to various war crimes.

Kabuga was initially indicted together with 6 other persons. On 1st September 2003, based on the fact that he had still not been arrested, the Third Trial Chamber of the ICTR – on request of the prosecutor – ordered the separation of the proceedings undertaken against Kabuga from those of the proceedings entitled «Government 1».

In June 2012, special deposition hearings were conducted in order to preserve evidence for future use when Kabuga would be arrested.

On 1 August 2012, the case of Kabuga was transferred to the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRM) created by the UN in December 2010 to assume some functions of the ICTR and ICTY after the end of their mandate including tracking, arresting and judging the 9 fugitives wanted by the ICTR.

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