Rwanda genocide fugitive arrested in South Africa

A Rwandan fugitive wanted for his role in the 1994 genocide against the country’s Tutsi population has been arrested, according to a United Nations tribunal that has led efforts to track down remaining figures accused of inciting the mass killing.

Fulgens Kaishima was arrested in the town of West Paarl, near Cape Town, nearly three decades after he organized the killing of more than 2,000 refugees inside a church during the genocide, the court said on Thursday.

The joint operation between South African Police and the UN team is another boost in the international manhunt to track down Africa’s most wanted men and seek closure for genocide victims, after some major successes in recent years.

Fulgence Kaishima has been on the run for more than 20 years. His arrest ensures that he will finally face justice for his alleged crimes. . . “No matter how long it takes, justice will be done,” said Serge Brammertz, the court’s chief prosecutor.

Fulgens Kaishima

Fulgens Kaishima is accused of overseeing the burning and razing of the Niang Church by militiamen in April 1994 © US State Department via Reuters

The hunt for Kaishima follows the arrest in 2020 of Felicien Kabuga, an alleged financier of the killings due to stand trial in The Hague. The court said last year that Protais Mpiranya, who commanded the Rwandan presidential guard during the genocide, died in Zimbabwe after taking refuge there. Kaishima’s arrest leaves three indicted fugitives still at large.

His capture highlights how the final stages of the hunt for the latest genocide suspects have become dependent on local law enforcement in African countries, most of whom are believed to have fled undercover.

In 2021, Brammertz criticized the government of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa as having “among the most severe cases of non-cooperation my office has faced” in light of indications that Kaishima was hiding in the country. The Ramaphosa government has pledged better coordination in response.

Brammertz on Thursday praised the “extraordinary skills, rigor and cooperation” of the South African authorities and the “essential assistance” of Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s government.

“Kaishima’s arrest shows once again that justice can be served, regardless of challenges, through direct cooperation between international and national law enforcement agencies,” said Brammertz.

South Africa has also come under pressure to show cooperation on international legal matters since a global task force this year placed it on a so-called “gray list” of countries that have not made a footprint in fighting financial crime.

The country has struggled to rebuild the police and prosecution expertise that was deflated under former President Jacob Zuma.

Kaishima oversaw the burning and razing of the Niang Church by militiamen in April 1994, according to the international indictment against him. He will be tried in Rwanda after his case was referred to the country in 2012.

Before its closure in 2015, the former International Crimes Tribunal for Rwanda indicted nearly 100 suspects and convicted dozens. Its cases were transferred to the “residual mechanism” led by Brammertz.

More than 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in 1994 before Kagame’s rebel army stopped the massacre. Many suspected perpetrators of genocide have fled and spent years on the run from Rwandan authorities and United Nations prosecutors.

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