26 years later: man who allegedly funded Rwanda genocide brought to justice
The arrest of 84-year-old Felicien Kabuga in Paris over the weekend has shown that no one can run from justice forever, no matter how rich or well-connected. On Saturday, Rwandan businessman Mr Kabuga, allegedly behind war crimes in his native Rwanda, was arrested in a shoddy Parisian suburb, where he had been living with family members under a false identity.
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Mr Kabuga had been hunted down by international institutions for decades, with the US in 2002 offering a $5 million (Dh18.3m) reward for information about his whereabouts. His arrest came 23 years after he had been indicted on seven counts of genocide against the minority Tutsi people, by the UN’s Rwanda tribunal. He is accused of financing Rwanda’s 1994 massacre against the Tutsi people, their allies and moderate Hutus – the majority ethnic group in the country.
Mr Kabuga is alleged to have paid extremist Hutu militias to kill thousands of people. In the lead-up to Rwanda’s genocide, he allegedly funded a radio station that spewed hatred against the Tutsi ethnic group. As a result of his actions, and that of others like him, violence flared up in the country. Nearly one million people were slaughtered between April and June 1994.
Among the countless stories that emerged from the massacres were those of neighbours who turned against neighbours, killing them brutally. Those who refused to take part in the violence were also killed or tortured. Children, women and the elderly were not spared. Women became the targets of sexual violence.
Yet after all the bloodshed, in the decades that followed, the people of Rwanda managed to move past this dark chapter in their history, with different ethnic groups and communities reconciling in a new era of peace. Reconciliation, however, does not amount to forgiveness. More than a quarter of a century after the genocide, Mr Kabuga will stand trial in an international court of law. The world owes this to the victims of the genocide and to its survivors.
In Rwanda, Mr Kabuga was rumoured to be a spirit that could not be touched or seen
Only two people who must appear at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda are still missing. But hopes are high that, like Mr Kabuga, they will not evade justice. In the words of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, "Kabuga’s apprehension sends a powerful message that those who are alleged to have committed such crimes cannot evade justice and will eventually be held accountable, even more than a quarter of a century later."
In Rwanda, Mr Kabuga was rumoured to be a spirit that could not be touched or seen but whose presence continued to scar the minds and homes of those he brutalised. Now, the ghost of Mr Kabuga will no longer haunt the memories of genocide survivors – many of whom have lost loved ones in the violence he helped to foment. His arrest has exposed him for what he is: a man who for decades lived in the shadows in fear of his impending day of reckoning.
Updated: May 19, 2020 04:09 AM