Rwandan Genocide Suspect's Arrest in France Raises Questions
By Lisa Bryant May 18, 2020
Human rights and survivor groups are cheering Saturday's arrest in France of a top Rwandan genocide suspect, Felicien Kabuga. But questions are mounting about how he managed to evade justice for so long – and the fate of other suspects and accomplices in the 1994 killings.
Neighbors in the Paris suburb where Kabuga lived say they knew little about the frail 84-year-old.
But for many people, Kabuga is infamous. One of Rwanda's richest businessmen before the 1994 genocide, he faces multiple charges from a U.N. tribunal for allegedly funding and backing perpetrators of the mass slaughter.
Authorities say he also bankrolled and presided over the incendiary Radio Milles Collines that egged them on.
Etienne Nsanzimana, president of genocide survivors' group Ibuka France, says he is shocked by the arrest.
All the more so, Nsanzimana said, because Kabuga lived not so far away from him and his children. He also questioned how Kabuga–on the run for years across Europe and Africa–was suddenly caught now.
A similar reaction came from Alain Gauthier, who heads another victims' association.
Gauthier pointed to a lot of unknowns, including how long Kabuga has been living in France – and how, despite having various passports and aliases, he managed to avoid arrest for so long.
After the 1994 genocide, Kabuga reportedly escaped to Switzerland, then headed to Africa, spending several years in Kenya. Two of his daughters married into the family of former Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana, whose death helped spark the genocide.
Habyarimana's widow, Agathe, lives outside Paris, despite an international arrest warrant Rwanda issued against her. It's one of many sticking points in French-Rwandan relations that remain tense over the genocide.
Gauthier encouraged investigators to dig into the relationship between Kabuga and the Habyarimana family. Cases against several dozen other genocide suspects remain, he said, and still other suspects remain at large.
Ethnic Hutu militants killed an estimated 800,000 people in Rwanda between April and July of 1994, most of them ethnic Tutsis. The U.N.-created International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda convicted and sentenced 61 people in connection with the genocide before shutting down in 2015.
For his part, activist Nsanzimana said he fears the scars of Rwanda's genocide will last a long time. Nsanzimana was 17 when it happened and lost many family members. Like the Holocaust, he said, the longer time passes, the less one forgets.
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