“The arrest of Félicien Kabuga today is a reminder that those responsible for genocide can be brought to account, even 26 years after their crimes,” the statement said.
In 1994, Kabuga was one of Rwanda’s richest men and co-owned Radio Television Milles Collines, a radio station whose broadcasts incited hatred toward Rwanda’s Tutsi minority by the Hutu majority.
He also financed the Interahamwe militia, a Hutu-led paramilitary group, making “massive purchases” of hundreds of thousands of machetes, hoes and other farming implements that would be used to hack people to death, according to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
More than 800,000 were killed in the span of just three months during the Rwandan genocide. Most were Tutsis. The slaughter was ended by a Ugandan-supported army of Tutsis led by Paul Kagame, who has been president of Rwanda since the genocide ended.
The Rwanda criminal tribunal was closed in 2015 after dozens of convictions, but Kabuga remained one of the highest-profile fugitives wanted by Rwanda’s government and the agency that has continued the tribunal’s work, called the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals.
Kabuga was indicted in 1997 on “seven counts of genocide, complicity in genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, attempt to commit genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, persecution and extermination, all in relation to crimes committed during the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda,” according to the tribunal’s statement Saturday.
It also said he was expected to stand trial in the Arusha, Tanzania, branch of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals. Other genocide perpetrators have been extradited to Rwanda.
Between 2005 and 2012, hundreds of thousands of genocide perpetrators were tried in “gacaca,” or grass courts, where victims could come face-to-face with their family’s killers in an attempt to reconcile. That process resulted in a two-thirds conviction rate.
U.S. authorities had put a $5 million bounty on Kabuga’s head and worked with Kenyan authorities in 2003 to arrest him in that country, where he was thought to be sheltered by politicians associated with President Daniel arap Moi.
A trap was set with the help of an informant. The informant was later found dead, however, and Kabuga remained at large. According to the tribunal, Kabuga also spent time as a fugitive in Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and Congo. It is unclear how or when Kabuga traveled to France.
On a trip to Kenya in 2006, Sen. Barack Obama accused Kenya’s government of “allowing [Kabuga] to purchase safe haven.”
The perpetrators of the genocide fled mostly into neighboring Congo, where Kagame’s army chased them down, sparking a regional conflict that lasted more than a decade and led to millions more deaths. Splintered factions of Hutu militias still operate in eastern Congo and regularly carry out attacks against civilians.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Kabuga was wanted by the International Criminal Court. The international body responsible for his warrant is the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, part of the United Nations. The article also incorrectly stated he would stand trial in The Hague. He was expected to stand trial before the United Nations tribunal in Arusha, Tanzania.