Rwandan genocide suspect Fulgence Kayishema in South Africa court

by Francis Ogoti
2 minutes read

Fulgence Kayishema, a wanted fugitive connected to the Rwandan genocide, has appeared in a Cape Town court after being apprehended following 22 years on the run. Kayishema is accused of participating in the massacre of 2,000 people who sought refuge inside a Catholic church during one of the bloodiest episodes of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. His arrest occurred on Wednesday under the alias of Donatien Nibashumba on a grape farm near Cape Town.

The South African police acted on an Interpol red notice, which is issued to law enforcement agencies worldwide to locate and apprehend fugitives for prosecution or to serve prison sentences. During his initial court appearance on Friday, Kayishema entered with a Bible and a book bearing the inscription “Jesus First.” When asked by a journalist if he had anything to say to the victims, he responded, “What can I say? We are sorry to hear what was happening. It was a war at that time… I didn’t have any role.”

During the brief court session, Kayishema was accompanied by masked police officers armed with automatic weapons and bulletproof vests. The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) announced that the case was adjourned to June 2 to allow for further investigation. The NPA’s provincial spokesperson stated that more charges might be added based on additional information received during the arrest, and the prosecution intends to oppose bail if requested.

Kayishema had evaded justice since 2001 when the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) indicted him for genocide related to his alleged involvement in the destruction of the Nyange Catholic Church. The Rwandan genocide resulted in the death of over 800,000 people, primarily from the Tutsi ethnic group, during 100 days of violence perpetrated by Hutu forces and vigilantes. The Nyange church was targeted, with grenades and fuel used to set it on fire, and bulldozers ultimately demolishing it, leading to the death of most of those hiding inside.

In South Africa, Kayishema faces five charges, including two counts of fraud related to false applications for asylum and refugee status. The NPA alleges that he claimed to be a Burundian national and used a fake identity. Serge Brammertz, the chief prosecutor of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, revealed that Kayishema had fled Rwanda after the genocide and lived among refugees in several countries before arriving in South Africa.

Brammertz explained that the prosecution managed to obtain information on Kayishema’s whereabouts from a small group of former Rwandan soldiers who had assumed false identities and were residing in South Africa as refugees.

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