Skip to main content
Felicien Kabuga
A courtroom sketch of Rwandan genocide suspect Félicien Kabuga, made on May 20, 2020, shows him wearing a face mask as he appeared before the Paris Court of Appeal.

Félicien Kabuga, who is being held in a Parisian jail after he was arrested earlier this month for crimes related to the Rwandan genocide twenty-six years ago, will be transferred to and detained in Arusha, Tanzania, once lockdown-related travel restrictions are lifted. Judge William Sekule of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (MICT) ruled on May 28 in response to a request to temporarily transfer Kabuga to The Hague.

Following his arrest in a Parisian suburb earlier this month, Kabuga appeared before a French court on May 20, where his lawyers said he wanted to be tried in France. The UN tribunal’s prosecutor said a request had already been issued to transfer him to United Nations custody, and that he could initially be held in The Hague rather than in Africa.

The French court is set to rule on June 3 whether to hand him over to the MICT to be tried in Arusha.


The Elusive Genocidaire 

Kabuga had been on the run since the end of the genocide in 1994, passing through several African and European countries before settling in France under a false identity. The United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda convicted him in absentia in 1997 on seven counts of genocide, incitement to genocide, and crimes against humanity. When the tribunal was closed in 2015, its responsibilities were transferred to the MICT, which is based in The Hague but also has an office in Arusha.  

A well-connected and highly influential businessman during the rule of President Juvénal Habyarimana, Kabuga stands accused of using his vast wealth to arm the Interahamwe militia that carried out gruesome ethnically-targeted killings against the minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus, contributing to the slaughter of an estimated 1 million people in the span of four months. He also founded Radio Télévision Libre des Milles Collines, a radio station that broadcast racist propaganda intended to incite violence against Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

For 24 years, Kabuga was always a step ahead of investigators and had dozens of false identities. He escaped Rwanda after the Rwandan Patriotic Front ended the Genocide and has been on the run since. 



Bus Station Social Distancing Rwanda
People waiting at a bus station in Kigali observe social distancing to curb the spread of COVID-19.


Rwanda’s Ministry of Health revealed in a series of tweets that it will be using five specialized robots to help manage the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The robots have been designed to administer temperature checks (a high fever is an early symptom of infection from SARS-CoV-2), monitor patients, and check medical records, and have the ability to screen between 50 and 150 people per minute. 

“These robots will fasten service delivery while protecting our valuable health workers against COVID-19 exposure,” said the minister of health Dr. Daniel Ngamije. 

The robots are the product of collaboration between the United Nations Development Programme and the Rwandan Ministry of Information and Communications Technology and Innovation. They are made by a Belgian company, Zora Bots.


An African Tech Leader

Rwanda’s turn to advanced technology to help it cope with the pandemic reflects the country’s success in transforming itself into an African tech hub. President Paul Kagame has called Rwanda the “Singapore of Africa”, alluding to Singapore’s rapid rise as an Asian economic power under former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.



A handout photo released on May 16, 2020 by the Mecanisme pour les Tribunaux penaux internationaux (IRMCT - International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals)/United Nations shows Felicien Kabuga, one of the last key fugitives wanted over the 1994 Rwandan genocide, who was arrested in a Paris suburb on May 16, 2020. Charged by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) with "genocide", "complicity in genocide", and "direct and public incitement to commit genocide", Kabuga, 84, was living under a false identity outside Paris and people close to him said he had died. Mecanisme pour les Tribunaux penaux internationaux/Nations Unies / AFP
Félicien Kabuga, Rwanda’s most-wanted fugitive, has been arrested.


French police announced they had arrested Rwandan fugitive Félicien Kabuga in Paris on Saturday, May 16. Kabuga is accused of being one of the chief financiers of the Rwandan genocide of 1994, which left more than 800 000 people dead. He had been hiding out in a Parisian suburb under a false identity, according to the French authorities.


Kabuga amassed a vast fortune.


For twenty-six years, Kabuga managed to escape justice, settling in France after fleeing through Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Germany, and Belgium. He was a wealthy businessman with close ties to former Rwandan president Juvénal Habyarimana, whose death when his plane was shot down in 1994 triggered the Rwandan Civil War and the subsequent genocide.

Kabuga owned tea and coffee estates, a flour mill, and expansive real estate in the capital Kigali, and amassed a vast fortune. He became a chief lender for Habyarimana’s National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development party, and was the founder and chief financier of Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines, which broadcast anti-Tutsi propaganda from July 1993 until the end of the war.

The eighty-four-year-old Kabuga will be transferred to The Hague to stand trial on seven counts, including crimes against humanity.


The Central African Republic (CAR) has commended Rwanda for screening peacekeepers and extending the screening to citizens in the CAR, which has reported nine confirmed COVID-19 cases. Testing for the most recent case, announced on April 2, was carried out by a medical team from the Rwanda Biomedical Centre. Provisions were furnished by the Rwanda Defense Force and the Rwandan government to peacekeepers who are part of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA).


Why It Matters

Actions like these help position Rwanda as a regional leader in Central Africa, while also utilizing military forces for more humanitarian purposes, building trust among the local population. The CAR is still largely divided among regional warlords, with national government authority extending barely beyond the capital of Bangui. The mutual threat of COVID-19 could open up a reconciliation path for the country, bringing warring groups together under the auspices of MINUSCA as they carry out viral screenings and treatment campaigns. Rwanda’s leading role could also help pull CAR away from its dependency on Russia, which has furnished soldiers and military aid to fight against rebels, and installed a Russian national, Valery Zakharov, as President Faustin-Archange Touadéra’s national security adviser.

Daily Picks
Jul 10, 2020