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Focus on Felicien Kabuga evading justice

Felicien Kabuga, among the most wanted of all Rwandan genocide suspects - whose face has been seen in Kenyan papers this week with a bounty offer from the US government of up to US $5 million for information leading to his arrest - has been evading justice in Kenya and other countries for years.

He was indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in 1998, accused of being "the main supporter and financier of the Interahamwe militia" responsible for the 1994 Rwandan genocide, and of making "massive purchases" of machetes, hoes, and other agricultural implements in the knowledge that they would be used as weapons of murder. He was also part-owner of the infamous Radio Television Milles Collines in Rwanda - which ordered Hutus to kill Tutsis - and which Human Rights Watch has called "the voice of genocide".

In August 2001, the Rwandan government charged that the exiled Hutu millionaire was living in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, and demanded that the Kenyan government arrest him.

"If there were real cooperation by the Kenyan government, Kabuga could be arrested any time, because his whereabouts are known to the Kenyan authorities," Reuters quoted an unnamed Rwandan official as saying at the time. The same official said Rwanda's External Security Organisation had records of phone calls Kabuga had made from Nairobi to relatives in Brussels, among other evidence. "It is deplorable that some countries - Rwanda's neighbours, and even those pretending to be our friends - continue to show very little or no cooperation in netting and extraditing well-known genocide suspects who have found safe haven in those countries," Reuters quoted the Rwandan justice minister as saying. In response, the then Kenyan foreign minister Chris Obure said the Kenyan government was unaware that Kabuga was living in the country.

"The government would be prepared to cooperate in extraditing Felicien Kabuga if such extradition is sought, should it be proved that he is anywhere within our jurisdiction," he told journalists. A similar message was echoed on Wednesday by Kenyan Attorney-General Amos Wako, who was speaking in Nairobi: "Kenya is not a safe house for persons indicted of war crimes by the ICTR. Therefore, he [Kabuga] may not set his foot on the soil of Kenya," he told journalists. Investigators for the ICTR, however, had traced Kabuga to several residences in Kenya - in Nairobi, Nakuru and Eldoret - including, according to their sources, three belonging to Hosea Kiplagat, the nephew of Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi, the International Crisis Group (ICG) reported in 2001. One of these houses adjoined another belonging to one of Moi's sons, Gideon Moi.

Kabuga was the owner of a Nairobi house up to June 2001 - when the ICG issued its report, entitled "International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda: Delayed Justice" - which until shortly beforehand had been rented out to an unsuspecting Red Cross worker through a housing agency. Kabuga also operated a transport business from Mombasa to Rwanda, from a separate residence in Nairobi and, in 1995, set up an import-export business called Nshikabem, which was still registered in the Kenyan telephone directory in 2000.

In July 1997, Kabuga and two other ICTR indictees, managed to evade a bungled police operation conducted by the Kenyan authorities. Investigators in a house in the Nairobi suburb of Karen, where Kabuga had been hiding, had found a hand-written note explaining that a Kenyan police officer had tipped him off to leave the building, the ICG reported. An advocacy group, Prevent Genocide International, reported that Kabuga had been on an aircraft bound for the Seychelles at the time of the attempted round-up.

"The finger of protection still points strongly towards the highest Kenyan authorities," said the ICG. In August 1995, a son of the late Rwandan president, Juvenal Habyarimana, married Kabuga's daughter in Nairobi, at a reception attended by 350 guests. The bill for the reception was addressed care of Susan Matiba, daughter of Kenneth Matiba, "one of Kenya's wealthiest hotel magnates and the most serious contender for the presidential seat in 1992", ICG reported. Following the Rwandan genocide, Kabuga took refuge in Switzerland, which subsequently expelled him, then in former Zaire, and he "finally settled in Nairobi", the ICG said. "Using his network of contacts and considerable fortune, and probably a number of different passports, he has constantly escaped justice."

Carla del Ponte, Chief Prosecutor for the ICTR, had made efforts to confiscate his financial assets, the ICG said, and had had his bank accounts frozen in France, Switzerland and Belgium. Kenya and other African states had also been asked to comply with a similar request. Asked whether he believed Kabuga was still in Kenya, US Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Pierre-Richard Prosper told reporters in Nairobi on Wednesday that Kabuga had been "passing through" the country. He added that "fresh information" was available regarding his whereabouts, and that the Kenyan government had committed itself to assisting in investigations.

"Our goal is to get the [Kenyan] government on board. But that can only be judged by results," he said.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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