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PROFILE - Who is Rwandan genocide suspect Felicien Kabuga?

Kabuga stands indicted on several counts, including genocide and incitement to commit genocide

James Tasamba  | 05.06.2020 - Update : 05.06.2020
PROFILE - Who is Rwandan genocide suspect Felicien Kabuga?

KIGALI, Rwanda

A French court ruled Wednesday that Rwandan genocide suspect Felicien Kabuga should be handed to a UN tribunal for trial.

The court is based in The Hague as well as in Arusha in the East African nation of Tanzania.

The 84-year-old was arrested in May in France.

Who is Kabuga?

Kabuga was born in 1935 in northern Rwanda’s Byumba prefecture, now called the Gicumbi district, bordering Uganda.

He rose from humble origins to become one of Rwanda's richest men, before allegedly using his wealth to sponsor the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi ethnic group -- in which about 1 million Tutsi and moderate Hutus were killed in a period of 100 days.

According to accounts of local residents, Kabuga peddled items door to door and sold cigarettes and used clothes in a market in Byumba prefecture.

He later moved to Kigali where he opened several shops.

Kabuga owned a tea plantation, a mill, and real estate business, locals say.

By 1994, he had accumulated a great deal of wealth.

In 1993, as a rich businessman he made connections with former President Juvenal Habyarimana’s family, after marrying off his daughter to his eldest son.

Role in genocide

Kabuga played a role in establishing the notorious hate Radio-Television Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM) which incited people to kill Tutsi population, Tom Ndahiro, a Rwanda-based genocide researcher told Anadolu Agency.

He also served as president of RTLM thereby being able to control its programing, operations and finances, he said.

Kabuga financed the import of tons of machetes which were distributed to militias across the country and used to hack many genocide victims to death.

He also helped establish the National Defense Fund, where he together with other businessmen contributed money which was used to provide support to the interim government and encourage interahamwe militia, according to the researcher.


In August 1998, Kabuga was indicted by the now-defunct Tanzania-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and an international arrest warrant was issued for him the next year.

According to the indictment, Kabuga was charged on 11 counts, including genocide, complicity in genocide, and direct and public incitement to commit genocide.

He is also accused of assassination as a crime against humanity, extermination as a crime against humanity, rape as a crime against humanity, persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds as crimes against humanity and war crimes.

"In his position of authority, Felicien Kabuga between April and June 1994 contributed to the Interahamwe's killing and harming of persons identified as Tutsis by organizing meetings to raise funds to purchase arms,” the ICTR indictment reads in part.

Evading arrest

Kabuga's wealth is believed to have helped him evade arrest for more than two decades, being able to roam to different countries on foreign passports such as Switzerland, Kenya, and Germany.

His arrest took long because of the indifference of host governments such as in Europe, where he lived for more than 15 years, said Ndahiro.

Kabuga belonged to the ruling party, the National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development of president Habyarimana and its youth wing-- largely responsible for executing the genocide.

From April to early June 1994, Kabuga collaborated with interim government and interahamwe militia to exert control over the local authorities who massacred the Tutsi across the country, according to his charge sheet.

On July 22, 1994, Kabuga sought asylum in Switzerland but he was deported in August of the same year.

He flew to Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo before later moving to Kenya.

On July 18, 1997 while in Kenya, Kabuga escaped arrest after being spotted in a villa in the capital Nairobi’s district of Karen.

Ndahiro blames the escape on the then Kenyan government’s indifference.

A 1999 report of the United Nations Commission of Enquiry into arms purchases by the former militia of the Rwandan government, said Kabuga was sighted in South-East Asia in September 1998.

In 2000, he reportedly passed through Belgium, where his wife is believed to live.

US intervenes

On June 11, 2002, the United States launched a wide media campaign in Kenya aimed at capturing Kabuga.

In the same year the US offered a reward of up to $5 million for any information leading to the capture of Kabuga.

In December 2002, the US accused then-Kenyan National Security Permanent Secretary Zakayo Cheruiyot of offering refuge to Kabuga and of using governmental infrastructure to curtail his arrest.

In January 2003, Kabuga escaped arrest led by both the Kenyan police and the FBI in Nairobi.

In January 2003, a police informer tasked to entrap Kabuga, William Munuhe, was found dead.

In August 2003, the United Nations Security Council urged all states, including Kenya to cooperate more to find Kabuga and to bring him to justice.

In 2011, the ICTR organized forums to gather testimony for Kabuga's eventual trial, to prevent loss of evidence in case some witnesses died before his arrest.

On August 1, 2012, Kabuga’s case was transferred to the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals created by the UN in December 2010 to assume some functions of the ICTR after the end of its mandate.

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