Rwandan Genocide Fugitive Is Arrested After Being on the Run for 30 Years


For more than 20 years, Fuljense Kayishma, one of the world’s most wanted fugitives from the Rwandan genocide, eluded authorities who say he planned the killing of more than 2,000 Tutsis during the genocide.

He remained on the run, hiding among refugees in several countries, and hiding himself behind various aliases.

Police finally caught him in South Africa this week.

Mr Kayishma, 61, was arrested on Wednesday at a grape farm outside Cape Town, officials said. A multi-national team including the South African police and the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal, Rwanda laid a massive net to nab him.

Mr. Kaishima has been one of the tribunal’s most wanted fugitives since he was indicted in 2001. Unlike high-ranking politicians or generals already on trial as masterminds of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, Mr. Kaysema had a direct hand in the killings. Serge Brammertz, chief prosecutor of the tribunal. According to the indictment, Mr. Kayishma was the Chief Inspector of Police in 1994, who oversaw and participated in the killing of civilians for several days.

“He was not only organizing and planning, but he was involved himself,” Mr. Brammertz said.

Mr Kashima faces multiple charges of genocide and will now be extradited to Tanzania, where he will be tried by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

credit…International Survival Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, by Associated Press

As the massacres began to spread across Rwanda in April 1994, more than 2,000 women, children and elderly Tutsi civilians sought refuge in Nyang Parish Church in Kivumu commune, west of the capital Kigali. The Catholic Church was soon surrounded by the Hutu Interahamwe militia. Prosecutors say that instead of intervening, police officers helped the killers along with Mr. Kaishema.

While the stabbing took too long, Mr. Kaishema is believed to have obtained gasoline that he and others poured into the church, before lobbing grenades through the windows, prosecutors said. He and his colleagues drove a bulldozer over the church, crushing any survivors. He then oversaw the digging of mass graves on the church grounds, the charges say.

“He actually took advantage of his position to plan and commit those major crimes,” Mr. Brammertz said.

Alois Rwamasirabo was one of the handful who survived the attack. He remembers running for his life in the dark, but among those killed in the church were his nine children and three sisters. Now 67, he feared he would never get justice. He wants the authorities to bring Mr. Kaishima back to Kivumu commune, so he can look at the vacant lot where the church once stood, and come to terms with what happened.

“I am sure that my children, sisters and other friends in the church will get justice,” he said.

After the genocide, Mr. Kaeshima went into hiding, living among the vulnerable and displaced in camps as he manipulated the asylum process in several countries, according to prosecutors. He fled Rwanda in 1994, moving with his family to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He then left for neighboring Tanzania, walking between the two camps, impersonating a Burundian asylum seeker.

Years later, he and his family traveled far up the east coast of Africa to seek asylum in Mozambique, eventually arriving in the kingdom of Eswatini in 1998. The tiny underground state was a springboard to neighboring South Africa, where Mr. Kashima spent the next two days. Decades of building a new life.

To evade authorities, he created multiple aliases, changed passports and obtained visas for at least four identities known to authorities, including Malawian citizenship. It was so effective that he received asylum in two different countries, South Africa and Eswatini, in the same year. At the time of his arrest, he was identified as Donatian Nibasunba, a Burundian citizen.

A network of Rwandan exiles is believed to have facilitated his movements, particularly members of the now-disbanded Rwandan armed forces and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, an armed group accused of atrocities. In Cape Town, Mr. Kashima worked as a security guard in a shopping mall parking lot. The company he worked for was owned by one of these groups, Mr. Brammertz said.

But this network will also prove his downfall. Investigators used telephone records, financial statements and cross-border travel to narrow their search. By “shaking the tree” of his close associates and persons of interest, the authorities were able to track down the fugitive in a modest one-room house, where he owned a vineyard in Paarl, a small vineyard town outside Cape Town. Lived as a farm laborer. , Mr. Brammertz said.

The operation came together in the past few days after years of what Mr Bremertz described as a slow response from South Africa and Christianity.

In one instance, South African officials said they could not take action because Mr. Kaishema had been granted refugee status, according to Mr. Brammertz. 2020 report to the United Nations Security Council. Another time, Mr. Kashima’s records simply disappeared.

Over the past 10 months, however, South African authorities have assigned a 20-person team to the case. They were part of the coalition that tracked him down and detained him. South African police officials say the fugitive will face charges of breaking South African immigration laws.

Mr. Kaishema was one of several people charged in connection with the massacre. Others have been captured, while at least two have died. The pastor of the church, Athanas Seromba, is is serving a life sentence For his role in the massacre, while Gaspard is a pharmacist named Kanyarukiga 30 years of service. Felician Kabuga, a wealthy businessman who had been on the run for 23 years, has been on trial since last year. Mr Kabuga is accused of inciting genocide through his radio station, as well as providing arms and financial support to the Interahamwe militia.

“It’s very likely this is the last major arrest we’ll make of a fugitive,” Mr. Brammertz said.

Arafat Mugabo Contributed reporting from Kigali, Rwanda.

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