Journalists pursuing genocide fugitive flee Kenya

By IndepthAfrica
In Article
Sep 24th, 2012

One of them, whose escape has been facilitated by Amnesty International, is seeking asylum in Europe. The other recently returned to Kenya but the death threats continued and he is now in a neighbouring African country.

Kabuga was allegedly instrumental in financing the infrastructure of the genocide: he is accused of establishing the hate radio, RTLM, training and equipping the Interahamwe youth militia and in financial documents found in Kigali he is shown to have used his companies to import vast quantities of machetes from China. He is indicted on eleven counts including conspiracy to commit genocide, complicity in genocide and incitement to commit genocide; there is a US State Department Awards for Justice Programme bounty of US$5 million on his head.

Kabuga, who is aged 77, has been on the run since August 18, 1994 when the Swiss security services let him slip from their grasp. In June that year, as the genocide progressed, Kabuga was given a visa to enter Switzerland only to be later expelled. He is said to have escaped arrest in Kenyan four times. A joint task force of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and Kenyan investigators failed to apprehend him last year even as in New York, at the UN Security Council, the President of the ICTR, Khalida Rachid Khan, had confidently predicted that Kabuga would soon be in custody. Interpol is also interested in him.

The freelance journalists from Nairobi claim to have obtained the first documentary evidence showing that Kabuga was provided with a false identity by officials in the Kenyan Department of Defence as a captain in the Third Battalion of Kenyan Rifles. The journalists obtained letters from this department dated 2002 which purported to describe Kabuga — under an assumed name — as an asylum seeker from Somalia. A subsequent letter authorised Kabuga to be given military intelligence for his own personal security and he was later provided diplomatic immunity. The journalists were told by informants that Kabuga’s bodyguards were from the Kenya National Security Intelligence Service (NSIS). One of these guards, Michael Surenei, who is said to have told relatives that he was protecting a Rwandan on behalf of the Kenyan government, went missing a year ago. In the course of their research the journalists were told that Kabuga was currently trying to sell one of his companies for cash in order to go abroad for medical treatment. The journalists located a house in Mombasa where Kabuga was living. Their fears of reprisals seem well founded. In 2003, a Kenyan acting as an FBI informer, William Munuhe, and hoping to lure Kabuga into a trap, was tortured and killed a day before the ambush. The FBI contributed to his funeral costs. Two Kenyan policemen who were planning to betray the fugitive fled abroad some years later.

The Kenyan government has consistently denied any role in harbouring Kabuga and the latest revelations have elicited little response. A TV programme, In the Footsteps of Kabuga, recently produced by the Nation Media Group in Nairobi, presented by a well-known journalist, John Allan, exposing some of the research undertaken by the freelancers, has caused barely a ripple. Allan also left Kenya for a short time but has now returned.

The botched attempts to capture Kabuga are particularly embarrassing for US law enforcement but the case is symptomatic of the international failure to bring to justice other Rwandans who are alleged to have played a determining role in the genocide and who remain at large. The ICTR lists nine Rwandan fugitives on its website, including Kabuga: the Rwandan police have their own Genocide Fugitive Tracking Unit which has issued 104 warrants for fugitives in twenty-five countries.

The largest group, according to the ICTR, remains in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) where they escaped en masse in July 1994 with their army virtually intact and with thousands of Interahamwe militia; they rearmed and planned “Operation Insecticide” to continue to kill Tutsi. Today they call themselves the Force Démocratique pour la Libération du Rwanda (FDLR), and terrorising the local population they have plundered, raped and murdered the local population. Only this week (September 2, 2012) did the International Criminal Court (ICC), tell the government of the DRC to implement a court order to arrest Sylvestre Mudacumura, the field commander of the FDLR who faces nine counts of war crimes committed in the Kivu region by this notorious militia. The warrant for Sylvestre Mudacumura follows a request in May by then-prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo.

The exact links between Kabuga and the FDLR are unknown but he is suspected of providing weapons to them and there is speculation that he sells gold in Kenya which the FDLR illegally exploits in the DRC. Kabuga reportedly has transport networks and runs import businesses. The FDLR’s 15 member Executive Committee is comprised entirely of genocidaires from 1994 and while it publically supports justice and reconciliation it continues to advocate the killing of Tutsi and the destabilisation and eventual overthrow — by violence if necessary – of Rwanda’s current government. The international failure to bring these fugitives to justice is shared with the government of the DRC which has allowed this group to operate on its territory. The FDLR is today a part of the wider war in the lawless eastern region. The FDLR, the subject of a comprehensive study by members of a UN expert group, has ‘regional committees’ in Europe, in the Nordic countries, the US and Canada. These exist to conduct propaganda against the Rwandan government and protecting the fugitives actively promote denial of the 1994 genocide by claiming the massacres of Tutsi were “spontaneous”. The authors of the UN study believe that the FDLR has the means to operate for many years and without external support it would be seriously weakened.

The FBI’s Genocide War Crimes Unit last week (August 27, 2012) launched a new website intended to educate the public and elicit information to ‘ensure that the perpetrators of such crimes find no haven anywhere in the world’. The failure to capture Kabuga, it seems, is part of a wider miscarriage of international justice.

Linda Melvern is an investigative journalist in the UK.

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