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Top Rwandan genocide fugitive appears in Cape Town court

Fulgence Kayishema, center, enters the Magistrate's Court in Cape Town, South Africa
Fulgence Kayishema, center, enters the Magistrate's Court in Cape Town, South Africa Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Euronews with AFP
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One of the most wanted men accused of taking part in 1994 genocide was arrested this week after 22 years on the run.


A man suspected of playing a key role in the Rwandan genocide appeared in court in Cape Town on Friday, two days after his arrest on a South African farm and more than two decades after he first went on the run.

Fulgence Kayishema, 62, is one of the last four fugitives wanted for their role in the 1994 genocide that led to the deaths of some 800,000 Rwandans. 

The majority of victims belonged to the Tutsi minority, at the hands of extremists in the Hutu majority.

He appeared impassive in the dock, clad in a blue parka and surrounded by armed officers wearing helmets and bullet-proof waistcoats, as he admitted he was the man wanted by the courts and international police.

Kayishema is accused of genocide, complicity in genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide and crimes against humanity. 

He was the target of an arrest warrant issued by the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT), which was set up by the UN Security Council to complete the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

Investigators say that in his effort to evade justice, he benefited from the help of both relatives and members of the former Rwandan Armed Forces and the Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda, as well as people who adhere to the genocidal ideology of Hutu Power.

A master at impersonating others, he had most recently been using the name Donatien Nibashumba. After being spotted on a farm in Paarl, some 60km from Cape Town, he was arrested on Wednesday with the help of Interpol.

The UN chief's spokesman, Stéphane Dujarric, said the arrest sent "a powerful message showing that those suspected of committing such crimes cannot escape justice."

Planning and execution

Kayishema was a judicial police inspector during the genocide in Rwanda. 

According to the IRMCT, he is specifically accused of taking part in a notorious massacre of more than 2,000 Tutsi refugees sheltering in a Catholic church in Nyange.

"Kayishema directly participated in the planning and execution of this massacre, including by procuring and distributing petrol to burn down the church with the refugees inside," the IRMCT's chief prosecutor said in a statement

"When this failed, Kayishema and others used a bulldozer to collapse the church, burying and killing the refugees inside.

"Kayishema and others then supervised the transfer of corpses from the church grounds into mass graves over the next approximately two days."

His first court appearance did not feature any discussion of potential extradition to Rwanda. Kayishema has been remanded in custody in Pollsmoor high-security prison near Cape Town, and his next hearing is scheduled for 2nd June.

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