In a quarter of a century on the run, the alleged financier of the genocide in Rwanda, Félicien Kabuga, relied on his fortune and a large family support to hide between Africa and Europe, before being arrested mid May in the Paris suburbs, betrayed by the geolocation of his children.
Saturday May 16, 6:20 am: the gendarmes of the Central Office for the fight against crimes against humanity (OCLCH) and French magistrates invest a modern building in Asnières-sur-Seine, in the western suburbs of Paris.
On the 3rd floor, the Habumukiza apartment, surname of a son of one of the most wanted fugitives in the world.
The gendarmes force the door. Behind, another son of the suspect, Donatien Nshimyumuremyi.
At his side, an octogenarian recognizable by his scar on his neck. It is Félicien Kabuga, accused of having bought thousands of machetes for the Hutu Interahamwe militias, the main armed arms of the 1994 genocide, which, according to the UN, killed 800,000 people, mainly from the Tutsi minority. A DNA test removes the last doubts.
The businessman, 84 years old according to justice, 87 years old according to him, has been living in hiding in France for – at least – four years, according to sources familiar with the matter.
Between 2016 and 2019, he was hospitalized several times under the alias of Antoine Tounga in a hospital in the neighboring town of Clichy, until a colon removal in 2019. His daughter serves as an interpreter.
The recent hunt
At each stage, some of his eleven children are at the heart of the system. If they cannot be prosecuted – the immediate family is not required to report one of his family – it is nevertheless thanks to them that the French investigators, helped by their Belgian and British counterparts, will locate this man targeted by an arrest warrant from the Mechanism for International Criminal Courts (MTPI), the structure responsible for completing the work of the International Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).
European police lost track of Mr. Kabuga in 2007 after a failed arrest in Germany where he received treatment for a throat tumor. Ten years later, investigators monitor the burial of his wife, Joséphine Mukazitoni in Belgium: nothing.
“We had several times information locating him in France. We tried to arrest him in Paris on Christmas Eve a few years ago, but without success,” said a former gendarmerie investigator to .. French.
In March 2020, the investigations started again via a British tip: his daughter, who lives in London, is in contact with the fugitive and regularly travels to the Paris region, sources close to the case say.
Thanks to the geolocation of his telephone, the investigators follow his cross-border movements, in the middle of a health crisis, then identify in a few weeks the apartment by crossing his data with those of his brothers and sisters, many of whom live near Paris or in Belgium.
“His dependence and confinement forced the children to reveal themselves,” notes a file observer.
In addition to helping his children, Félicien Kabuga, reputed to have been the richest man in Rwanda, was apparently able to buy his protection. The association Communauté rwandaise de France (CRF) asked the Nanterre public prosecutor’s office to open an investigation to identify the supporters who enabled the 25 years of horse riding.
Years on the run
Because as of July 1994, this president of the ex-government radio station “Mille Collines”, infamous for his calls for the massacre of the Tutsi, took refuge in Switzerland with his family.
Voices are raised to demand his arrest, but he is finally expelled a month later to ex-Zaire before settling in Kenya. In this country, he escaped arrest at least three times, between 1997 and 2006.
In 2002, the American government published in the Kenyan press the photo of Félicien Kabuga via advertising inserts and offered a reward of $ 5 million for any information leading to his arrest.
Between the two countries, a standoff ensues after the German episode of 2007. The United States, who think he has returned to Kenya, claims to have information about his presence in the country and accuse authorities not to cooperate. Unless he never went back to Africa after his operation in Germany.