French police arrested one of the latest key suspects wanted in the Rwandan genocide on Saturday. Félicien Kabuga, who was one of the richest men in the African country and is accused of being “the treasurer of the genocide”, lived under a false identity in the Paris suburbs, the prosecutor's office and police reported in a joint statement.
The operation, carried out at dawn, led to the arrest of the fugitive, "Wanted by the judicial authorities for 25 years", according to the statement. At least 800,000 people, the majority belonging to the Tutsi ethnic group, were massacred in 100 days by Hutu extremists during the 1994 massacre.
The statement notes that Kabuga, 84, lived in Asnieres-sur-Seine, north of Paris, and was hiding with the complicity of his children. He is accused of being one of the creators and the main financier of the fearsome militias Interahamwe, who carried out the mass murders. It also helped create the equally notorious Free Radio-Television of the Thousand Hills, that in its broadcasts it incited people to join the massacres.
"Félicien Kabuga is known to have financed the Rwanda genocide"French authorities said in the statement. Adding that, before settling in the country, he had spent time in Belgium, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Germany, Kenya and Switzerland.
A senior United Nations prosecutor welcomed the arrest, saying it showed that the suspects would not go unpunished for the atrocities they committed in 1994. "The arrest of Kabuga is a reminder that those responsible for the genocide can be brought to justice, even 26 years after their crimes," said Serge Brammertz, chief prosecutor of the Mechanism for International Criminal Courts in The Hague.
Rwanda had 8 million inhabitants in the early 1990s. 89.9% were Hutus and 9.8% were Tutsis. The conflict between these two ethnic groups had been around for centuries, although it had not always been resolved through violence.
European colonization - first German and then Belgian - was a first escalation in the confrontation, which worsened after the country's independence in 1962. The Civil War that began in 1990 with the rebellion of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (FPR) against the Hutu regime of Juvénal Habyarimana it was the prelude to genocide.
On April 6, 1994, the dictator's official plane was shot down by two surface-to-air missiles as he was preparing to land at the capital's airport, Kigali. Habyarimana, who had promoted the creation of the militias Interahamwe and launched a policy of criminalization of everything that smelled of Tutsi, came to discuss in Tanzania a possible peace agreement promoted by the UN. But he died in the attack.
No one claimed responsibility for the attack. Suspicions were spread between the RPF and the radicalized Hutus. Both could have reasons to oppose peace. Before the death of the president, it was incumbent on him to assume the leadership of state to Agathe Uwilingiyimana, prime minister. He did, but only lasted a few hours in office. In the early hours of April 7, Colonel Théoneste Bagosora, a hawk of Hutu supremacism and a leader in Interahamwe, ordered his murder.
Bagosora then deployed Army troops throughout the capital and blocked the entrances. No one could leave or enter. Then the carnage began. Soldiers, paramilitaries and armed civilians began to roam the streets of Kigali in search of all the Tutsis, but also the moderate Hutus. Every one they saw was murdered. Radios broadcast the names and addresses of targets and encouraged citizens to go kill them. Days later, the city became impassable due to the foul smell that emanated from the piled up bodies..
The same happened in the interior of the country in the following weeks. Municipal authorities coordinated the attacks with the police, the military and the Interahamwe. But it was all bloodier, because instead of rifles and pistols, the genocides used machetes and wooden sticks covered with nails. They went house to house with the intention that no one would come out alive. In just three months, between 800,000 - according to the UN - and 1,200,000 - according to the current Rwandan government - people were killed. 75% of Rwanda's Tutsi population was exterminated.
The FPR, led by Paul Kagame, moved as soon as the massacre began. He ended the peace talks and led a series of targeted attacks. Little by little, he was capturing cities of different sizes, and was approaching Kigali. In its wake, it added more and more recruits among the survivors, who found in the FPR the only refuge from certain death. In that period, there were also indiscriminate killings of Tutsis against Hutus.
The genocide and civil war ended on July 4, with the triumph of Kagame's forces, who became a new dictator and never again left power. A quarter of a century later, Rwanda is a relatively stable country, which comes from a long period of economic growthBut it still struggles to digest the aftermath of the largest ethnic cleansing in modern African history.
With information from AFP
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