Africa | UN slams South Africa’s inability to arrest suspected Rwandan war criminal living in the country

This file undated handout shows a combination of pictures released by The United Nations - International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (MICT) of Potrais Mpiranya who commanded the guard of Rwanda's former president Juvenal Habyarimana at an undisclosed location.

The United Nations Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) has turned its focus on Fulgence Kayishema, a suspected Rwandan genocide perpetrator who it believes is in South Africa.

This was revealed on Wednesday by MICT chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz after his crack team established that another genocide fugitive, Phénéas Munyarugarama, 74, had died of “natural causes” in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2002.

“My office is now fully focused on accounting for the final four fugitives who remain at large. Our main priority now is Fulgence Kayishema, who we previously located in South Africa,” he said.

Kayishema, 62, was the inspector of the judicial police at the time of the genocide. He allegedly ordered the killing of Tutsis inside Nyange church and brought fuel for use by the militia to burn down the church. An estimated 2 000 civilians died in this attack alone.

On 11 December 2019, Brammertz wrote to President Cyril Ramaphosa revealing his displeasure about South Africa’s lack of co-operation in arresting Kayishema.

In the letter, he said: “I deeply regret South Africa’s longstanding failure to execute a Mechanism Arrest Warrant. Since my office was officially notified in August 2018 that one of the fugitives has been located in South Africa, I have endeavoured to work with South African authorities to secure the fugitive’s arrest.”

He also added that “South Africa provided changing reasons” as to why it could not act on the request to arrest Kayishema.

In response, South Africa told MICT that it did not have the necessary legislation to execute the task.

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As of Wednesday, it was three targets down within a month, and four to go after MICT announced its findings on Munyarugarama.

Munyarugarama was a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR). He was wanted for genocide, rape, and other crimes against humanity.

The discovery of his death came a few days after the remains of another war crimes suspect and former Munyarugarama colleague, Potrais Mpiranya, were traced to a 2006 grave in Harare buried under the name Ndume Sambao.

Another genocide fugitive, Major Pierre-Claver Karangwa was awaiting deportation from the Netherlands where he had acquired asylum status.

With three accounted for, only four major suspects, namely, Kayishema, Charles Sikubwabo, Charles Ryandikayo, and Aloys Ndimbati remained in the crosshairs of the UN.

There’s an R80 million ($5 million) bounty on each of them.

Brammertz, who leads a small team of UN investigators dealing with outstanding war crimes from Rwanda and Yugoslavia, described the latest breakthrough as “yet another important step in my office’s efforts to secure justice for the victims of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda and complete our mandate.”

He added that authorities from Belgium and Rwanda played a big part in the discovery of Munyarugarama’s remains.

“I would also like to express my appreciation to national partners, including the authorities of Belgium and Rwanda, whose assistance meaningfully contributed to this investigation,” he said.

The prosecutors discovered that Munyarugarama “died from natural causes on or about 28 February 2002” in eastern DRC.

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MITC said Munyarugarama, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Forces Armées Rwandaises (FAR), was first indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in 2002 for crimes he committed as the commander of the Gako military camp in the Bugesera region, Kigali-rural Prefecture, in 1994.

He had been charged by the ICTR with eight counts including genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide and crimes against humanity.

Munyarugarama was alleged to have been responsible for mass killings, attacks and sexual violence against Tutsi civilians at various locations in the Bugesera region, including the attacks on Tutsi refugees at the Ntarama and Nyamata Catholic churches.

“For the victims and survivors of Munyarugarama’s crimes in the Bugesera region, we hope this result brings some closure,” said Brammertz.

Like Mpiranya, who fled to the DRC via Cameroon to fight alongside the Zimbabwe National Army in the Second Congo War as a soldier of fortune, Munyarugarama ended up in the DRC recruiting ex-Rwandan soldiers for the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) rebel group.

Prosecutors said he died after walking for seven months in the jungle en route to Kinshasa for talks with various Hutu-supremacist movements for the possibility of an amalgamation.

But after falling ill he died in Kankwala village in North Katanga where he was buried.

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