Rwandan genocide fugitive Fulgence Kayishema, accused of killing 2,000 people in church massacre, arrested

Johannesburg — One of the world’s most wanted fugitives was arrested in South Africa on Wednesday after 29 years on the run, according to United Nations investigators. Fulgence Kayishema is accused of orchestrating the brutal murder of 2,000 women, men and children in a church in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide in the central African country.

He was indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in 2001 and has since been on the run under various aliases and disguises. The attack on the Nyange church is considered one of the most brutal acts of the 100 days of the rwandan genocide.

An image of Rwandan genocide suspect Fulgence Kayishema from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda is superimposed on a photo showing a mass grave and, in the background, the ruins of the Notre Dame de la Visitation church in Nyange, Rwanda, where some 2,000 Tutsi women, men and children were killed in a massacre allegedly orchestrated by Kayishema.

Getty/ICTR/CBS News

Kayishema was arrested during a joint operation by UN and South African authorities in the town of Paarl in South Africa’s Western Cape, according to a statement from the UN Residual Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT). .

Investigators said that although Kayishema initially denied his identity, he admitted within hours that he had long awaited his own arrest.

A reward of up to $5 million from the US War Crimes Program was offered for information leading to Kayishema and other suspects wanted for perpetrating the Rwandan genocide.

“Fulgence Kayishema was a fugitive for over twenty years. His arrest ensures that he will finally be brought to justice for his alleged crimes,” IRMCT chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz said in a statement.

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His arrest is another success for the ICTR, whose fugitive search team from the prosecutor’s office has captured five of the most wanted suspects linked to the genocide since 2020. There are only three figures left on the loose.

“This arrest is a tangible demonstration that this commitment does not waver and that justice will be served, no matter how long it takes,” Brammertz added in his statement.

Kayishema was charged by the Rwandan court with genocide, complicity in genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide and crimes against humanity for murders and other crimes committed during the Rwandan genocide.

The indictment alleges that on April 15, 1994, Kayishema and others directly planned and carried out the murder of 2,000 people. He would have obtained gasoline to set fire to the church of Nyange in the commune of Kivumu with the people inside.

When his arson attempts failed, Kayishema allegedly used a bulldozer to demolish the building, burying and killing those inside. He was then tasked with overseeing the transfer of bodies from the church grounds to mass graves over the following days.


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