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Rwandan genocide fugitive Kayishema arrested after 22 years

A Rwandan man who spearheaded the killing of 2,000 people during the 1994 genocide has been arrested in South Africa, authorities announced Thursday.

Fulgence Kayishema, one of the most wanted men in the world, was captured Wednesday after 22 years on the run.

“Genocide is the most serious crime known to humankind,” said Serge Brammertz, lead prosecutor of the United Nations tribunal that tracked Kayishema. “This arrest is a tangible demonstration that this commitment does not fade and that justice will be done, no matter how long it takes.”

Kayishema, now believed to be in his early 60s, was a police officer in western Rwanda when the genocide erupted. He quickly joined with the Hutu killers and helped trap 2,000 Tutsi men, women and children inside the Nyange Catholic Church.

After the refugees fended off an initial attack, Kayishema acquired fuel to burn down the church. When that failed, he and the other genocidaires brought in bulldozers and crushed the building. Almost everyone inside died when the roof collapsed, and anyone left alive was quickly killed.

When the genocide was stopped, Kayishema fled Rwanda with his family. In 2001, a U.N. tribunal dedicated to the Rwanda genocide indicted Kayishema on charges of genocide, complicity in genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, and crimes against humanity.

Twagiramungu Ferdinand Twagiramungu, Mubirizi village's leader, places and organises hundreds of skulls belonging to victims of the 1994 Rwandan Tutsi Genocide in Mubirizi, Rusizi District, on May 5, 2023 where more than 1100 bodies have been found since March, making the area the largest mass grave discovered since 2019.

Kayishema fled through Africa before eventually establishing himself in South Africa under a fake name, according to U.N. prosecutors. He had an extensive network of supporters, including ex-Rwandan army members who helped carry out the genocide.

The U.N.’s International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals eventually tracked him to Paarl, South Africa, about 30 miles east of Cape Town, and arrested him Wednesday with the help of South African authorities.

More than 800,000 people were killed in 100 days in the Rwandan genocide. The vast majority of the victims were ethnic minority Tutsis, who were viciously targeted by Hutus.

With News Wire Services

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