Felicien Kabuga

02.05.2016 ( Last modified: 07.06.2016 )
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Félicien Kabuga was born in 1935 in Muniga, in the commune of Mukarange, prefecture of Byumba, Rwanda. Called « the financier of the genocide », he was an extremely rich businessman who was closely allied to the family of President Habyarimana. He took part in the creation of the National Defence Fund’s Acting Committee («Comité Provisoire du Fonds de Défense Nationale – FDN») of which he became President, as well as becoming President of the RTLM’s Ruling Committee.

He was also the main financial contributor to and silent partner of the National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development («Mouvement républicain national pour la démocratie et le développement – MRND», the presidential party), of the Coalition for the Defence of the Republic («CDR»), an extremist Hutu party inside the MRND (openly and fiercely opposed to the Tutsis) and of their militias. In this capacity, he wielded considerable influence on these organizations and exercised authority over their members, including the Interahamwe (an extremist Hutu militia).

From the end of 1990 to July 1994, Kabuga was said to have played a role in the preparation of a plan aimed at the extermination of the Tutsis. Amongst other elements, this plan in particular encouraged hatred and ethnic violence against the Tutsis, trained and armed the militia, and drafted lists of people to be murdered. Félicien Kabuga was said to have organized, ordered and participated in mass murders in the implementation of this plan.

From April to July 1994, as a direct consequence of their officially held positions, pronouncements made and orders they issued, the members of the Interim Government and Kabuga exercised control over the local authorities and the Interahamwe . As from April 6,1994, these authorities and militia, together with the army, ordered and participated in mass murders against Tutsis and moderate Hutus throughout Rwanda. Kabuga was aware of these massacres but did not use his authority to intervene and put a stop to them.

The use of communication channels such as the newspaper Kangura and the RTLM created and directed by Kabuga, and others, helped to indoctrinate the Rwandan people with an extremist Hutu ideology based on hatred and ethnic violence. During a meeting organized to collect funds for the RTLM, Kabuga declared that RTLM should become the official radio of «Hutu Power». In November 1993 and February 1994, he was convened by the Information Ministry who urged him to stop the distribution of messages aiming at inciting inter-racial hatred but Kabuga is said to have held to his position concerning the programs broadcast by the RTLM.

Before and during the Rwandan genocide, Kabuga, and others, are said to have participated in the provision of weapons to the militia and certain well chosen members of the civilian population with the aim of exterminating the Tutsi people and eliminating their accomplices.

From 1992, Kabuga – through his company ETS – was reported to have bought massive stocks of machetes, hoes and other farm tools, in the belief that they would be used as weapons during the massacres. In addition, Kabuga was said to have provided logistical assistance to the Interahamwe by supplying weapons and uniforms and by providing transport in his company owned vehicles.

In March 1994, in relation to the above, Kabuga was reported to have imported 50’000 machetes from Kenya.

UNAMIR (United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda) was created in order to establish in a peaceful manner, the institutions provided for by the Arusha Agreements. This military force however was perceived to be an obstacle by certain members of the extremist political classes. Thus, leaders from these groups adopted a strategy of provocation aimed at the Belgian military who were the UNAMIR’s most efficient and well equipped contingent, with the aim being to force them to withdraw. With this in mind, a campaign of anti-Belgian propaganda was put in place, through the media such as RTLM, created and directed by Kabuga, and the newspaper Kangura .

On 25 April 1994, in the prefecture of Gisenyi, Kabuga, and others, are reported to have reached an agreement to create the National Defence Fund in order to provide assistance to the Interim Government to help fight against the Tutsis and moderate Hutus. This fund was created in order to buy weapons, vehicles and uniforms for the Interahamwe and the army throughout the country. Kabuga was appointed as President of the National Defence Fund’s Acting Committee and had signatory power over the fund’s bank accounts. On 20 May 1994, Kabuga was reported to have informed the Interim Government about the existence of this fund and to have counselled the government on how to manage and to use it.

In June 1994, Kabuga and others were said to have held a meeting in Gisenyi. During this meeting, members from MRND were reported to have made a list of Tutsis and moderate Hutus who had come from other prefectures to seek refuge in Gisenyi. From this they are reported to have drafted a list of persons to be eliminated which was subsequently given to the Interahamwe.

In June 1994, confronted with the advance of the troops of the RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front,- an opposition movement composed essentially of Tutsi refugees and led by Paul Kagamé), Kabuga fled Rwanda. He first reached Switzerland but on receiving an order to leave this country, he then went to Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo. After this, he was said to have taken residence in Nairobi, Kenya. As of today’s date he has still not been arrested and has been successful in avoiding all attempts to arrest him.


legal procedure

Kabuga fled Rwanda in 1994. As of today’s date, he has resisted all attempts at arrest.
On 22 July 1994, Kabuga sought asylum in Switzerland on a valid visa. He was deported on 18 August 1994 and was able to fly to Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo before Rwandan Associations in Switzerland could lodge a complaint against him. The Swiss Confederation assumed the cost of departure for Kabuga, his wife and seven children for a total amount of 21’302 Swiss Francs. In addition, before taking off, it appears that he was ably to go freely to the UBS bank subsidiary at Genève-Cointrin airport to withdraw money.

With the establishment of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in 1995, Kabuga quickly became one of the principal targets of the investigators of the Tribunal. On 18 July 1997, he escaped the «Naki» operation in Kenya after being spotted in a villa in the residential district of Karen in Nairobi. A Kenyan police officer is said to have given Kabuga fair warning to allow him to escape. According to ICTR investigators, Kabuga was reported to be protected by Kenyan president Daniel Arap Moi. In April 1998, according to the ICG (International Crisis Group), Kabuga was said to have been localized in a house owned by the nephew of President Moi and annexed to that of the President’s son. According to a 1999 report of the United Nations Commission of Enquiry into arms purchases by the former militia of the Rwandan government, Kabuga was reported to have been seen in South-East Asia in September 1998. Finally, in 2000, he was said to have transited through Belgium, where his wife is living.

On 11 June 2002, the United States launched a large information media-campaign in Kenya aimed at capturing Kabuga. The «Rewards for Justice» American federal program was used to track down those accused by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former -Yugoslavia, but this was the first time it was used against those accused by the ICTR. A reward up to US $ 5’000’000 was offered for any information leading to the capture of Kabuga.

In December 2002, the United States accused the former Permanent Secretary for Kenyan National Security, Zakayo Cheruiyot, of having given sanctuary to Kabuga and of using governmental infrastructures to prevent him from being arrested The Kenyan authorities opened up an investigation into this affair.

In January 2003, Kabuga was able to avoid an attempted arrest led by both the Kenyan police and the FBI in Nairobi. On 17 January 2003, the police informer with the task of entrapping Kabuga, William Munuhe, was found dead.

On 28 August 2003, the United Nations Security Council urged all the States, Kenya in particular, to intensify their cooperation to find Kabuga and to bring him to justice (resolution 1503).

Furthermore,, the ICTR Prosecutor arranged to have Kabuga’s financial assets confiscated and to block access to his bank accounts in France, Switzerland and Belgium.

Kabuga was indicted by the ICTR in August 1998 and an international arrest warrant was issued in August 1999.

According to the act of indictment dated 21 November 2001, Kabuga is charged on 11 counts. He is accused of «genocide», «conspiracy to commit genocide», «complicity in genocide», and «direct and public incitation to commit genocide». Also, he is accused of «assassination as a crime against humanity», «extermination as a crime against humanity», «rape as a crime against humanity», «persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds as crimes against humanity» in addition to various war crimes.

Kabuga was initially indicted together with 6 other persons. On 1st September 2003, based on the fact that he had still not been arrested, the Third Trial Chamber of the ICTR – on request of the prosecutor – ordered the separation of the proceedings undertaken against Kabuga from those of the proceedings entitled «Government 1».

In June 2012, special deposition hearings were conducted in order to preserve evidence for future use when Kabuga would be arrested.

On 1 August 2012, the case of Kabuga was transferred to the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRM) created by the UN in December 2010 to assume some functions of the ICTR and ICTY after the end of their mandate including tracking, arresting and judging the 9 fugitives still wanted by the ICTR.



Rwanda has been historically inhabited by three distinct social groups, known as Hutu, Tutsi and Twa. Between April and July 1994 the country was torn apart by a bloody genocide, during which extremist Hutu people targeted Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) was powerless against those committing the genocide, as the peacekeeping troops were outnumbered.


In hopes of facilitating the process of national reconciliation and to promote peace in the country, on 8 November 1994 the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 955, establishing the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), located in Arusha, Tanzania.

The Tribunal’s function is to prosecute perpetrators of crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed between 1 January and 31 December 1994 in Rwanda. Since its inception, 92 persons have been indicted in front of the ICTR. Some proceedings are however still ongoing.

The ICTR is primed to close down in 2015.

Regarding what will happen to the functions and activities that will outlive the ICTR, the UN Security Council established the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (or “the Mechanism”), in Resolution 1966 (2010), to take over the remaining functions of both the ICTR and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). The Mechanism, which has been functioning since 1 July 2012, has already taken over some of the ongoing functions of the ICTR, including the enforcement of sentences of those convicted and sentenced by the Tribunal, the tracking, arrest and prosecution of fugitives earmarked for trial at the Mechanism, and the care and protection of witnesses.


In 1998, discussions began under the direction of the President of the Republic of Rwanda about the possible use of traditional courts to support the ordinary Rwandan judicial system and the ICTR. A commission was created to study this possibility, and its report provided the basis of the Organic Law of 26 January 2001, which created the Gacaca Courts.

These courts were in charge of trying the low and middle-level perpetrators of the genocide, apart from the “planners” who should have been tried before national courts. The Gacaca courts were composed of elected popular assemblies, made up of non-professional judges. The composition and functioning of such courts raised several concerns about the respect of fair trial guarantees.

According to Rwandan authorities, during their functioning, the Gacaca courts tried almost two million people. On 18 June 2012 Rwandan President Paul Kagame announced the official end of Gacaca courts’ activity.


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