Rutayisire Masengo was 22 years old in 1994. He was among the people the RPF soldiers rescued from St Paul in Kigali, minutes away from being butchered.
Living in Kigali at the time, he knew Felicien Kabuga, who was arrested while in hiding in Paris, France, on May 16, as the richest man in Rwanda, although he had never seen him. Everyone was familiar with the name.
“I used to see many of his trucks moving around the city with his name inscribed on them, and I knew he owned RTLM radio,” he said.
Masengo said he was overjoyed when he heard of Kabuga’s arrest in France, saying it is a significant development in the survivors’ quest for justice.
“In a way I take Kabuga to be the head of the genocide, because if he hadn’t bought those machetes and fueled the hate on radio RTLM, people wouldn’t have been killed in such a magnitude.”
Masengo says that the fact that it is the French who arrested him gives him hope that other notable genocide perpetrators like Catholic priest Wenceslas Munyeshaka, who orchestrated rapes and killings of Tutsis at St Famille, will one day be given up by the French and face his crimes.
“Our prayer is that Kabuga will be brought to Kigali for trial,” he said.
Masengo sentiments represent those of survivors of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, through the Umbrella lobby Ibuka, who want France and the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT), to extradite Felicien Kabuga to Rwanda.
According to Naphtali Ahishakiye, the Executive Secretary of Ibuka, it is only fair that someone like Mr Kabuga, who played such a critical role in the genocide, be tried in Rwanda where he committed the crimes.
“Even sitting in Mr Kabuga’s trial for some genocide survivors would be justice to some whose lives were shattered by his crimes. It would also serve a great lesson to the young generation in Rwanda, that even the elusive genocide financier is not beyond reach.”
Faustin Nkusi, the spokesperson of the National Public Prosecution Authority said there is a possibility for Mr Kabuga to be sent to Rwanda if his case is sent to Arusha.
“We believe that procedures will be followed in France to have him sent to Arusha,” he said, adding that should Mr Kabuga be sent to Arusha, the court may extradite him to Rwanda.
“That can happen because it has been done before. We have three cases it (the Arusha court) has sent to Rwanda before – Ladislas Ntaganzwa, Bernard Munyagishari and Jean Uwinkingi,” he said.
Mr Ahishakiye says that during genocide trials, especially those conducted through Gacaca, many perpetrators said there were people who coerced them into committing genocide crimes, so it would be good for them to face one of those people.
“Mr Kabuga was one of the masterminds, he had a role in the planning, financing and execution of the genocide. He might not have hacked anyone but his resources and power caused a lot of harm, and on a national level,” he noted.