One of last four Rwanda genocide fugitives arrested in South Africa

Thursday May 25 2023
Genocide fugitives.

A picture taken on May 19, 2020, shows the face of Fulgence Kayishema (bottom left), one of the last four fugitives sought for their role in the 1994 Rwanda genocide, on a wanted poster on the wall at the Genocide Fugitive Tracking Unit office in Kigali, Rwanda. PHOTO | AFP


Fulgence Kayishema, one of the last four fugitives sought for their role in the 1994 Rwanda genocide, has been arrested in South Africa, UN investigators said on Thursday.

"Yesterday afternoon, Fulgence Kayishema – one of the world’s most wanted genocide fugitives – was arrested in Paarl, South Africa in a joint operation," the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) said in a statement.

Kayishema is alleged to have orchestrated the killing of approximately 2,000 Tutsi refugees at the Nyange Catholic Church during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

A former judicial police inspector,  he faces charges of genocide, complicity in and conspiracy to commit genocide, and crimes against humanity.

He has been on the run since July 2001.

“Fulgence Kayishema was a fugitive for more than twenty years. His arrest ensures that he will finally face justice for his alleged crimes,” IRMCT prosecutor Serge Brammertz said.


Kayishema was indicted by the UN’s International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in 2001, which charged him with genocide and crimes against humanity for killings and other crimes committed in the Kibuye Prefecture.

“Kayishema directly participated in the planning and execution of this massacre, including by procuring and distributing petrol to burn down the church with the refugees inside,” the statement said.

“When this failed, Kayishema and others used a bulldozer to collapse the church, burying and killing the refugees inside.

“Kayishema and others then supervised the transfer of corpses from the church grounds into mass graves over the next approximately two days.”

Brammertz said the investigation that led to his arrest spanned multiple countries in Africa and beyond, and was made possible through the support and cooperation of South African authorities.

The Tanzania-based Rwanda tribunal wound up its cases in 2008, after which the IRMCT was established to complete its remaining work.

Read: East Africa remains haven for genocide fugitives

The tribunal referred Kayishema’s case to Rwanda in 2007, after the country had scrapped the death penalty.