…By Roland Peterson for TDPel Media.
Fulgence Kayishema, one of the last remaining fugitives sought for his involvement in the 1994 Rwanda genocide, appeared in court in Cape Town on Friday, just two days after his arrest following over two decades on the run.
Kayishema is alleged to have participated in one of the bloodiest episodes of the genocide, where more than 2,000 Tutsis seeking refuge in a church were brutally massacred.
The National Prosecution Authority of South Africa stated that Kayishema would make his first appearance in court on Friday, where the charges against him would be read out, and the state may request a postponement to gather more information.
The extradition of Kayishema is not expected to be discussed during this court appearance.
He was apprehended on Wednesday at a grape farm in Paarl, located 60 kilometers (35 miles) north of Cape Town, as reported by UN investigators.
a The International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (MICT), which succeeded the UN court responsible for prosecuting numerous major suspects, describes Kayishema as “one of the world’s most wanted genocide fugitives.”
He faces charges of genocide, complicity in and conspiracy to commit genocide, and crimes against humanity.
During the 1994 genocide, which lasted for 100 days, approximately 800,000 Rwandans, mostly ethnic Tutsis, were brutally killed by Hutu extremists.
Kayishema and others are accused of murdering over 2,000 men, women, and children who sought refuge in a Catholic church in Nyange, in the Kivumu district.
The MICT announced his arrest on Thursday, stating that Kayishema directly participated in planning and executing the massacre, including the procurement and distribution of petrol to set the church ablaze with the refugees inside.
When this failed, Kayishema and others used a bulldozer to collapse the church, burying and killing those seeking shelter.
Subsequently, Kayishema and his accomplices supervised the transfer of corpses from the church grounds into mass graves.
South African authorities arrested Kayishema in response to an Interpol red notice, and it was discovered that he had been living under the false identity of Donatien Nibashumba.
The hunt for Kayishema spanned multiple African countries, as he utilized various aliases, false documents, and relied on a network of trusted supporters, including family members, former members of the Rwandan armed forces, the rebel group Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), and individuals aligned with the genocidal Hutu Power ideology.
The United States had offered a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to Kayishema’s arrest, transfer, or conviction, although it is unclear whether this played a role in his capture.
The MICT took over the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in 2015, which was established by the UN after the genocide.
Prior to the transition, the ICTR sentenced 62 individuals, including former minister Augustin Ngirabatware, who received a 30-year term, and acquitted 14 others.
Rwanda has been conducting trials for genocide suspects since 1996 and executed 22 of them by firing squad in April 1998.
The death penalty was abolished in Rwanda in 2007, enabling the ICTR to extradite genocide suspects to Rwanda for trial.
From 2005 to 2012, over 12,000 community-based courts conducted trials for nearly two million people, resulting in a conviction rate of 65%, with the majority being sentenced to prison.