Félicien Kabuga was arrested on May 16th, 2020. During the ‘90s he spread hatred and funded violent actions against the Tutsi minority.
By Giulia Barjona / 26.05.2021
Félicien Kabuga had been on the run for 24 years by the time he was apprehended in France at the age of 84. Interpol and other international law enforcement agencies were on his tail. In 1997, the fugitive was indicted and declared under arrest, while the US offered a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture. So, why has catching Kabuga been so difficult?
Before the genocide, Tutsi and Hutu populations had coexisted for centuries. It was the fanaticism of certain people that created the conditions for the catastrophe to unfold.
At the time, Kabuga was one of the wealthiest men in the country. He operated tea export shops and companies, among other businesses. One of his children is also married to the former president’s daughter. He then founded two organizations through which he was able to lay the groundwork for the genocide. The first organization was the Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM), which broadcasted messages of violence against the Tutsi minority. These programs were mostly transmitted in areas where this ethnic group lived. The massacres were carried out by the militia, the second organization financed by the accused, meaning that acts of violence stemming from Hutu populism were backed by Rwanda’s upper crust.
Despite the evidence linking Kabuga to the genocide, apprehending him proved to be a difficult task. His eleven children, as well as Kenyan authorities, assisted him in hiding in Kenya after fleeing Rwanda. Kabuga attempted but failed to travel to Switzerland a few years later. His attempt to flee then came to an end in France.
For the time being, his fate will be revealed only after legal proceedings. It could change Kabuga’s future if he decides to cooperate. Under the circumstances, though, it is unlikely that he will share information and plead guilty. However, more details may be necessary to better understand how the events of such global and human significance unfolded.
Although Félicien Kabuga was apprehended, two more people responsible for the genocide remain at large, one of whom is a member of the presidential guard and is currently being shielded by the South African government.
What was the public reaction to the news? Newspapers and the internet dedicated many articles and pages to the matter, with a focus on Kabuga’s arrest. On television and social media, though, the news went practically unnoticed, mainly because of how long ago the events took place. In the meantime, Rwanda has had the chance to rise and develop again. In Europe, on the other hand, any inattentive spectator might have already forgotten the television broadcasts from the ‘90s, and the news is not discussed in schools, either. Since the 20th century was so full of incidents, conflicts, and revolutions, certain details are sometimes left out of historical accounts. And Africa has been overlooked many times.
Moreover, Europe is averse to admitting responsibility for Africa’s political shortcomings, where cultures and politics of various nations have been destroyed as a result of colonization and ongoing military campaigns.
The combination of an aggressive military policy and a natural migration of populations create the circumstances for a nation where people and different cultures coexist, but without a strong and tolerant governmental stance.
As a result, we must ask ourselves what our role is and how we can improve Africa’s situation. Is it possible to reform an economy and political system that is so fragile?
The reality is that while a country like Rwanda has succeeded in restoring its system and politics, many other countries continue to struggle. Many nations are battling to “flourish” and achieve prosperity comparable to that of European powers, but there are still places where the economic condition is too dire, and reaching the entire population would be virtually impossible.
So we must also ask ourselves: do these countries need to become similar to ours? Is it not this kind of ideal that has made Africa such an unstable continent?