Fulgence Kayishema, the most wanted fugitive accused of involvement in the Rwandan genocide of 1994, has been arrested in South Africa.
He was apprehended in Paarl, South Africa, in a joint operation between South African authorities and a UN team charged with finding the remaining fugitives.
Kayishema has been on the run for almost two decades, South African authorities have announced.
When he was arrested, Kayishema initially denied his identity, investigators said. But by Wednesday night, he told them: “I have been waiting a long time to be arrested.”
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The events in Nyanga, Rwanda, were one of the most brutal of the genocide, in which an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed over the period of 90 days.
The tribunal alleges that Kayishema directly participated in the “planning and execution of this massacre.”
The indictment says he bought and distributed petrol to burn down the church while refugees were inside.
Kayishema and others are also accused of using a bulldozer to collapse the church following the fire, while refugees were still inside.
Kayishema allegedly orchestrated the killing of more than 2,000 Tutsi refugees – women, men, children and the elderly – at Nyange Catholic Church during the genocide. He has been on the run since 2001.
Investigators said he used multiple identities and forged documents to evade detection.
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“The arrest was the culmination of an intense, thorough and rigorous investigation,” a senior official at the prosecutor’s office said.
“Family members and known associates were exhaustively investigated. That ultimately led to identifying the right location to search and finding the critical intelligence that was needed.”
“Fulgence Kayishema was a fugitive for more than 20 years. His arrest ensures that he will finally face justice for his alleged crimes,” said Chief Prosecutor Serge Brammertz of the United Nations’ International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT).
“Genocide is the most serious crime known to humankind. The international community has committed to ensure that its perpetrators will be prosecuted and punished. This arrest is a tangible demonstration that this commitment does not fade and that justice will be done, no matter how long it takes,” Brammertz said.