Capture After 22 Years: Rwanda’s Most Wanted Genocide Fugitive Fulgence Kayishema Seized

The 1994 genocide claimed the lives of more then 800,000 people

Megan Ashley


Fulgence Kayishema (Source)

A war criminal wanted for his participation in the 1994 Rwandan genocide was recently discovered hiding in South Africa. Fulgence Kayishema had been on the run since 2001 when it was discovered he had orchestrated the killing of more than 2000 men, women, and children on April 15, 1994, at a church in Rwanda.

An estimated 800,000 people were killed in ninety days in what is described as one of the most brutal genocides in human history.

It was revealed during the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda that Kayishema attempted to burn a church with 2000 Tutsi people hiding inside. Failing to ignite the structure, he helped to use a bulldozer to collapse the building. Killing all those who had sought refuge inside.

He was charged with genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, and crimes against humanity charges. However, when law enforcement went to arrest him, he had already fled.

The United States government themselves had offered a five million reward for information leading to his arrest. For over two decades, multiple agencies worked tirelessly to find Kayishema. While monitoring family members, they eventually had word that he was hiding in South Africa.

Kayishema had been using a forged identity and was working on a grape farm in Cape Town. When he was discovered and arrested on May 19, 2023, he initially denied his identity but eventually said to arrest officers, “I have been waiting a long time to be arrested.”

“Fulgence Kayishema was a fugitive for more than twenty years. His arrest ensures that he will finally face justice for his alleged crimes,” IRMCT Chief Prosecutor Serge Brammertz, who led the investigation, said in a statement on the media. “Genocide is the most serious crime known to humankind. The international community has committed to ensuring 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.”

Kayishema’s arrest is the fifth in recent years of top officials. Agencies are still looking to arrest three more.

Kayishema is being held in Cape Town custody while he awaits his trial and sentencing. He faces life in prison.

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Sources: CNN, CTV News, United Nations