Five-part docuseries World’s Most Wanted has become Netflix’s latest deep dive into true-crime, with each episode focussing on a heinous criminal who is currently subject to various arrest warrants across the globe.
The series’ second episode looks at Félicien Kabuga – the 85-year-old businessman who funded the Rwandan genocide of 1994 and spent 26 years as an international fugitive.
Here’s everything you need to know about Félicien Kabuga, what he did and whether he’s been caught.
Who is Félicien Kabuga?
Born in the Mukarange commune in 1935, Kabuga made his fortune by owning tea farms in northern Rwanda and was considered the richest man in Rwanda before the 1994 genocide.
He became associated with future Rwandan president Juvénal Habyarimana’s MRND party and the Akazu, a group of extremists. He was allegedly heavily involved in funding RTLM – a radio station which played a significant role in inciting the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
He is known to have at least five children, with two of his daughters marrying Habyarimana’s sons.
What did Félicien Kabuga do?
Kabuga was allegedly the main financial sponsor of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, which saw approximately 800,000 Rwandans, mostly Tutsis, killed in the space of 100 days.
The genocide was triggered by the death of president Habyarimana, whose plane was shot down above the capital Kigali. According to BBC News, most of the perpetrators of the killings were Hutus – like Habyarimana.
Kabuga was allegedly a main importer of a shipment of 500,000 machetes, imported into Rwanda before the genocide.
As the Tutsi-led party Rwandan Patriotic Front began to take over Rwanda, Kabuga fled the country and was believed to be on the run in Nairobi.
In 1998, the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda’s prosecutor indicted Kabuga, who was charged with seven counts of genocide and crimes against humanity.
Whilst in hiding, Kabuga is alleged to have stayed in various African countries, but mainly Kenya – where a number of his assets were located.
Those who assisted in locating him would often find themselves in danger – freelance reporter William Munuhe, who was planning a sting operation, was found dead in Nairobi in 2003, while in the same year, a young businessman helping FBI agents track Kabuga down was murdered by a hit squad.
The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda said in 2006 that it had evidence of Kabuga residing in Kenya, and the same year, US Senator Barack Obama accused Kenya of “allowing [Kabuga] to purchase safe haven” in the country, which the government denied.
Since then, Kabuga has been spotted in Madagascar, Burundi and most recently France, where his Paris neighbours claim he lived for three to four years.
Where is Félicien Kabuga now?
After more than 25 years of evading authorities through the use of 28 aliases and close ties to the Kenyan government, Kabuga was caught in France on May 16, 2020. The coronabirus pandemic helped French authorities track the man who was living in lockdown in a well-off Paris suburb under a false identity. He is expected to stand trial next year.
Kabuga is considered a landmark arrest, likely the most important arrest of a figure wanted by an international tribunal since the 2011 apprehension of Gen. Ratko Mladic, the Serbian military leader, who was later convicted of war crimes and genocide during the Bosnian war.
“Kabuga has always been seen by the victims and survivors as one of the leading figures,” Serge Brammertz, the chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, told The New York Times. “For them, after waiting so many years, his arrest is an important step toward justice.”
According to Brammertz (via BBC News), the 84-year-old criminal was able to evade capture for so long due to “the complicity of his children”.
In June, a French court decided that Kabuga should be tried by a UN tribunal in Tanzania.