Seconds before appearing before a South African court on Friday, fugitive Fulgence Kayishema told a local journalist that he did not have any role in the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda which claimed over a million lives.
“What I can say, we are sorry to hear what was happening,” he said, asked if he had anything to say to the victims. There was a civil war at that time and people were killing each other…… I didn’t have any role,” he said.
Kayishema aged 62 was arrested on Wednesday. He is alleged to have orchestrated the killing of approximately 2,000 Tutsi at the Nyange Catholic Church in Kibuye Prefecture during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in 2001 indicted him for genocide over his alleged role in the destruction of the Nyange Catholic Church.
At the Nyange church, Hutu militia lobbed grenades then doused it with fuel to set it ablaze. When that failed, they knocked down the church with bulldozers and most of those sheltering inside died.
According to a charge sheet, Kayishema faces five charges in South Africa, including two of fraud.
The fraud counts relate to applications he made for asylum and refugee status in South Africa, where the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) alleges he gave his nationality as Burundian and used a false name.
Serge Brammertz, chief prosecutor of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT), the successor to the ICTR, told British media that Kayishema fled Rwanda after the genocide and was hiding among refugees.
“First, he went to the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) for a number of months, then he went to a refugee camp in Tanzania. From there he moved to Mozambique. Then two years later to eSwatini and then in the late 90s he ended up in South Africa,” Brammertz said.
The prosecution persuaded a small number of former Rwandan soldiers with false identities living in South Africa as refugees to provide information on Kayishema’s whereabouts, he added.
Kayishema will be held at Cape Town’s Pollsmoor Prison ahead of extradition to Rwanda.