Long stories short
- Spanish conservatives failed to win enough seats to form a government.
- Musk replaced Twitter’s bird symbol with an X.
- Three British women set a new record for rowing from California to Hawaii.
A most wanted man
In May, one of the most wanted men in the world was arrested in South Africa after almost 30 years on the run. His name is Fulgence Kayishema and he is one of the last Rwandan genocidaires wanted by the United Nations.
So what? Few people have heard of Kayishema, but for years he had a $5 million bounty on his head – the same as Osama Bin Laden before 9/11.
In an age when war crimes go unpunished from Syria and Yemen to Ethiopia and Ukraine, Kayishema’s arrest is a victory for humanity.
On the surface, it looks like a tale of international cooperation, but dig deeper and what emerges is a chaotic scramble for justice filled with espionage and paranoia.
Massacre of the Innocents. Some 800,000 people were slaughtered during the 100 days of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide against the Tutsis. Amid the horrors, Kayishema stands accused of orchestrating one of the worst crimes of all – the Nyange Church massacre.
- More than 2,000 people took shelter in the church, hoping God would protect them.
- Hutu militiamen threw grenades into the church then poured fuel on it to set the people alight.
- Kayishema, then working as a local police inspector, allegedly got a bulldozer to bring the church down on the remaining survivors.
Kayishema was eventually tracked down to a farm on the outskirts of Cape Town, 2,500 miles away, where he had worked as a security guard for years.
Tortoise went to South Africa to investigate how he managed to evade capture for so long. We uncovered a dizzying trail of false identities including fraudulently acquired passports and refugee papers from Malawi, Burundi, Eswatini and South Africa.
Rat race. After Rwanda’s Patriotic Front army ended the genocide, thousands of former genocidaires fled across Africa and Europe.
For years, UN investigators pursuing Kayishema were thrown off the scent by dozens of paid sources who would sometimes report sightings on three continents simultaneously.
Then, in 2016, Serge Brammertz, a Belgian prosecutor, took charge of the small band of genocide hunters at the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals. They cleared the decks of unreliable sources and restarted the search from scratch, tracking Kayishema’s movements from Rwanda to DR Congo, a refugee camp in Tanzania, Mozambique and finally South Africa.
But they were not the only ones looking. Multiple sources in South Africa say the race to find Kayishema was complicated by
- private investigators desperate to find him for the bounty;
- spies and security officials from across Southern Africa taking time off work to chase down leads, hoping they too could claim the money; and
- Rwandan assassins, considered likely to have been tasked with hunting Kayishema by the regime of President Kagame.
With so many on the case, the risk was that Kayishema would be alerted to Brammertz’ team as it closed in on him.
“It’s emblematic of the way the South African intelligence services are at the moment; it’s a shambles,” said Aaron Hymen, an investigative journalist for TimesLive in Cape Town. But the UN team “did an excellent job of throwing people off,” laying false trails for rival investigators. “And some of the spies picked up on that and went and wasted everybody’s time, including their own.”
Eventually an individual close to Kayishema cracked under pressure and gave up his hiding place 40 miles outside Cape Town. He is now standing trial for identity fraud in South Africa, after which he will be extradited to an international court in the Hague or to Rwanda.
Age of impunity. At a time “when impunity is the rule and accountability is the exception, I think this will give a lot of people hope,” Brammertz says.
Safari Jean Bosco lost ten members of his family in the church massacre and survived only by hiding under dead bodies. “[The arrest] soothed our hearts,” he says. “We are happy that a murderer is no longer free to roam society.”
Listen to Will Brown’s new podcast, Genocide Hunters: On the trail of a mass murderer, on the Tortoise app today.
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Photograph David Turnley/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images
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