The trial of Félicien Kabuga, the alleged mastermind of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide against the Tutsi, was initially announced for the end of 2021, is finally beginning on Thursday this week in The Hague almost over two years since his arrest in France.
For Rwandans, in particular the survivors, it has been a long wait — 28 years — for justice, as he had successfully avoided being held to account for the alleged crimes.
Despite the frustration that the trial is not happening in Rwanda, from where many of his survivors could have easily followed the proceedings of the court, the fact that the trial is finally happening raises the prospects of justice being served.
In 2011, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) organised forums to collect testimony for Mr Kabuga's eventual trial, in case some witnesses died before he could be arrested.
His lawyers attempted to halt legal proceedings on health grounds, but judges ruled against it in June this year, calling for the trial to begin "as soon as possible".
Mr Kabuga, who was one of Rwanda's richest men before allegedly using his wealth to fund the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, used his money and connections to avoid arrest for more than 20 years as he moved from Rwanda to Switzerland, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Kenya.
Charged with genocide and crimes against humanity including persecution, extermination and murder, Mr Kabuga was living under a false identity outside Paris when he was arrested and transferred to the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) at the Hague in 2020.
According to the ICT), whose work was later taken over by the MICT, Mr Kabuga "contributed to the Interahamwe's killing and harming of persons identified as Tutsis by organising meetings...to raise funds to purchase arms".
Funding for weapons
Jean Damascene Bizimana, the executive secretary of the National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide, reportedly said that Mr Kabuga had funded "tonnes of machetes and grenades, which were imported and distributed across the country as weapons".
Many of the victims were hacked to death with machetes. In addition, Mr Kabuga helped create the notorious Radio-Television Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM) that incited people to "kill Tutsi cockroaches" in its broadcasts.
"Kabuga served as president of RTLM, and as such had defacto and de jure control of programming, operations, and finances of RTLM," the ICTR indictment said.
He is also accused of directly supervising Interahamwe massacres in Gisenyi, northwestern Rwanda, and in the Kigali district of Kimironko. As the trial begins, we hope there will be no more delays as justice delayed is justice denied.