Police arrest suspected mastermind of massacre at Rwandan Catholic parish in 1994 genocide

Fulgence Kayishema Fulgence Kayishema, a former Rwandan police officer suspected to have ordered the killing of at least 2,000 Tutsis who were seeking refuge at St. Paul’s Nyange Catholic Parish during the 1994 genocide, was arrested May 24, 2023. | Credit: Courtesy photo

Fulgence Kayishema, a former Rwandan police officer who is suspected of having ordered the killing of at least 2,000 Tutsis who were seeking refuge at St. Paul’s Nyange Catholic Parish in the current Nyundo Diocese during the 1994 genocide, has been arrested in South Africa.

Reuters reported May 25 that Kayishema, one of the top suspects in the genocide, which claimed some 800,000 lives, was arrested May 24 on a grape farm in South Africa while using a false name, Donatien Nibashumba.

The suspect has been on the run since 2001 when the now-defunct International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) accused him of genocide for his role in the destruction of the Nyange Catholic church.

Serge Brammertz, the prosecutor at the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT), the U.N. body that took over ICTR’s function, said Kayishema’s arrest “ensures that he will finally face justice for his alleged crimes.”

While confirming the arrest, the leadership of Hawks, an elite South African police unit, said the suspect was to be extradited to Rwanda on May 26 after appearing in South Africa’s Bellville Magistrate’s court.

Nyange Catholic Parish has been transformed into a genocide memorial site.

According to an April 2019 report in The Chronicles, a Rwandan news outlet, 48 Catholic parishes became major killing sites during the genocide as innocent Tutsi faithful ran to the churches to seek refuge against attacks from the Hutus.

The Chronicles report says a number of consecrated persons from the Catholic Church have been convicted following their direct or indirect involvement in the genocide.

On May 2, Father Wenceslas Munyeshyaka was dismissed from clerical duties.

Munyeshyaka, who was serving in the Diocese of Evreux in France, was accused of playing an active role in the 1994 Rwandan genocide in different parts of Kigali while he was a parish priest at Holy Family Parish in the Kigali Archdiocese.

This story was first published by ACI Africa, CNA’s African news partner. It has been adapted by CNA.

Our mission is the truth. Join us!

Your monthly donation will help our team continue reporting the truth, with fairness, integrity, and fidelity to Jesus Christ and his Church.