Welcome to Africanews

Please select your experience

Watch Live



Rwanda genocide: Kayishema seeking asylum in South Africa

Fulgence Kayishema, one of the last fugitives sought for their role in the 1994 Rwanda genocide, sits in the Cape Town Magistrate's Court in Cape Town on May 26, 2023.   -  
Copyright © africanews
RODGER BOSCH/AFP or licensors

South Africa

Former Rwandan police officer Fulgence Kayishema, accused of playing a major role in the 1994 genocide, is seeking asylum in South Africa.

Arrested last month in Cape Town, the Rwandan has abandoned his application for bail, his lawyer announced on Tuesday before a Cape Town court, who added that his client "fears for his life, if and when, he is extradited".

The asylum request is likely to delay the legal process in South Africa, where he is currently facing numerous charges linked to his irregular stay in the country.

The state prosecutor indicated that South Africa will oppose any future bail application.

Until his arrest on 24 May, the 62-year-old was one of the last fugitives sought for their role in the genocide in which 800 000 Rwandans died, a majority of whom were Tutsis killed by Hutus.

Church massacre

Kayishema was discovered to be living under a false identity and claimed to be from Burundi. He sought asylum first in 2000, then refugee status in 2004.

At his first court hearing in Cape Town, two days after his arrest, he denied having participated in the genocide. "I didn't have any role," he said, in what he described as a "civil war". 

Kayishema was sought under an arrest warrant by  the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (MICT) which, since 2015, was charged with completing the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), formed by the United Nations following the genocide. 

According to UN prosecutors, Kayishema "directly participated in the planning and execution" of the massacre of more than 2000 Tutsi who had sought refuge in a church. He is alleged to have procured and distributed fuel to set the church alight with the refugees inside. When that failed, Kayishema and others allegedly used a bulldozer to demolish the building, killing and burying those inside. 

The next hearing will take place in Cape Town on August 18.

View more