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Obama tells Kenya to hand over Kabuga

By | November 17th 2009

By Peter Opiyo

President Barack Obama’s administration has accused Kenya of shielding a genocide suspect.

Washington says it has fresh information Rwandese businessman Felicien Kabuga is hiding in Nairobi. Obama dispatched his point man on war crimes Mr Stephen Rapp to Nairobi to remind Kenyans of a $5 million (about Sh390 million) bounty on Kabuga’s head. The money, offered for information leading to his arrest, has remained unclaimed for years.

Rapp, who addressed international and local media at US Ambassador Michael Ranneberger’s residence, said America has "credible information on the fugitive’s location and powerful people protecting him."

The news came as President Kibaki left the country for an official visit to Ethiopia even as his Government denied the Kabuga’s presence.

"The Government is not aware that Kabuga is in the country," said Internal security Assistant minister, Joshua Ojodeh.

"If the US knows where he is then they should show us so that we can arrest him."

Commissioner of Police Mathew Iteere said the Force was not aware of the fugitive’s presence in Kenya, arguing if his unit knew where he was it would have arrested him.

Ethnic hatred

"I think that all of you are aware that Felicien Kabuga has received refuge in Kenya. Even when I was arriving last night (Sunday) I would see fresh information on his presence in Kenya," said Rapp. "It is critical that a man who is involved in inciting ethnic hatred is given continued refuge in Kenya especially at a time when Kenya fears the same kind of violence."

Rapp said he met Prime minister Raila Odinga and Justice minister Mutula Kilonzo and forwarded America’s message Kenya.

"It would be good practice to hand Kabuga to Arusha," said Rapp, who was accompanied by Ranneberger. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), which is handling the 1994 Rwanda genocide, sits in Arusha, Tanzania.

The hunt for Kabuga took an embarrassing turn for the US with the murder of William Munuhe in 2003. Munuhe, believed to be an FBI informer, was reportedly killed while trying to lure Kabuga into a trap.

Rapp said given the new developments the US would be following the matter with ICTR and called for Kenya’s co-operation, adding that the US received fresh information of his presence from "Kenyan neighbours".

Recently, when a genocide suspect was arrested in Uganda, it was claimed he was travelling to Kenya.

Kabuga is believed to have been main supporter and financier of the Interahamwe militia that killed some 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus during the 1994 massacres. He is said to have bankrolled the Hutu militias who wielded their machetes during the 100-day genocidal frenzy.

The US Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Stephen Rapp (left) signs a visitors’ book when he paid a courtesy call on the Prime Minister Raila Odinga in his office at Treasury Building, Nairobi, on Monday. Looking on is the US Ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger. Photo: PMPS

The fugitive is accused of using his vast assets to propel the massacres by affording a platform to disseminate the message of ethnic hatred through the foundation of a radio station, Radio TÈlÈvision Libre des Mille Collines. He is also said to have provided weapons, uniforms, and transportation to Interahamwe militia.

ICTR is seeking him since 1997 for conspiring to commit genocide and crimes against humanity. Rapp, the Ambassador-at-Large for War Crime Issues, served as senior Trial Attorney and Chief of Prosecutions at ICTR.

Rapp spoke, as the Obama administration continued to pile pressure on the government to cooperate in the trial of post-poll violence suspects or have its officials perceived to be anti-reforms face more Visa bans and ‘unspecified actions.’

He reaffirmed the US’s support for a special tribunal to try the suspects still remains, but what was worrying is lack of co-operation from the Government.

Window of opportunity

"The Kenya government is not co-operative because it has not put its act together to put in place necessary legislation…the buck cannot be passed, that was the promise and this promise cannot be broken," said Rapp who also served as a prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone in 2007. He said there was need to try the suspects as the window of opportunity is fast closing and the 2012 General Election would be worse unless the suspects are tried.

Last week, Rapp met International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, in Kigali, Rwanda, where they discussed the Kenyan situation. Mr Moreno-Ocampo indicated to him that he would submit Kenya’s case to the Pre-Trial Chamber in January or February next year. Thereafter, warrant of arrests would be issued probably in May.

Rapp, who earlier met Raila, Mutula and members of the civil society said that he had "no question that the crimes committed during the post-poll violence reached the level of crimes against humanity".

Moreno-Ocampo was in the country 11 days ago and indicated that he would request judges at ICC in The Hague to launch investigations into the Kenyan case.

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