Hope for family of slain writer as Rwanda genocide suspect arrested

Lydia Wangui, 64, mother of the late William Munuhe Gichuki who was found dead in his house at Karen estate on January 17, 2003. [Mose Sammy/Standard]

The family of a freelance journalist whose murder was linked to Rwandan international fugitive Felicien Kabuga, is hopeful justice will be served after the elusive man was arrested.

William Munuhe, a freelance journalist, was murdered on January 14, 2003, the same day he had planned to set up Kabuga for arrest by agents from the US Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI).

Munuhe’s body was found three days later covered with a blanket at his home in Karen, Nairobi. He had a bullet wound in his head.

Kabuga, accused of financing the 1994 Rwandan genocide that led to the killing of more than 800,000 Tutsis and some Hutus, was arrested on Saturday by French police.

Munuhe believed he was laying a trap for Kabuga, who had a $5 million bounty on his head.

His death was made to look like suicide, with a burning charcoal jiko placed next to his bed to hoodwink investigators that he had died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

His family, however, believes Munuhe was murdered considering he was shot dead while attempting to set up Kabuga.

The kin then embarked on seeking justice and compensation for Munuhe, but 17 years later, they are still searching.

Munuhe’s elder brother Josephat Muriithi said they had lost everything while looking for justice over the last 17 years.

“Our father Nicholas Gichuki died with his heart troubled because his son’s death had never been compensated and his mysterious death never solved,” said Mr Muriithi.

Munuhe’s father died aged 71 in December 2018, while still waiting for the fulfillment of the State’s promise made in 2003.

“The government, through a statement released by the American Embassy, had promised to turn every stone until my brother’s death is resolved,” said Muriithi.

He added that their brother’s case hit a dead end after Kabuga disappeared and attempts to seek help from Keriako Tobiko, a former Director of Public Prosecutions, bore no fruit. Muriithi said he held Press conferences yearly to seek help and search for his brother’s killer, but in vain.

He wrote to the Office of the Prosecutor International Criminal Court (ICC) in March 2019 seeking their intervention. On May 20 last year he received a reply.

ICC, through the Head of the Information and Evidence Unit, Office of the Prosecutor, in their reply, informed him the allegations they had raised appeared to fall outside the jurisdiction of the court.

“The information you have submitted will be maintained in our archives and the decision not to proceed may be reconsidered if new facts of evidence provide a reasonable basis to believe that a crime within the jurisdiction of the court has been committed,” read the letter.

In their letter ICC advised Muriithi to consider raising the matter with appropriate national and or international authorities, forcing them to move to Kenyan court.  

“I decided to file a suit against the State for compensation of my brother’s death in December 2019 and also petitioned for the government to declare Kabuga dead or alive and clear the air on the unsolved mystery,” said Muriithi.

The suit mentions Interior and Coordination of National Government Principal Secretary, Inspector General of Police, Directorate of Criminal Investigations, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Principal Civil Registrar Immigration, and the government’s legal advisor as defendants. The case is pending at the High Court in Nakuru, with the State yet to file a response.

Munuhe’s mother Lydia Wangui, 68, is hopeful that justice will be found for her son. 

“Things are looking up. Finally we may get justice,” said Ms Wangui.