By David Clarke
NAIROBI (Reuters) – The United States wants Kenya to hand over a Rwanda genocide suspect it believes the east African nation has been harboring for years, President Barack Obama’s war crimes envoy said on Monday.
Stephen Rapp, U.S. ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues, said the fact Kenya had not delivered the suspect to the Rwanda war crimes tribunal was part and parcel of the impunity prevalent in east Africa’s biggest economy.
The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) said last year Kenya was failing to act against Felicien Kabuga — despite evidence of his entry into the country, application for residency, visa approval and opening of a bank account.
Kabuga is Rwanda’s most-wanted man and the United States has put a $5 million bounty on his head.
A Hutu businessman, Kabuga is accused of funding the militias that butchered some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus over a span of 100 days in 1994.
“I’ve seen pictures of him in Kenyan neighborhoods, the ICTR has continued to press with Kenyan authorities for effective action to bring about his arrest. Even arriving last night, I received fresh information of his presence in Kenya,” Rapp told a news conference in Kenya’s capital.
Kenya froze Kabuga’s assets in May this year, but has questioned whether the genocide suspect is still in Kenya.
Rapp said the latest government response was that Kabuga had now left Kenya, but it was still looking for evidence to confirm his departure.
“If you are still looking for the evidence, you can’t honestly say that he’s left. You can’t have it both ways. So I think we have to presume that this man is still here,” he said.
“They need to cooperate genuinely, and deliver Kabuga. Send him down the road to Arusha,” Rapp said, referring to the location of the tribunal.
Experts say that Kabuga had extensive business dealings with powerful individuals in the government of former President Daniel arap Moi and security sources believe he has been paying for protection in Kenya.
Rapp also said Washington had hoped Kenya would be able to prosecute the perpetrators of last year’s post-election violence, but it looked increasingly likely the International Criminal Court in The Hague would now pursue several cases.
ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said earlier this month he would request an investigation after Kenyan leaders refused to refer the cases to The Hague court.
Ethnic clashes after a disputed presidential election killed at least 1,300 people and uprooted more than 300,000, shattering Kenya’s image as a stable, regional economic powerhouse.
Kenya had promised to deal with the masterminds. But numerous attempts to kick-start the process have floundered and many Kenyans are skeptical powerful individuals will be arrested and charged because of widespread impunity among politicians.
There are fears that unless those most responsible for the bloodshed are brought to book, there will be a repeat at the next presidential election in 2012.
Rapp said it was crucial that Kenya act on Kabuga, especially given the risk of more ethnic violence here.
“Obviously cooperation on that case is important, but it’s all part and parcel of the same thing,” he said.
“It is critical that a man who was involved in inciting ethnic hatred … isn’t given refuge, and continued refuge in Kenya, at this critical time.”