One of the Rwanda genocide’s most wanted remaining suspects, accused of ordering the death of 2,000 people hiding in a church, denied on Friday any involvement though said he was “sorry” for the 1994 killings.
On the run for two decades, Fulgence Kayishema was arrested on Wednesday under a false name on a grape farm in South Africa where, according to a prosecutor, fellow refugees gave him up.
Entering court for a first hearing with a bible and book emblazoned with “Jesus first,” the 62-year-old was asked by a journalist if he had anything to say to victims.
“What I can say? We are sorry to hear what was happening,” he responded, coming up from holding cells at Cape Town Magistrates’ Court.
“It was a war at that time… I didn’t have any role.”
He was a fugitive from justice since 2001, when the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) indicted him for genocide over his alleged role in the destruction of the Nyange Catholic Church in Kibuye Prefecture.
An estimated 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and Hutu moderates were killed during Rwanda’s genocide, orchestrated by an extremist Hutu regime and meticulously executed by local officials and ordinary citizens in the rigidly hierarchical society.
At the Nyange church, Hutu militia lobbed grenades then doused it with fuel to set it ablaze.
When that failed, they knocked down the church with bulldozers and most of those sheltering inside died.