A U.S. agent removes handcuffs from Rwanda genocide suspect Oswald Rurangwa after he is flown by U.S. authorities to Kigali on Oct. 7, 2021, for transfer to Rwandan police custody. Photo Assumpta Kagoyi/VOA Central Africa Service
KIGALI, RWANDA — An alleged participant in the 1994 Rwandan genocide faces a possible 30 years in prison after U.S. officials deported him to Kigali, where he was taken into custody after his arrival Thursday.
Oswald Rurangwa, 59, escorted by U.S. security officials, was deported to Rwanda on a private jet. U.S. Embassy officials received him at Kigali International Airport and immediately handed him over to Rwandan security staff. Rurangwa was handcuffed and led into a waiting Rwanda Investigation Bureau van.
Speaking to reporters at the airport, Rwanda Prosecution Authority spokesman Faustin Nkusi said Rurangwa was the head of Interahamwe militia in the Gisozi sector, a suburb of Kigali, during the genocide.
"He participated in many acts of the genocide, including planning meetings, joining mobs of attackers, and killing. He committed genocide crimes, complicity to genocide, inciting people to commit genocide, murder and extermination as a crime against humanity," Nkusi said.
"We issued an arrest warrant against him in 2008, but this coincided with the Gacaca [court] ruling that had already been handed down to him. So, the U.S. judicial authorities deported him to serve his sentence here," he added.
In 2007, a Gacaca, or Rwandan community court, tried Rurangwa in absentia, finding him guilty of genocide and sentencing him to 30 years behind bars.
U.S. attorney Charles Kambanda, who is familiar with the case and knowledgeable about legal affairs in Central Africa, said the U.S. had a different rationale for deporting Rurangwa.
"Oswald Rurangwa was sent to Rwanda purely on account of immigration fraud,” the New York state-based attorney told the VOA Central Africa Service. "This means he was deported, not extradited. ICE [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] handed him over."
According to the prosecution, Rurangwa fled Rwanda in 1994 for the Kibumba refugee camp in what was then Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo. He later moved to another camp, Kayindu, before applying for asylum in the United States in 1996.
Nkusi said Rwandan law permits Rurangwa to have his case retried.
"You have seen that he has been assigned an attorney," Nkusi said, adding that Rurangwa would be informed of the earlier ruling and given a copy of his sentence. "He will also be informed about his right [of appeal] because even though he was sentenced in absentia, he has the right to have the case retried."
Rurangwa was being taken to Mageragere prison, Nkusi said. - Assumpta Kaboyi/Geoffrey Mutagoma, Voice of America