Kitui family recounts how kin was killed by gunmen linked to Felicien Kabuga
The capture of the mastermind of the 1994 Rwanda genocide Felicien Kabuga has rekindled bitter memories for a family in Kitui County whose breadwinner was shot dead by gunmen linked to the fugitive.
Mr Benjamin Mbiti Kalili was a telecommunications expert who had been seconded by United Nations to the Arusha based International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda genocide which was trying the genocide suspects to help in tracking Mr Kabuga.
He was ambushed in broad daylight and gunned down on the morning of Saturday, July 12, 2003, as he drove to his Nguutani village home in Kitui County only a day after jetting into the country from Tanzania.
Mr Kabuga, who was believed to be hiding in Kenya, was wanted for his role in masterminding and financing the 1994 Rwanda genocide in which more than 800,000 people were killed.
Mr Kalili’s killers, who trailed him from Nairobi, seemed to have his travel information because they turned back and drove away without stealing anything from him.
According to his family, Mr Kalili was killed just a month after a botched operation to capture the Rwanda genocide suspect in Nairobi, in which he is said to have been actively involved.
His younger brother, Francis Kalili, on Saturday told the Sunday Nation that the family still believes that hunting Mr Kabuga, who was captured on Saturday in Paris France, was a risky assignment which may have cost the engineer his life.
The younger Kalili, a lawyer practising in Kitui town, narrated how his elder brother was involved in the Tribunal’s efforts to capture Mr Kabuga and how in May 2003, they almost succeeded in arresting him.
“He had disclosed to us that he was involved in the tracking one of the main suspects behind the Rwanda genocide and that was when I first heard of Mr Kabuga” the lawyer said.
The family suspects their brother may have been exposed to the killers in his sensitive job to monitor the communication between Mr Kabuga and his key associates, and his movements within East Africa.
Before his recruitment by the UN, Mr Kalili worked with the Kenya Posts and Telecommunications Corporation, today’s Telkom Kenya as an engineer.
“My brother was hired by the UN Environment (UNEP) as a communications officer in 1985 and deployed to Rwanda. He was based in Kigali before and after the 1994 genocide and was among officers who were seconded to the Arusha Tribunal upon its formation,” he explained.
As a telecommunications expert and having witnessed the genocide first hand, his skills came in handy in helping the court track and arrest most of the suspects including Mr Kabuga.
He explained that his brother had revealed to them how in early 2003, the Arusha court had managed to locate Mr Kabuga’s hideout in Nairobi’s Hurlingham estate and where a dawn raid was planned.
However, after being allegedly tipped off, Mr Kabuga slipped away moments before the arresting squad, which the slain Kalili was part of, could get to his house.
“After that botched operation, he came home before returning to Kigali and he expressed his frustrations at some rogue Kenyan police officers who he claimed had tipped off Mr Kabuga,” Kalili’s younger brother narrated.
Eyewitnesses told the family and police that Mr Kalili, who was accompanied by his wife Philomena, was shot twice by a woman assassin in broad daylight at Nguutani market along the Thika Garissa highway.
The white saloon car had trailed him all the way from Nairobi but the UN court staffer may have dismissed the occupants of the car as an ordinary couple heading home for weekend because the gun woman was being driven by man.
That was his first homecoming after his transfer to Arusha from Kigali tribunal office where he had reported two weeks earlier.
“Having landed the previous evening, the killers seemed to have his travel information and they turned back and drove away without stealing anything from him,” the younger Kalili recalls.
“No suspects were arrested in connection with the killing but at least we’re happy that Mr Kabuga was finally captured by French authorities to face justice for the atrocities” he said.
Records at the Mwingi police station indicate that police are yet to conclude investigations into Kalili’s killing and the inquest file is still open.