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News/the Netherlands

"Exterminate the cockroaches" The trial of the chief propagandist of the Rouen genocide is underway in The Hague. He helped slaughter a million people in 100 days with the help of his radio station.


The Rwandan genocide (April 6 - July 18, 1994) was a genocide of Rwandan Tutsis ordered by the Hutu government. Estimates of the number of deaths range from 500,000 to 1,100,000.


On 10 October 2022, 87-year-old Félicien Kabuga was brought before a UN tribunal in The Hague. He has been a fugitive from justice for the last 25 years, moving from country to country, but two years ago law enforcement forces apprehended the fugitive near Paris.

Kabuga is widely known for his propaganda work, having co-founded the popular radio station Thousand Hills (RTLM), which promoted mass murder by spreading hateful messages.  

"If a hundred thousand young people stand up to arms, we will kill and destroy them all. We will succeed, because they all belong to the same ethnic group."

From the transcript of the Radio Thousand Hills broadcast

"Kabuga is believed to have played a fatal role in fuelling hatred towards the Tutsis at various levels, which ultimately led to so many casualties," says correspondent Elles Van Gelder.

Kabuga is charged with genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide and politically motivated persecution, extermination and murder as crimes against humanity committed in Rwanda in 1994.

Félicien Kabuga


The indictment specifically alleges that RTLM directly and publicly incited genocide and persecution through derogatory and threatening broadcasts.

These radio broadcasts referred to Tutsi people as "cockroaches", often citing locations and other information that encouraged or facilitated the killing of these people.

According to the indictment, Kabuga is responsible for these crimes based on his involvement in a joint criminal enterprise with others involved in Thousand Hills Radio and his complicity in the criminal conduct of RTLM journalists, members of Interahamwe (Hutu militia) and others whose crimes were instigated by the radio station broadcasts.

Last night I saw a Tutsi child who was shot and thrown into a hole 15 metres deep. He managed to get out of the pit and was finished off with a club. He was interrogated before he died.

From the transcript of the broadcast of Radio Thousand Hills

Kabuga is also accused of aiding and abetting Interahamwe Hutu militias who killed and injured Tutsis and others in Kigali Ville, Gisenyi and Kibuye prefectures, as he provided the movement with material, logistical, financial and moral support.


Kabuga himself has not pleaded guilty. He keeps claiming that he did not personally kill people and therefore has nothing to do with the Tutsi tragedy. Well, in a sense this is true - no evidence has been found that Kabuga killed any Tutsis with his own hands.

However we have found a lot of records of Radio Thousand Hills broadcasts, in which hatred and inhumanization of Tutsis interspersed with exact addresses of people whom Kabuga and his accomplices wanted to call enemies.

It is worth recalling that most Hutus were illiterate and, like most ignorant people, took the words of radio broadcasts as the ultimate truth.

Many of them were burned and they still managed to pull the trigger - with their feet. I don't know who created them. I just don't know. You look at them and you wonder where people like that come from. Anyway, let's just be firm and exterminate them....

From the transcript of the broadcasts of Radio Thousand Hills

Later, when many Kabuga journalists were put on trial, they justified themselves on the grounds that the broadcasts allegedly did not incite hatred against all Tutsis, but against certain "Tutsi militants". However, the content of the broadcasts testified against them - the line between the mythical militants and the rest of the Tutsis was blurred to the point of extinction.

Rwanda, 1994

In 2012, economist David Yanagizawa-Drott of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government tried to estimate the direct impact of RTLM broadcasts on the intensity of violence in Rwandan villages. The signal strength of RTLM transmitters in each village can be calculated based on the power of the transmitters and the terrain.

The model built by Yanagizawa suggests that about 10% of the violence against Tutsis is a direct effect of the availability of radio broadcasts. In simpler terms, this propaganda has literally killed between 50,000 and 100,000 men, women and children.

One hundred days of genocide

The extermination of the Tutsi had been planned over several months: local militias were formed, massive propaganda was undertaken, and machete knives were purchased and distributed to the population - a process in which Kabuga himself was personally involved. When the ground was prepared, the plane of the Rwandan president was shot down by a missile, the death of the president was blamed on ethnic Tutsis - and riots and killings ensued.

I believe a new dawn is about to dawn! For those of you who are young and don't know the word, dawn is the first light of the sun at the beginning of a new day. The day will dawn when there will be no more cockroaches left on the soil of Rwanda. The word "Inyenzi" (cockroaches) will be forgotten forever.

From the transcript of the broadcast of Radio Thousand Hills

No one was spared: not children, nor the elderly, nor pregnant women. People who sought refuge in schools and churches were hacked to death with machetes, pelted with grenades and burned alive.

A Hutu man who did not support the genocide had been imprisoned in the concentration camp, starved and attacked with machetes. He managed to survive after he was freed and was placed in the care of the Red Cross. Rwanda, 1994
Photo: James Nachtwey


Former UN mission commander, General Romeo Dallaire: "Within 48 hours of the start of the massacre, 2,000 troops from the best armies in the world - France, the US, Britain, Italy - had arrived in the capital, Kigali, and other areas. They arrived to evacuate their countrymen - and some Rwandans. Although they stumbled over corpses and could smell decomposition in the streets, alleys and houses, it did not shake their resolve to ignore the disaster around them and complete their task.

I got a call from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations telling me there was no help to be had. No one is going to rescue the Rwandans.

General Dallaire was not allowed to stop the propaganda of a local extremist radio station either: "One can only guess at the tremendous impact the station had in a country where radio is virtually the only means of communication and, for some villagers in remote areas, the voice of the radio is almost like the voice of God.

The radio was used to explain how to kill, dismember, cut up and rape people. All this time I asked permission to turn off this radio station. But I was told the radio station was in the hands of a sovereign state and we had no right to interfere."

Finally, on 17 May 1994, a month and a half after the massacre had begun, the Security Council decided to send an international contingent to Rwanda. The troops did not arrive until early August. By then, there were virtually no Tutsis left in the country.

Even after numerous tribunals visited prisoners for genocide, journalist Phillip Gurevitch became convinced that not all of them were remorseful.

Rwandan elite figures in high-profile cases have used a range of rhetorical devices to minimise their involvement in genocide and justify brutality, and to show that it is not all that simple, and that the Tutsis have committed some crimes.

The European countries have not yet worked out a unified mechanism for responding to genocide in a particular state. So far, all that European law-enforcement agencies can do is prosecute the perpetrators after many years, provided that the perpetrators do not hold public office in their country. For Félicien Kabuga, however, it is little consolation, since justice has finally caught up with him.

Authors:  Irina Iakovleva, Victoria Hoogland

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