Munyaneza was born on 2 January 1958 in Gatare cell, Kinyamakara commune, Murera sector, Gikongoro Prefecture. With the recent changes to Rwanda’s administrative system, this same places are known as Kabuga cell, Kigoma sector, Ruhungu village, Huye district.
His parents were Focus Rwagakiga (a judge at a primary court – the former Canton court) and Anastasia Musanabera (a farmer).
Munyaneza obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in political science from Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda. He studied for a Masters degree in Business Administration from Maastricht University in The Netherlands. This period of higher educational study put Munyaneza in the top 0.1 % of the population and was a sign that he was very well regarded by the president who would have personally signed off on allowing him to study abroad.
Munyaneza then worked briefly as a primary school teacher at Shanga primary school, in Gikongoro, around fifty miles south-west of the capital Kigali.
Munyaneza was chosen by Preseident Juvenal Habyarimana to be Bourgmeister (Mayor) of his home commune of Kinyamakara, in the southern prefecture of Gikongoro, in November 1991, representing the President’s own MRND party. This was in the period when multi-party politics first began in the country. Munyaneza was a close friend of the MRND Prefect Laurent Bucyibaruta after he took office in July 1992 until he fled after the genocide two years later. He was also close to Colonel Aloys Simba, chairman of the presidential MRND party in the prefecture. Both men were later convicted of crimes against humanity – Bucyibaruta in France and Simba at the UN International Tribunal (ICTR).
Allegations of complicity in the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi:
On 7 April 1994, the day the genocide against the Tutsi began in earnest, Bourgmeister Munyaneza chaired a meeting in his Kinyamakara commune office where it was said he encouraged Hutus to kill Tutsi who were deemed to be ‘the enemy’. He instructed the local leaders known as conseillers and responsables that the homes of the Tutsi should be destroyed and their property looted. Some days later he led an attack on the home of a Tutsi called Ntivuguruzwa and ordered the looting of his shop, with all the looted property to be placed in his own vehicle. He ordered the setting up of roadblocks and night patrols in the commune. Following his instructions, Tutsi were killed in the area.
On or around 12 April 1994 Munyaneza instructed members of the Interahamwe militia to go and kill members of Bwiruka’s family. He later punished members of the Interahamwe who had taken Bwiruka’s cows – not for looting the cows but for failing to kill their Tutsi owners. Tutsis believing that the Interahamwe had been punished for looting had sought refuge in Munyaneza’s commune office, but here where they were killed by the militia. Munyaneza was present at the killings and stopped other Tutsi from fleeing.
On around 13 April 1994 Munyaneza is said to have shot dead Joel, son of Seruroba. Later he instructed militia to loot property only after killing the owners first. Days later, he instructed the responsables that they must track down and kill Tutsi.
On 13 April 1994 he attended a meeting of around 100 people, including all the bourgmestres in the Gikongoro prefecture to examine the issue of the killing of the Tutsi. On about 26 April Munyaneza attended a meeting at the prefecture office when he reported that 1,000 Tutsi had been killed in his Kinyamakara commune. He led a number of attacks over several days on Ruhashya over the Mwogo river. This resulted in many thousands of Tutsi deaths.
Munyaneza is alleged to have encouraged Tutsi to flee to the Catholic Parish of Cyanika, in Karama commune. There he mobilized militiamen to kill the thousands who had gathered, and encouraged local Hutu to kill any who tried to flee.
He is alleged to be implicated in the mass killings at ISAR/Songa – a large agricultural research station in neighbouring Butare prefecture. Munyaneza brough Interahamwe from his commune to assist local Hutu and gendarmes in killing the 8,000 Tutsi who had fled here.
At the ICTR trial in Arusha of Colonel Aloys Simba, evidence was heard that Munyaneza acted ‘in concert’ with him during actions against the Tutsi, handing out weapons and assisting in training militia. Simba was sentenced to 25 years for genocide and crimes against humanity in December 2005 (upheld on appeal 2007).
A Human Rights Watch book on the genocide noted that in the early days of the tragedy Munyaneza seemed to punish looters, was on good relations with the Tutsi and even tried to stop the killings. However, as the genocide continued he became involved by taking an active role and is implicated in the killings.
Munyaneza fled Rwanda in July 1994 after the defeat of the genocidal interim regime and its army/militia, crossing into neighbouring Zaire (now the DRC). After two years here he left for Tanzania, then Malawi and Mozambique before ending up in South Africa in December 1997. He used the name Musa Seliman in all countries except Zaire and Tanzania, and claimed that that he was Burundian national.
While in Durban in South Africa he worked as a security guard. When he received a request to go to see the immigration authorities he felt it was a trap and left to travel to Johannesburg. While there he was told by a friend that he had been named in a newspaper article about another alleged genocide suspect, published on 23 April 1999:
‘Another prominent killer, former Mayor Charles Munyaneza, was living in Durban claiming to be a Burundi citizen called Musa Seliman. Last week he was pulled in for questioning by the Department of Home Affairs after his cover was blown. Munyaneza has since disappeared. Rwandan officials believe he is trying to seek a visa for Britain or Holland.’
Life in the UK
Munyaneza travelled to the UK on 14 May 1999, via Italy. He used a false name, ‘Charles Muneza’, on entry and did not disclose he had been a bourgmeister. Two of his children arrived without passports on 9 November 2001 and on 12 November Munyaneza requested the Home Office that they should be allowed to remain with him in the UK. His wife and other two children were granted family reunion visas by the British Visa issuing port in Pretoria and were admitted to the UK on 21 November 2002. In 2002 Munyaneza was granted a work permit and given indefinite leave to remain, and he was allocated a Housing Association property in 2003.
In the view of the judge in the later 2008 extradition proceedings against Munyaneza ‘It is quite clear that he has done his very best to cover his tracks by moving from country to country; using a false name in Africa; gaining refugee status by the use of another false name and the deliberate failure to mention the position he held in Rwanda. The only reason for doing so was to conceal his whereabouts from the authorities.’
Munyaneza worked as a cleaner for Capital Properties – a property management company in Brentford, Essex.
On 29 January 2006 the Sunday Times published an article about his alleged role in the genocide [Jon Swain, ‘Focus: Rwandan genocide suspect in Britain’.]
This was followed by a report by the campaigning research group African Rights into Munyaneza’s alleged participation in the genocide: ‘Charles Munyaneza: evading justice in Britain,’ Witness to Genocide, Issue 15, 31 January 2006.
In August 2006 Munyaneza had his official status withdrawn when it was drawn to the attention of the Home Office that the name he had given on entry to the UK was false and that he had declared his previous occupation as a teacher and failed to mention being a Bourgmeister. As his refugee status had been obtained by deception, it was removed in 2006.
On 28 December 2006 Munyaneza was arrested by UK police along with three other genocide suspects and imprisoned in Belmarsh prison for two years while an extradition case at Westminster Magistrates Court was heard. On 6 June 2008 the judge ruled that the four accused could be extradited to Rwanda to stand trial. On 8 April 2009 an appeal at the Divisional Court overturned this extradition ruling with Munyaneza’s eminent legal team (including Lord Gifford, QC, Seth Levine, Gavin Irwin and Ian Edwards) arguing successfully that he would not receive a fair trial. The taxpayer legal aid bill for Munyaneza (2006-9) was £502,000.
On 30 May 2013 Munyaneza was re-arrested with the four other Rwandan suspects as part of renewed attempts by the Rwandan government to have him extradited to face charges of genocide. This (second) attempt at extradition began on 3 March 2014 and led to 63 days of evidence spread over 16 months. On 22 December 2015 District Court judge Emma Arbuthnot ruled that the extradition could not go ahead on the grounds the accused were at risk of not receiving a fair trial in Rwanda, a decision upheld by the High Court in its ruling of 28 July 2017. The lengthy judgment noted that Munyaneza, as with the four other suspects, still has a prima facie case to answer that should be tested in a court of law, and effectively threw the responsibility back into the UK court system for trial. The Legal Aid bill for Munyaneza for this second extradition case (2013-17) was at least £320,000.
In January 2018, Rwandan Prosecutor General Jean Bosco Mutangana and Prosecutor Jean Bosco Siboyintore, Head of the Genocide Suspects Tracking Unit, travelled to London to request the United Kingdom to open an investigation against the five individuals suspected of having participated in the 1994 genocide. They recalled the obligation of the United Kingdom to try or extradite such individuals.
On 9 April 2019, the Met Police anti-terrorism unit (S.O.15) reported that it was assessing the available evidence with a view to opening a full investigation. Minister of State for Security and Economic Crime Ben Wallace announced that investigations concerning those five individuals might take up to five years. However, he told members of the Parliament that the UK government would provide all necessary resources at its disposal so that justice can be served. He announced that police officers were sent to Rwanda to investigate on the ground.
In September 2020, four of the five suspects were voluntarily questioned by police over suspicion of genocide and crimes against humanity. None were arrested. The Met police have continued with their investigations (to the present) with no outcome yet announced. Munyaneza was the only one of the five accused not questioned due to ill health.
The continuing delay and a failure to take any action – in keeping with the UK’s dire record of bringing to justice alleged genocidaire and war criminals living openly in its communities – resulted in members of the UK parliament deciding to reform their group that had originally been brought together in the late 1980s to address the former Nazi war criminals living with impunity in the UK. On 21 April 2021, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on War Crimes announced it would ‘look into matters relating to the presence of alleged Rwandan war criminals in the UK and the prosecution of those who participated in the Rwandan genocide’.
On 26 April 2021, the then Rwandan Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Johnston Busingye, held virtual discussions with the APPG, noting that ‘Rwanda does not seek revenge’ and will not ‘prejudge the five suspects, whether they are innocent or guilty will be decided by the courts. All [Rwanda] seek[s] is that due process is followed and that justice, so far delayed, does not end up denied.’ So far through, despite questions in the House to the ruling Conservative government about the continuing delays to UK judicial action, it has not achieved any result.
In June 2022 Munyaneza refused to travel to Paris to give evidence at the Court of Assizes in the trial of his former boss, the prefect Laurent Bucyibaruta, who faced charges of complicity in the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi and crimes against humanity. On 13 July Bucyibaruta was found guilty and sentenced to twenty years imprisonment. However, perhaps as a portent of things to come if and when the UK ever puts its own five genocide suspects on trial, French judges ruled that the now aged and infirm Bucyibaruta could begin to serve his ‘prison’ sentence at his home as there was no prison accommodation suitable for his needs. The 25 years delay by France in putting Bucyibaruta on trial had resulted in not just justice delayed but denied as his eventual sentence for complicity in the genocide became meaningless.
Munyaneza is married to Florida Uwizeye. They have four children.
African Rights: Charles Munyaneza – Evading Justice in Britain 31 Jan 2006
Guardian: Munyaneza – Wanted for genocide, living in Bedford 13 May 2006
East African: Call to arrest all genocide suspects 7 June 2013
KT Press: UK ‘denying’ Rwandans justice 13 Aug 2017
Lawofnations blog: UK extradition refusal legal analysis 10 Oct 2017
Aegis Trust/Urumuri: Survivors letter to Home Secretary calling for justice 9 Dec 2018
The Sun: Genocide suspects run up 5 million legal bill 8 Sept 2018
Daily Mirror: Police Question Rwandan suspects about Rwandan atrocities 15 Nov 2020
Daily Mail: Scotland Yard detectives travel to Rwanda in genocide probe 21 Jan 2023