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People hold candles during a commemoration ceremony of the 1994 Rwandan genocide in 2019 [Andrew Renneisen | Getty Images]

France has arrested and charged a former top Rwandan regional official over the country's 1994 genocide, a source close to the case said on Saturday.

Pierre Kayondo, who was prefect of the Kibuye region and also a former MP, was arrested on Tuesday and charged with complicity in genocide and crimes against humanity, the source, who asked not to be named, told AFP.

The Rwandan suspect has then been remanded in custody, the source added.

Kayondo had been targeted by an investigation in France since 2021 after a complaint was filed against him by a victims' association.

He was believed to have been living in the northern port city of Le Havre.

France has been one of the top destinations for fugitives fleeing justice over the Rwandan massacres in which around 800,000 people, most of them ethnic Tutsis, were slaughtered over 100 days.

A group representing genocide survivors in Rwanda told AFP it welcomed the "long-awaited" arrest of Kayondo.

"It marks a crucial step towards justice for the atrocities committed during the genocide," said Naphtali Ahishakiye, executive secretary of the Ibuka association.

"Kayondo's involvement in the genocide, including his abuse of governmental positions to incite violence, is well-documented," he added.

"We implore the authorities to ensure swift and impartial justice in this matter, so that the survivors and their families can find closure and healing."

Rwanda under President Paul Kagame has on occasion accused Paris of not being willing to extradite genocide suspects or bring them to justice.

But France has tried and convicted a former spy chief, two ex-mayors, a former hotel chauffeur and an ex-top official since 2014 while a former military policeman is currently on trial.

Relations between the two countries have also warmed considerably since a historians' report commissioned by President Emmanuel Macron and released in 2021 recognised France's "overwhelming" responsibilities in failing to halt the massacres, having backed a genocidal regime.

In their complaint, the Collective of Civil Parties of Rwanda (CPCR) accused Kayondo of taking part in the organisation of massacres and helping to set up armed groups.

CPCR co-founder Alain Gauthier expressed satisfaction that the "complaint was followed by the opening of an investigation and that justice took an interest in Mr Kayondo. It's good."



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