Kabuga was born in Muniga, in the commune of Mukarange, prefecture of Byumba, Rwanda, roughly 30 kilometers off the Rwanda-Uganda Border. Kabuga amassed his wealth by owning tea farms in northern Rwanda, among other business ventures. A multimillionaire, he was closely connected to Juvénal Habyarimana's MRND party and the Akazu, an informal group of Hutu extremists from northern Rwanda that strongly contributed to the Rwandan Genocide.
Kabuga was also allegedly heavily involved in the founding and bankrolling of Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines, as well as Kangura magazine. In 1993, at an RTLM fundraising meeting organized by the MRND, Felicien Kabuga allegedly publicly defined the purpose of RTLM as the defence of Hutu Power. During the ICTR's so-called "media trial", former RTLM presenter George Ruggiu named Kabuga as the "Chairman Director-general" of the station, with duties such as "presiding over RTLM" and "representing RTLM."
From January 1993 to March 1994, a total of 500,000 machetes were imported into Rwanda, statistically one for every three adult Hutus in the country. Kabuga has been named as one of the main importers of these machetes.
Kabuga is married to Josephine Mukazitoni. Two of their daughters are married to two of Habyarimana's sons.
As a fugitive
In June 1994, after Rwanda was conquered by the RPF, Kabuga fled the country. He first attempted to enter Switzerland, but was ordered to leave. He went to Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and was later believed to be residing in Nairobi, Kenya.
In September 1995, before any indictment and before he was named as a suspected planner of the genocide, Kabuga registered and apparently ran a business named 'Nshikabem Agency' in Nairobi, operating out of the Kilimani area located along Nairobi’s Lenana Road.
In a speech given on August 28, 2006 during his visit to Kenya, then U.S. Senator Barack Obama accused Kenya of "allowing him [Kabuga] to purchase safe haven." The Kenyan government denied these allegations and described Obama's allegation regarding Kabuga as "an insult to the people of this country."
According to June 2008 reports by a Norwegian-based blogger calling himself African Press International (API), Kabuga was in hiding in Oslo, and might be seeking to turn himself in. Authorities dismissed this claim as a hoax.
KTN news network in Kenya reported on June 14, 2008 that Kabuga had been arrested by Kenya Police the day before and is being held at Gigiri Police Station in Nairobi. Later, the suspect was found to be a local university lecturer, not Kabuga as previously thought, and released.
Arrest and trial
On 16 May 2020, Kabuga, aged 84, was apprehended in in Paris, France, in a collaboration between the French police and the IRMCT. French authorities expressed a desire to prosecute him for crimes against humanity committed against the people of Rwanda.
The French initially intended to extradite Kabuga to Tanzania, however Kabuga's lawyers argued that this would endanger his life because Tanzanian leader John Magufuli's approach to the COVID-19 pandemic meant he would likely not get treatment if he caught the disease. Authorities eventually transferred Kabuga to the United Nations court at The Hague to face charges of genocide, incitement to genocide, complicity in genocide, persecution and extermination. If convicted he will likely receive a whole-life sentence (though as he is now 85 he would likely die in prison anyway). In November 2020, Kabuga pleaded not guilty to all charges; his trial will begin on September 26, 2022.