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Rwanda Ten Years After: Follow the Money
An ongoing inquiry by the Rights Force / Fair Finance Watch
The murder of 800,000 people in Rwanda in 1994 has given rise to, among other things, a United Nations-sponsored International Criminal Tribunal, numerous non-fiction books, a few films, and a self-consciously quieter repetition of the 1940s phrase, "Never again." Before leaving office, Bill Clinton offered belated apologies, which many have since criticized as misleading (Gourevitch 1998; Power 2002). The roles of France, and of the United Nations, have been explored. Less work has been devoted to the related tensions and killings in neighboring Burundi; less work still has been done on questions of finance.
How did the Hutu extremists (and the Tutsi-led RPF) arm themselves? Where did the money stolen, both from government coffers and from refugees of various ethnicities and motives, end up? Such matters were pursued, by NGOs and government agencies, for more than fifty years after the Nazis' genocide. So perhaps the inaction with respect to Rwanda can change -- that is the hope, and the purpose, of this inquiry by the Fair Finance Watch / Human Rights Enforcement Project, ten years after the Rwandan killing fields of 1994.
Arms Stock-Piling in the Run-Up to April 6, 1994
In March 1992, the Rwandan regime of Juvénal Habyarimana bought $6 million of light weapons and small arms from Egypt: 2,000 rocket-propelled grenades, 450 Kalashnikov rifles, 16,000 mortar shells and over 3 million rounds of ammunition. (U.S. Congress 1998). Egypt asked for a guarantee of payment, which was provided by Crédit Lyonnais, now owned by Crédit Agricole. (Prunier 1995, pg. 148, n.36, citing La Lettre du Continent of May 25, 1992, and chiding Human Rights Watch for having "blanked out the mention of the bank" in HRW's 1994 report, Arming Rwanda). Payments were made, in one million dollar installments, into the account of the Egyptian military attaché's account at Crédit Lyonnais' Regent Street branch in London.
Apartheid South Africa was a major arms-seller to the Habyarimana regime: the weapons sold included 20,000 R-4 rifles and 1.5 million rounds of ammunition, as well as 10,000 hand grenades. Payment were made into accounts at the Banque Nationale de Paris, Belgolaise, and the Volkskas Bank in Pretoria.
In February 1994, the Habyarimana regime ordered $1 million of mortars and ammunition from Egypt. In the months that followed, $1.4 million was transferred from the National Bank of Rwanda, via the Rwandan embassy in Nairobi, to Cairo and into the Commercial International Bank of Egypt.
Arms Dealing During the Hundred Days
From April 6, 1994, when the plane carrying Habyarimana, the President of Burundi and several of both presidents' staff members back from Dar Es Salaam was shot down, through July 17, 1994, when the RFP took control of Gisenyi, nearly one million Rwandans, almost entirely Tutsis, along with some moderate Hutus, were killed. At the beginning of this period, more than $100 million dollars were taken from the national coffers as the RPF moved south toward Kigali. A report compiled in 2000 recounts that "six days after the genocide began, Bagosora telephoned Gatsinzi... Bagosora wanted Gatsinzi to prepare armed guards to escort the government's hard currency from the vaults of the Central Bank in Kigali to the interim government at Gitarama. Gatsinzi refused. The money was moved anyway. Bagosora organized a detachment of soldiers. There is only a rough estimate of how much it was, but it filled several trucks. The year's taxes had just been collected and the amount was later estimated to be 24 billion Rwandese francs (US $170 million). The Rwandese currency stolen is estimated at twice that in circulation at the time. There was also hard currency and gold in the vaults." (Malvern 2000, also recounting, citing Galand 1996, that "[f]or the duration of the genocide and some weeks after it, Hutu Power kept operational the world-wide government backing network and a total of US $17.8 million was spirited away with US $6.4 million taken out in travelers' checks"). FFW background note: For his courage lack of cooperation, Marcel Gatsinzi was stripped of his position of chief of the army on April 17, 1994; he later was part of Rwanda's post-1994 government. Colonel Théoneste Bagosora retained power throughout the months of mass murder, and was among the first indicted by the Arusha-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
Throughout April and May, 1994, with the mass murder already underway, the interim government purchases at least $4 million in weapons from Mil-Tec, incorporated in Douglas, the Isle of Man. Mil-Tec acquired grenades and ammunition in Eastern Europe and Israel and transferred it to Rwanda. On April 14, 1994, Mil-Tec received $1,621,901 via Bank Belgolaise in Brussels. On April 19, 1994, through its Cairo Embassy, Bagosora's interim government paid Mil-Tec $667,120, through the National Westminster Bank, now owned by Royal Bank of Scotland. (Melvern 2000, p. 185, n.34, also reporting that "once the genocide was underway, $13 million [in] Rwandan government money passed through the Banque Nationale de Paris").
HRW's 1999 report cites, for the Mil-Tec / NatWest connection, a November 11, 1994, letter from National Westminster Bank's Foreign Business Officer, Mr. M. Franklin, to Mil-Tec; it cites the U.N. report "The United Nations and Rwanda" for the propositions that "banks in Belgium (Banque Bruxelles Lambert), France (Banque Nationale de Paris), Switzerland (Union Bancaire Privée, Geneva), Italy (Banca Nazionale de Lavoro), and the U.S. (Federal Reserve Bank, Chase Manhattan Bank) also handled financial transactions involved in the purchase of weapons." The basis of the Federal Reserve's inclusion is sourced to a December 26, 1994, letter from Lt. Col. Cyprien Kayumba to Monsieur le Ministre de la Défense.
In July 1994, the extremist Hutu interim government went into "exile" across from Gisenyi in Goma, where they purported to set up a branch of the National Bank of Rwanda, "which continued to place orders for arms and other supplies, and guarantee payments. A number of foreign banks accepted these orders made by the 'government in exile'... Pierre Galand of Belgium's council of development NGOs (CNCD) cites Citibank, Dresdner Bank (Germany) and Banque Nationale de Paris" (Le Soir 1997).
Plus ca change: Citibank, now the largest bank in the world, helped launder money for Gabon's Omar Bongo, as detailed in a 1999 U.S. Senate staff report (and see above on this page); Citigroup shows up again in the Great Lakes Region, in the 2001 United Nations report on the traffic in conflict diamonds in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The 56 page report details how transport networks and financial institutions accommodate the exchange of mineral resources for arms, and cash for arms.
-- "Report Names Culprits in Central Africa's Dirty War," Environment News Service, April 19, 2001
Diamonds, of course, are among the easiest ways to launder money -- click here for FFW's ongoing report on that topic...
Braeckman, Colette, "Le Rwanda doit-il payer une 'dette odieuse'?" Le Soir, 27 January 1997, pg. 6 [available at <http://users.skynet.be/cadtm/pages/english/angbraek.htm>]
Galand, Pierre and Chossudovsky, Michel. "Le financement de l'ancien régime après Avril 1994," in L'Usage de la Dette Extérieure due Rwanda (1990 / 1994) La Responsabilité des Bailleurs de Fonds, Brussels and Ottawa, 1996.
Gourevitch, Philip. 1998. We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Melvern, Linda. A People Betrayed: The Role of the West in Rwanda's Genocide, London: Zed Books, 2000.
Power, Samantha. 2002. A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide. New York: Basic Books.
United States Congress, Committee on International Relations, House of Representatives. Rwanda: Genocide and the Continuing Cycle of Violence. Hearing before the Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights, May 5, 1998. Addendum, The Nature of the Beast - Arms Trafficking to the Great Lakes Region of Africa, Kathi Austen.