Rwanda, Congo, and Citibank: Moving the Money
This summary of Citibank's involvement in Rwandan President Paul Kagame's war and plunder in Congo, as traced by a UN Panel of Experts, was produced to add to a report on Sonoma State University's sale of an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters to former Citigroup CEO and Chairman Sanford Weill for a $12 million "donation." The sale was completed during Sonoma State's commencement exercises, on May 12, 2012, the same day that William Penn University awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters to Rwandan General Paul Kagame.
KPFA Weekend News Anchor: Citigroup’s role in the national and global economic implosion and the foreclosure and student loan debt crises have received considerable press in recent years, but some of its other exploits are less well-known. KPFA’s Ann Garrison prepared this report on Citigroup subsidiary Citibank’s involvement in laundering money gained by Rwanda’s war and illegal mineral extraction in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
KPFA/Ann Garrison: In 2001, a UN panel of experts traced Citibank's involvement in transferring money gained by Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s war and illegal resource extraction, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, from a Rwandan bank back to Rwandan and Rwandan backed militias in Congo.
Section 30 of the "2001 Report of the Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of the Democratic Republic of the Congo" offers one example of the financial transactions by which BCDI, a bank in Kigali, Rwanda, which Rwandan President Paul Kagame and other members of his Rwandan Patriotic Front Party own shares in, funded the Rwandan war in Congo with the help of Citibank, New York. A letter, it says, signed by two officers of a diamond mine in Congo ordered a payment of $3.5 million U.S. dollars to a company owned by military officers fighting to topple the government in Congo, during the first Congo War of 1996 to 1997. The payment went from an account in the Rwandan bank, BCDI, to the officers’ in Congo, but, by way of a Citibank account in New York.
In Sections 130 through 135 of the same report, the Panel of Experts estimated that, between late 1999 and 2000, when the price of the mineral coltan soared, the Rwandan Army may have made as much as $20 million a month on Congolese coltan, and at least $250 million dollars over a period of 18 months, substantially more than enough to sustain its war in Congo during that time.
“Here,” the experts wrote, QUOTE, “lies the vicious circle of the war. Coltan has permitted the Rwandan army to sustain its presence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The army has provided protection and security to the individuals and companies extracting the mineral. These have made money which is shared with the army, which in turn, continues to provide the enabling environment to continue the exploitation.”
The report then traces Citibank’s role in the transfer of wealth created by smuggling Congo’s coltan into Rwanda and sending a share of profits back to Congo, to sustain Kagame’s war. In one case, the Rwandan bank, BCDI, ordered Citibank in New York to pay millions of dollars to Rwandan companies which were providing supplies to the RCD, a Rwandan backed militia that became a major force in the Second Congo War. The Second Congo War formally ended with a peace treaty in 2003, though the conflict continues.
Renewed fighting in recent weeks has caused an estimated ten thousand Congolese refugees* to flee across the eastern border into already overcrowded refugee camps in Rwanda and Uganda.
In January 2008, the International Rescue Committee estimated that 5.4 million people had died in the Congo conflict between 1998 and 2008 alone. The majority had died of hunger, disease, and other hardship in the region's refugee and internally displaced persons camps.
For Pacifica, KPFA and AfrobeatRadio, I'm Ann Garrison.