The French justice will investigate on accusations against BNP Paribas’s financing of weapons which may have been used to perpetrated the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Other banks may have to respond to similar charges.
Twenty-three years after the genocide of the Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda, the fight of the survivors and of the victims’ relatives goes on. On the last 25 September, judges have been appointed to open a criminal investigation against the BNP Paribas bank for its alleged complicity of genocide and crimes against humanity. Such accusations were made on the last 29 June by three NGOs, including the anti-corruption association Sherpa, the Ibuka association of genocide survivors and the CPCR group of relatives of the victims.
The three NGOs accused BNP to have authorized in June 1994 – while the genocide was taking place and in violation of a UN embargo- the transfer of U.S. $ 1.3 million from a bank account held by the National Bank of Rwanda (BNR) towards an account held at the UPB Swiss Bank by the South African arms dealer, William Tertius Ehlers.
The latter reportedly struck a deal for the sale of 80 tonnes of arms and ammunition to one of the main masterminds of the genocide, colonel Théoneste Bagosora, which was sentenced by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to 35 years in prison for crimes against humanity. After a meeting of both men in the Seychelles, on the 17 June 1994, the weapons were delivered and distributed to the dreaded Interahamwe Hutu militia, which is the main organization involved in the genocide, according to the claim.
One cannot rule out that further legal actions may take place against other financial institutions. In 1992, two years before the genocide, Human Rights Watch revealed a U.S.$ 6 million arms deal signed on the 30 March 1992 with the Egyptian government, by the Rwandan Defence and Finance Ministers, col. Augustin Ndindiliyimana and Enoch Ruhigira respectively. The money was transferred on the Rwandan military attaché’s bank account at the Crédit Lyonnais branch, in London.
Crédit Lyonnais could hardly ignore the political context in Rwanda. At that time, several massacres of Tutsis had been already reported by the French television.
And it was also an open secret that Rwandan high-ranking officials had designated the Tutsis and the country’s enemy.
Furthermore, in a 1,500 pages book titled « France at the heart of genocide », published in 2010, the French mathematician and staff member of CNRS National Centre for Scientific Research, Jacques Morel, mentions the role of the Belgian Belgolaise bank which ceased its operations in 2006. Allegedly, Belgolaise acted as an intermediary for transfers related to U.S. $ 12 million contract concluded on the 3 May 1993 between the Rwandan government and the DYL-Invest company for the purchase of ammunition for French AML Panhard armored vehicles, rockets, grenades, Kalashnikov and Israeli-made artillery shells.
The Belgian political scientist, Éric Toussaint, considers that the World Bank has a also a responsibility. Toussaint considers indeed that politics which were imposed by the main financial institutions accelerated the process which led to the genocide. At least, says Toussaint, the World Bank was guilty of negligence since it allowed the Rwandan government to divert funds to prepare the genocide.
Accordingly, the money lent by the World Bank just before the attack of the Rwandan Patriotic Front rebels in October 1990 was used to finance expenditures of the Rwandan Armed Forces whose numbers rose eight fold from 5,000 to 40,000 men, between 1990 and 1994. In addition, while the prices of imported goods were soaring, the purchase price paid to the small coffee farmers remained frozen, following the International Monetary Fund’s instructions. As a result, pursues Toussaint, these small farmers were ruined and alongside with the urban poor, they increased the reservoir of recruits for the Interahamwe militias and the army.
Moreover, in order to justify the use of IMF and World Bank loans, Rwanda was authorized to submit old bills corresponding to the purchase if imported goods. This system allowed to finance massive purchases of weapons for the genocide, accuses Toussaint. « The Rwandan authorities did set up tricks to conceal military expenditures : trucks were purchased for the army on the Ministry of Transports’ budget and an important share of the fuel used by the militias’ and army’s vehicles were purchased on the Heath Ministry budget », claims the Belgian political scientist. While continuing to extend loans until early 1993, the Bretton Woods institutions helped a regime which was preparing a genocide, argues Éric Toussaint. Besides, the Swiss Federal Council in an answer to a parliamentary question received in September 1998, stated that purchase of machetes were made through World Bank funding in 1991 and 1992 for a total amount of U.S.$ 149,000.
Then, in an interview broadcasted by Radio France International on the 7 April 2004, Oxfam Belgium’s former Secretary General and Socialist Senator, Pierre Galand says that the Banque de France continued to honour payments on behalf of the Rwandan National Bank, even after the fall of the genocide regime.
And accordingly, the French army helped the BNR to establish its new headquarters in the Congolese border city of Goma. From there, the BNR issued international payment orders. Pierre Galand also blames the World Bank for having tried to conceal its activities in Rwanda by claiming it had last all the related files during a move
Galand wrote a report in 1996 to the Rwanda government on all those matters but it was never made public, he says. There were two reasons for this. The first is that Rwanda in 1994-1996 was completely knocked down by the genocide tragedy and the country needed to recover. It needed absolutely foreign assistance and that allowed donors to exert an extraordinary kind of blackmail, stating for instance warnings such as : « if you wish our help, you forget about this report ». Besides, pursues the former Senator, Rwanda preferred to keep this report as an instrument of blackmail rather than use it as an instrument of repair of the damages caused by the genocide…