In what Boston-based biotech firm did President Paul Kagame put an eight-digit figure (U$10,000,000+) of Rwandan workers’ social security fund? Who gave such a daring authorisation? Who knows what in this saga? Will the Rwanda Social Security Board ever publish details of this investment as required by Rwandan laws?

Let us stitch together the bits that I personally know and the bits drawn from existing sources to tell this crazy story. Sadly, these disparate sources are what Rwandans must rely on because the Rwanda Social Security Board will not reveal the truth. How can they, if the truth implicates the nation’s most powerful?

It is vital to contextualise this writing with the challenge of tracing monies often spread around the world by authoritarian rulers. By comparison, the monies exported by President Paul Kagame will always be “tiny” given the size of the Rwandan economy even with the loot from DR Congo.

It was recently estimated, for example, that high-ranking Angolan officials, including President José Eduardo Dos Santos stashed into overseas accounts over US$36 million of stolen public funds.

Rwanda’s “financial exports” will never mount to billions but to millions of dollars.

When it comes to re-constructing the Rwandan money-trail, however, we are in luck. We have the usual source from where to begin – the serial boasting of the Kagame regime. That is where we begin tracing the trail of US$10million+ of Rwandan workers’ money that mysteriously flew to America.

Our point of depart is Jeff Chu’s famous article “Rwanda Rising: A New Model of Development” published by FastCompany in Boston in April 2009.

This writing was reproduced in series by the RPF daily – the New Times in April 2009.

As usual, the motive was to show off how great a leader President Kagame is. Here are the most revealing points in “Rwanda Rising: A new Model of Economic Development,” some of which I am able to verify:

* President Paul Kagame’s key strategy for developing Rwanda is to relay on wealthy and powerful mostly American friends to lure private investment into the country;

* It is from among these powerful friends that a recommendation to invest in a pre-IPO biotech firm was made;

* The biotech firm could not be named, writes Jeff Chu, because the company was still undergoing sensitive preparations in readiness to be publicly-launched;

* The money Rwanda invested came from the social-security funds.

* The biotech firm’s CEO was nervous of the Rwandan money because if something went wrong (for example if the Federal Drug Administration did not approve the firm’s products), the financial resources lost would affect one the poorest countries in the world, i.e. Rwanda, as opposed to the usual multi-millionaire venture capitalists seeking to make a quick buck.

* An adviser to Kagame “personally gave his approval and even increased the amount of the investment” to the biotech firm:

Now let us try to make sense of all this.

If the reader has not already guessed the bvious, the “advisor” to Kagame who “increased” the amount was no other than James Musoni who was at the time the Finance Minister. Musoni was also the direct boss to Henry Gaperi, who headed Rwanda’s Social Security Fund.

The biotech firm is the Boston-based Merrimack Pharmaceuticals. Its connection to President Paul Kagame is easily-established.

Begin with Michael Fairbanks, described as a “a founding shareholder” in Merrimack Pharmaceuticals. Fairbanks is also the founder and Chairman Emeritus of the OTF Group, based in Boston. OTF has been working in Rwanda for the past 13 years. A very close associate of Paul Kagame, Fairbanks is also a member of Rwanda’s Presidential Advisory Council.

Then we have Michael Porter, who is said to have served as a strategy advisor to Merrimack since 1999; he is on the firm’s member of board of directors since December 2010.

Porter is also a member of Kagame’s Presidential Advisory Council.

Finally, there is Clet Niyikiza, who is Merrimack’s Executive Vice President of Development since February 2010. He was Senior Vice President of Product Development from July 2009 to February 2010.

Niyikiza in fact moved from his former employer, GlaxoSmithKline, in 2009 at the height of the Rwandan transaction with Merrimack.

Niyikiza is therefore the third Merrimack’s person directly associated with President Kagame. Niyikiza is also a member of Paul Kagame’s Presidential Advisory Council.

I can also share the fact that I was part of the presidential entourage that together with President Kagame met Robert J. Mulroy, Merrimack’s President and Chief Executive Officer, in 2008 to firm up the relationship.

* I was not, however involved in the final stages in the later half of 2008 and thereafter.

* I therefore do not know the final figure that was subsequently approved;

* There can be no doubt however that four people are responsible for this saga: 1) President Kagame; 2) James Musoni, then Finance Minister; 3) Francois Kanimba, then Central Bank Governor; and 4) Henry Gaperi, then Director General of Rwanda’s Social Security Fund. I participated in earlier meetings with these individuals. The talk was generally around the need to establish some kind of “sovereign” fund for Rwanda via an aggressive investment drive.

Perhaps the biggest question is this: who is the proxy shareholder (out of over Merrimack’s 120 major shareholders) is the Rwandan workers’ money listed under? Naturally, as you would expect, Rwanda Social Security Fund, is NOT listed among Merrimack’s shareholders. Such missing link is what often proves difficult when tracing monies authoritarians spread overseas. Rwanda is no exception. The task of tracing the loot in foreign capitals in post-Kagame phase will not be easy even if the sums are much small than, for example, Angola’s.

The good ending to the story is that Merrimack Pharmaceuticals successfully made the transition from pre- to post-IPO in March 2012. That is when the firm went public and raised US$100 million.

Assuming that Rwandan workers unwittingly “invested” US$10 million, and the company was trading at US$7 per share when it was launched, and depending on the firm’s performance since March 2012, somebody in Rwanda is making some serious cash.

David Himbara