By David Himbara
Rwanda parliament wants to know what happened to the pension money invested into an American company, Merrimack Pharmaceuticals. This sad story dates back in 2009 when General Paul Kagame ordered his finance minister James Musoni and central bank governor Francois Kanimba to invest US$22 million pension money into Merrimack. Today, the company is barely functional. It cannot afford to pay its executives and staff
Appearing before a virtual plenary session of the Chamber of Deputies on July 6, 2021, to respond to legislators’ concerns about poor returns on investments by Rwanda Social Security Board (RSSB), the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Uzziel Ndagijimana made a startling claim. He declared that the US-based company, Merrimack Pharmaceuticals, has started paying dividends to RSSB. Merrimack Pharmaceuticals is barely operating – the company is on the verge of collapse. Merrimack Pharmaceuticals explains its state of near bankruptcy on its website as follows:
“The Company does not have any ongoing research or development activities and is seeking potential acquirers for its remaining preclinical and clinical assets. The Company does not have any employees and instead uses external consultants for the operation of the Company.”
The story of Merrimack Pharmaceuticals and Rwanda began in 2009 when General Paul Kagame ordered his finance minister James Musoni and central bank governor Francois Kanimba to pour US$22 million pension money into the US-based company. Kagame was advised to do so by two members of his Presidential Advisory Council, Michael Porter and Micheal Fairbanks who were investors in Merrimack. Porter was more than an investor in Merrimack – he was a director. As part of the deal, Clet Niyikiza joined Merrimack as senior vice president for development in 2009. Niyikiza jumped ship in 2014 and formed his L.E.A.F. Pharmaceuticals LLC. By 2019, Merrimack was on the verge of collapse, laying off its executives and staff. So, what has happened to the Rwandan workers’ pension money? That is what Kagame and his finance minister ought to explain to parliament and the people of Rwanda.