Shortly after signing the contract with Donald Kaberuka’s SouthBridge, Mitchell launched in the UK parliament the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Rwanda which actively advocates for Rwanda.
I have over the years suspected that Andrew Mitchell, the Member of the UK Parliament for Sutton Coldfield, benefits financially for his fierce defence of the Rwandan strongman, General Paul Kagame. Mitchell even outperforms Rwandan ambassadors in propagandizing Kagame’s causes, seemingly without fully comprehending the extent to which he is cynically being used to whitewash Kagame’s atrocities. It turns out that Mitchell is making a small fortune in Rwanda from Kagame’s long-serving right-hand man, Donald Kaberuka. The UK House of Commons’ Register of Members’ Financial Interests shows that Kaberuka’s SouthBridge Goup pays Mitchell £39,600 or US$55,802 annually, “in return for a commitment of 9 days a year” since March 9, 2020. Mitchell’s official title for his Rwandan assignment is Senior Advisor on African matters. Interestingly, shortly after the contract was signed, Mitchell launched in the UK parliament the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Rwanda which actively advocates for Rwanda. It is inconceivable that the generous remuneration Mitchell earns from Kaberuka’s outfit is unrelated to the propaganda work Mitchell performs for Kagame.
Donald Kaberuka and Paul Kagame are joined at the hip
SouthBridge that is paying Mitchell US$55,802 annually for working for 9 days a year was set up by Donald Kaberuka and partners, with offices in Kigali, Rwanda, in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, and in Paris, France. SouthBridgedescribes its purpose as a “full-service pan-African financial solutions and advisory services for public and private clients across Africa.” Prior to setting up SouthBridge, Kaberuka served Kagame in different capacities in and outside Rwanda. He was Kagame’s finance minister from 1997 to 2005, when Kagame sponsored him to head the African Development Bank from 2005 to 2015. Kaberuka rejoined Kagame in 2016 as a member of Kagame’s pan-African advisory team for reforming the African Union. Kaberuka then launched SouthBridge in 2019.
As a member of RPF, the ruling party led by Kagame for the past 30 years, Kaberuka was also a member of RPF’s politburo, the principal policymaking committee of the party. As finance minister from 1997–2005 when Rwanda invaded and occupied DR Congo, Kaberuka was directly responsible for concealing the looted resources from that country. Deeply involved in the looting was RPF’s investment arm, the US$500 million Crystal Ventures Ltd that is now the largest investment group in Rwanda. This prompted the Economist to call RPF the party of business which “has investments in everything from furniture to finance.”
Under Kaberuka’s leadership and oversight of financial institutions, Rwanda looted and channelled millions of dollars from DR Congo via what was known as RPF’s Congo Desk. According to the 2002 UN Panel of Experts on DR Congo, “The Congo Desk’s contribution to Rwanda’s military expenses would have been in the order of US$320 million.” This figure is for a single year. The report adds that such transactions were “hidden from the scrutiny of international organizations.” It was Kaberuka’s job as finance minister to camouflage the loot.
It is also revealing that John Birungi is SouthBridge’s managing director in Rwanda. As in the case of Kaberuka, Birungi is Kagame’s money man. Birungi is the former chief executive officer of Crystal Ventures Ltd.
Kaberuka is associated with another unflattering chapter of the Kagame regime’s illegal accumulation of wealth. According to the World Bank’s “Elite Capture of Foreign Aid study, Rwanda siphoned off US$190 million of foreign aid to offshore accounts. Kaberuka who was finance from 1997 to 2005 when most of this foreign aid was stolen has a case to answer. To put it bluntly, Kaberuka and Kagame are inseparable – they are closely connected politically, financially, and in concealing illegal transactions from the scrutiny of international organizations.
Enter Mitchell, Kagame’s tenacious propagandist
Andrew Mitchell is Kagame’s unshakable propagandist as illustrated by Mitchell’s defence of even the worst of the Rwandan ruler’s monstrous acts. Hours before he lost his job as international development secretary in October 2012, Mitchell re-instated £16 million of British aid to the Kagame regime. This, at the time when Western governments were suspending foreign aid to Rwanda after the Kagame-sponsored militia, the M23 rebels, seized Goma, the North Kivu provincial capital with a population of one million people.
By the end of 2012, more than 140,000 people had fled their homes. The M23 fighters were responsible for attacks on civilians, summary executions, rapes, and forced recruitment of children. One of the M23’s top leaders, General Bosco Ntaganda, a Rwandan national, was indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes. These atrocities led Western governments to suspend foreign aid to the Kagame government.
Justine Greening who replaced Mitchell as Britain’s international development secretary reversed Mitchell’s policy by suspending British aid to Rwanda because of “credible and compelling” reports of Rwandan involvement in M23 atrocities.
Mitchell was not yet done, however, When in 2015, Rwanda’s intelligence chief Karenzi Karake, who is wanted in Spain for war crimes, was arrested by British authorities in London, Mitchell went on the offensive for Kagame. The MP claimed that Karake’s arrest was “a misuse of the European Arrest Warrant system.”
More recently, when the Kagame regime abducted a Rwandan opposition leader, Paul Rusesabagina, from Dubai to Rwanda in 2020, Mitchell shamelessly defended the illegal act. Here, we see Mitchell defending what has become known as extraordinary rendition, the practice of seizing an individual in a foreign state under circumstances that make it most likely that the individual will be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.
The bottom line is that the tasks Mitchell is performing for Kagame falls nicely within the bogus terms of reference that Kaberuka assigned to Mitchell, namely, “senior advisor on African matters.” Both Kagame and his main man, Kaberuka, must be pleased with Andrew Mitchell’s performance. Case in point is Mitchell’s defence of the extraordinary rendition of Paul Rusesabagine.