By David Himbara
Rwanda’s pension is infamously a cash cow of Kagame’s ruling party businesses. That is why General Paul Kagame used to install either a relative or a crony to chair the Rwandan Social Security Board. Kagame is now staffing the pension agency with Europeans. This is a trend across key Rwandan institutions in which Kagame installs expatriates. Externalizing institutional leadership positions is fashionable in Kagame’s Rwanda.
What is General Paul Kagame up to these days with the Rwandan Social Security Board (RSSB)? The Rwandan workers’ pension money has been a cash cow for financing the Rwandan Patriotic Front’s business empire – Crystal Ventures Ltd (CVL), formerly known as Tristar. CVL’s subsidiaries such as Inyange Industries, Crystal Telecom and East African Granite Industries were established using millions of dollars from the Rwandan pension funds.
To directly control RSSB, Kagame used to install either a relative or a crony to chair the agency. Case in point was Innocent Gakwaya, Kagame’s brother-in-law, who used to chair the agency. When Gakwaya died, Kagame replaced him as RSSB’s chairman with Ephraim Turahirwa. As we all know, Turahirwa formerly headed Tristar, the ruling party’s business empire, rebranded as Crystal Ventures Ltd, which is largely financed by the Rwandan workers’ pension money.
Fast forward to 2021. The RSSB chairman is a man by the name of Christopher John Wales from the United Kingdom. Joining Wales in RSSB is a man by the name of Philippe Watrin as the deputy director general in charge of managing the funds. This is following similar Kagame’s deployment of expatriates. The chairman of the Rwandan Development Board is Itzhak Fisher from Israel, which is where the CEO of the Rwandan Energy Group, Ron Weiss, is also from. Marc Holtzman, an American, is the chairman of the Bank of Kigali. The chancellor of the University of Rwanda is Patricia Campbell from the US. Where will this externalization of institutional leadership positions in Kagame’s Rwanda end?