By David Himbara
Where is James Gatera?
It has been over one year since President Paul Kagame sacked James Gatera from Crystal Ventures Ltd. I have tried to find out the whereabouts of James Gatera — but I have failed. Where in the world is James Gatera?
Kagame used James Gatera in four capacities for 18 years as follows:
- 2000 to 2005 — Gatera was Kagame’s director of finance in president’s office.
- 2005–2007 — Gatera was Kagame’s man at the Bank of Kigali as deputy managing director.
- 2007–2016 — Gatera was CEO of the Bank of Kigali, after the Kagame regime bought the bank from Belgian investors using the pension money.
- February 2016 to March 2017 — Kagame removed James Gatera from the Bank of Kigali and made him the Chief Executive Officer of Crystal Ventures Ltd, the ruling party’s business empire.
After serving as CEO of Crystal Ventures for just one year, Gatera vanished. What became of this man?
In the last eight years, Kagame has changed his top men at Crystal Ventures five times. On average, no head of Crystal Ventures lasts one year and six months. The current CEO is Kok Foong Lee who took over when James Gatera was suddenly sacked.
But James Gatera set a record. He barely lasted a year. And yet he was highly regarded — or so it seemed — after serving Kagame for 18 years.
So, what in the world happened to James Gatera? There are four possibilities:
- Gatera may be under house arrest.
- Gatera might be a free but unemployed man keeping a low profile awaiting to ”rehabilitated.”
- Gatera may have quietly returned to Canada where he studied and lived for some time.
- God forbid — but in Kagame’s Rwanda, there is always a possibility of being involved in a mysterious ”accident” or simply vanishing never to be seen again.
James Gatera knew too much — he is therefore vulnerable
Under a one-man regime such as Rwanda in which the ruler is an absolute dictator — and therefore not restricted by laws or opposition — knowing too much becomes dangerous. Being a banker to the powerful Rwandan ruler, Gatera got exposed to Kagame’s three distinctive roles: 1) head of the Rwandan state; 2) head of the ruling party and it’s US$500 million business empire, Crystal Ventures; 3) and head of a powerful family.
In Rwanda, the level of corruption via state capture, especially how public resources are laundered to become private money is staggering. Gatera was not only an observer but a facilitator from three positions — director of finance in Kagame’s office, Bank of Kigali CEO, and Crystal Ventures CEO. These were not envious positions. No. They were dangerous positions. That is why I am worried about the apparent disappearance of James Gatera.