Mr President-Who Owns Prime Holdings?

By David Himbara

Kagame dominates the Rwanda government in every sense. Without a genuine opposition, or business sector voice, or genuine independent media to raise questions, Kagame’s word is taken as gospel truth. The only voice of reason seems to come from donors — in particular, from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Under its Policy Support Instrument (PSI), the IMF regularly reviews Rwanda’s economic performance under Policy Support Instrument (PSI) framework. According to the IMF, the PSI “helps countries design effective economic programs that, once approved by the IMF’s Executive Board, signal to donors, multilateral development banks, and markets the Fund’s endorsement of a member’s policies.” In other words, the IMF’s reviews guide other donors in handling countries under the PSI.

In its 2006 PSI review, the IMF discovered serious financial irregularities in Rwanda, pointing out to the government of Rwanda that its “adherence to conditionality was poor.” The reason the IMF gave for its conclusion was that the Kagame government had failed to supply the audit of the construction of the hotels that later became the Kigali Serena and Kivu Serena. The two projects were at the time under the management of company called Prime Holdings.

The then Finance Minister James Musoni and the then Governor of the National Bank of Rwanda, Francois Kanimba, confirmed to the IMF that indeed the government of Rwanda had failed to supply the said audit. Immediately an audit of Prime Holdings was made — and the results were shocking. Prime Holdings could not account for the financial resources that had been poured into building of the two hotels. Musoni and Kanimba then assured the IMF that the government of Rwanda had ended the management of contract of Prime Holdings. Nothing was ever heard of regarding Prime Holdings.

Fast forward to 2016 — in researching for my book Kagame’s Economic Mirage, I discovered that Kagame had not only revived the long-discredited Prime Holdings, the Rwandan ruler had given the corrupt firm an even larger assignment. Prime Holdings now “owns” 50% of the Kigali Convention Centre (KCC) funded by some of the US$400 million Eurobond money raised in 2013. Not only that. The RPF’s Crystal Ventures Ltd is also now said to be a partner in the KCC.

Kagame who has branded himself as Mr Clean, must explain how he revived Prime Holdings that made millions of dollars “disappear” in the mid-2000s. How could he reward a corrupt company with an even bigger responsibility of “owning” KCC? And who is the real owner of Prime Holdings? Shame! Perhaps IMF might save us again…..from Prime Holdings.