Stan Kroenke, the owner of the English Football Club, Arsenal, and General Paul Kagame

By David Himbara

Kagame government was granted an emergency debt relief because Rwanda is one of the 25 poorest and most vulnerable countries in the world badly hit by Covid19. Now, Kagame has found £40 million or US$54.8 million to subsidize over 4 years an American billionaire’s English football club, Arsenal.

General Paul Kagame’s government requested emergency assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to cover debt service. The government had run out of money due to Covid19-related crises. Rwanda’s request was granted because it is one of the 25 “poorest and vulnerable countries in the world.” But now, Kagame, a self-proclaimed fanatic of the English football team Arsenal, has signed a deal with the club to the tune £40 million or US$54.8 million over four years to wear on their shirt sleeve “Visit Rwanda.” Stanley Stan Kroenke, the American billionaire owner of Arsenal must be laughing all the way to the bank.

On April 7, 2020, General Paul Kagame’s government informed the IMF that Rwanda was “experiencing an exceptional balance of payments need arising from the pandemic.” The government then requested grant assistance to cover debt service to the IMF falling due in the 24-month period from April14, 2020 to April 13, 2022. The government promised that this debt relief would “free up budgetary resources to address public health needs and support economic activity in key sectors.” The IMF granted Rwanda’s request because the country is one of the 25 “poorest and most vulnerable states in the world that had to be rescued from further catastrophe. That is how Rwanda became eligible for support from the Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust.

Fast forward to August 14, 2021. Kagame, the self-proclaimed fanatic of Stanley Kroenke’s English football team, Arsenal, vented his frustration at the club’s shock defeat by a newly promoted club of the English Premier League. The Rwandan strongman announced on Twitter that “We just must NOT excuse or Accept mediocrity. A team has to be built with purpose to win win win…I am sure we all know on whose shoulders the heaviest burden rests. I hope they know too or even accept it!!!…I say this as one of the big fans of Arsenal. The change has taken to long to come!”

Kagame then proceeded to grant Kroenke’s Arsenal football team a new four-year deal which will run until 2025 that is worth £10 million a year, or US$13.7 million. That adds to £40 million or US$54.8 million in four years. Previously, Kagame had signed a three-year sponsorship deal in 2018 worth more than £30million or US$41 million with Arsenal with the ‘Visit Rwanda’ logo displayed on their shirt sleeve. Kagame, the diehard Arsenal fan, is using taxpayers’ money freed by foreign aid, to subsidize an American billionaire. If this is not corruption, I don’t know is.

Stanley Kroenke must be laughing all the way to the bank. According to Forbes, Kroenke’s fortune stands at US$8.2 billion. He is a major landowner, with nearly 1.4 million acres of ranches across the U.S. and Canada. Kroenke’s sports empire includes the Los Angeles Rams football team, the Denver Nuggets basketball team, and Britain’s Arsenal football club. Talk about the vicious cycle of poor countries subsidizing the rich. As is often said, being poor is expensive, a problematic paradox that is evident in the case of the Rwandan strongman subsidizing an American billionaire. Stay tuned.