The associations Sherpa, the Collectif des Parties Civiles pour le Rwanda (CPCR) and Ibuka France launched a complaint against BNP Paribas on the basis of complicity in genocide, in crime against humanity and in war crimes. The bank would have agreed to transfer in June 1994, one month after the UN had voted an arms’ embargo and during the genocide, 1.3 million dollars from an account of its client, the National Rwandan Bank (BNR in French) to the Swiss account of an arms’ South African dealer, Mr Ehlers.
Mr. Ehlers would have then gone to the Seychelles with a Hutu colonel Mr Théoneste Bagosora to agree upon the sale of eighty tons of arms, on June 17th, which would then have been transported to Gisenyi (Rwanda) via Goma (Zaire). During his audition in front of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), the colonel Bagosora confirmed that weapons coming from the Seychelles via Goma served to “give a hand to Kigali”.
Further, the Brussels Lambert Bank (BBL in French) had refused the request to use the funds of the Commercial Bank of Rwanda (BCR in French) refusing to violate the embargo. According to the testimony of a person posted by the BBL in Rwanda, the banking sector, who already was under the obligation to inquire that its clients explain the destination of the funds under unusual circumstances, knew “the Rwandan government had a crucial need for fund […] it was clear for everyone that they had to buy weapons and ammunition. The Rwanda was under an embargo”. According to him, The BNP would have been the only bank who had agreed to provide financial resources to Rwanda.
Thus, according to the number of testimonies and investigation reports, such as the UN International Investigation Commission, the proceeding would prove that the BNP knew necessarily the destination of the funds and knew it could contribute to the ongoing genocide.
This is the first time such a complaint is initiated against a bank in France on such a legal basis. If the facts were to be proven, it would highlight the potential responsibility of investors in armed conflicts and more generally in serious violation of human rights. “The duty of care as adopted on the 21st of February 2017, as applied to financial institutions, should prevent their implication in such violations” declares Sandra Cossart, Program Director at Sherpa.
Published on Sherpa on June 29, 2017.
BY EILLIE ANZILOTTI
In 2007, Feike Sijbesma, the CEO of the Dutch vitamin and nutritional-supplement company Royal DSM, attended the World Economic Forum, where he heard in a breakout session with several African leaders that the humanitarian aid that flows into the continent from western countries does as much harm as good. It was an argument that had been percolating for a while–2007 was the same year that Ugandan journalist Andrew Mwenda gave his provocative TED talk, “Aid for Africa? No Thanks,” in which he describes how aid hinders economic independence and growth in the developing world.
But the argument against aid Sijbesma heard was specifically around food assistance. “The leaders were saying to me that the food help western countries give, which mainly involves flying in staple foods from Europe and the U.S., certainly keeps people alive, but it also makes them ill because the food is not really nutritious,” Sijbesma tells Fast Company. Staple foods are mainly carbohydrates, which fill out caloric intake minimums, but the inadequately diverse diet leads to anemia, infectious diseases, and stunting. “In a closed-door session, I heard one leader say that people stay alive but become ill and cannot participate in the economy, this makes our countries poorer,” Sijbesma says. “And you call this humanitarian help?”
The session resonated with Sijbesma. And as the CEO of the largest vitamin and mineral manufacturer in the world, he saw a way for DSM to get involved in addressing the problem. Following the World Economic Forum, DSM partnered with the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to boost the presence of essential vitamins and nutrients in the food delivered to populations in need, specifically pregnant women and children within the first 1,000 days of life–a critical time frame for ensuring against stunting, which affects around 25% of children under five worldwide and prevents them from developing both physically and intellectually. The ongoing partnership, through which DSM has supplied the WFP with nutrients and vitamins to add to its fortified rice and grain products, has reached over 30 million people through aid delivery and school-feeding programs.
But DSM’s latest nutritional aid initiative goes beyond food delivery and toward establishing the economic independence Mwenda argued humanitarian aid precludes. A manufacturing facility in Rwanda, which has been operational since November and officially unveiled on May 31, is bolstering the country’s economy while producing the fortified grains, porridge flours that are supplemented with vitamins A, B6, B12, C, E & D and calcium, zinc and iron, to support infant and maternal health.
Africa Improved Foods (AIF), a partnership between DSM, the World Food Programme, the Rwandan government, and various other stakeholders like the International Finance Corporation, is the first public-private partnership to take root in Africa specifically to address malnutrition.
To source the maize and soy that forms the base of the porridges, the AIF consortium is working with 7,500 Rwandan smallholder farmers, the majority of whom are women; the AIF plant has also created 314 new jobs, all filled by locals. “It’s an astounding fact that over half the people in the world who suffer from hunger are small-scale farmers,” says Rick Leach, president and CEO of the World Food Program USA. “Sourcing from local small-scale farmers will help to deal with extreme poverty and chronic hunger in the country.”
The WFP has signed a $100 million multi-year contract to purchase AIF products for its African food initiatives; so far, the products are being distributed among breastfeeding mothers and young children in Rwanda, a country where 44% of the population is affected by stunting. Drought-stricken Somalia, Egypt, and Kenya will also receive the fortified AIF products. AIF expects to contribute 5-10% to Rwanda’s export sector and bring in around $40 million to the country per year in exchanges.
Rwanda, Sijbesma says, was the ideal country to pilot this initiative in, having both a demonstrated need for nutritious food and enough political stability that the various private-sector and philanthropic stakeholders could work with the government to ensure the program takes root. The country ranks 151 out of 187 countries on the Human Development Index–a composite metric tracking life expectancy and per-capita income–and despite its relative political stability now, is still struggling to recover from the 1994 genocide that ravaged the country’s population and landscape.
The support of the government, Sijbesma says, is crucial for the initiative in Rwanda, and will be should DSM be able to scale–as it plans–this models to other countries. “At DSM, we wanted to be the initiative-taker,” Sijbesma says, “but we don’t want to own this operation.” The idea behind AIF, Sijbesma says, is that DSM and other stakeholders can fund the factory’s development (they won’t release exact financials, but the project totaled in the tens of millions of dollars), and eventually create a model that’s economically self-sustaining, and locally supported. By 2022, AIF estimates it will contribute $36 million annually to the Rwandan economy through spending on materials, transport, water, employment, and sales.
The aid-via-economic-development model represented by the AIF facility is, Sijbesma says, breaking down the silos that have long been drawn around development initiatives and emergency aid. Instead of relying on the constant cycle of crisis followed by flown-in assistance, the facility, Sijbesma hopes, proves that resilience can be built into communities and independently sustained. Leach agrees. “Ultimately, the goal of aid organizations like WFP is to leave,” he says. “If we can create enough local capacity to help a country evolve to the point where they no longer need international support, that means we’ll have gotten somewhere.
Published on Fast Company on June 11, 2017.