Ben Oostdam story # 273



In January, 2002, a 4 men team of U.S. educators led by Paul Billeter offered a Biology workshop to faculty and students of the Rwandan National University, Butare. I had been asked to come along to offer some sessions on the use of the World Wide Web and building a website.

One of the most memorable events was our tour of the Kigembe "Gone Fishin" Aquaculture Project [also see: part 1 -part 2 - part 3]

Its director was dynamic Chris Thorne, an Afro_American who had retired from UNHCR and had secured this site and reconstructed it with the aid of dozens of local residents eager to work on this project. He was now busy fishing for contracts, grants or just plain financing of this promising venture but had encountered some "problems."

Chris kept in touch with Gene Kaplan, who had conducted his own aquaculture projects in Africa, and with me to help putting his ideas on the Web. "Gone Fishin"'s financial problems exacerbated and eventually it foundered in the face of a $20 million loan.
Chris kept me up-to-date mainly by adding to his growing list of broken promises and acts of malfeasance which he euphemistically and kindly called "chronology."

I mentioned that I might want to write a story about his experiences and spent an evening looking up links to the names of Rwandan bureaucrats/executive directors/politicians mentioned in Chris's chronology - one of which - Mr. Alfred Kalisa - I recognized as a benefactor of the impressive Kigali Institute of Technology which I also visited in January, 2002.

The President of Rwanda, Mr. Paul Kagame, the former Minister of Finance and Economics of Rwanda, Mr. Donald Kaberuka - who presently serves a five year term as President of the African Development Bank Group (seventh president, sworn in Sep 1- 2005) - and the above mentioned former CEO (who was arrested for embezzlement in January, 2007) of the BCDI (Bank of Commerce, Development and Industry Mr Alfred Kalisa may boast impressive resumes, but were also listed as "Principal Violators in the Rwandan Junta" on the Website :"Slow Motion Holocaust in the Congo."

Rather than trying to summarize the unfair treatment accorded to Chris, I refer to the chronology itself and especially to his conclusions and comments in the draft article he E-mailed to his friends and for which I provided some links.

It is appalling to see ample evidence of similar instances of malfeasance and misappropriation of donated funds all over Africa (and elsewhere). It appears to be far more common than occasional success stories. There is a clear need for donors "to attach strings" and to keenly monitor what happens with their funds. Sadly, some of the World's keenest minds concentrate on corruption and personal gain while ensconded in responsible positions of trust.

More recent links: Interview of Tom Brokaw re Rwanda, Jan.2007 - Hotel Rwanda (2004) - Willbros selling Nigerian businessForbes Mag., Nov.2006

BLO fecit 20070331 - stories