CHICAGO – Mar. 3, 2021 – Paul Rusesabagina disappeared from Dubai, an important global city for many reasons. One key reason for its importance is that Dubai plays a crucial role in the international mineral trade, facilitating the transfer of ore, precious metals, and rare earth minerals from Africa and the Middle East to manufacturers and consumers in Asia, Europe, and the Americas. Principal among its mineral trading is Dubai’s massive gold market (gold trading constitutes roughly 20% of the UAE’s economy), and it is this market that tells us the most about how and why Paul Rusesabagina was forcibly disappeared from Dubai.
In 2016, the UAE imported more than $15.1 billion worth of gold from Africa, much of it untaxed in the country of origin (black market gold). This figure was based on customs data from the UAE, and the value that year made the UAE the world’s prime destination for African gold. Most of that gold is traded in the UAE’s gold hub, Dubai.
As the 2019 UN Group of Experts (GOE) on the Democratic Republic of the Congo report makes clear, official figures from the Rwandan government are not reliable: “Rwanda declared gold exports of 2,163 kg, while the United Arab Emirates officially imported 12,539 kg from Rwanda during the first nine months of 2018.”
The nearly sixfold difference between the UAE’s reported gold imports and the reported exports from Rwanda is staggering. The current market value of the gold from Rwanda (as reported by the UAE) would exceed $778 million for the first nine months of 2018. The dishonesty of the Rwandan government raises major concerns about how and where the gold is sourced, as the United Nations has criticized
Rwanda for selling gold from the DRC in the past. But this also raises important questions about our responsibility for what is happening in the Great Lakes Region – from Dubai, this gold spreads all around the world and permeates our daily lives in the United States and Europe in our jewelry, smartphones, and electronic devices. It is equally vital to understand the importance of the gold trade to Paul Kagame and other members of the Rwandan elite – according to the 2019-2020 Annual Report of the National Bank of Rwanda, gold exports increased by a jaw-dropping 754.6%, amidst a decline in other exports.
It is also important to note that this is not the first instance in which Paul Kagame has been connected with Dubai. In a private conversation with US diplomats, a member of the UN GoE told them the following: “[Tribert] Rujugiro, who financed Kagame’s RPA when it was fighting the Habyarimana regime, is reportedly very close to the Rwandan President… UN team had obtained a hard copy email, in which Rujugiro allegedly asked a Dubai contact to release $120,000 to pay CNDP soldiers.”
According to the UN GoE and the Center for Public Integrity, the CNDP has “perpetuated serious human rights abuses that include mass murder, torture, rape, forced recruitment of children, and slavery.” Rujugiro and Kagame have since become enemies.
Aside from its status as a prominent trading destination, the UAE is infamous for its broad state security apparatus. Its flagship law governing the state security apparatus, Federal Law No. 2, was passed in 2003 and amended in 2011. The shroud of secrecy surrounding the state security apparatus is so broad that even the exact text of the law cannot be found in the UAE’s official gazette as its publication is exempt from disclosure for “security reasons.” The UAE has built one of the most sophisticated mass surveillance systems in the world. They have been helped in large part by US-based intelligence contractors, particularly in the creation of the ominous DREAD unit. Per Human Rights Watch (who was able to obtain an unpublished copy of Federal Law No. 2 from 2003):
“UAE’s state security apparatus reports directly to the president and may take any action inside or outside the state to protect state security within the limits of the law and other legislation. It authorizes the agency to curb any political or organized activity by an individual or an association that may compromise the state’s safety and security, the system of governance, or national unity; harm the economy; or weaken the status of the state and provoke hostility against it or undermine confidence in it. State security officials may use force to the extent necessary to carry out their duties.
The state security apparatus also has the authority to embed state security offices in the state’s federal ministries, its public institutions, its semi-governmental corporations and organizations as well as embassies and consulates. It has the authority to deny, halt, or approve access to key rights and government services. Neither [UAE] citizens nor UAE residents can appeal a decision made on state security grounds.”
The UAE’s obsession with security has been repeatedly used as an excuse for not implementing democratic reforms, as detailed in a secret memo by US diplomats:
“The leadership have stated in private conversations that they will not jeopardize the security environment for so-called democratic gains, citing, in particular, a perceived “security threat” related to trade unions or political participation by the sizable expatriate worker population.”
With this extensive security apparatus in play, how could the Rwandan Intelligence Bureau launch an operation to capture Paul Rusesabagina in Dubai?
In his role as Crown Prince of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi/Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, Mohammed bin Zayed (MbZ) is widely recognized as the de facto ruler of the UAE. He is aided by Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (MbR), the UAE’s Vice President/Prime Minister/Minister of Defence and Crown Prince of the Emirate of Dubai. No significant investigations have been launched by the UAE’s government into the curious circumstances surrounding the arrest of Paul Rusesabagina, and they have yet to express any significant outrage about the possibility of the RIB operating in Dubai. Based on what is known about the security apparatus in the UAE, this essentially means that one of two things occurred, neither of which is a good scenario:
- MbZ and MbR knew about the operation being undertaken in the UAE by the RIB and at least tacitly allowed it to occur, which would not be in line with international (and most likely domestic UAE) law.
- Less likely – the RIB successfully kidnapped a well-known international figure from Dubai without the knowledge of MbZ and MbR, who are only using their surveillance state to maintain power and assert absolute control over their population, instead of providing actual security. The extrajudicial removal of a well-known foreign citizen from within their borders raises the spectre of a security state that is narrowly aimed at their own citizens and residents.
MbZ in particular is well-accustomed to using fear around security to build his deadly empire. In another secret memo written by US diplomats, MbZ’s tactics were openly discussed with skepticism:
“Although MbZ is increasingly talking tough on Iran, i.e., stop Iran “by all means possible” and “deal with Iran sooner rather than later” (ref A), his comments should also be taken in the context of strong UAE interest in acquiring advanced military technology and, specifically, MbZ’s repeated requests for Predator B (ref B). The UAEG is clearly nervous about any US actions that could upset their much larger and militarily superior neighbor. The UAE’s significant trade relationship with Iran–approximately $4 billion–is another complicating factor in the relationship. On more than one occasion, the UAE leadership has expressed trepidation over the prospect of being caught in the middle between the US and Iran.”
Despite the thousands of deaths caused by the UAE’s deadly and illegal military/paramilitary activity and arms trafficking in Libya, Egypt, Yemen, and elsewhere, countries around the world (such as the US, UK, France, Germany, Belgium, and Australia) have plowed the UAE with at least $3.5 billion in armaments since 2015. Western corporations have rushed into partner with the UAE, including US investment firms BlackRock and KKR, who closed a deal with the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) to buy a 40% stake in ADNOC’s pipelines for $4 billion. Western nations, particularly the United States, have justified MbZ’s slaughter of innocent lives in the Middle East and Africa as being essential for security – and, tragically, we (the citizens of the western world) have allowed and armed them to continue doing that.
This is illustrated by new evidence from the FinCEN papers regarding the Kaloti Jewelry Group, an enormous multinational Dubai-based corporation. In 2014, during the administration of President Barack Obama, a taskforce led by the United States Drug Enforcement Agency determined that there was ample evidence of Kaloti buying
precious minerals from money launderers involved with drug trafficking groups and other notorious criminal elements. However, despite clear evidence, no action was taken, reportedly because the US did not want to upset MbZ and the UAE government. Not even the open wedding of notorious terrorist Dawood Ibrahim’s daughter in 2005 at Dubai’s Grand Hyatt was enough for the United States to seriously confront the UAE. Dawood Ibrahim has built his fortune on smuggling, human trafficking, terrorist attacks (including the tragic 26/11 attacks on Mumbai in 2008), and many other illegal activities.
Overall, as hundreds of thousands of people died in the Rwandan genocide and millions more suffered and died its aftermath, we (the citizens of western nations) have responded with absolute indifference. Making matters worse, we have essentially built our modern, technology-equipped societies upon the decades of death in the DRC (and, of course, elsewhere). If we allow Paul Kagame (with the assistance of MbZ/MbR) to torture and kill Paul Rusesabagina, an incredible hero, then we will show once and for all that none of these Black Lives matter as long as we can continue to accumulate material things. And in the process, we ourselves, through our inexcusable indifference, will have struck a crushing final blow in the sad history of the Rwandan genocide. We cannot let
Background: Paul Rusesabagina, internationally renowned humanitarian who saved the lives of 1,268 people during the 1994 Rwandan genocide whose story is told in the movie Hotel Rwanda, has regularly criticized human rights violations and a lack of democracy in Rwanda, while working for an internationally sanctioned truth and reconciliation process and sustainable peace in the Great Lakes Region of Africa. He was kidnapped by the government of Rwanda on August 27 and taken to Kigali, where he is currently held in prison. Rwandan President Kagame is a dictator who does not tolerate dissent, who slanders and intimidates critics of his government, including calling them “terrorists,” and who has a long record of imprisoning and even killing those he considers to be critics or