by Ann Garrison, Cameron Jones, David Rosenberg andAnthony Fest of the KPFA Evening News Team
At the Saturday, May 12, 2012, commencement exercises at Sonoma State University in Sonoma County, California, former Citigroup CEO and Chairman of the Board Sanford Weill and his wife Joan completed their purchase of two honorary doctorates in humane letters, paid for with a $12 million “donation” to finish building what the university has named the Joan and Sanford I. Weill [Symphony] Hall, Lawn and Commons on the Sonoma State campus.
The $12 million cost of the Weills’ honorary doctorates was between one seventh and one eighth of the $88 million that they sold their Manhattan condo for, upon Sanford Weills’ retirement from Citigroup – to a $31 million Sonoma County estate and vineyard – and after the multi-billion series of bailouts that taxpayers, thanks to our federal legislators, saved Citigroup with, while American taxpayers faced foreclosure and crushing student debt loads with no relief.
On the same day, William Penn University awarded an honorary doctorate in humane letters to Rwandan President Paul Kagame, despite 18 years of U.N. human rights investigations documenting his army’s atrocities in Rwanda and Congo.
Students, faculty and Sonoma activists protested Weill’s honorary doctorate; Rwandan, Congolese and Burundian Americans traveled from all over the country to protest Kagame’s. KPFA Evening News reported both protests and reported on one connection between them: Citibank, a subsidiary of Citigroup, which laundered money gained by Kagame’s war and illegal resource exploitation in Congo to fund more of the same.
Citibank also provides “trade, foreign investment, cash management and treasury services, all of which involve close collaboration with the Democratic Republic of Congo’s leading banks.”
Here are all three KPFA Evening News reports, for the record and for those who organized, from Petaluma to Oskaloosa:
Sonoma State University Sanford Weill protest
by Cameron Jones
Broadcast May 12 on KPFA Weekend News
KPFA Weekend News Anchor Cameron Jones: Today is graduation day at Sonoma State University. And at SSU, a coalition of students, faculty and local occupy activists held a public demonstration to express their outrage over the honorary degree given to former Citigroup CEO Sanford Weill, one of the chief architects of the financial crisis.
Citigroup, a so-called “too big to fail” financial powerhouse, received billions of dollars in federal funding during the crisis – the largest bailout given to any failing institution at the time. During the Clinton administration, Sandy Weill was largely responsible for the dissolution of the Glass-Steagall Act, which gave Wall Street investment firms the right to gamble with depositors’ money using risky investment practices. Citigroup was also a major provider of toxic subprime mortgages. Time magazine named him one of the 25 people to blame for the financial crisis.
Many Sonoma State graduates are saddled with student loan debt, much of owed to Citigroup.
Melanie Sanders is a Sonoma State University student. She graduated today and also participated in the protest. She says the silent protest is not intended to disrupt graduation proceedings. However, she says it’s an insult to give Weill an honorary degree, considering the damage he’s caused to struggling Americans – including herself.
Melanie Sanders: We’re deeply offended that he’s receiving this degree today. I put 19 years into my own degree. I’m a single mom, I’ve had a home foreclosed. I have student debt that doubled from $15,000 to $29,000 under Citigroup. So it’s absolutely an insult to me and my family and the honor of my graduation for him to be there.
Cameron Jones: Sandy Weill is now retired and very wealthy. He donated $12 million to fund the construction of Sonoma State’s controversial Green Music Center, which includes a 1,400-seat symphony hall that bears his name.
Sheppard Bliss teaches humanities at Sonoma State. He’s also active with the Sonoma Occupy Movement. He says today’s protest is intended to bring attention to the increasing corporatization and privatization of higher public education.
Sheppard Bliss: “So one of the big problems in higher education today, especially public higher education, is the privatization and corporatization of the university, which is based on tax dollars that we as citizens pay. So it’s our responsibility to be vigilant and see what’s happening. Of course this is happening throughout the CSU (California State University) system and the University of California system. So we have multiple objectives here, which was to expose what was happening in this particular situation and help students, family members connect the dots.”
Cameron Jones: Both Sandy Weill and his wife Joan were recipients of honorary doctorates today. For more information on Sandy Weill’s background, as well as the corporatization of Sonoma State, you can visit www.shameonssu.org.
Rwanda, Congo and Citibank: Moving the money
by Ann Garrison
Broadcast May 12 on KPFA Weekend News
This summary of Citibank’s involvement in Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s war and plunder in Congo, as traced by a U.N. panel of experts, was produced to add to a report on Sonoma State University’s sale of an honorary doctorate in humane letters to former Citigroup CEO and Chairman Sanford Weill for a $12 million “donation.” The sale was completed during Sonoma State’s commencement exercises, on May 12, 2012, the same day that William Penn University awarded an honorary doctorate in humane letters to Rwandan Gen. Paul Kagame.
Citibank also provides “trade, foreign investment, cash management and treasury services, all of which involve close collaboration with DRC’s leading banks.”
KPFA Weekend News Anchor: Citigroup’s role in the national and global economic implosion and the foreclosure and student loan debt crises have received considerable press in recent years, but some of its other exploits are less well-known. KPFA’s Ann Garrison prepared this report on Citigroup subsidiary Citibank’s involvement in laundering money gained by Rwanda’s war and illegal mineral extraction in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
KPFA/Ann Garrison: In 2001, a U.N. panel of experts traced Citibank’s involvement in transferring money gained by Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s war and illegal resource extraction in the Democratic Republic of the Congo from a Rwandan bank back to Rwandan and Rwandan-backed militias in Congo.
Section 30 of the “2001 Report of the Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of the Democratic Republic of the Congo” offers one example of the financial transactions by which BCDI, a bank in Kigali, Rwanda, which Rwandan President Paul Kagame and other members of his Rwandan Patriotic Front Party own shares in, funded the Rwandan war in Congo with the help of Citibank, New York.
A letter, it says, signed by two officers of a diamond mine in Congo ordered a payment of $3.5 million U.S. dollars to a company owned by military officers fighting to topple the government in Congo, during the first Congo War of 1996 to 1997. The payment went from an account in the Rwandan bank, BCDI, to the officers in Congo – but by way of a Citibank account in New York.
In Sections 130 through 135 of the same report, the panel of experts estimated that, between late 1999 and 2000, when the price of the mineral coltan soared, the Rwandan Army may have made as much as $20 million a month on Congolese coltan and at least $250 million over a period of 18 months, substantially more than enough to sustain its war in Congo during that time.
“Here,” the experts wrote, “lies the vicious circle of the war. Coltan has permitted the Rwandan army to sustain its presence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The army has provided protection and security to the individuals and companies extracting the mineral. These have made money which is shared with the army, which in turn, continues to provide the enabling environment to continue the exploitation.”
The report then traces Citibank’s role in the transfer of wealth created by smuggling Congo’s coltan into Rwanda and sending a share of profits back to Congo to sustain Kagame’s war. In one case, the Rwandan bank, BCDI, ordered Citibank in New York to pay millions of dollars to Rwandan companies which were providing supplies to the RCD, a Rwandan backed militia that became a major force in the Second Congo War. The Second Congo War formally ended with a peace treaty in 2003, though the conflict continues.
Renewed fighting in recent weeks has caused an estimated 10,000 Congolese refugees to flee across the eastern border into already overcrowded refugee camps in Rwanda and Uganda.
In January 2008, the International Rescue Committee estimated that 5.4 million people had died in the Congo conflict between 1998 and 2008 alone. The majority had died of hunger, disease and other hardship in the region’s refugee and internally displaced persons camps.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters?
by Ann Garrison
Broadcast May 13 on KPFA Weekend News
Rwandan, Burundian and Congolese protestors traveled to William Penn University commencement exercises in Oskaloosa, Iowa, from many corners of the U.S., to protest the university’s award of an honorary doctorate of humane letters to Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
KPFA Weekend News Anchor Anthony Fest: Yesterday at Sonoma State University, many students and faculty took part in a protest over the university’s granting of an honorary degree to Sanford Weill, former head of Citigroup. Protestors said Weill bears a big share of responsibility for the nation’s financial woes.
A similar protest took place yesterday at a private university in Iowa. At William Penn University, the recipient of the honorary degree was Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda. Kagame also delivered the commencement speech. Protestors say that nearly two decades of United Nations human rights investigations have shown that forces under Kagame’s command have committed crimes against humanity, both in Rwanda and in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo. KPFA’s Ann Garrison has the story.
KPFA/Ann Garrison: The Africa Faith and Justice Network, African Great Lakes Action Network, Foreign Policy in Focus, Congo Global Action, Friends of the Congo, Mobilization for Justice and Peace in Congo and the Foundation for Freedom and Democracy in Rwanda all joined the coalition to protest William Penn University’s honorary doctorate and commencement invitation to the man they call Gen. Paul Kagame.
The coalition wrote, in their letter to William Penn University’s president: “Gen. Kagame’s 30-year career dominated by war, invasion and iron-fisted dictatorship cannot be something that William Penn would have admired. Honoring that career violates those broader Quaker principles that we deeply admire – simplicity, peace-making, integrity, community and equality.”
Demonstrators began chanting “Kagame! Criminal!” as KPFA spoke with Theophile Murayi, the U.S. chairman of opposition leader Victoire Ingabire’s political party, the United Democratic Forces, who had traveled to Oskaloosa to protest:
KPFA/Ann Garrison: Are there any Congolese people there with you today?
Theophile Murayi: Yes, we do have some Congolese with us. We have also a few Burundians with us, because this president has been a human abuser not just for Rwandans but for the entire Great Lakes Region of Africa, so Rwandans, Burundians and Congolese alike really feel the pain when William Penn University decides to award him a doctorate of humane letters.
We had very good media coverage, and we had a fair turnout, considering Iowa is not exactly where you find the greatest number of Rwandans. We had people coming from all over, from Michigan, from Wisconsin, from Chicago. They came from Maryland. We have people who went all the way from Tennessee and Texas. So it was really a good turnout and the demonstration went well … [shouts … chants … Kagame! Kagame!] … Kagame’s car is coming up.
KPFA/Ann Garrison: Oh … your people are shouting at Kagame’s car?
KPFA/Ann Garrison: He’s avoiding the demonstration and going down a back road?
Theophile Murayi: Yeah, he’s going by the back road that goes around the campus. He didn’t come our way.
KPFA/Ann Garrison: And what … and … what are they chanting? “Kagame assassin?”
Theophile Murayi: Kagame criminal!
KPFA/Ann Garrison: Criminal … how many of you are there there?
Theophile Murayi: We are … we are around 40 people here.
KPFA/Ann Garrison: Murayi said that the demonstrators agreed not to make any noise when students came out of the commencement exercises to have their pictures taken, though they held up signs because they felt the students should know about Kagame’s crimes. Murayi also confirmed that someone who appeared to be a Rwandan Secret Service agent was shooting video of the demonstrators.
San Francisco writer Ann Garrison writes for the San Francisco Bay View, Global Research, Colored Opinions, Black Star News, the Newsline EA (East Africa) and her own website, Ann Garrison, and produces for AfrobeatRadio on WBAI-NYC, Weekend News on KPFA and her own YouTube Channel, AnnieGetYourGang. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.