By: Jennifer Fierberg
President Paul Kagame of Rwanda is known to use many forms of public relations mediums throughout the world in order to boost the image of Rwanda and highlight the remarkable progress that the country has made in the development sector since the 1994 genocide. He has been invited to many universities to speak on growth and development in a post war country as well as to genocide prevention programs. The Government of Rwanda pays a hefty sum of money for these services and has done this since taking power.
Thoughts about Rwanda and the history of genocide/conflict have been the subject of many scholarly works and are fiercely debated among those who have interest in the country. The debate is often quite polarized between those who believe the Government of Rwanda is doing a great job and those who question the human rights record of President Kagame. There is rarely a middle ground of productive discussion regarding the current ruling government of Rwanda or the future of the current president.
A disturbing new development has come to the attention of this journalist and it deserves discussion.
Professor Michelle Martin of DePaul University in Chicago, IL has been contracted as a paid consultant with the Government of Rwanda for the last few years although her story and connection to Rwanda do not start there. In 2008, Providence Rubingisa, a Rwandan living in the US, met her for the first time when she was volunteering at World Relief Dupage in Wheaton, IL. Dr. Martin then invited Mr. Rubingisa to give a speech in one of her classes regarding Rwanda. She then began to express interest in supporting the FDLR, and her argument was that you could not bring democracy to Rwanda with peaceful means with a dictator like Kagame in power. With time, she began to express interest in the Rwanda National Congress and its ability to take power in Rwanda. Email exchanges between Dr. Martin and Mr. Rubingisa have been obtained by this writer in which Dr. Martin urges RNC leaders to “cozy up to Kenneth Roth” and as well as Carina Tertsakian of Human Rights Watch in order to assist with their political aspirations.
So who is Dr. Michelle Martin? Numerous emails were sent to her by this writer from information obtained from her blog as well as on twitter but there has been no response from her at the time this piece went to press. What has been learned about this individual is that she, “has an MSW from University of Illinois at Chicago, an MSocSci in global policy studies from the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, and is a PhD candidate in the Peace Studies program at the University of Bradford, also in the United Kingdom. Her area of research focuses on the role of refugees (diaspora) generated from conflict, in peace and conflict in post-conflict societies. She is particularly interested in the ongoing conflicts in the Great Lakes Region of African, including Rwanda’s history of ethno nationalist Hutu/Tutsi conflict, and the 1994 Tutsi genocide.” This information was gained from her profile on Amazon.com as well as her blog. She has written several books on the topic of Social Work Practice and is a current professor at DePaulUniversity in Chicago.
Dr. Martin is working on a current book project in the area of “international relations and focuses on the role Rwandan diaspora (political exiles) living in the West in homeland conflict using social media, and the impact of their engagement in homeland conflict and political affairs on the conflict cycle in Rwanda and the DRC, 20 years after the genocide against the Tutsi.” The proposed title of this book is “Rwandan Diaspora’s Facebook War against their Homeland: Is Anyone Paying Attention?” This book will have a proposed focus on how the Rwandan conflict-generated diaspora use social media to engage in homeland conflict, and the impact of their engagement on peace processes. She also researches how social media is used for the purposes of genocide denial and historical revisionism.
As the working relationship between Mr. Rubingisa and Dr. Martin grew she began to show more interest in Rwanda and the politics involved therein. Mr. Rubingisa sent emails to Dr. Martin regarding the M23 Rwandan rebel group based in the DRC during 2012 as well as issues regarding foreign aid being cut to Rwanda due to their continued influence and presence in the DRC and their role in ongoing destabilization. Dr. Martin expressed concern for these issues and began to discuss how the RNC could be funded in order to take power. However, there was a dark underbelly that was beginning to form between Dr. Martin and the Government of Rwanda. Dr. Martin was contracted by the Government of Rwanda to be a hired “consultant” to them; all the while, she continued to meet with Mr. Rubingisa and introduced him to a man by the name of Frank Corto of Knox Global. In an interesting development, Mr. Frank Corto of Knox Global has no internet presence at all. He has no social media presence or a professional profile online. The website of Knox Global is also very thin and has no contact information. It is believed that Knox Global is a fake company and does not really exist.
Mr. Corto’s emails to Mr. Rubingisa began in late 2012 where he began requesting to meet with Dr. Martin and Mr. Rubingisa in Chicago in order to discuss a business venture in Rwanda on behalf of a client based in China. Mr. Corto came with the promise of large sums of money to assist with financing the RNC activities in exchange for exclusive mining rights in Rwanda should they be able to take power. Mr. Corto, Dr. Martin and Mr. Rubingisa met in Chicago and made plans to meet in WashingtonDC with the party leader Dr. Theogene Rudasingwa in order to discuss a stronger connection between all parties. Dr. Martin purchased a plane ticket and hotel stay for Mr. Rubingisa from Chicago to Virginia (email confirmation held by this writer) in order for him to be present at the meeting. This trip is dated Thursday September 13, 2012-Friday September 14, 2012. At this point Dr. Michelle Martin continued to express support of the RNC and assisting them with funding sources in order to help with organizing the party. However, on August 9, 2012 Dr. Martin entered in to a consultancy agreement with the Government of Rwanda, at their request, for an initial 12-month period at $5000 per month. She would provide “policy analysis, research, writing, editing, presenting and other professional services pertaining to the “Diaspora Effect” and its impact on the conflict cycle (analysis of activities, propaganda dissemination, genocide ideology, virtual transitional networks etc.).”
The overlap in her discussions with the RNC and the Government of Rwanda raise some serious questions because these two groups have serious political differences and the Government of Rwanda considers the RNC to be a rebel group and even murdered one of its founding members and former RPF Spy Chief Patrick Karegeya on New Year’s Eve 2013. Dr. Martin never discussed with the RNC members that she was now working for the Government of Rwanda. Why would a professor in the USA would be trying to assist an opposition group to the Government of Rwanda with funding while she is on their payroll? The meeting did occur between Dr. Rudasingwa, Mr. Rubingisa and Mr. Corto where finances for the party were discussed. Mr. Corto stated he could provide upwards of $30 million dollars to fund the activities of the RNC with an initial payment of $500,000 that would be wired to them. Once the meeting was over Mr. Corto contacted Mr. Rubingisa to inform him that Dr. Martin was not to be involved with the business aspect of their agreement. Mr. Corto claimed to work on behalf of a Chinese mining company and wanted to establish a partnership on their behalf. Dr. Martin remained in contact with Mr. Rubingisa and continually requested to be in contact with Kayumba Nyamwasa. She also acted as a sympathizer to the FDLR. Dr. Martin was very eager to be able to speak to Kayumba Nyamwasa and when she was denied his information, she became nervous according to Mr. Rubingisa. Dr. Martin further requested to be in contact with Patrick Karegeya on numerous occasions but Dr. Rudasingwa would not provide this contact to her. She continued to express disappointment at not being able to reach Nyamwasa or Karegeya.
After the initial meeting in Washington DC, Dr. Rudasingwa and Mr. Rubingisa were flown to Los Angeles, California where Mr. Corto and his agency had rented out an entire floor of the Hilton Hotel in order for them to conduct business with these members of the RNC. Present at the meeting was Mr. Corto, Mr. Rubingisa and Dr. Rudasingwa and various other individuals from Knox Global INC. Kayumba Nyamwasa was to be available via Skype in order to confirm the details. From the start of contacts with Dr. Martin and Mr. Corto Dr. Rudasingwa expressed suspicion of the dealings and decided that morning that Kayumba Nyamwasa would not be a part of the meeting. A woman Chinese dissent was also present at the Hilton Hotel meeting in order to translate information to her boss in China via phone.
Mr. Corto as well as Dr. Martin, on numerous occasions, attempted to get Dr. Rudasingwa and Mr. Rubingisa to state that they planned to use force to overthrow President Kagame. Neither of the RNC members would state that as the RNC has always maintained they wish to use peaceful means in order to liberate Rwanda from the oppression of President Kagame. Since the RNC leaders refused to tell Mr. Corto what he wanted to hear they convened the meeting to think about their options as investors.
Mr. Corto continued to promise to wire funds but he never came through. Dr. Rudasingwa pulled out of the deal entirely after the meeting in Los Angeles due to his suspicion that DMI agents from Rwanda were orchestrating the entire situation. It was also planned that Mr. Rubingisa would stay in contact with Mr. Corto to see if he would indeed wire the funds he promised. He also stayed in contact with Dr. Martin in order to feed her false information and see where the information would turn up.
A short time later, an undisclosed member of President Kagame’s intelligence services informed the RNC that Dr. Martin was working on behalf of President Kagame. Nothing came of any of these meetings and because of Dr. Martin’s public connections to President Kagame the RNC is no longer in contact with her. Mr. Rubingisa stated to this reporter that Dr. Martin is one who appreciates a paycheck and he was not surprised that she would work for the Government of Rwanda. The last contact Mr. Rubingisa had with Dr. Martin was in in early 2013 and the last contact with Mr. Corto was in late 2013.
In 2012, Dr. Martin had a young Rwandan girl living with her who was seeking political asylum while attending college. The young girl stated she was an orphan, which was later found to be a lie, and that her parents had died in the genocide when her parents are actually living in Burundi and she was born in Burundi as well. Many of Dr. Martin’s neighbors had raised funds in the amount of $2,500 every semester for two years, to support this girl. The money was then sent to Rwanda to allegedly pay school fees for a sister of that girl. The girl did receive asylum and remains in the US.
Dr. Martin traveled to Rwanda three times between 2012-2013 at the cost of the Government of Rwanda and had a private meeting with President Kagame when he spoke in San Francisco in February 2014.
In a final discussion with Mr. Rubingisa and Dr. Rudasingwa it is believed that not only were Mr. Corto and Dr. Martin working on behalf of the Rwandan Government to disseminate key information about the party but they also wanted to record these RNC members stating that they would use force to overthrow President Kagame in order to inform the US government which would nullify their refugee status. When that objective was not obtained, both men believed they would be targeted for elimination as Patrick Karegeya was shortly afterward in South Africa. There was a final meeting planned to be held in NYC which never occurred. Both men from the RNC believe if they had attended the meeting they would not be here to tell this story today.
Emails to Dr. Michelle Martin and to Mr. Corto have gone unanswered.
The moral of the story is that President Kagame will stop at nothing to eliminate anyone who criticizes him. The fact that he will use US professors to do his dirty work is a new level of low for him and the professor. DePaul University should seriously investigate Dr. Michelle Martin and her ties to the Rwandan Government as well as her teaching status at DePaul University. If this professor is willing to be bought in order to put the lives of Rwandans at risk then why would a prestigious university want her on their payroll?
As a fellow Social Worker to Dr. Martin, it must be noted that Dr. Martin has clearly broken the NASW code of ethics as noted in 4.04 ‘Dishonesty, Fraud, and Deception’, which states “Social workers should not participate in, condone, or be associated with dishonesty, fraud, or deception.” Dr. Martin’s actions clearly put these two men at great risk for death and she should be held accountable for her actions.