Kigali pins hopes on safe-cracker
Cahal Milmo is the chief reporter of The Independent and has been with the paper since 2000. He was born in London and previously worked at the Press Association news agency. He has reported on assignment at home and abroad, including Rwanda, Sudan and Burkina Faso, the phone hacking scandal and the London Olympics. In his spare time he is a keen runner and cyclist, and keeps an allotment.
Thursday 20 October 1994
When Rwanda's former Hutu extremist government was driven from power in July by the Tutsi Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF), it fled to Zaire with bank notes, accounting records and - most important - the secret codes to a complicated series of locks on the bank vault. 'But it seems they didn't take all the money,' said the bank governor, Gerard Niyitegeka. 'I'm not certain, but I'm optimistic.'
The funds inside the central bank vault are needed by local banks to finance a resumption in their daily operations that were interrupted by fighting that tore the country apart from April to July.
'We've located the duplicates for the keys, but we still don't have the secret combinations,' Mr Niyitegeka said.
An appeal was made to the French company that installed the locks in 1982.
'We could have dynamited the door open, but it's that thick,' explained the governor, spreading his arms apart. 'The entire building would be destroyed.'
Even if all goes well, and the door is opened and a treasure discovered inside, Rwanda will still be long way from financial health. 'We will need a lot more money, which we have asked of friendly countries and international financial institutions,' Mr Niyitegeka said.
Despite its locked vault, the central bank has been functioning, relying on customs duties and other levies to pay civil servants. But Rwandan soldiers are still waiting for their salaries, according to the governor.
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