John Frewen - A new currency

Running time
2 min 4 sec
Department of Veterans' Affairs


There was a unique aspect about the mission that the government that was in place was the army in exile out of Uganda that had swept into the country at the time of the genocide. And the then General Kagame had appointed himself as sort of interim president pending an election. But we were there supporting an interim government that hadn't been elected. But a lot of the bureaucracy was nascent, and a lot of the talent base that was needed to set up so much important bureaucracy, such as courts and treasuries, it just didn't exist.

Many of those sort of highly specialized people had been sort of killed off during the genocide, quite deliberately. Academics through universities had been killed off quite deliberately, so it was a mixed bag. So that was a little later in the mission. And the thing that was driving the new currency was that many of the opponents of the government, or many of the genocide perpetrators, even the army that had now gone into exile largely into neighbouring countries and the things, had taken or amassed former Rwanda currency.

So this was an opportunity to zero the balance and make sure only those people who were legitimate in the eyes of the government had the new currency. And there was real suspicion about the new currency, even amongst some legitimate population. So we were down in the camps trying to convince some people that they really needed to exchange the currency and they wouldn't be convinced. So there was a period where they had an opportunity to switch to the new currency and then overnight the old currency was suddenly worthless. So it was a fascinating... one of these subplots that was running inside a country like that, that is in complete breakdown.

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