Global Christian bank faces racism lawsuit in Africa

A former executive at a global Christian microfinance bank has launched a $12 million lawsuit for racial discrimination after his bosses cancelled his credit card, according to his legal team.

George Solo, now a high-profile politician in Liberia, accuses Opportunity International of "rights violations, racial discrimination and exploitation of black Africans", his lawyers said in a statement on Thursday.

The suit was filed in the Economic Community of West African States Community Court of Justice -- a human rights court based in Abuja, Nigeria -- on April 4.

Solo was working as the Africa human resources director in Liberia for the bank when it cancelled his card without giving a reason, according to the joint statement from Monrovia law firm Kemp and Associates and the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission of Liberia.

As a consequence, he suffered "immense financial and economic losses, mental trauma, humiliation, harassment, damages, and could not afford to pay bills incurred, transport fares, and taxes in his home country", the statement said, without specifying when the incident happened.

Opportunity International (OI) provides small business loans, bank accounts, insurance and training for over four million people working their way out of poverty in more than 20 developing countries, according to its website.

"We believe that as a Christian organization, we are called by Jesus Christ to love and serve the poor," it said.

Solo no longer works for the organisation and has been chairman of Liberia's main opposition Congress for Democratic Change party for almost two years.

His legal team claimed the bank cancelled his card as "part of a wider or entrenched campaign being perpetrated by OI to humiliate black Africans" and to make him "look like a swindler simply because he is black".

They accused OI of being "nothing less than a cartel that is run by remnants and adherents of Ku Klux Klan and is blindly funded and supported with financial resources from multinational corporations".

They named a long list of multi-national companies and charities they said were funding OI and thus "aiding and abetting its racial discrimination policy and exploitation of black Africans".

The lawsuit contains what it claims is evidence of emails and a letter from OI offering to pay Solo's expenses as well as $57,500 by way of settlement of the complaint.

Stacey Zolt Hara, OI's vice-president of communications, said on Friday the organisation would investigate Solo's complaint and "make right" any wrongdoing it discovered.

"We enjoyed working with George as a valued employee for many years, during which he openly expressed his admiration for the organisation and its leadership. We are both confused and saddened by his sudden attack on our work," she told AFP.