Monday, 26 June 2017



The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) continues to witness devastating political violence, but the world refuses to act. Ishiaba Kasonga and Serge Egola Angbakodolo ask why?


Published in as "The violence of coltan: purchase of a global silence "and this is the magazine version

Congo’s president, Joseph Kabila (above) operates less
 like a stereotypical dictator and more like a ruthless 
CEO with a military wing.

In February 2017, a video filmed in the village of Mwanza Lomba went viral.

It showed unarmed civilians – women and children – being massacred by soldiers of the state army, and quickly moved from the social networks onto television news channels around the world. But then it vanished again without any further debate about what it meant and what it revealed.

In April, more than 40 mass graves were discovered in the same region, Kasai where, since the outbreak of the Kamwina Nsapu insurrection last August, millions of civilians have been displaced by armed forces and militias of the Kabila regime, but for some reason the story of their plight appears to go largely unchallenged.

According to the 2011-2015 forecast of the University of Sydney’s Atrocity Forecasting Project (AFP), DRC ranked second and Syria eleventh of the countries most at risk of the onset of genocide or politicide.

Yet in spite of the fact that mass atrocities are ongoing in DRC today, the same organisation’s 2016-2020 forecast omitted to include it in its ranking altogether, while Syria, now firmly in the international spotlight, has climbed to 6th position

Genocide, defined by human rights activist, John Prenderghast, as “eliminating a group of people based on their identity”, is a daily reality in DRC that directly implicates the president of the state.

Yet while in Syria, recent chemical attacks against civilians, captured on video too, have prompted a US military intervention and calls from around the world for the immediate departure of Bashar El-Assad from power, DRC’s Joseph Kabila seems to enjoy a license to carry on and with impunity.

Congo's mines rank among the largest in the world


DRC is known not only as a vast cemetery of forgotten holocausts and veiled genocides but also as a huge mass grave where millions of victims of Africa’s great wars have been buried in support of a global culture of consumerism.

This is a legacy that dates back to 1885, when the Belgian monarch Leopold II, claimed Congo for Belgium and sacrificed countless Congolese in a barbaric reign that took colonial brutality to new heights. Death and displacement were the price required to satisfy the insatiable need for rubber of an ascendant automobile industry.

During the Second World War, the USA used the Shinkolombwe’s uranium mine's highly toxic product to supply the secret Manhattan project for the manufacture of the world’s first atomic bomb including those dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Once again, it was Congolese blood that paid for the enrichment of the West.

And since 1996, in multiple and complex wars, millions of Congolese have paid in blood for the extraction of coltan, known also as ‘grey gold’.

A mineral of great value for the high-tech industry, coltan has transformed Eastern Congo into a the location of horrific violence (“the rape capital of the world”), since militias and the national army use rape as a means of displacing populations in order to gain control of mines.

The global demand for tantalum, columbium, tin, gold and tungsten, all commonly used in computer chips and electronic gadgets including smartphones (see "The blood metals in  your phones" below), and all in plentiful supply locally, proves an insurmountable obstacle to any effort made to conflict-resolution in the region.

The demand for cobalt now grows with demand for the lithium-ion batteries that charge electric vehicles and store renewable energy.

The country that controls access to this high-grade Congo “blood cobalt” therefore controls the energy of the future.

Whether it is from new or older manufacturing industries, the demand for low-cost Congo minerals will only increase, and in order to meet that demand and keeps costs down, a ruthless CEO is what is needed to manage the country.

Millions of Congolese have paid in blood for the extraction of coltan, known also as "grey gold"


The DRC’s open-pit high grade copper mines rank amongst the ten largest in the world, but in the field of human rights, the country lingers at the bottom.

The British NGO Freedom from Torture ranks Congo fourth of all the countries in the world in the practice of torture. And 70% of the crimes and human rights violations recorded in DRC in 2016 were committed by the national security forces, under direct or indirect orders from the head of state or his immediate entourage.

The list of uninvestigated mass graves can beggar belief: Kibumba in North Kivu, Makobola, Tingi-Tingi, Mbandaka, Kisangani, Beni, Sumbi, Nienge, Lolo Bene in Bas-Congo, Rubare in North Kivu, Camp Kibembe, Lubumbashi. Two years since its discovery, the mass grave of Maluku, like so many others, remains uninvestigated.

Leaked documents reveal that orders from the Ministry of the Interior, distributed to senior officials of the National Intelligence Agency, the Police Force and the Directorate General for Migration in 2014, justified the use of torture when used with “discretion”, against political opponents, and as a “method of silent repression and intimidation” to maintain a hold on power.


As it was in the past for King Leopold II, Congo is Joseph Kabila’s private enterprise.

There are mines that are directly controlled by the president and his family. Those that are not are sub-contracted, in the name of Joseph Kabila, to militias, mercenaries or trading systems of companies that do business in “vacant lands” that lie beyond the state’s control.

Kabila’s economic empire consists of at least 70 companies, all managed or majority-owned by members of his family. It includes death squads that operate as false flags throughout the country as part of the government’s general military strategy.

Military officers and undercover civilians recruit mercenaries by order of the president and his family, and under the protection of the regional general intelligence services of nations including Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Zimbabwe and Sudan.

These armed gangs, known as “presidential militias”, operate freely in the Congo but also work as a kind of sub-regional mafia, facilitating what is more politely described as a process of “cross-border economic development”.

Saracen Uganda Ltd, for example, a company dedicated to transforming professional security services in East Africa and providing access to Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Car Tracking Services, Security Dogs, and Guards, was criticized in a 2002 UN Security Council report for training rebel paramilitary forces in the DRC.

General Salim Saleh, half-brother of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, is one of the company’s founders. Uganda has become the factory and cradle of mercenaries, and the commercial hub of the gold trade despite the denunciations of international NGOs and observers.

Mining concessions in DRC have been acquired by huge international mining companies either at suspiciously low prices or for billions of dollars that never reached the Congolese state coffers.


The New York Times reported recently that Kabila “has softened criticism from his Western allies by ensuring that they profited from Congo’s wealth. Huge mineral concessions were handed to corporations from countries that finance Congo’s elections and that support Mr. Kabila’s government with foreign aid”.

In 2010, The Dodd-Franck Act was passed in the US in attempt to prohibit  trade in minerals obtained through conflict. This law created by the Democratic Party, however, has had the unintended affect of giving a boost to illicit cross-border trafficking, which are used in such a way as to hide the supply chain.

According to UN investigators, smuggling is facilitated by the Congolese national armed forces (FARDC) as well as by the national armies of Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda: Ituri gold is exported from Congo to Uganda and sold as Ugandan; Coltan from North Kivu to Rwanda and sold as Rwandan; Diamonds from Mbuji-Mayi to China and Zimbabwe; and gold from South Kivu and North Katanga to Burundi and Tanzania.


EU and US sanctions, targeted against Congolese officials but not Joseph Kabila, are ineffective in the field. Kabila and his cohorts remain untouchable princes in the Congo, living in style and with impunity. And in any case, history teaches us that several authoritarian regimes, against all odds, have resisted international sanctions.

UN member-states committed to the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) – a political commitment designed to end the worst forms of violence and persecution –  are failing to fulfill this commitment towards the Congolese population.

It’s time Joseph Kabila should be held accountable for his crimes.

Ishiaba Kasonga and Serge Egola Angbakodolo are the founders of the Orion Congo Studies Network (OCSN)

The blood metals in your phone

Almost all smartphones are built with a range of minerals mined in conflict zones. Here's to find them in the phone in your pocket.

Tantalum is mainly used to make capacitors - electricity storage - small enough to fit in a phone. The are hundreds of these in every phones, across many circuits.

Columbium, aka niobium , has been mooted as a replacement for tantalum - but both are found in the same coltan ore ("coltan is a short for columbium-tantalum'). Congo is the world's largest producer of coltan, much of mined by hand, including child labour. UNICEF estimates that around 40.000 children works as informal-sector miners in DRC.

Cobalt is used to make the small rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that power modern mobile phones, as well as laptops and tablets.

Tin may not sound like a high-tech metal, but it is used to make almost all the solder - 'metal glue'- that holds together phones and other electronics. Nearly half of all the world's mined tin is turned into solder, according to Friends of the Earth.

Copper, gold, and silver are used for the wiring of the phone and the printed circuit boards.

Tungsten is a strong metal that is used in a small mechanism to make the phone vibrate when you get a call buzzes, remember that the tungsten vibrating is probably funding armed groups in Congo.

Friday, 16 June 2017

U.S. Warns of New Reports Congo Troops Killing, Raping Women, Children

U.S. Warns of New Reports Congo Troops Killing, Raping Women, Children


A young woman who was raped and burned by the
 Congolese soldiers - by James Nachtwey (1948),

 The United States warned on Friday that it had received new reports from within Democratic Republic of Congo accusing Congolese troops of actively carrying out a campaign of killing and raping women and children in the central Kasai region.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, called for action.
"Reports of the Congolese government's campaign of murder and rape of women and children should shock us into action. These allegations must be investigated and those responsible held accountable," Haley said in a statement.
The Democratic Republic of Congo mission to the United Nations was not immediately available for comment.
20 Killed In Clashes In DR Congo's Kasai Region: UN

The top U.N. human rights official last week called for an international investigation into massacres and other crimes committed in the Kasai region where at least 42 mass graves have been found.
"It is past time for the Human Rights Council to take decisive action and launch an independent investigation into the human rights violations and abuses in the DRC. This is the core mission of the (council)," Haley said.
‘Raping makes us feel free’: DR Congo’s
 soldiers reveal.

Hundreds have been killed and 1.3 million displaced in central Congo since last August in fighting between a militia and government forces. Two U.N. sanctions monitors disappeared there in March and their bodies were found two weeks later.
Violence has risen nationally since President Joseph Kabila stayed in power after his mandate ended in December 2016.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Andrew Hay)

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Child labor still rife in Democratic Republic of Congo

Child labor still rife in Democratic Republic of Congo


June 12 is the World Day Against Child Labour. The UN estimates that 168 million children are being put to work globally. Many of them are in Africa, particularly in the Congo, where cobalt mining by children is rampant.

According to the UN children's agency, UNICEF, about 40,000 children work in cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo. For a shift of up to 24 hours underground, most earn less than $2 (1.80 euro) a day - many receive half of that.

"The working conditions in the Congolese mines are miserable," Faustin Adeye, who works with the Catholic charity Misereor told DW. "Many children are often physically ruined as a result. There are whole excavations which they dig up with their bare hands using machetes spades."
Adeye said the conditions in some of the cobalt mines located in the southern Democratic Republic of Congo were so bad that at times the children are buried alive when the mines cave in.

Many children in Congo's cobalt mines work in deplorable 

Some of the children are as young as 7 years old and many work without any protective clothing, according to the human rights organization Amnesty International.
Do multinationals care?
The coveted raw material is used for making smartphone batteries. Big corporations such as Apple, Microsoft, Samsung and Sony rely on it for their electronic gadgets.
The mineral can also be found in electric cars produced by Daimler and Volkswagen. However, these companies do not want to be associated with child labor. In December, DW asked some of them to comment on the issue.

Conflict-free smartphones (Click here to watch the video)

Daimler, one of Germany's biggest car producers, responded in writing that it required all suppliers to comply with the applicable international rules and laws. The company's guidelines on working conditions, social and ethical standards, and environmental protection went far beyond legal requirements, according to Daimler, which added that the manufacturer expects suppliers to comply with at least the minimum standards.
BMW, another German carmaker, admitted that it has used cobalt from the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the production of certain batteries. The Munich-based firm announced that it would begin inspecting its suppliers to ensure that there were no human rights violations.

Apple says it introduced measures to stop using cobalt 
mined by children in Congo

In March, the US tech giant Apple reported that it wanted to stop the purchase of cobalt that had been mined by hand in the Congo.
Hard to resist
The largest cobalt deposits in the world are found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. According to Amnesty International, at least 50 percent of the world's cobalt is mined there. It is therefore impossible to rule out the possibility that cobalt from the Congo would end up with companies all over the world.
About 168 million children work worldwide. The International Labor Organization launched the International Day Against Child Labour in 2002 to draw attention to their plight. It takes place every year on June 12.
This year, the focus will be on how conflicts and disasters affect child labor. Wars and environmental catastrophes threaten human rights. In most cases, children are affected: They often lack access to education or even loses their families. As a result, they are often forced to work.

                             THE DRC'S 'RESOURCES CURSE'  

Rich resources and violent opportunists

In the unstable eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo, treasures like gold and tin attract opportunistic militia. The violent groups exploit people, including children, to mine for "conflict minerals." With the revenue they buy weapons to conquer more territories and perpetuate the fighting.

                   THE DRC'S 'RESOURCES CURSE'


MONUSCO, the UN's biggest and most expensive peace-keeping mission, is working to stabilize the provinces of North and South Kivu, which lie at the center of the country's violence. Security forces patrol mining villages like Nzibira, which sits at the edge of Zola Zola, a legal cassiterite mine.

                                THE DRC'S 'RESOURCES CURSE'


Cassiterite is just one of the minerals used in mobile phones. Half of the world's production of those minerals comes from Central Africa. The DRC's export of tin, gold and other ore has been under particular scrutiny since 2010, when laws were introduced in the United States requiring listed US companies to ensure their supply chains were free from "conflict minerals".

                                  THE DRC'S 'RESOURCES CURSE'


A poster in Nzibira explains how sacks of minerals need to be properly sealed and labeled by the mine inspector so their legal origin can be proven to US firms. The system, however, has many gaps. Illicit mines can simply sell their yield on the black market or smuggle their goods into a legal mine to have them packed there.

                         THE DRC'S 'RESOURCES CURSE'


Despite efforts by rights groups, human rights violations remain widespread in mining operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Children like Esperance Furahaare, who was kidnapped and raped by militia when she was 14 years old, are common victims of exploitation and violence.

                                THE DRC'S 'RESOURCES CURSE'


Mines, which are difficult to police, can also harm the environment and surrounding communities. At illegal mines, waste water runoff often makes its way into local water sources, polluting the supply.

                            THE DRC'S 'RESOURCES CURSE'


US lawmakers are currently trying to advance a bill that would eliminate the 2010 reforms. Legislators argue that the Dodd-Frank Act has stifled economic development in the US and has not effectively addressed exploitation in Central Africa. While US companies must ensure their supplies are not conflict minerals, all they are expected to do is ask their suppliers, not supply proof or origin.



RD Congo: Évasion à la prison de Béni

RD Congo: Évasion à la prison de Béni


Un soldat fait la garde, lors du procès des rebelles
présumés ADF, à Beni, RDC, le 24 août 2016.

Dimanche, 80% des détenus se seraient évadés de la prison centrale de Beni-Kangbayi après une attaque.
Les assaillants de la prison centrale de Beni-Kangbayi n'ont pas été encore identifié.

Attaque à la prison centrale de  ce dimanche,80% de détenus évadés au moins 15 morts gardes et évadés.sources à BENI.@VOAFrench
Selon le correspondant de VOA Afrique à Goma en contact avec des témoins à Béni, 14 personnes auraient perdu la vie, huit gardes et six détenus.
Une réunion a été organisé par le comité provinciale de sécurité. Le gouverneur a demandé un couvre-feu sur les villes de Béni, Butembo et le territoire de Béni à partir de 18h30 (heure locale).

View image on Twitter

Prison de BENI: attaque ce dimanche:Mesure prise par comité de sécurité COUVRE-Feu décrété ce dimanche à partir 18h30

Friday, 9 June 2017

Race to supply more cobalt is on as demand for electric cars increases

Race to supply more cobalt is on as demand for electric cars increases


Excavators and drillers at work in an open pit copper and
 cobalt mine in the DRC.

The race is on to supply more of the cobalt needed for batteries in the fast-growing market for electric vehicles — and that means fresh competition for the big players Glencore and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
A pipeline of projects is looming in places including Australia, the US and Canada after cobalt prices more than doubled in the past year. Glencore produces almost a third of the world’s supply, mainly from the Congo, which is by far the biggest source, accounting for as much as 65%.
Among those backing new global developments are billionaire Anil Agarwal and mining tycoon Robert Friedland. They were aiming to capitalise as a battery boom sent demand for cobalt soaring more than 30-fold by 2030, said Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
"There’s going to have to be a response that goes beyond Congo," said Sam Riggall, CEO of Friedland-backed Clean TeQ Holdings, which is developing a $680m cobalt, nickel and scandium project about 350km west of Sydney. Congo’s tight grip on the market is a concern for battery producers to [car] makers, he said. "They are desperately looking for sources of supply outside of Africa."
The arrival of an era of battery-powered vehicles had already kick-started a period of unprecedented growth for the metal, Franck Schulders, Glencore’s head of cobalt marketing, said in an interview. Volkswagen and Ford were among car makers investing in electric vehicles and the whole market could be worth $244bn by 2025, Goldman Sachs said in a late 2015 report.
Rising cobalt demand and flat supply in the 100,000 tonnes-a-year market opened a 1,500 tonne deficit in 2016 that could triple this year, said CRU Group. There were more than 370 undeveloped discoveries and at least a dozen viable projects outside Congo that could come online by 2023, CRU senior consultant Edward Spencer said in an e-mail.
"There’s no way that current supply is going to keep up," said Matthew Painter, MD of Ardea Resources, which is aiming to develop a former Vale deposit in Western Australia that the company estimates holds the developed world’s largest cobalt resource.
"Some of the forecasts for cobalt supply are pretty dire."
Cobalt on the London Metal Exchange traded at about $32,000 a tonne at the end of 2016, up 36% from the previous year, and has rallied about 65% to more than $56,000 a tonne in 2017. That is equivalent to more than $25.40 a pound. They were likely to double in 2017 and could remain above $20 a pound until the end of the decade, CRU’s Spencer said.
A typical electric car battery contains 15kg of cobalt, while a laptop needs about 33g and a smartphone requires 6g, according to Sydney-based project developer Cobalt Blue Holdings.
Glencore’s Hong Kong-traded shares declined 0.2% to HK$28.55 at 9:56am local time on Friday.
Almost all cobalt was produced as a by-product at nickel and copper mines and "in terms of new projects, a higher cobalt price certainly makes some" planned multi-metal developments more viable, said Macquarie Group’s head of commodities research, Colin Hamilton.
While Congo would remain the dominant supplier of the metal, the nation’s market share would fall as a result of developments elsewhere, he said.
Australia, which holds about 14% of the world’s known reserves, is poised for the largest growth in production in the six years until the end of 2021, with output forecast to rise 31%, according to Business Monitor International. Congo will add 24% over the same period, as output in China rises 10%, the data show.
"There’s a few new ideas, new mines and junior mining companies. They are all years away from production and they tend to be very small, like fantasies," said Benedikt Sobotka, CEO of Eurasian Resources Group, which produces copper and cobalt in Congo. "They are not going to make a big difference for our industry."
Projects in Congo from Glencore and Eurasian Resources could potentially add 40,000 tonnes of mined supply by 2022, according to CRU’s Spencer.
Congo is under pressure to restrict artisanal mining, including in the cobalt sector, which a 2016 Amnesty International report said had a prevalent use of child labour.
Tesla Motors, among the largest consumers, undertook in 2014 to source the metal only from North American miners because of supply-chain concerns. Apple said in March it had expanded responsible sourcing efforts beyond conflict minerals to include cobalt.
There was work across the cobalt supply chain "to look at provenance, verification and that sort of due diligence", Glencore’s head of sustainable development, Anna Krutikov, said in an interview.
Glencore supported co-operatives in Congo with more than 3,000 members offering people alternative livelihoods to artisanal mining, including in agriculture, she said.