Translated from the french by Alexandre LOUDIEBO
Albert Caquot once said: “Our thirst for knowledge finds itself quenched, above all, in those synthetic works, which are put at our disposal by the generous endeavors of an enlightened mind. Through these works, we are able to grasp, in an overview that is logical and rigorous, a group of human competencies at a given moment.”
To all those who are fighting against intolerance, and who, by their daily life, struggle for peace and happiness among all the peoples of the world, we are dedicating this brief overview of the geopolitical stakes of the international mining companies in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), for it is multidimensional and the main cause of the ills, which are devastating the Great Lakes Region in Africa during this second millenium after Jesus Christ.
Freedom is one of the virtues, which makes man capable of seeking the truth throughout the ages, using his intellect. It happens that, sometimes, this truth hurts, comes out of its well no matter how deep it is… and that martyrdom results from it. Happy is that very one who gives his life for liberty, for the truth, for peace, for equality of opportunities and for all the many other human values, which are trampled upon by the eccentricity of economic interests.
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a geological scandal, especially in the South-east Katanga region where are found the world biggest copper reserves, which are not yet exploited, in what is called in English the Copper Belt and which extends to Zambia.
In 1978, DRC was the first producer of this red metal, with 500,000 tons a year. This production reached 30,000 tons in 1985, as a result of a bad upkeep of the mining infrastructures of the major mine of Kamoto in Kolwezi, a section of which collapsed in September 1990 while its production represented 33% of the company, Générale des Carrières et des Mines (GECAMINES), major supplier of foreign exchange for the public Treasury of Congo-Kinshasa.
This lack of upkeep, along with the absence of modernization of the mining infrastructures were generalized not only because of the fall of the copper prices but particularly because of the bad management of the State portfolio by the successive governments of the Mobutu regime.
All the information contained in this document is intended for anyone who wants to closely follow the evolution of the chaotic situation, which is raging in the Great Lakes Region. This data comes from my proper experience in the field, from my research and from numerous other sources.
DRC is also a geopolitical scandal with its flares-up in its quest for political stability since April 1990. This has incited the big transnational mining corporations to turn their backs against it and to go and invest elsewhere during the last few years, especially in Zambia, Chile and ex-USSR.
THE MINING COMPANIES TO THE ASSAULT OF DRC
How to explain this sudden upsurge of interest by the mining companies for this region of Central Africa? And in light of the known transactions, how is the future exploitation of the resources of the Great Lakes Region of Africa shaping itself under this new authority? The answers are to be found in the dynamics of two (2) converging actions:
The First Action:
It consists of pressures put forth by international financial institutions on the countries of the region, so that they repay their debts.
In fact, several developing countries contracted enormous debts from a great number of international financial institutions, such as the World Bank and the IMF, and they are not able to meet their obligations. In many of these poor countries, the national assets and international aid were wasted by dilapidation policies, as in Zaïre for example under the Mobutu regime.
The fall of the prices of raw materials, along with the drop in production of certain raw materials, the carelessness and corruption of governments put these developing States into difficult situations vis a vis international investors. In order to make them live up to their debt repayment schedule, the international institutions compel them to implement a set of economic policies, which generally can be summarized into three (3) unpopular decisions:
1) Deep cuts in State services, especially basic social services (education, health);
2) Privatization of State enterprises;
3) Currency devaluation, whose impact on the population standard of living has always been underestimated.
The Second Action:
It deals with the deep transformation of the world mining industry of the last few years. The mining transnational corporations benefit, in turn, for their expansion from the privatization of State enterprises. The 1970’s were, in fact, characterized by the nationalization of industrial sectors, especially those, which were linked to the exploitation of natural resources; these nationalizations were made an integral part of the national development strategy of a great number of African countries.
The reverse movement started in 1993; 18.5% of the overall value of the world mining production (with the exception of oil) was in the hands of the State enterprises. In 1994, this ratio was about 16%, and it was anticipated that, in 1996, it would only be 14%.
It was first in the developed countries that privatization of the mines was the most important. From June 1995 to May 1996, US $2.2 billion were spent for the acquisitions of this type of enterprise. This represented almost the double of the previous year. The share of the mining industry of the Western countries, which belonged to the States, diminished thus of about 40% during this period. In comparison, this reduction was only about 6% in the developing countries. In these countries, the exports of raw materials accounted, for the most part, for the State revenues. Here, the socio-political troubles associated with privatization were, by far, much more important than elsewhere.
This is what explains the fact that, after a first wave of privatization, stronger and stronger criticisms were heard in the developing countries. Agreements, which were negotiated for a long time, were delayed. Several countries of the South were, from then on, inviting “investors” not to purchase State enterprises any longer, but rather to come and create new ones. The financiers, who seek to get a quick turn-around profit on their initial investment, were not very much interested in this. It is in this context that we should examine the recent great interest in the Great Lakes Region of Africa.
Thus, behind the drama under which Central Africa has been living since 1990, immediately following the end of the Cold War, there is an important stake for the transnational mining corporations. Mining resources in other countries of the world have already been heavily exploited, not to say exhausted, and those, which are being exploited, are associated with such tremendous costs.
The great financiers of this world, hunters of mineral resources, have their eyes targeted on Central Africa where discovered mineral deposits are still virgin or ill exploited and likely to open markets to big capital gain investments.
The collapse of the USSR left an open market and has also thrown the planet at the mercy of international finance capital. The disappearance of the communist world put an end to bipolarity, which arose from World War II, thus quickly favoring the rise to power of the multinational corporations, whose expansion and strategies today can no longer be stymied.
In order to ensure their investments, these financiers need a customized economic and financial policy. That is why the mining transnational corporations are fighting over the most juicy bits and pieces in one or the other part of Central Africa, and this in keeping with the political tendencies or “rebellions”, which are associated with them and sometimes even created by them.
THE MEDIA MAKE REVELATIONS
Since 1996, while the rebellion announced the capture of major localities of the DRC, the media hurried to state precisely their economic importance and revealed by the same token the major actors, who until then were unknown: big financiers interested in the exploitation of the Congo mineral resources. Judge their importance: the Consolidated Eurocan Ventures of the Lundin Group, Barrick Gold Corporation (BGC) today in second position for the production of gold, the Anglo-American Corporation (AAC) of South Africa, the most important mining company in the world, with exception of the oil companies. There are also some “small ones”, less known but which nevertheless dare to confront the big ones in a field that is in a great state of crisis; it is the case of American Mineral Fields Inc. (AMFI) and of its affiliate, the American Diamond Buyers, and others from the US, Canada, South Africa, Uganda, Belgium and Israel.
AMFI, which was established in 1995, was created as an instrument aimed at executing in Africa the will of economic domination of the western financiers, and particularly at accomplishing the designs of the American companies, whose leaders are participating in the world big strategic stakes that are intimately linked to scientific, financial, industrial and political endeavors.
Equipped with enormous capital, these industrialists have started a slow transformation,
which reached its maturation in the middle of the 1990’s. In fact, the multinational corporations are, today, no longer happy with dictating their will to the world governments, including even the most powerful, nor with controlling these States. From now on, they are nurturing the ambition of creating a new world order by proceeding to the creation of new state entities, which will be their own replicas and will operate as one of their own organs (remember the famous sentence by George’s Bush at the beginning of the war with Iraq: “We are going to install a new World Order.”)
The military means, which these groups have and manipulate, allow them to impose their will on national institutions as well as governments; to take over a State; not only to buy it entirely but also to annihilate it; to dismantle its structures and to set up in its stead a new state entity operating as a simple subsidiary, a vulgar establishment or a trivial trading post.
Today, no institution, be it national or international, no government, no country and forcibly no one person, be he/she President of the Republic, can put up some noticeable resistance against these new masters of the world. Headless monsters, the powerful multinational corporations are, through successive mega-mergers, increasing their size as well as their power and capacities to do harm against trivialized populations.
These financial powers have re-started the conquest and re-shaping of the countries of the world, re-making new frontiers as was the case in Yugoslavia, forcing the creation of new States as was the case in the Balkans, Central Asia and soon in Africa.
In fact, Africa finds itself at the center of these new planetary stakes. With almost one third of the world raw materials, abandoned by the former metropolitan powers, which have been disengaging gradually, both from the point of view of cooperation (now left in the hands of NGOs) and of military assistance, African countries have become easy prey of multinational corporations.
To better control their capital investments, these multinational corporations are imposing upon populations political leaders of their own choosing, who very often are badly known by the people, and thus are destabilizing the region, and giving, through the hypocritically so-called pacification, the opportunity to the UN armies to push on the throats of the people a de facto secession, which they do not want. They have, hence, managed to create their own State within the State.
The governments of the old western colonial powers do not possess any longer the means of furthering their policies in Africa. The multinational corporations, which are the owners and manipulators of enormous capital, are from now on occupying the place left vacant and, willingly or forcibly, are putting in place a new political world order dictated solely by their interests at the expense of the populations.
The size of the Democratic Republic of Congo (which is as big as the current European Union), its geo-strategic position in the heart of the continent, the sharing of its borders with nine (9) other countries, along with its mineral resources, had destined it as first target and site of choice for the pursuit of this world strategy in Africa.
The attempts to appropriate to themselves the Congo through war should allow these multinational corporations, if victory chooses the camp of Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, which are fighting on their behalf, to take over the Congolese mineral resources and to make a use of them that would better fit their interests.
“It is, in fact, a question of the re-colonization of Africa by international private capital.” The new order desired by these firms is characterized by the abolition of the old African political order issued from the 1885 Berlin Conference, by the systematic dismembering of the old States and by the creation of new entities, whose role and existence will be determined by the sole will of the leaders of these companies.
COBALT, COPPER AND RELATED MINERALS
When the Mobutu regime fell, agreements which were signed between his government and some cartels were renewed by the new regime, while others were annulled and given to new companies. As the country remains always a prey to a war financed by western powers in search of gold, diamonds, cobalt, manganese, uranium and other minerals, which always accompany copper, such as zinc, germanium, silver, lead, iron…, the transnational mining companies are hustling between the rebels and governmental authorities in order to seize their shares, by making sure that they are on the side of the winner and by forcing destiny, if need be.
DRC also has cobalt reserves, which would be the most important in the world. For several years, it was the world first producer. Despite the lamentable situation of ex-Zaïre and despite the war, DRC is currently the second producer of cobalt; this, necessarily, fuels the greed of the investors, such as the Lundin Group, given the fact that the price of this mineral has doubled since 1991 in the aftermath of the collapse mentioned earlier of a part of the Kamoto Mine in Kolwezi (Katanga), the world first producer.
Numerous American industrial enterprises, which have participated in the creation of AMERICAN MINERALS FIELD, INC. (AMFI) in 1995, are implicated and interested in the contract for the construction of the orbital platform around the world that is destined to replace the Russian station, MIR. It is a question of a $60 billion market, which will end in 2004 with the launching of the last module. Enterprises and industries from sixty (60) countries are participating in it.
Special alloys, which enter into the composition of numerous parts of this special enginerequire enormous quantities of rare and precious metals, such as cobalt, niobium, tungsten or gold. All of these metals are present in the Congolese underground. The replacement of the “Mobutu old political order”, which was deprived of economic infrastructures, of financial means, of armed forces, and which was entirely instrumentalized by AMFI, constituted the first objective of the conflict sponsored by the US.
On December 1, 1996, agreements were signed between Consolidated Euron Ventura, a branch of the Lundin Group and the Kengo government for the exploitation of copper and cobalt in the mining concession, Tenke-Fungurume, of GECAMINES in Katanga (Shaba). These mineral deposits Tenke-Fungurume are said to contain the world highest density of copper (4.42%) and cobalt (.33%). It is estimated that they would yield 100,000 tons of copper and 8,000 tons of cobalt in the year 2000. This production would go up to 400,000 tons for copper and 17,000 tons for cobalt in 2010. All this would take place under a share ratio of 55% for Consolidated Eurocan Ventures and 45% for GECAMINES, a Congolese parastatal since 1967.
These agreements were almost signed by two (2) of the most important South African mining companies, GENCOR and ISCOR, which are more specialized in the extraction and processing of copper and cobalt; however, the offer by the Canadian company, The Lundin Group, was preferred. This then would explain the position of South Africa in the current conflict in DRC.
In March 1997, as soon as Kisangani was taken by the ADFL, the leaders of AMFI set up their office in Goma to enter in contact with the authorities of the Alliance. The contact was made thanks to a former Belgian colonel, Willy MALLANTS, military advisor of the ADFL and former military advisor of Mobutu. AMFI succeeded in taking over the bid at the expense of its competitors, the most important of which was AAC-GENCOR. We must note that these two (2) companies have relationships, which are a little clear, because four (4) of the administrators of AMFI have worked for AAC for several years.
Michael McMULLOUGH, Simon BROWNLIE, Bernard VAVALA, Stephen MALOUF
On April 16, 1997, about one month before the Kabila’s troops entered Kinshasa, the Alliance of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (ADFL) signed three (3) agreements with the American Minerals Fields, Inc. (AMFI), a Canadian company operating from Arkansas in the USA, in the fiefdom of the President of the United States, BILL CLINTON, and whose major shareholder is no other than Jean-Raymond BOULLE, who, in an effort to obtain the ADFL signature, explained that the bid presented to the Kengo government had been turned down. Even if this bid was the best, in January 1997, the Mobutu regime had preferred the bid by the South African Companies, Anglo-American Corporation-GENCOR.
The agreements between AMFI and the ADFL dealt with three (3) sites, including:
1. A first project of US $200 million in Kolwezi for the extraction of copper and cobalt;
2. a second project of US $30 million for a plant for the extraction of cobalt from copper residues in Kipushi; and
3. A third project for a zinc processing plant, requiring more than US $550 million in investment in Kipushi.
We must note that this mine of Kipushi is unique in that it contains a strong concentration of the mineral on a small surface area, and that this mineral is located, in addition, into an underground layer of more than 1000 meters deep. Germanium and almost all the other minerals associated with copper are extracted there, besides copper itself and zinc.
On May 2, 1997, two (2) weeks before Mobutu’s flight, after he had ratified the agreements made by the Kengo Government, the ADFL received a sum of US $50 million on a transaction of US $250 million. The remaining amount, US $200 million, was promised to be paid during the next four- (4) years. The overall project was valued at US $1.5 billion.
The company, Consolidated Eurocan Ventures, a branch of The Lundin Group, estimated that it made a good deal. In fact, feasibility studies totaling US $268 million were already carried out in the 1970’s by an international consortium, among which Anglo American, Amoco and Mitsui, companies which specialize in the exploitation of these minerals. Consolidated Eurocan Ventures estimated that its initial expenses in capital investment would only be US $300 million, because it could begin the exploitation with the existing infrastructures. However, it had to take some risks, and Mr. Adolph Lundin, who was versed in this kind of business, used to say: “if you want big finds, you should go to countries that are not popular.”
The media were also able to reveal the audacity of Jean-Raymond BOULLE during the war of liberation. He did not hesitate to say that “he was seeing a new era lurking out in Zaïre…There was a risk, but for AMFI, it was logical.” Other companies, which were less audacious, such as Union Minière Belge, and which had signed an agreement with GECAMINES in 1996, wanted to wait and see clear about the political situation of DRC. This Belgian company, which was affiliated with AAC for the exploitation of a cobalt and copper mine in Kasomba, as well as another in Kolwezi, was very cautious, and luckily for it, its initial investment was already recovered if one were to believe its Chairman, Etienne DAVIGNON.
The Canadian company of Adolf LUNDIN pushed its audacity farther enough and rivaled the big companies on the ground; however, it allied itself with a mercenary company, International Defense and Security (IDAS), recognized in Denmark and the West Indies and which replaced in Angola the company, Executive Outcome, a South African mercenary agency, which was subsequently obliged to leave this country. This company, Executive Outcome, was cited during the attack and dismantling of the refugee camps in the eastern part of Zaïre in 1996, for having bombed these camps and columns of refugees.
The Angolan government gave contracts to IDAS to ensure not only security, but also the exploitation of a few Angolan mines in exchange for its services to face Jonas Savimbi’s UNITA. In return, IDAS tasked AMFI with carrying out the exploitation of these mines in its stead.
The analysts are doubtful whether AMFI has the capability to exploit the deposits, whose concession it “obtained”, and they believe that it might turn over the contracts to more important and more specialized companies, by making itself paid for the risks that it has already taken (unless, naturally, it develops and grows). That is why, on May 10, 1997, (a week before the ADFL entered Kinshasa), American and Canadian financiers came to visit its installations, a simple question of showing business opportunities in Congo ex-Zaïre, as well as the openness of the ADFL leaders to foreign investors.
The re-distribution of concessions of the different mining sites of the new democratic Congo to American, Canadian and South African companies should allow Kabila to honor his short term obligations and also to pay the daily costs of his politico-administrative apparatus.
THE ROLE OF AMFI
In the on-going war in DRC since the fall of 1996, the role of AMFI has met with unexpected developments. On August 2, 1998, the Rwandese wing of the ADFL rebelled against President Kabila, and, as a result, the Congo was, once again, solicited from either of the two (2) classic poles: in the East, the rebels who were supported by the Rwandese, Ugandans and Burundians, with AMFI as major funds provider, and in the West, the government side officially assisted by three (3) countries, including Zimbabwe, Angola, and Namibia.
Unaware of the stakes in the hands of the new masters, who were attempting to install a New Order in the Congo, Laurent Désiré Kabila was mistaken about the war and its objective. After the victory of the ADFL, he became prisoner of the Rwandese, Ugandan and Burundian Tutsis, whom he had appointed to key positions. He was also the military hostage of the Rwandese troops, which were solidly anchored in Kinshasa and in the East, and staunchly supported by AMFI. The Congolese President handed himself, therefore, to the hands of the leaders of AMFI, its future murders, with whom, in April 1997, he had signed an agreement for the transfer of Gécamines.
This transfer agreement of the giant of the Congolese economy would have allowed AMFI to accelerate the implementation of its objectives: “the dismembering of the country and its partition into antagonistic microstates, void of financial means and economic infrastructures (a kind of balkanization). Lacking an army, and thus prey to insecurity, these States would, therefore, be placed under the total dependency of AMFI through the control of the strategic sectors of the economy.
The plan of AMFI (American Minerals Fields Incorporated) did not go according to its expectations. Laurent Désiré Kabila violated the agreements he made in September-October 1996 with his former allies Museveni, Kagame and Buyoya. These agreements dealt with the price to be paid by the Congo (DRC) for the aid given to him during the war of liberation, and for the problem of security in the border with the four (4) countries.
According to the terms of the concluded agreement, the revision of the border drawings in favor of Rwanda and Uganda should have not only satisfied both of these two (2) countries but also the geostrategic designs of AMFI in full agreement with the territorial ambitions of the mono-ethnic and minority regimes in place in Kigali, Kampala and Bujumbura. Hence, the outburst of the crisis when L.D. Kabila brutally sent back home the Rwandese military contingent present in Congo-Kinshasa.
The spark, which set the fire between the Rwandese and Kabila, was not only due to the barbaric behavior of the RPF Rwandese soldiers but also to the revision of contracts signed with the American-Canadian consortium, AMFI, to the benefit of the AAC of South Africa. The other element, which has worked against the projects of AMFI in DRC, would be due to the denunciation of the GECAMINES privatization contract, which AMFI had negotiated in April 1997 with the new ADFL Congolese authorities.
The agreement between the leaders of AMFI on the one hand, and Museveni, Kagame, Buyoya and Kabila on the other, went back to the period before 1995, year of the establishment of AMFI. The cooperation between one of the leaders of this endeavor (Jean Raymond BOULLE) and the Museveni-Kagame tandem could even have preceded the double assassination of the Rwandese President Habyarimana and the Burundian President Ntarayamina, who were gunned down in the Presidential jet in the night of April 6, 1994. Such an “exploit” required technical means and political assurances, especially in the area of high-tech telecommunications, of acquisition of missiles, of indispensable diplomatic complicities, as well as the imperious complacency of international judiciary bodies after the heinous crime; means and assurances which AMFI alone could put at the hands of the assassins.
Thus, one can reasonably estimate that, when in 1995, AMFI was officially established, all the plans about the Congo (DRC) and other countries of the Great Lakes Region were already in place; the strategy was already devised; the financial means were already set up; the logistics and the military were already mobilized; and US support and the diplomatic complacency of the Western countries were already guaranteed.
France, which will follow the US and will support its game plan in the Great Lakes Region, will only understand, later on (that is to say, too late), the double game of the Americans, orchestrated by AMFI in this part of the black continent.
This agreement continued during the war of liberation until May 1997. Today, while Kabila is fighting against it, AMFI continues to play the same role. Museveni and Kagame know very well the designs being nurtured by AMFI for the Congo (DRC) and the Great Lakes Region. They are aware equally of the place that is assigned to them, the nature of the cause they are defending as well as the role, which was attributed to Kabila. The merging interests pursued by the American company and its Rwandese-Ugandan-Burundian partners are diametrically opposed to the interests of Kabila, of DRC and of the Congolese people.
The Zaïre war (as was the case with that of Rwanda in 1990) was presented as a domestic war of political liberation to overthrow Field Marshall Mobutu. AMFI brought a decisive financial, military and logistical support to the coalesced organizations around the ADFL. Today, the arms, the ammunitions, the sophisticated military equipment, which allowed the ADFL to win the victory over the Zaïrian Armed Forces, continue to be put at the disposal of Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi by the same company, AMFI, in the war that these three (3) countries are waging in the Congo (DRC).
The Congo (DRC) is, therefore, confronted against a global questioning of its own existence;
* In its territorial integrity, by all the “visible and invisible” forces, which have assaulted it since 1996, from Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda, and which put into question the frontiers inherited from colonization.
* As a political entity, by the questioning of the state and society.
* As a UN member, because this World Organization is not strongly condemning the three (3) countries which are the aggressors, is not ordering them to return home and is not imposing any sanction against them.
* By the questioning of its national and cultural identity.
* By the destruction of the economic and social infrastructures.
* By trampling down upon the dignity and life of the different peoples, which make it up.
* By the war, famine, diseases, massacres and crimes against humanity conducted and perpetrated by the aggressors.
KABILA’S NEW ALLIES
The West, the South and South-West, representing 45% of the Congolese territory, are still under the control of the Government authorities, assisted officially by Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia.
For reasons of alliance and payment of the war bill estimated at US $45 million, Kabila had signed an agreement between the “GECAMINES” and the Zimbabwean company Ridgepointe Overseas Developments of British Virgin Islands, which belongs to the RAUTENBACH family. The latter has good relations with President Mugabe, who, in turn, feels very close to the rich cobalt reserves of Katanga. This guarantees and helps to justify the presence of the Zimbabwean military in DRC, next to Kabila.
Billy RAUTENBAUCH, who is the Director of this Zimbabwean group, Ridgepointe, is currently leading the GECAMINES recovery committee. This confirms the fierce involvement of Zimbabwe in the resistance put up by DRC in the war led against the Ugandans, Rwandese and Burundians and their Congolese collaborators.
Kabila has not remained ungrateful vis a vis Eduardo Dos Santos of Angola: the current market of gasoline (fuel) in Kinshasa is being supplied by oil products from Angola. Each year, the Kinshasa market is absorbing about 600,000 m3 of gasoline. Since the Congolese President’s visit to Luanda at the beginning of 1998, 24,000 m3 of oil products have been landing every month in Congo-Kinshasa. Since then, two (2) new companies GIP and PANACHE are enjoying enormous advantages (especially tax exemptions).
GOLD FROM THE EASTERN PROVINCE
Just like cobalt, copper and its associated minerals, the gold of DRC is also exploited by mining transnational corporations. In fact, the world gold industry is also in full transformation. The small companies have merged in order to rival the big ones and especially the Anglo-American Corporation (AAC) of South Africa, the world first gold producer. This movement has benefitted average size companies, which have bought the small ones.
The forty-nine (49) first companies in terms of importance (excluding AAC) were controlling 56% of the world production compared to 36% in 1984.
The current traction around gold cannot take place without taking into account South Africa, which is the world first producer. In fact, despite the fall in production, AAC supplied in 1995 a total of 350 tons to the world market; its closest rival, Barrick Gold Corporation of Canada, only supplied 97 tons. However, the exploitation of gold in South Africa goes as far back as a century ago; 2/3 of its reserves have already been exploited and the remaining 1/3 is an integral part of reserves whose cost price has become too high mainly because of the depth of the mines. Henceforth, AAC must discover other mineral deposits.
For a long time, already important groups have been fighting for the gold concessions in the eastern province of DRC. That is why this part has always remained a strategic domain in all the wars and conquests of the region of the East of the Big Congo. The monopoly by the public power of the Gold Office of Kilomoto (OKIMO) on a surface area of 82,000 km2, with reserves estimated at 100 tons, has never ceased to irritate the big transnational corporations. especially when one knows how much its management by the Congolese leaders has always had a lot to be desired. In August 1996, under the Mobutu regime, OKIMO had already transferred its monopoly to Barrick Gold Corporation (BGC), which was hoping to get the entire reserve. Another Canadian-Belgian consortium, the Mindev, had received, within the same sector, a small concession of 2,000 km2.
This transfer of the OKIMO monopoly to BGC has an important significance (in the world of the mining transnational corporations): in fact, one finds in this transaction a “Board” of savvy men, among whom GEORGE BUSH, former US President (two of his sons are currently State Governors and one of them is vying for the presidential nomination). The others are no less important: Brian MULRONEY, former Canadian Prime Minister, Paul DESMARAIS, President of the Canadian Power Corporation, Karl OTTO POL, former Director of the Central Bank of Germany and Peter MUNK who had to leave Canada at the end of the 1960’s following the crash in the stock market of his company, Clairtone Sound, a development for which he was made responsible.
Henceforth, AMFI finds itself above the traditional American political cleavages between Democrats and Republicans, and encompasses business leaders of different persuasions. This situation gives an idea of the colossal power, economic, financial as well as political, of AMFI.
Looking at the other competing businesses, which are participating in the market and in the construction of the future orbital station, the American industrial firms are hiding behind this lobby, and, hence, have at their disposal strategic raw materials at a cheap price, given the fact that, in their hypothesis for a success of their plan and war in Congo-Kinshasa by the interposed Tutsi armies, they would have at their disposal, in sovereign terms, these mineral resources. It was thus already the case with the Manhattan Project for the production of the first atomic bombs dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, since the uranium was extracted in Katanga in the mine of Shinkolobwe (near Likasi ex-Jadotville) and used as a re-payment of the “war debt” by Belgium to the US.
It is not surprising, therefore, that with such important individuals; Barrick Gold Corporation is today the second world gold producer, after important acquisitions in America, Asia and Africa. This company only acquires mineral deposits whose prospecting is already done by others, with gold reserves of at least 60 tons, and has as its objective reducing maximally its production costs. It is very proud to maintain these costs at the lowest level possible, or the equivalent of US $180 to $183 per ounce, whereas for the other companies this cost is about US $270 per ounce.
In order to increase its shareholders’ profits, it is anticipating reducing these costs by 10%. It would be surprising in these conditions that this company does anything significant for the development of the eastern province of DRC.
In order to minimize its costs, Barrick would exploit the mineral deposits of the Eastern Province through the services of the company Caled International, which belongs to the half brother of the Ugandan President Museveni, General Salim Saleh, who at the time when relations between the two (2) Heads of State of DRC and Uganda were still in their good days, informed Kabila of his desire to exploit a mineral deposit find in the Eastern part of the Congo.
GOLD AND TIN OF KIVU-MANIEMA
In the Kivu-Maniema region, which has reserves estimated at 150 tons, the gold of traditional diggers in Kamituga is used elsewhere to mainly finance the war effort by the “rebels”, who are occupying the Eastern part of DRC. The concession of Kamituga has been invaded for several years by “diggers”, who “re-exploit” the older mines exploited by the SOMINKI company, producer of gold and tin during Mobutu’s time.
HOW BANRO RESOURCES CORPORATION, A CANADIAN COMPANY, ACQUIRED SOMINKI
SOMINKI, SARL, a registered Zaïrian corporation, was the result of a merger in 1976 of several mining companies, whose beginnings go back to the colonial Belgian era, and whose 72% of the capital stock belonged to private shareholders and 28% to the Zaïrian State. The make-up of the private shareholders varied as years went by, but consisted until 1995 at more than 99% of offshore affiliates of the Empain Group, and then of the Scheider Group. Until 1985, SOMINKI was prosperous. The tin crisis (from October 1985) required a vast restructuring to “survive” and continued from year to year: closings of the most mechanized workshops, reduction of the national and expatriate support staff, firings and lay-off of a large portion of the work force, reconversion of the industrial exploitations into “supported” traditional exploitations.
Due to a lack of equipment renewal and to the depletion of the “known” mineral deposits, the production became smaller and smaller as years went by.
From 1989 on, the company sought a “buyer” by brandishing as major attraction the gold deposits of TWANGITZA, which until then were unexploited, but required heavy investments (at least US $50 million).
The Zaïrian political situation, along with the collapse of the country’s infrastructures, made it such that all the candidates refused to get involved until 1994.
A number of them were much interested in the TWANGITZA find, but all of them were turned off by the fact that the re-taking of SOMINKI was “a complete package deal”, including naturally the tin concessions, whose on-going price rate remained depressed and whose “visible ” mineral deposits were on the way towards depletion.
At the end of 1994 (hence after the RFP took power in neighboring Rwanda), Algy CLUFF, the President of CLUFF MINING LTD, became interested in an eventual re-take of SOMINKI. On September 5, 1994, he acquired through its subsidiary MINES D’OR ZAIRE (MDDZ), established to this effect, 7.65 % of the SOMINKI shares, and took an option of a few months on the sale of shares held by the private shareholders (regrouped into DARNAY).
As CLUFF did not feel that it was useful to renew the option (it would appear that he had thought at that time that there would not be any other candidates), another company, the Canadian BANRO showed up, through its affiliate AMERICAN MINERAL RESOURCE (AMR), for the acquisition of SOMINKI, and took in September 1995 (year of the establishment of AMFI) an option, which allowed it to acquire before January 31, 1996, the DARNAY shares (64.02% of the total) for an amount of US $3,500,000. In this regard, BANRO paid a deposit of US $125,000.
BANRO wanted through its affiliate AMR to carry out this operation all alone; however, it did not get the necessary financing; it then turned to CLUFF in order to create a joint-venture by making it believe in the laudatory report made by the consultant of a geological exploration company (CME), which it had contracted to this effect (CME mission in the SOMINKI mines from October 26, 1995, to November 17, 1995, carried out at the request of BANRO).
Based on the agreements made by both CLUFF (MDDZ) and BANRO (AMR), CLUFF provided the entire amount of US $3,375,000 necessary for the re-purchase of the DARNAY shares in SOMINKI, in keeping with the following conditions:
* CLUFF (MDDZ) had the effective management of SOMINKI and its operations
* CLUFF had the right to the profits relating to the marketing of products other than gold (in other words: the marketing of cassiterite and related products, among which Colton)
* CLUFF had the right to appoint the majority of the Board of Directors
* CLUFF and BANRO (through its respective affiliates MDDZ and AMR would hold a number of shares of the private shareholders of SOMINKI (each 36%, and the remainder of 28% representing the shares of the Zaïrian State)
* AMR was lending US $1,000,000 to SOMINKI on a six (6) month period in order to allow BANRO to meet its part of the financial obligations with respect to the operational costs of SOMINKI.
This is how, on January 31, 1996, SOMINKI was re-taken by a new group of private shareholders made up initially, for the half of shares (50%), of the Canadian group BANRO and, for the other half (50%), of the English group CLUFF MINING LTD.
Later on, BANRO, which was only interested in the exploitation of the company gold mineral deposits, kicked out CLUFF from the control of SOMINKI, following skilled maneuvers by Arnold KONDRAT, FIOCCHI and Patrick MITCHELL.
CLUFF MINING LTD ceded to BANRO the totality of its shares in SOMINKI and received, in return, 20% of the shares of BANRO after the latter proceeded to an increase in capital through the issuance of new shares at the TORONTO stock market. CLUFF who had almost financed the totality of the repossession of SOMINKI from DARNAY found himself with almost nothing to say from now on.
The true thing to do by the leaders of BANRO was to make its share price buck up in the Stock Market, through a well orchestrated publicity campaign on the potentialities of SAKIMA, a company established on the very foundations of SOMINKI, in an effort to monetize it, later on, in the eyes of a more important mining group (the process was explained in an article published in the newspaper “Le Soir” of May 30, 1997).
Eight (8) months after CLUFF brought his financial support to an unknown company, he found himself a simple shareholder of this company, without any other say in the affairs of SOMINKI. This is how:
First round, from February 1996 to June 1996:
CLUFF hung on, with caution, to the analysis of the SOMINKI structures and the creation of an assistance team (sending missions to the field). A list of investments in terms of new equipment to relaunch the tin exploitations, for a total amount of US $1,000,000, was accepted by CLUFF (in two installments of US $500,000 each).
BANRO multiplied the press releases, praising itself about the joint-venture and the future of the SOMINKI concessions, but at the same time ordered its consultant CME (without CLUFF‘s knowledge) to launch a development project for the Twangitza mineral deposits.
In June, BANRO brought a team of financiers to visit the mines and more particularly the “promising” mineral deposits of Twangitza, Namoya, Kamituga and Lugushwas, beefed up with laudatory comments of the CME geologists.
During this period, a draft of the mining agreement for the new company to be established (SAKIMA) was formulated in Kinshasa by the consulting firm Mitchell assisted by Fiocchi.
Second round, from June 1996 to September 1996
BANRO accused CLUFF of lack of action and complained about his delays in the setting in motion of a development program. BANRO took CLUFF to court in London for non-respect of the agreement signed by both. At the same time, FIOCCHI and MITCHELL put the emphasis in the eyes of the Zaïrian administrators and the SOMINKI Director General on CLUFF‘s “failures” and “lack of action.”
A Board of Directors’ meeting was held in Kinshasa on August 10, 1996, with a view of showing that CLUFF did not meet his obligations and proposing the adoption, without any delay, of a development plan designed by CME through the instigation of BANRO. During the meeting, which was extremely tumultuous, Algy CLUFF defended himself quite well and exposed his side of the story. He said that he was ready to submit a counter-project within six (6) weeks. The Zaïrian administrator, Thambwe Mwamba, suggested to grant a delay to CLUFF, for he had indicated:” If the Board of Directors was to adopt the CME project without comparing it to the CLUFF‘s counter proposal, the Zaïrian State might not be able to follow that decision. “The Board of Directors unanimously agreed with this suggestion, without a vote, to the dislike of Kondrat, Mitchell and Fiocchi.
Third round, September 21, 1996:
CLUFF forwarded a counter-project to the administrators a few days before the Board of Directors’ meeting was held on September 21, 1996.
There was no debate on the respective quality of the two (2) projects: a half hour before the Board’s meeting, Cluff and Kondrat concluded an accord, and informed the Board about it. Through this agreement, Cluff abandoned his shares in SOMINKI and gave them to BANRO; in return, he received shares in BANRO.
During the Board’s meeting, SOMINKI‘s Director General insisted on making known his concerns about the future of the tin exploitations and had criticized the policy imposed by Fiocchi during the three (3) previous years; a policy which systematically favored the exploitation of gold at the expense of that of cassiterite.
If Algy Cluff had preferred the arrangement, which had been submitted to him by Arnold Kondrat, it was because he had the advanced feeling that the administrators had been won to the cause of BANRO.
In the January 1995 agreements signed by both Algy Cluff and Arnold Kondrat in order to concretize the fact that CLUFF had the effective management of SOMINKI and its operations, it was stipulated that the number of Administrators representing the private shareholders would be designated in such a way that CLUFF would always be represented by at least one (1) more Administrator than BANRO. CLUFF should always have the majority in the Board of Administration.
How Cluff found himself in a minority position whereas the agreements between CLUFF & KONDRAT (MDDZ & AMR) stipulated that CLUFf would have the majority in the Board of Directors.
During the renewal of the Administrators’ mandates in March 1996, the Board of Directors raised the number of Administrators from six (6) to ten (10). The previous six (6) administrators were maintained, two (2) were nominated by the Zaïrian State: Mr. MUBAKE and Mr. Beya KASONGA; two (2) were members of the local Management: Mr. Mario FIOCCHI and Mr. Serge LAMMIENS, and two (2) political figures, natives of Kivu-Maniema: Mr. Thambwe and Mr. Kititwa, were maintained. As for the four (4) new mandates: two (2) were nominated by Mr. Algy Cluff (himself and Mr. Luc Smets), one (1) was nominated by BARNO (Arnold Kondrat himself) whereas the last one, Mr. Patrick Mitchell, was suddenly presented as “legal advisor” of SOMINKI.
All the guile of Mr. Mario FIOCCHI and Mr. Arnold KONDRAT was to present Mr. Patrick MITCHELL as someone independent, having nothing to do with BANRO. As of this moment, it was no longer difficult to gain the Zaïrian Administrators to their cause; all the more easily given the fact that Mr. Beya was for, a long time, one of the buddies of Mr. Mitchell.
Mr. Mitchell was regularly introduced as SOMINKI‘s legal advisor, who was independent of BANRO, whereas the transfer of the DANRAY shares to BANRO was concocted between Mr. Mitchell, Mr. Fiocchi and Mr. Kondrat, especially in November 1995 during one of the meetings in Kinshasa. On that date, SOMINKI no longer had to deal with Patrick Mitchell! In what respects could he then prevail to be a “legal advisor” of SOMINKI during the re-purchase of the latter by BANRO and CLUFF in January 1996?
Here is how after Mr. Cluff had provided 96% of the funds necessary for the re-purchase of SOMINKI, he found himself “trapped” as a shareholder with 20% of the equity of a company (BANRO), which proceeded to an increase in capital through a great publicity reinforcement campaign, no longer daring to intervene against those very ones who had swindled him, with the hope, one day, of recovering his investment.
THE CREATION OF SAKIMA
The Mining Agreement project of SAKIMA (Société Aurifère du Kivu-Maniema or Kivu-Maniema Gold Company) was introduced to the Ministry of Mines on October 23, 1996 (after the beginning of the war in the eastern part of Zaïre). This Agreement was approved by the Zaïrian Government on February 13, 1997.
It was advantageous to BANRO, owing to the fact that the State share went from 28% in ex-SOMINKI to 7% in SAKIMA intended to replace it. Given the fact that corruption, nepotism and other economic ills characterized the management by the Zaïrian Government, it is not useful to state precisely that its approbation had required a lot of interventions from Mr. Mario FIOCCHI and Mr. Patrick MITCHELL to the different Ministers.
The Extraordinary General Assembly of March 29, 1997 approved the dissolution and liquidation of SOMINKI as of January 31, 1997.
The creation of SAKIMA was officially authorized by Decree No 0035 of May 6, 1997, by the Prime Minister, Army General LIKULYA BOLONGO LINBANGI, ten (10) days before the fall of Kinshasa. In the meantime, Mr. Patrick MITCHELL, acting on behalf of BANRO had obtained from KABILA in Kigali, at the end of April 1997, a declaration stating that all the mining agreements would be respected!
THE END OF SOMINKI
The war of “liberation” started in the eastern part of Zaïre in October 1996. The installations of Kamituga and Lugushwa were completely looted with the destruction of the means of production, at the end of November 1996, after the disengagement of the Zaïrian Armed Forces (ZAF), several days before the arrival of the AFDL.
On the basis of instructions given by Mr. Mario FIOCCHI, the Delegate Administrator, who was based in Kinshasa, and by BANRO, the last four (4) expatriate agents still working in the mines, including the Director General, left Kalima, headquarters of the General Management and logistical center of the tin exploitations, on February 20, 1997, for Kinshasa.
At first, it appears that the General Management would have refused to leave Kalima, believing that its duty was to remain on the spot. After three (3) days of discussions through telephone and satellite communication, Mr. Fiocchi informed the expatriates that, if they did not leave, it would be at their own risk, that they would not be paid, and most importantly that they would not be covered in case of accident. In the aftermath, the Kalima staff wound up accepting to leave, after they had taken all the necessary steps to ensure the continuity of service.
They were officially supposed to manage the mines from Kinshasa, while awaiting the normalization of the situation; however, if Mr. Fiocchi made the managing staff come to Kinshasa, it was with the hope that there would be looting in Kalima by the ZAF and the population before the arrival of the AFDL. This would allow him to invoke, later on, the clause of “unforeseen circumstances” for the entire personnel (to do the firings without prior notification because of “unforeseen circumstances”, and thus be able to justify the abandonment of the cassiterite exploitations.)
Hence, the new Company SAKIMA, which was hardly interested in the tin mines that were very difficult to turn into a profitable operation, could get rid of them, and the activities for the exploitation of the gold deposits, starting with Twangitza, could almost start without personnel costs in the first phase (hoping, naturally, to recover the stocks of tin minerals awaiting to be shipped and accumulated during the last months). The Kalima staff seemed to have been horrified by this unacceptable way of doing things, and did not appreciate having likewise been duped and manipulated.
Mario FIOCCHI is said to have been outraged by the steps taken by the technical leaders of SOMINKI in order to prevent or at least reduce the risks of looting and destruction of the tool of production, as well as by the steps taken to pursue the activity in the absence of Management.
Kalima was taken by the ADFL on February 23, 1997, without battle and without any looting during the disengagement of ZAF. On Saturday March 29, 1997, after the Board of Directors’ meeting and Shareholders’ General Assembly were held, some expatriates were fired on March 31, 1997.
THE BEGINNINGS OF SAKIMA
After Kabila took power, BANRO effectively started big mining exploration works on the site of TWANGITZA. At the same time, “SOMINKI in state of liquidation” did not take care of what was due to the personnel, nor to the old suppliers. SAKIMA, on the other hand, pretended to not have any obligations toward the personnel nor toward the old suppliers, and unilaterally abrogated the contract of tin product supply, which existed between SOMINKI and SOGEM. Diverse complaints resulted against “SOMINKI in state of liquidation” and SAKIMA.
At first, SAKIMA benefitted from the support or at least the understanding of the Minister of Mines. After the reshuffle of the Congolese Government at the beginning of 1988, SAKIMA and BANRO no longer benefitted from the same complacent ears.
As “SOMINKI in liquidation” did not succeed in getting rid of the tin exploitations and of its personnel through legal means, it entrusted the exploitations, through leasing, with Victor Prigogyne NGEZAYO KAMBALLE, using a company called Société Ressources Minérales Africaines (RMA); however, this action was accompanied by several irregularities:
* “SOMINKI in liquidation” did not have the right to transfer the assets of the tin concessions to RMA, given the fact that its assets and personnel had already been taken over by SAKIMA.
* BANRO, major shareholder of SOMINKI and SAKIMA, could not transfer the tin concessions to RMA born out of the association of Patrick MITCHELL and Victor Prigogyne NGEZAYO KAMBALE and others, including BANRO!
* BANRO could not, at the same time, be the leaser and the leasee. It is the same thing as making a contract with oneself!
* Every leasing contract must have the explicit authorization of the Minister of Mines; that was not the case.
Victor Prigogyne NGEZAYO KAMBALE who, like the former Zaïrian Prime Minister Leon Kengo wa DONDO, has Rwandese origins (Tutsis), must certainly be aware of the secrets of the last contracts of the international mining companies with the last governments of Mobutu, more especially those signed with the AAC in January 1996.
RMA also pretended, in turn, that it had nothing to do with SOMINKI, hence the conflict with the personnel who were demanding unpaid salaries since February 1997, along with their due prior notifications.
During the first semester of 1998, the claims against SAKIMA, “SOMINKI in liquidation” and RMA (Ngezayo) accumulated, and on July 31, 1998, two (2) days before the launching of the “rebellion” against KABILA, the Congolese State, through a presidential decree, stripped BANRO of its mining titles for reasons of “irregularities in the liquidation of SOMINKI and in the creation of SAKIMA.”
BANRO reacted by filing a lawsuit in the Washington International Tribunal and demanded a US $1 billion in damages and interests from DRC.
The problem here is that, if the stripping of mining titles is a sanction, which was well stipulated in the Congolese mining law to deal with serious irregularities, it should have been preceded by a notification restating the irregularities complained about and giving a delay of six (6) months to comply. The KABILA‘s government had acted, for the least, with haste.
On the other hand, the fact that BANRO was said to have been stripped of its mining titles did not, for that matter but quite on the contrary, resolve the problem of payment of indemnities owed to the personnel.
Just like Jean-Raymond BOULLE, Victor Prigogyne NGEZAYO is one of the troublesome individuals in all the conflicts of the last ten (10) years in the Great Lakes Region. Since his childhood, he grew up and prospered in the coffee traffic in Kivu, only to reach his zenith in the 1970’s. Also, he became the first wealthy “Zaïrian” thanks to coffee; he is an all-time investor in the causes of the rebels. Like his friends KAGAME in Rwanda, MUSEVENI in Uganda and BUYOYA in Burundi, he has the big ambition of being the strong man of Kivu.
The assassination, in less than three (3) months, of three (3) HUTU Presidents, HABYARIMANA of Rwanda, NDADAYE and NTARYAMIRA of Burundi, would be linked, among others, to the fact that, in the fulfillment of their duties, they wanted to see a little bit clearer in the traffic of precious stones of this Region, the turning plates of which were Bujumbura and Kigali.
The Kivu-Maniema corridor always fell quickly into the hands of aggressors every time there were “rebellions.” It is so easy to “pick up” gold and tin in this region. That was also an “alm” for the Rwandese of KAGAME during the dismantling of the camps and refugees’ massacre in the Eastern part of Zaïre in 1996, which continued till Mobutu’s fall in May 1997. The mono-ethnic armies of Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi, which were leading that war against the ex-Zaïre soldiers, while pursuing and exterminating the HUTU refugees, looted the banks and mines of the region. The leaders of those armies have now become the “big” men of Africa and the partners of the international mining corporations, which, in turn, are financing the “rebellions.”
The mineral stocks, which were found in the mines, were evacuated by the Rwandese soldiers of the RPF and were transported to Kigali by fully loaded Antonov airplanes, as a war booty. It was also tons and tons of colombo-tantalites (niobium and tantalite minerals), which were amassed in the plains of Puna or elsewhere in the occupied region, and which were evacuated directly to Kigali in the old installations of the Société Minière du Rwanda (SOMIRWA– Mining Company of Rwanda).
A 1999 CHRISTMAS MESSAGE OF BISHOP KATALIKO OF BUKAVU
In his 1999 Christmas message to the faithful of Bukavu, Bishop KATALIKO said: “Our daily life is far from being joyful and free. We are crushed by an oppression of domination. Foreign powers, in cahoots with some of our Congolese brothers, are organizing wars with our own country’s resources. These resources, which should have been used for our development, for the education of our children, for curing our sick, in short so that we may be able to live in a more humane fashion, are used instead to kill us. Far more important, our country and ourselves, we have become subjects of exploitation. All that which has value is looted, ravaged and taken to foreign lands or simply destroyed. The collected taxes, which should have been invested for the common good, are misused. Exorbitant excise duties are not only strangling the big commerce and industry but also the poor mother who lives on her little trade. All this money, which is collected from us, which comes from our productions and which is deposited in the bank, is outrightly collected for a small elite, which has come from nowhere. Even our own person is not escaping from this oppressive exploitation: all those who are working in a public service are not being paid, despite the fact that they are bringing in riches with their labor. This exploitation is sustained by a strategy of terror, which maintains insecurity. Our institutional Church is not spared. Parishes, presbyteries, convents were ravaged. Priests, members of religious orders and nuns have been beaten, tortured and even killed simply because, by virtue of their way of life, they have been denouncing the flagrant injustice in which our people have been thrown, condemning the war and advocating the need for reconciliation, forgiveness and non-violence. It is not necessary to say that, to our knowledge, no serious investigation has been carried out yet to find the guilty ones and punish them. Moral degradation has reached such an aberration level among some of our fellow countrymen that they do not hesitate to even hand over their brother for a mere ten (10) or twenty (20) dollars… It is at the price of our sufferings and prayers that we are leading the struggle for freedom, that we will also bring our oppressors to reason and to their own internal freedom.”
THE KASAI AND KISANGANI DIAMONDS
It is the CENTRAL SELLING ORGANIZATION (CSO) managed by De Beers and incorporated in the big AAC of South Africa, which tightly controls the diamonds world market. Africa produces almost 66% of the world output, but the control of these precious stones was disturbed since 1990 by the discovery of new mineral deposits, especially in Canada, and more particularly by the end of the cold war, which opened the trails of Russia, Angola and Zaïre to the smugglers.
The De Beers Company sets not only the price of diamonds worldwide but also the volume of stones put into circulation each year. When the ADFL took power in Kisangani, all the trading posts were closed. When they were re-opened, De Beers did not want to start again with its previous activities, and the ADFL authorities attributed them, for a sum of US $10,000 a day, to the only AMERICAN DIAMOND BUYERS, an affiliate of AMERICAN MINERAL FIELDS (AMFI) of Jean-Raymond BOULLE. At the same time, the ADFL offered to AMFI the last production of the Société Minière de Bakwanga (MIBA– Bakwanga Mining Company), the big company of diamonds exploitation in Kasai, thus fueling further the rivalry between AMFI and De Beers. However, De Beers, as a big company, stomached the blow for a little while, and after a few tractions went to Goma in order to buy the diamonds, which were still destined to it at a price of little more than US $5 million.
KIGALI-KAMPALA-BUJUMBURA, THE SMUGGLING CORRIDOR
As was the case with the other mineral resources of DRC, gold was the subject for more than three (3) decades of intense traffics to the benefit of “dinosaurs” and other “barons” of the Mobutu‘s regime. Not long ago, the yellow metal served the cause of the ADFL war effort. Hundreds of kilos were illegally going through the borders to reach the trading posts of neighboring countries said to be free exchange zones and more particularly in Bujumbura (former collection point of Kabila‘s smuggling operation) until the embargo decreed by the neighboring countries of Burundi at the end of July 1996, after the coup d’état by BUYOYA.
Fraud has not stopped since; however, it has changed its destination and destiny. The Congolese gold smugglers are now found in Kigali and Kampala; that are why, despite their “TUTSI” ideological understanding, the relations between Rwanda and Burundi have somewhat become chilled.
Kigali has always benefitted from the mismanagement and troubles in the region of the eastern part of DRC. In fact, from the mineralogical point of view, Rwanda has the same minerals as Kivu but to a far inferior scale. That is why, by adequately organizing and managing its small production, it was attracting all the smuggling operations in the Region. Even though the cassiterite reserves are rare or not too well known in Rwanda, the tin mineral remained, until 1989, the third export after coffee and tea. In 1980, cassiterite represented 23% of the country entire export revenues, and 5% of these 23% came from smuggling.
But from 1985, following the fall of the price of tin on the world market, export revenues dropped to 7%, because the Ugandan, Zaïrian and Burundian smugglers had abandoned cassiterite to turn themselves into traditional gold diggers.
Gold is also produced in a very small quantity in Rwanda, either under form of cassiterite sub-product or coming from the Nyungwe forest in the crest of the Congo-Nile.
As in North Katanga, minerals hardly spoken of are exploited in Rwanda and Burundi for more than fifty (50) years. Nevertheless, these minerals are relatively important, especially when they intervene as complement to other big deposits. It is the case of wolfram (tungsten mineral) of Nyakabingo in Shyorongi in Rwanda, which is said to be one of the most important in Africa but whose production cost is said to be high.
It is the same case with the colombo-tentalite of Rwinkwawu just as the one in Manono in DRC whose reserves are said to be underwater since World War II.
There is also beryllium in Rwanda and Burundi, as well as nickel and peat; but the deposits present profitability costs that are too high; this would discourage savvy eventual investors.
The Kisenge-Manono-Rwinkwavu corridor via Bujumbura is said to have been used, during World War II, to bring to Belgium by airplane manganese and Colton for the manufacturing of iron sheets for panzer and tanks.
The Rwandese and Burundian mining industry is playing, today, a infinitesimal role in these two (2) economies; but the “Eldorado“, which their neighbor to the West, DRC, is exhibiting, is currently making these two (2) countries very prosperous countries in gold or diamonds.
Between 1998 and 1999, for example, Rwanda sold at least 2.2 tons of gold to Belgium. The war in DRC is being financed by its own mining resources. However, such “self-financing” necessarily results in a subtle arrangement between the banking institutions of the invading countries and those of the “receiving” countries, which are supporting the government authorities and the “Congolese” rebellion.
The African Great Lakes Region is in the zoom of the mining transnational corporations. In keeping with what was said above, it is important to underline and retain a few poignant lines, which risk to durably mark the economic and political underdevelopment of the Region.
Privatization, which were started under the previous regimes and which are currently being pursued by those who are in power in the countries of the Region, constitute untold opportunities for these multinational corporations, whereas most of the other developing countries are slowing down this movement.
The great quantities of mineral and oil resources in Central Africa can influence the world market of certain minerals, as well as the economic health of the targeted enterprises. This is the reason why “small” enterprises are not hesitating to deal with “rebels” in order to take some advantageous positions before the end of the war, and later to propose negotiations. As for the “big” transnational corporations, they remain in retreat while waiting the resolution of the issue of legitimacy of powers, in keeping with the line of conduct of international financial institutions, such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
These multinational corporations are also waiting to better know the attitude of the new leaders toward them. The new regimes have, in fact, ambiguous attitudes: on the one hand, they call private enterprises to offer their bids in order to obtain contracts, and, on the other, they do not mind re-nationalizing enterprises, which were just privatized before their ascendancy to power.
With peace restored and rules of the political game established under the eyes and “advice” of the international financial institutions, another war, that of the transnational corporations for the division of the world resources, will begin. All this loud noise by the media on the war in DRC, along with the role of the English, American, Belgian, Egyptian, French, Libyan, South African, Zambian diplomats in this crisis of the Great Lakes Region should be interpreted in this sense.
The investment needs to bring this region out of its state of ruins will not give a lot of possibilities to the new leaders in their negotiations with international companies: the latter, which are more interested in the rapid stock market performance than in social development, will bring the countries of the Great Lakes and, more particularly, DRC, back to the era of the “Africa of Trading Posts.”
This perspective, which is all the more true, made Professor Jef Matton, a student of the economy of DRC, declare that the mining companies ought to have been called back to order by the IMF and the World Bank in order to play a social role, even if it were minimal. But who owns the lobbies to influence World Organizations, AMFI or the poor people of Africa?
Despite the chaotic situations in which these new leaders find their countries, they promise to honor the external debt in order to find the funds necessary for the reconstruction of their respective countries.
Strong pressures are being put upon them. And, in an effort to bring their countries out of this lamentable state of affairs, they deprive themselves of part of their export profits derived from the sale of their resources, even before they have gotten any satisfaction, because, in the meantime, there are negotiations with the IMF and the World Bank: Debt Rescheduling and national restructuring program, under the watchful eyes of an “international club of investors.” They must integrate the economy of the world global market and to accept its conditions, often at the expense of the population. But the first among the conditions required by these groups of “interested” financiers remains stability, that is to say, strong men sold to their interests at the helm of these countries.
This stability is necessarily not synonymous with democracy or development; rather, it is, above all, the absence of war in the mining sectors. Even if the country is under the claws of a despot or a fascist, the essential thing for the big financiers of this world is to make their capital investments generate profits in a state of complete calm, without giving a “damn” about the population.
Rigoberta Menchu, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992, stated during a seminar on peace in Columbia on September 6, 1999: “In order to make viable proposals, it is fundamental to listen to all the participants in the peace process. If you do not have access to all the parties, it is necessary to establish ties and to succeed in establishing them; it is in this way that you will manage to foster that harmony, which will give results later on…” It is in keeping with this line of thinking that the following proposal is being presented, with the firm conviction that it will make the peace process move forward in the countries of Africa.
The solution for peace, stability and prosperity in this Great Lakes Region of Africa would be a kind of “MARSHALL PLAN” FOR CENTRAL AFRICA, in which the entire world community would participate and through which these people would be educated and prepared on how to use the rules of democracy, on how to respect international agreements and many other human values. The mineral resources of DRC would, instead of helping finance the war, finance this “Marshall Plan for Central Africa.”
The big effort should come from those who hold the force of arms and finances, by accepting the socio-political conditions of the population, whose first requirement is to democratically choose and control its leaders, who, in turn, should be the valid interlocutors with the multinational corporations. This would limit the power of these big companies in order to give it back (at least partially) to the people. That is the meaning of Democracy.
If the so-called civilized Peoples do not react quickly, the population of Central Africa will be subjected to the same fate as that meted out against the Sioux, Apaches and other Indians of America, and who, besides, are being tracked down by US businessmen; and then, this population will be but a kind of species in a state of disappearance.