DRC REMAINS FAIR GAME FOR PREDATORS
EVEN as the counting and announcements of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s elections results were being postponed, who stands to benefit from the mess in the Demoratic Repuclic of the Congo? The latest beneficiaries are… smartphone manufacturers.
For a long time, the DRC was King Leopold II’s mineral-endowed, personal project. The Belgian monarch laid the foundation for its exploitation, using brutality and cruelty to enforce his will and greed. When the will of the Congolese prevailed in 1960, his ghost continued his reign of terror.
First, the democratically-elected prime minister Patrice Lumumba was deposed, arrested and assassinated. While Belgium continued to meddle, the US played a willing enabler and the UN looked the other way. At that time, gold, diamonds, you name it, the DRC had in abundance. It still does. Among the African countries plagued by the worst civil wars alongside the DRC were diamondrich, namely Angola and Sierra Leone – all to serve foreign multinational interests. Such corporations reap the rewards of lawlessness and absence of institutional infrastructure.
Sadly, minerals are being looted at the expense of law and order in the DRC; except new players have emerged. Diamonds and gold are being mined and exported illegally. Cobalt is the bigger story that threatens to sustain the chaos and is promoting child labour. Cobalt is used to make rechargeable batteries for electric cars and cellphones.
The price of a pound of the metal tripled to $30 by the end of 2017, from just $10 in 2015. Transparency Market Research estimates the size of the lithium-ion battery market at more than $30 billion, set to increase to well over $75bn by 2024.
Who makes the three top selling smartphones in the world? American corporation Apple at No 3, Chinese behemoth Huawei at No 2, with South Korean conglomerate Samsung topping the charts. All are gluttonous users of rechargeable batteries.
On top of this smartphone puzzle is the illegal gold business transiting through Uganda, across Lake Albert east of the DRC.
Ugandan newspaper The Monitor reported on Monday that a company that owns a $23 million gold refinery in Entebbe is processing the yellow metal for exports. Quoting numbers from international minerals watchdog, The Sentry, it attributes gold exports of at least $377m in 2017 to an affiliate of the Belgian refinery Tony Goetz NV in Dubai.
The report said Goetz has “refined illegally-smuggled conflict gold from eastern Congo at AGR (African Gold Refinery) in Uganda and exported it through a series of companies to the US and Europe”. AGR is owned by Alain Goetz, the director of Tony Goetz – a metalprocessing company in Belgium. See King Leopold’s ghost, yet again?
Therefore, the DRC’s problem is not only about President Joseph Kabila stepping down or who his successor will be. It is about a maze of competing foreign business interests. A decisive and comprehensive solution by the AU with superlative diplomacy and international relations is the only way. It is all business, not elections.
We either learn to play the game or remain somebody else’s game to hunt.
is Open for Business;