GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo — When Rwanda returned about 90 metric tons of smuggled minerals to Congolese authorities early November last year, many took that as a sign of a growing commitment by the regional powers to fight illicit mineral trade. It went largely unnoticed until now that the returned minerals vanished on the Congolese side. As the North Kivu representatives announced an investigative commission to inquire about the alleged mismanagement of road infrastructure, security, and state employee’s pay, etc. by local authorities, the disappearance of the minerals became public.
The minerals, allegedly sold for $855,000.00 in a Kigali market, went missing likely to fund some of the ruling power top brasses’ electoral campaign, according to several local representatives and a source within the government’s security forces in Kinshasa.
The repatriation of minerals normally falls under the authority of the public prosecutor’s office, whose role would have been to determine the origin of the minerals and the identity of the smugglers. However, it was the North Kivu Mining Minister, Nasson Kubuya Ndoole, who was instructed to organize the minerals’ return. He dubiously told Enough, “I am at peace with my consciousness because I have not been involved in [the disappearance of the minerals]. My job was to bring the minerals back and report to the Mining Ministry. What has become of the minerals, I have no idea.”
Worried about the investigation, the Vice Prime Minister and Home Minister, Adolphe Lumanu, reportedly acting on President Kabila’s behalf, banned the planned members of Parliament’s special session to debate the incident and deployed a large number of armed police to block the entrance of the House of Representatives in Goma. The North Kivu Governor’s spokesperson, Ernest Kyaviro, accused the MP’s of being motivated by the governor’s refusal to pay an additional $30,000 of severance pay to every MP before their mandate expires, and called the Vice President of the House of Representatives, Jean Baumbilia, a “traitor.”
Local MP Muhindo Nzangi Butondo, who was appointed to chair the investigation commission, told Enough that Congolese authorities were worried about the ramifications, since the investigation results were due to be announced the same week as the traceability follow-up mission of USAID and Motorola Solutions was expected in Goma. “It would be embarrassing to lay bare the involvement in mineral dealings by Congolese authorities, while all eyes are on them to implement mineral tracing mechanisms,” Muhindo said.
Photo: Police in riot gear block the House of Representatives in Goma (Enough / Fidel Bafilemba)