News / Africa

Congo President Rejects British MP Accusations of Mining Fraud

Congolese president Joseph Kabila casts his ballot in the country's presidential election at a polling station in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, November 28, 2011.
Congolese president Joseph Kabila casts his ballot in the country's presidential election at a polling station in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, November 28, 2011.

A member of the British parliament, Eric Joyce, says President Joseph Kabila is selling off the mineral assets of the Democratic Republic of Congo to “shell” companies at a huge loss. President Kabila says he is bringing investors to the country to help create more jobs.

Scottish MP Joyce says Kabila's government is awarding mineral contracts worth billions of dollars to multi-national so-called “shell” companies, many of which are registered in the British Virgin Islands and have no previous experience with mining.

Joyce wants Britain's Serious Fraud Office to investigate the largely-unknown owners of these offshore companies and their resale of Congo's mineral assets at windfall profits because he said they acquired the rights at below-market prices - totaling a loss of more than $5 billion to Congo's treasury.

Systematic corruption alleged

Joyce chairs Britain’s all party parliamentary group on Africa's Great Lakes region and said the mining deals are part of what he called a “startling pattern of corruption” in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Kabila said there is corruption in all countries and his government is improving mining transparency.

“We've had a lot of issues with what you might call transparency within the mining sector. We have been working on that. We are determined to move forward, and it is not such reports that are going to discourage us,” said Kabila.

As to the specific allegations presented by Joyce before the British parliament, Kabila told reporters in Kinshasa that he does not have time to reply to accusations from people who do not know what is going on in Africa.

“Well, I am not going to reply to a British MP. I do not know whether the British MP in question has ever been to the Congo. It is quite interesting to see accusations coming from London and Washington from people who have never set foot in the Congo, not even on this continent,” said the DRC president.

Kabila maintains all is fine

Kabila said his commitment to good governance is meant to benefit the Congolese people, not to please foreign politicians.

“You have bad faith. You have people who don't think or who do not want us to move forward. We have been very transparent in all our dealings. We continue to be transparent in all our dealings. And it is not for us to please the MPs or whatever parliament. No. It is for the good of our people,” said Kabila.

Joyce said the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative have failed to enforce the requirements of a $551-million credit facility. The facility calls for a public tender process for the sale of state assets and the publication of all partnership agreements between state-owned mining firms and private enterprises.

Earlier this year, the IMF said government reforms in extractive industries are “proceeding satisfactorily. The timing of some measures has been slower than envisaged,” the IMF said, “but progress in being made on all fronts.”

Incredible wealth in question

Joyce said that is laughable and believes the IMF has allowed Kabila's government to, in his words, “run rings around them” while the Congolese people are “losing their natural wealth, tax revenues, and jobs.”

Kabila said jobs are precisely why he has brought foreign investment to Congo.

“When you talk of the riches of Congo, you talk about its natural resources. In order for those natural resources to serve the development of the country and of course the people, you have to bring in investments. How do you deal with poverty in a country? You create jobs. How do you create jobs? By bringing in investments,” said Kabila.

As evidence, President Kabila said his $9-billion mineral deal with a consortium of Chinese-state-owned firms was only signed after it was debated and adopted by parliament.

Congo's mineral wealth is thought to be as much as $24 trillion dollars, yet the country ranks last on the U.N. Human Development Index of 187 countries and territories.

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