Congo: Corruption, Conflict And Cobalt


September 9, 2022: China continues to expand and entrench its mining operations in Congo. Much of this activity is in southeastern Congo (Lualaba province). There the only competition China has is a new (since 2020) state-owned cobalt monopoly, Entreprise Generale du Cobalt (EGC), which has a monopoly on purchasing cobalt produced by artisanal (informal) cobalt miners to ensure these miners get a fair price for their production, which accounts for about ten percent of Congo’s cobalt production. Before EGC those independents sold their cobalt to independent mineral brokers who often paid the miners much less than the market price for their cobalt. Most of these independent brokers work for Chinese companies, which have a reputation for cutting corners, and costs any way they can. Although Chinese companies control most of Congo’s cobalt production, they are also under constant investigation by government auditors for corrupt practices. Most of those mineral brokers work with or for Chinese companies which control an estimated 70 percent of Congo’s mineral deposits and mining industry. The Chinese state-owned CNMC (China Nonferrous Metal Mining Company Ltd.) owns huge cobalt and copper reserves in Congo. CNMC is actually a group, with four very large subsidiary corporations. The MMG (Mineral and Mining Group), another Chinese organization, has stakes in several Congolese mines. In Lualaba province there is CMOC (China Molybdenum Company) which recently acquired a 95 percent interest in Congo’s huge Kisanfu copper and cobalt deposits. CMOC bought the interest from an American company, Freeport-McMoran, and reportedly paid around $550 million. Since 2012 Chinese companies have invested over $10 billion in Congolese mineral assets. That’s the common open-source figure but some analysts contend the figure is somewhere over $12 billion. Given the high levels of corruption in Congo and the opacity of many Chinese business operations it is unclear how much of the corrupt business deals in Congo are Chinese. No one really knows but the more the government and international auditors investigate the situation it becomes clear that China dominates in this aspect of the mining business. Congo is the world’s biggest cobalt producer, each year producing a growing majority of the world’s total cobalt. In 2020 Cong0 produced about 100,000 tons of cobalt, which was 71 percent of the world total.

Industry sources estimate Chinese companies control around 40 percent of Congo’s “cobalt mining capacity” – meaning deposits and means of extraction. Cobalt is critical in the production of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries – it is a stabilizer. It takes about 22 pounds (10 kilos) of cobalt to manufacture an electric car battery. Communist China is committed to producing electric vehicles (EVs) of all types. There is one type that has a particular political importance: the very small “city-town” mini-EVs that can go about 300 kilometers on one charge. The Chinese people want these, so demand is huge. The deal the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) makes with the Chinese people is that they can have goodies if they don’t challenge the CCP dictatorship. The mini-EVs are a pay-off. Hence, the Chinese government wants to assure uninterrupted access to cobalt and other minerals used in producing electric devices. Interestingly enough, from the end of 2020 to the end of January 2021 the price of cobalt increased 20 percent to about $35,000 a ton and has kept going up since then. The price fluctuates quite a lot and was as high as $100,000 a ton in 2018. Chinese mining firms cut corners wherever they can, not just in paying taxes but also when it comes to building and maintaining infrastructure projects Congolese working in the mines or living in the area depend on. Congo president Felix Tshisekedi was elected in 2019 on the promise that he would do something about the corruption in the mining industries. He has done just that but he faces a major obstacle with China, which controls most of the mining and is responsible for most of the corruption. Tshisekedi can’t put the Chinese out of business because the Chinese hold the industry together and manage it quite efficiently. They are willing to make deals with Tshisekedi, who has to watch out of for successful Chinese efforts to corrupt government officials. China controls a large segment of the Congolese economy and keeping the Chinese reasonably honest is more of a chore than Tshisekedi expected.

Western countries that used to control most of the Congo mining operations gradually sold their holdings to Chinese firms and now have to worry about China gaining more control over the Congo government than Western countries ever had.

September 7, 2022: EAC (East African Community) leaders are visiting are touring Congo with the goal of raising public awareness of how the organization works. The EAC recently established a regional legal administration, the East African Court of Justice. The EAC consists of Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. The organization is in the process of deploying a regional peacekeeping force in Congo.

September 5, 2022: In northern CAR (Central African Republic) soldiers withdrew under fire from a rural village. On September 2 CPC (Coalition of Patriots for Change) rebels attacked soldiers in the village. The army unit had been in the area. After the soldiers withdrew the rebels did likewise.

In Zambia, investigators from the Office of the Auditor-General found over 9,800 “ghost workers” drawing salaries in government jobs. Auditors examined evidence covering 2017 to 2021. The fake workers were scattered through 19 different government ministries. Investigators also discovered payments made to 22,000 other government workers despite the fact many were not showing up for work.

September 3, 2022: In eastern Congo (Ituri province) CODECO (Cooperative for the Development of Congo) rebels killed at least 33 people as they continued attacking a rural town. These attacks have been going on for a week and the army is having a difficult time dealing with this because CODECO is seeking to free fellow rebels held by the army. CODECO is usually feuding with several other armed militias, over the rich mineral deposits in the area. CODECO rebels are primarily from the Lendu tribe, so it also targets the rival Hema tribe. CODECO is one of the more troublesome rebel groups among the 120 groups operating in eastern Congo.

September 2, 2022: In eastern Congo (North Kivu province) a United Nations helicopter crashed near the city of Goma. The helicopter was supporting a UN food assistance program. Three crewmen were injured.

In Uganda, a court sentenced two men to 17 years each in prison. The men poisoned and killed six lions in Queen Elizabeth National Park. The men cut off the lion’s heads and paws which they intended to sell.

In southeastern Congo (Virunga National Park) over 46,000 Congolese have fled to nearby Uganda since late March when attacks by M23 rebels were met by soldiers seeking to halt the violence. Uganda is having problem with many of the refugees refusing to register and live in settlement camps. Thousands of refugees insist on living outside towns and villages, improvising shelter and becoming a security and public health problem. Uganda has ordered these unregistered refugees to move to the settlement camps and register within two days or be forcibly rounded up.

September 1, 2022: Since June the EAC has been organizing a Standby Force to assist UN peacekeepers in eastern Congo to enforce a new peace agreement. The EAC member states are sending several hundred troops but have still not agreed on the rules of engagement and extent of the Standby Force authority. This is the second time EAC has sent a force to eastern Congo and the last time there were problems because responsibilities and authority were not clearly defined.

August 31, 2022: Congo released nine Rwandans arrested on August 22 by soldiers. The army charged the Rwandans with illegally crossing the border.

In eastern Congo (Ituri province) ADF (Allied Democratic Forces) rebels attacked two villages and killed 14 civilians. ADF is from Uganda and has more Moslem radicals than rebels. ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) considers the ADF to be ISCAP (ISILs Central African Province). ADF pledged allegiance to ISIL in 2019 and later described itself as ISCAP. The name changes nothing because ADF continues its terrorist operations, primarily in eastern Congo.

August 30, 2022: In eastern Congo (North Kivu province) ADF Islamist terrorists attacked five small villages multiple times over the last five days. It is believed ADF executed at least 40 civilians. A local hospital worker claimed that 76 other people were kidnapped in the attacks.

August 26, 2022: Angola’s ruling party claimed victory in today’s national election. The Peoples Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) has been in power for almost 50 years. The MPLA claimed it had won 51 percent of the vote. The opposition National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) won 44.5 percent. UNITA, however, is disputing the results.

August 25, 2022: Congo’s Finance Ministry announced the country has plans to begin manufacturing electric batteries for vehicles. Congo is the world’s biggest producer of cobalt and a major copper exporter. Both are used in producing batteries. The Finance Ministry said in order to develop economically Congo needs to increase local processing capacity and provide “added value” manufacturing.

August 24, 2022: In western Congo (Mai-Ndombe province) the government is sorting through belated reports of fighting between the Yaka and Teke tribes over land in the area.

August 21, 2022: In central Congo (Sankuru province) there has been another Cholera outbreak, with 401 people infected during the last week and 48 have died. There has also been an outbreak of monkeypox, with 69 cases reported. This is a non-fatal disease spread by skin-to-skin contact.

August 17, 2022: In eastern Congo (Virunga National Park) M23 rebels attacked a hydropower plant under construction. The rebels employed rockets and mortars in the attack.

August 15, 2022: In eastern Congo (South Kivu province) Burundian soldiers entered the area as the first contingent of the EAC’s East African regional force to end rebel violence. The EAC has given the task force the mission of tracking and locating “all foreign and local armed groups in order to restore peace."

August 9, 2022: In eastern Congo (North Kivu province) several dozen heavily armed rebels attacked the city of Butembo’s central prison. The attackers freed over 800 prisoners and killed two policeman and one civilian. Authorities believe the attackers were ADF Islamist terrorists. The ADF now refers to itself as the Islamic State’s Central Africa Province (ISCAP). Through one of its propaganda outlets, the Islamic State later took credit for the attack. The attack was designed to “liberate” Muslim prisoners.

August 8, 2022: in Malawi the Anti-Corruption Bureau arrested its former director, Reyneck Matemba, who is accused of taking a bribe for a contract to supply food to the country's national police.

August 7, 2022: In eastern Congo (Ituri province) ADF Islamic terrorists killed around 20 people when they attacked two villages. Soldiers were soon pursuing the attackers.

August 1, 2022: The International Criminal Court (ICC) confirmed it has issued a warrant for the arrest of Noureddine Adam, who was one of two senior Seleka rebel commanders in the Central African Republic when Seleka rebels overthrew President Francois Bozize in 2013. Adam is charged with war crimes and various atrocities, including overseeing torture. Adam is reportedly hiding out in Sudan.

July 31, 2022: UN peacekeepers in opened fire near a border post between Congo and Uganda. At least two people were killed and 15 wounded. An initial UN investigation reported that it was unclear why the soldiers opened fire. A local leader called the peacekeepers’ action “despicable.” Civilians in the area have been complaining about UN peacekeepers. This month protestors demanded the UN withdraw from the area.

July 26, 2022: In eastern Congo (North Kivu province) five people were killed and an estimated 50 wounded in two days of violent anti-UN protests that led t0 UN civilian workers being evacuated from the area. On July 25 demonstrators looted a UN warehouse in Goma and also entered UN offices. The demonstrators accuse the UN of failing to protect civilians against militia violence. There are 12,000 peacekeeping troops and 1,600 police in Congo.




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