Press Release / Oct. 20, 2004

Violence erupts in mineral rich Katanga…yet the international community

Global Witness is greatly concerned by last week’s violence in Katanga Province, Southeastern DRC . Just as we predicted in our September 2004 report, “Rush & Ruin: the devastating mineral trade in Southern Katanga”, escalating tension in Katanga could spell further disaster for the DRC, already wracked by the deaths of 3.5 million people over the past five years. Government officials announced last Thursday that a town and nearby copper mine in Kilwa, southern Katanga, had been seized by heavily armed gunmen , and reports claim that anywhere between nine and 150 civilians have been killed in the fighting .

“These are shocking developments, all the more so given that Katanga remained under Government control throughout the recent conflict, and the international community has so far considered this province to be stable”, said Emily Bild of Global Witness. “If the Government can’t control resource exploitation in Katanga, what hope is there for other areas of the DRC?”

Despite a push by the World Bank for international investment in Katanga, these latest events reveal that the province is far from stable. In last month’s “Rush and Ruin”, Global Witness warned of the possibility of an increased secessionist drive in the province, at a time when the almost complete lack of control over the mining sector is allowing huge quantities of copper and cobalt to leave the country - unregulated and uncontrolled.

“Katanga is of huge potential economic and strategic significance to the DRC”, said Bild, “And yet whilst there has been a presumption of stability in Katanga, and international attention in recent years has been focused mainly on the troubled east and northeast of the country, this situation has been allowed to build up. The reality here is that the vast wealth of Katanga is being siphoned off to benefit elites who control the trade.”

The International Community must fast-track the recommendations made in ‘Rush and Ruin’ and work together to address tensions in the province. Key recommendations included the need for the international donor community and the DRC government to improve resource governance and promote transparency over resource revenues.

Editors Notes:
* The Dikulushi copper and silver mine, located near the Zambian border, is operated by the Australian company Anvil Mining. Although Anvil claim that the conflict did not reach the mine itself, activities were stopped from 14th – 19th October and 75 of their staff were evacuated to Lubumbashi . This latest rebel activity, is led by a group known as the Liberation Movement for Katanga.