Blog / Dec. 21, 2016

River of Gold: Voices from Shabunda

In July 2016 we published “River of Gold”, a report that exposed the links between armed groups, the artisanal gold trade and public officials in Shabunda territory, South Kivu, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. In order to make sure as many people in South Kivu as possible are aware of the findings of the report we also produced a mini series of radio features in collaboration with a local journalist.

You can listen to the five features in French below: each touches on a different aspect of “River of Gold”, with insights from members of civil society in Shabunda.

The report caused a stir: in its immediate aftermath, Congo’s Minister of Mines called for a “thorough clean-up” of South Kivu’s chaotic artisanal mining sector, including prosecution of the officials found to have acted illegally and restrictions on the company implicated, Kun Hou Mining. Kun Hou Mining refused to comment in response to three requests from Global Witness.

This was promptly followed by the dispatch of a governmental investigation team to verify “River of Gold’s” findings, which subsequently led to the detention in Kinshasa of four individuals we wrote about. This included Franck Menard, a French national and representative of Kun Hou Mining, and John Tshonga, head of South Kivu’s artisanal mining agency SAESSCAM. SAESSCAM have strongly denied that its agents collaborated with armed groups.

At the end of November 2016, the three Congolese detained were released and await a possible disciplinary action. Franck Menard returned to France, without charge.

This case demonstrates how international and domestic efforts to clean up mineral supply chains in Congo are being ignored by some companies and Congolese officials, who profit from illegal and harmful mineral trading. This impunity must end. As Congo’s delayed Presidential elections dominate media coverage, it would be all too easy for the country’s cycle of impunity to continue. Tackling it is critical for Congo’s future – and must be a priority for the next government.

We’ll be continuing to work with local and international civil society partners and others to ensure that those involved in this case are held accountable.

 Feature 1 introduces the report, “River of Gold”, and asks why poverty persists in a territory literally sitting on riches.

Feature 2 traces the network of predatory actors who preyed on Shabunda’s gold.

 Feature 3 follows Shabunda’s stolen gold out of Congo to its destination: Dubai.

Congo has a law designed explicitly to prevent the type of misdemeanours “River of Gold” exposed (if only it was enforced). International standards have been developed to do the same. Feature 4 presents these.

Feature 5 lays out the steps that must be taken by the Congolese government, companies operating in its artisanal minerals sector and donor governments to ensure that, in the future, eastern Congo’s artisanal gold benefits the people and state, not armed men and predatory companies.

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