Since the dawn of the 20th century, the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), particularly South and North Kivu, have been hailed as mineral-rich regions. But of course DRC’s mining industry has been marred by appalling mismanagement and spectacular corruption.
From the long-ago disintegration of the Congolese state, and the era of rampant corruption during Mobutu’s rule, this creation of Léopold II has never been in a position whereby anything can properly be run. Add to this the destruction of local infrastructure, brought about by the arrival of fleeing Rwandan genocidaires armed brigades, and the subsequent proliferation of over 266 armed groups within the DRC’s borders, and you have a recipe for mayhem.
It is against this backdrop that the Congolese finance minister recently said that the DRC has lost a staggering US$1 billion in potential mining revenues this year alone. This revelation, however, comes at a time when the Tshisekedi regime seems more preoccupied with pointing fingers at Rwanda for alleged mineral exploitation in the DRC. It’s a perplexing diversion from their domestic issues, to say the least.
But let’s set the record straight. Since 2010, well before the emergence of the M23 Congolese mutineers, Rwanda has been engaged in traceability measures for its minerals. Under the Tin Supply Chain Initiative (TSCI) program, managed by PACT with its headquarters in Rwanda, minerals such as wolfram, cassiterite, and coltan (colombo-tantalite) have undergone rigorous traceability processes.
The process is straightforward – labels are affixed to bags containing minerals at their extraction sites and are tracked all the way to the importing companies. It’s a system that leaves no room for ambiguity or accusations of plunder. No reputable expert, no matter how ill-intentioned, would dare point fingers at Rwanda for looting DRC’s mineral wealth or abetting the activities of the M23 in this domain. The so-called PACT program serves as an irrefutable testament to this fact – minerals, if they ever existed, purportedly coming from the eastern DRC, do not traverse Rwanda.
However, the Tshisekedi regime conveniently overlooks its failures when it comes to controlling illegal mining within its borders. They argue that the primary conduit for minerals exiting the eastern DRC is Rwanda, conveniently sidestepping their responsibility for what happens within their own territory. The truth is that Rwanda has established robust verification mechanisms to trace the origins of minerals within its jurisdiction, leaving the Tshisekedi regime squarely responsible for any illicit mining activities on their side of the border.