Thursday, 16 June 2016

DR-CONGO: Kabila's corruption

Africa is widely considered among the world's most corrupt places, a factor seen as contributing to the stunted development and impoverishment of many African states. Of the ten countries considered most corrupt in the world, six are in sub-Saharan Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo is one of them, according to Transparency International, a leading global watchdog on corruption.

The prevalence of corruption in Dr-Congo warps the political process. From the current President, Joseph Kabila, who's entertaining the idea of seeking a third term to public officials, corruption seems to be the key for re-election because holding office gives them access to the state's coffers, as well as immunity from prosecution.

Corruption, although difficult to quantify, is a major problem that negatively affects the running of the country, business and Congolese society. Congolese are certainly aware of the corruption they observe in their daily lives. According to Transparency International's 2014 Global Corruption Barometer, 80 percent of respondents in Dr-Congo believed that the President, political parties, the Parliament, the police and the judiciary were corrupt or very corrupt and 60 said that business practices, government's deals were dishonest. They only institution in which Congolese have trust is the Catholic Church. A comparison with earlier reports by Transparency International reveals how little has changed in decades.

The Consequences of corruption are negative not only for civil society and the democratic process, but also for economic development, the environment and public health. While corruption is often viewed in terms of economic losses, there are substantial evidence of ecological devastation and the poisoning of the people, land and livestock by multinational mining corporations, which made possible by collusion between the government and the private business.

The Democratic Republic of Congo's proven mineral reserves are worth an estimated of £200 billion over the next years. The demand for Dr-Congo's minerals: gold, diamonds, copper, cobalt and so many more to be used for smartphones, computers, batteries and countless other popular consumer goods, is increasingly high, yet rampant government corruption and mismanagement have kept Congo's people in poverty while the illicit trade in minerals has funded violence, armed conflict and elections.

From Mobutu to Kabila, corrupt government officials have been bought by multinational firms, rich individuals, who paid huge kickbacks to plunder Dr-Congo's loot. But also neighboring countries including Rwanda, Uganda, Angola and Zimbabwe have all sent troops into Dr-Congo, ostensibly to fight political wars, but happy to reap rewards from what lay beneath the rich soil with sometimes the blessing of Congo's President: Joseph Kabila.

Joseph Kabila who has been ruling Dr-Congo for 15 years, announced in 2001 to curb corruption. In 2002, the United Nations report identified 114 companies and 54 individuals either in  breach on international guidelines on corporate responsibilities, or who should face global financial sanctions, 16 of them were British firms. In 2014, they are more than 234 companies and 93 individuals in breach on international guidelines on corporate responsibilities.

In 2005, Dr-Congo signed the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), a voluntary code of conduct launched by former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair in 2002 to cut corruption by pressing companies to publicise their payments to state authorities. However the UN has found that in 2014 more than 70% of Dr-Congo gold was sold in Dubai without any problem, while gold continued to provide important funding for both the army, Kabila's electoral fund and armed rebel groups.

So far Joseph Kabila who promised to curb corruption, has found himself entangled in corruption scandals and turned out to be more crooked than Mobutu. From 2001 to 2012, Kabila's regime transferred ownership of at least $5 billion of assets from the state-mining sector to private companies with no compensation or benefit for the State treasury. And those companies had links to Kabila and his siblings.

The revelations in the ''Panama Papers'' data leak confirmed what I have written previously about the opacity of Kabila's corruption. The name of Kabila's closest friend, the Israeli '' Dan Gertler'' is mentioned more than 200 times in the Mossack Fonseca documents. The law firm also set up two of Gertler's companies, Caprikat and Foxwhelp, that obtained oil blocks 1 and 2 in Dr-Congo's lake Albert basin in 2010, after Kabila personally forced the oil minister to cancel licences for the same blocks that had been attributed to other firms.

Kabila's siblings are also involved in corruption. According to the same ''Panama Papers'', Kabila's twin sister owns part of an offshore company which interests in Dr-Congo that include a part of mobile-phone company: Vodacom Congo. Kabila's twin sister Janet Désiréé Kabila Kyungu is one of the directors of Keratsu Holding Limited, a company registered in Niue through Mossack Fonseca.

Furthermore, Joseph Kabila, the man who came in Dr-Congo in 1997 without a suitcase, let alone a wallet, has now taken the No. 1 spot on People with Money's top 10 highest-paid political figure for 2016 with an estimated $75 million in combined earnings, thanks to corruption, while an average Congolese citizen lives on less than a dollar a day; unemployment is 73%; basic services like roads, hospitals and schools are still absent; conflict and instability persist; The $ 2 billion lost to the suspension mining deals this year translates into twice the country's annual spending on health and education.

The government announced on March this year the suspension of mining law revision until further notice. History is repeating itself all over again. At the precipice of every election, Joseph Kabila has often used mining law and deals as leverage for political gains and as incentives for electoral fund, at the expense of the penniless opposition.

In 2005, Kabila's regime attributed 56% of mining deals to the Israeli ''Dan Gertler'', who in return funded Kabila's  presidential campaign in 2006. In 2011, a series mining deals was attributed to anonymous offshore companies, which sponsored Kabila's presidential election, again. Those two deals cost Congo more than $3 billion in potential revenues. Eventually, Kabila's won fraudulently the contested polls.

As Kabila is on the verge of launching a frontal attack on the constitution, mainly the article 220 that barres him for seeking a third term in November 2016, it is not surprising to see mining deals being struck without public announcement, with no clarity on where the cash is going.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Investigative Journalist
Political Analyst/Writer
African Affairs Expert

Photo-Credit: AFP-Photo: Dr-Congo President: Joseph Kabila Kabange