30 Apr

Congo’s Katumbi to Return Home When Vote Certain to Go Ahead

Democratic Republic of Congo presidential hopeful Moise Katumbi said he’ll return from exile once he’s convinced long-delayed presidential elections are going to take place.

The 53-year-old former governor of Congo’s copper-rich Katanga province would be the likeliest candidate to replace President Joseph Kabila if he’s allowed to compete in elections scheduled for December, according to a poll published last month.

“The election time isn’t clear yet,” Katumbi said in an interview at a conference in the Rwandan capital, Kigali. “When it becomes clear, I will definitely go back.”

Congo, which hasn’t had a peaceful transfer of power since independence in 1960, was supposed to hold elections in November 2016. The electoral commission postponed the vote, citing financial and logistical constraints.

Opposition leaders have long accused Kabila, head of state since 2001, of delaying the vote in order to retain power and change the constitution. “Our constitution is very clear,” Katumbi said. “He has no right to run.”

Security forces have killed more than 300 people in nationwide anti-government protests since January 2015 in the run up to and following the end of Kabila’s second mandate, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch.

Elections are now scheduled for Dec. 23. Last week, a spokesman for Kabila’s ruling coalition said “no other solution is possible” than elections happening this year.

Katumbi has been in self-imposed exiled since May 2016, soon after he split with Kabila and announced an intention to succeed his former ally. A month later he was convicted in absentia for illegally selling a property, while two other investigations remain open — including allegations he violated Congo’s ban on dual citizenship.

 A month later he was convicted in absentia for illegally selling a property, while two other investigations remain open — including allegations he violated Congo’s ban on dual citizenship.

Katumbi denies the allegations and says the “fake, bogus” actions are politically motivated.

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19 Mar

Congo Tamps Down Miners’ Expectations of Concessions on New Code

Miners operating in the Democratic Republic of Congo won’t secure substantial concessions in talks with the state about changes to the industry code, a senior mining official said.

Mining companies including Glencore Plc and Randgold Resources Ltd. are pressing the government to row back on some of the reforms President Joseph Kabila signed into law this month.

The modifications will raise taxes and other costs for operators in Congo, Africa’s top copper producer and the world’s main source of cobalt.

“There can be no renegotiation on any point once the code has been promulgated,” Albert Yuma, chairman of state-owned mining company Gecamines, said in an emailed response to questions on March 17.

Kabila met top executives from major foreign investors on March 7 to discuss their objections to the new law, which was approved by parliament in January.

The president signed the code March 9, but assured miners that “their worries will be taken into account” in talks with the government. Representatives of Glencore, Randgold, China Molybdenum Co., Ivanhoe Mines Ltd., MMG Ltd., Zijin Mining Group Co. and AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. attended the meeting.

The revised code removed a measure protecting mining-license holders from complying with changes to the fiscal and customs regime for 10 years. That means all mines face higher royalty payments and new taxes.

The new law also introduces a 50 percent tax on so-called super profits and hikes royalty rates on metals including copper, cobalt and gold. It also allows the government to raise royalty payments on cobalt five-fold to 10 percent if it opts to categorize the mineral as a “strategic substance.”

“The taxes and royalties to be paid have been fixed in the code by law,” said Yuma, who participated in the March 7 meeting. “No one can any longer change or remove them, or create new ones.”

The companies that met Kabila sent a team to the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, ahead of the talks with the Mining Ministry, according to a joint statement on March 15.

 

02 Mar

Botswana’s President Speaks His Mind About Fellow African Leaders, and Trump

As most African leaders maintained a stony silence in response to Congolese leader Joseph Kabila’s determination to postpone elections and extend his stay in office, Botswana President Ian Khama’s government shot straight from the hip.

“Some political leaders refuse to relinquish power when their term of office expires,” it said on Twitter. “It is clear that such leaders are driven by self-interest, instead of those of the people they govern. The Democratic Republic of Congo is a case in point.”

A 65-year-old former army general who plans to step down next month after a decade in power, Khama has established a long-standing reputation for eschewing the niceties that are the trademark of international diplomacy.

He’s sniped at leaders from the U.S.’s Donald Trump to Sudan’s Umar al-Bashir. When Robert Mugabe was toppled as president of neighbouring Zimbabwe last year after almost four decades in office, he responded bluntly on Facebook: “Better late than never.”

Khama has some justification for taking the moral high ground. The United Nations ranks diamond-dependent Botswana among Africa’s most developed nations, while a foundation started by Sudanese billionaire Mo Ibrahim has consistently rated it as one of the continent’s best-run. Its A2 credit rating by Moody’s Investors Service is the highest in the region.

Khama’s upbringing and military background may explain his no-nonsense approach. He’s the son of Seretse Khama, who served as Botswana’s first president after it gained independence from the U.K. in 1966.

The older Khama’s marriage to Briton Ruth Williams stoked outrage in neighbouring South Africa, where the apartheid government outlawed inter-race marriages.

After leaving the military, Khama served for a decade as vice president to Festus Mogae, replacing him as president when he stepped down in April 2008.

Months later he rejected the declaration of Mugabe as the winner of Zimbabwean elections that were marred by violence and intimidation, the only leader of the 15-nation Southern African Development Community to do so.

To read the full article, click here.

20 Dec

Kabila Crisis Fuels Conflict in East Congo as UN Targeted

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s succession crisis is adding fuel to the fire in the rebellion-wracked east, where 14 peacekeepers were killed in the deadliest attack on United Nations forces in a quarter-century.

The mineral-rich region has been blighted by inter-communal violence for decades, but President Joseph Kabila’s remaining in power beyond his constitutional limit is giving armed groups a new cause to fight for. His perceived illegitimacy has become a rallying cry for certain militias and in some cases prompted rebels hundreds of miles from the capital, Kinshasa, to combine forces.

The Dec. 7 assault on Tanzanian peacekeepers is part of a “trend of attacks against the government and its UN allies as the political turmoil in Kinshasa intensifies,” said Jason Stearns, director of the Congo Research Group at New York University.

Congo, the size of Western Europe, has never had a peaceful transfer of power. Kabila’s suspected determination to retain office after elections initially scheduled for 2016 were delayed has spurred sporadic urban protests in which dozens of people have been killed.

Kasai Violence

Violence between militias and the government has simultaneously flared in the provinces, including the central Kasai region, where an estimated 5,000 people have died and 400,000 children under five are at risk of starvation. The number of Congolese fleeing conflict in the first half of this year outpaced the rate in Syria and Yemen.

The eastern region has rich deposits of minerals including tin, gold and coltan. While most mining there is by artisanal diggers, militia activity in September forced Toronto-based Banro Corp. to suspend operations at its flagship gold mine.

The UN said it suspects the attack on peacekeepers in the Beni area of North Kivu province was carried out by the Allied Democratic Forces, or ADF, a Ugandan Islamist group active in Congo since 1993. It was just the latest brutality in Beni, where the Congo Research Group estimates mass killings have claimed at least 800 lives since October 2014.

To read the full article, click here.