Congo: Cobalt Cartel Conspiracy

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July 21, 2021: In eastern Congo (North Kivu province) Over 20,000 people have been driven from their homes over the last two months because of rebel and Islamic terrorist violence. Most of the violence has been caused by the ADF (Allied Democratic Forces). This is a Ugandan rebel organization with strong connections to Moslem tribes in northern Uganda. In fact, since 2014 is has been regarded as an Islamist group. Peacekeepers launched several operations in 2014 against ADF bases in the Congo. The 2014 operations weakened the ADF but did not eliminate it. After the massive 2014 anti-ADF operation the ADF was found to still have around 500 fighters in Congo. Its bases near the Ugandan border could have supported up to 2,000 fighters. Interrogators spoke with several captured ADF fighters who reported that the ADF had a very active recruitment network in east Africa. The ADF made money smuggling, with illegal timber (logs) a major source of income because most of it was from rare and exotic trees. The ADF also enforced his own interpretation of sharia (Islamic) law. ADF fighters enslave Congolese women and children who are not Moslem. If someone was caught trying to escape from an ADF camp, they faced death by beheading or crucifixion. Such practices were popular among ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) groups in Syria, Iraq and Nigeria but there is no evidence that ADF considers itself part of ISIL. ADF justifies its use of slavery and brutal forms of execution by claiming to be defending Islam from Christians. Over 90 percent of Congolese are Christian.

July 17, 2021: In southeastern Congo (Lualaba province) the new state-owned cobalt monopoly, Entreprise Generale du Cobalt (EGC), announced it will pay artisanal cobalt miners (informal miners) a minimum price of $30,000 a ton. This month cobalt was selling for $50,000 a ton. The government contends unregulated mineral brokers pay the artisanal miners much less than $30,000 a ton. Currently these independent miners produce about ten percent of Congo’s Cobalt.

Most of those mineral brokers work with or for Chinese companies which control an estimated 70 percent of Congo’s mineral deposits and mining industry. The Chinese state-owned CNMC (China Nonferrous Metal Mining Company Ltd.) owns huge cobalt and copper reserves in Congo. CNMC is actually a group, with four very large subsidiary corporations. The MMG (Mineral and Mining Group), another Chinese organization, has stakes in several Congolese mines. In Lualaba province there is CMOC (China Molybdenum Company) which recently acquired a 95 percent interest in Congo’s huge Kisanfu copper and cobalt deposits. CMOC bought the interest from an American company, Freeport-McMoran, and reportedly paid around $550 million. Since 2012 Chinese companies have invested over $10 billion in Congolese mineral assets. That’s the common open-source figure but some analysts contend the figure is somewhere over $12 billion. Given the high levels of corruption in Congo and the opacity of many Chinese business operations (corruption in China), the appropriate answer is “who knows, but it’s a lot.” Chinese production of electric vehicles is a major reason China invests in Congolese minerals. Congo is the world’s biggest cobalt producer, each year producing a growing majority of the world’s total cobalt. In 2020 Cong0 produced about 100,000 tons of cobalt, which was 71 percent of the world total.

Industry sources estimate Chinese companies control around 40 percent of Congo’s “cobalt mining capacity” – meaning deposits and means of extraction. Cobalt is critical in the production of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries – it is a stabilizer. It takes about 22 pounds (10 kilos) of cobalt to manufacture an electric car battery. Communist China is committed to producing electric vehicles (EVs) of all types. There is one type that has a particular political importance: the very small “city-town” mini-EVs that can go about 300 kilometers on one charge. The Chinese people want these, so the demand is huge. The deal the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) makes with the Chinese people is that they can have goodies if they don’t challenge the CCP dictatorship. The mini-EVs are a pay-off. Hence, the Chinese government wants to assure uninterrupted access to cobalt and other minerals used in producing electric devices. Interestingly enough, from the end of 2020 to the end of January 2021 the price of cobalt increased 20 percent to about $35,000 a ton and has kept going up since then. The price fluctuates quite a lot and was as high as $100,000 a ton in 2018. (Austin Bay)

July 16, 2021: In eastern Congo (North Kivu province) ADF rebels murdered nine civilians in an attack near the city of Beni.

In northwest Uganda (West Nile province), soldiers killed five suspected CODECO (Cooperation for the Development of Congo) rebels from nearby Congo. There was also a report of unidentified gunmen attacking an army patrol, wounding four soldiers. The CODECO rebels were described as armed with guns, bows and arrows and machetes.

In the Central African Republic (CAR), the UN peacekeeper commander awarded medals to members of Rwanda Battle Group III and Rwanda Medical Contingent VI. The UN medals recognized the units and soldiers “contribution to maintaining peace and stability” during their year-long tour of duty in the CAR. Battle Group III is a mechanized infantry unit and Medical Contingent VI deploys a level 2 field hospital.

July 15, 2021: An international arbitration court is reviewing documents that allegedly indicate Israeli mining billionaire Dan Gertler was the middleman who laundered money in order to pay over $360 million in bribes to government officials in the Congo capital (Kinshasa) who controlled who got permission to find and produce offshore oil in Lake Albert and other large lakes in Congo. Gerber had obtained those licenses, which had previously been granted to a South African company, on favorable terms for his oil companies in 2010 and held on to them ever since despite lawsuits. The bribes under investigation were paid over the last few years. Lake Albert is one of the largest lakes in the world and one of the sources of the Nile River. It forms part of the border between Congo and Uganda. Oil exploration firms have discovered about five billion barrels of oil under Congo portions of Lake Albert and other lakes. It is expensive to build recovery and pipelines in Central Africa so less of current oil finds can be recovered profitably. There is also offshore oil and natural gas in the large lakes of Central Africa with most of them in Congo and Uganda. Congo oil fields are already producing about eight million barrels a year, a fraction of what is actually there.

July 14, 2021: President Felix Tshisekedi of Congo and his Burundi counterpart Evariste Ndayishimiye signed four memorandums of understanding intended to revive trade, social and diplomatic exchanges between the two countries. The memorandum addressed security issues, easing trade barriers and developing infrastructure, to include developing rail links.

July 13, 2021: Congolese prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for former Prime Minister Matata Ponyo Mapon. The prosecutors allege he misappropriated (stole) $140 million. Matata served as prime minister under former president Joseph Kabila from 2012-2016.

July 11, 2021: In Congo the local Roman Catholic Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo died at age 81. He was affectionately called “Tata Cardinal” by his admirers. Monsengwo was a harsh critic of corruption and atrocities in general. From the mid-1990s on he played various roles in trying to resolve Congo’s numerous political disputes and was involved in peacemaking efforts.

July 9, 2021: In the Congo parliament introduced a bill requiring candidates for president to have two Congolese parents. Critics contend the law is designed to prevent Moise Katumbi, a businessman and former provincial governor, from running in the 2023 election. Katumbi's father was a Greek.

SADC (Southern Africa Development Community) stated that it opposes deploying soldiers from outside the region to Mozambique without SADC’s approval. Rwanda has deployed 1,000 soldiers to Mozambique to help conduct security operations in the Cabo Delgado area. Rwanda said it deployed the soldiers at Mozambique’s request. Mozambique confirmed it made the request. The two countries signed a memorandum of understanding on security issues in 2018. Rwanda indicated its soldiers will remain in Mozambique for three months. SADC is expected to deploy troops to Mozambique sometime in the next few weeks.

July 7, 2021: In eastern Central African Republic UPC (Unity for Peace in Central Africa) rebels killed seven people in what peacekeepers described as “coordinated attacks” on CAR army and peacekeeper positions near the city of Alindao. Peacekeeper’s counter-attacked and drove off the rebels. However, rebel fighters still remain in the city.

July 2, 2021: Uganda announced plans to launch its first satellite sometime in 2022. Russia has provided some funds for the satellite. Japan will be the launch site. The government said the satellite program’s primary mission is “national security concerns “, which indicates it will be used for surveillance and military communications. The main ground station is located in central Uganda, north of the capital Kampala.

July 1, 2021: The U.S. has agreed to provide a new training assistance effort to help Congo train army and police forces. The U.S. will also deploy 1,000 American soldiers to help Congolese security forces track down and eliminate ADF terrorists operating in eastern Congo.

Ugandan police announced that the gunmen who tried to assassinate Uganda’s works and transport minister, Katumba Wamala, had trained at an ADF base camp in eastern Congo (North Kivu province).. The June assassination attempt took place in Uganda’s capital, Kampala. Wamala was wounded but the assassin’s killed his daughter and driver.

June 29, 2021: In eastern Congo (North Kivu province) an Islamic terrorist groups affiliated with ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) claimed credit for a suicide bombing in the city of Beni.

June 28, 2021: In CAR UN investigators accused Russian military training instructors and members of CAR security forces of using “excessive force.” The UN investigators also accused Russian instructors and CAR soldiers of engaging in “indiscriminate killings” and looting. Russia quickly denied the allegations.

June 27, 2021: In eastern Congo (North Kivu province) a home-made bomb went off in a Catholic church. The bomb went off at 6 AM, injured two people and severely damaged the church. Authorities believe the bomb was prematurely detonated and was supposed to explode during mass. In another incident in North Kivu province, a man believed to be an ADF Islamic terrorist accidentally detonated an explosive device he was placing. The blast killed him and injured two other people.

June 24, 2021: In northeast Congo (the Okapi Wildlife Reserve) security forces seized 31 one-kilogram (2.2 pound) gold ingots. The ingots belonged to smugglers who had taken it from the Muchacha gold mine. The cache is worth an estimated $1.9 million

June 23, 2021: In eastern Congo (North Kivu province), approximately 140 Mai Mai militia fighters surrendered to Congolese security forces. They turned in about 70 weapons.

June 22, 2021: Belgium has approved a plan to return to Congo art and historical objects Belgium acquired illegitimately during colonial rule. Referred to as a “restitution policy,” the items being returned were either stolen or “acquired by violence.”

 

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