Trial begins of DR Congo driver in mining scam
(InformAfrica) – The trial of a local driver who works for the United Nations mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, accused of illegally trying to export minerals, has begun, a judicial official said Tuesday.
On Monday, the provincial mines minister of Nord-Kivu province, Naasson Kubuya Ndoole, announced the arrest of the driver “Julien Mukala illegally transporting 1,200 kilogrammes (2,465 pounds)” of cassiterite and trying to cross the border into Rwanda on a UN mission (Monusco) jeep.
“The trial began yesterday (Monday) and will continue tomorrow at the scene of the crime, on the grand barrier between the DR Congo and Rwanda,” said the official close to the case.
The prosecutor accused Mukala of hiding the mineral under a tarpaulin and lying to border guards that he was going to fetch water from Gisenyi, on the Rwandan side of the border from Nord-Kivu’s capital, Goma. Mukala told the prosecutor that the bags of minerals had been put there by someone else, who said they contained rice.
A second suspect, a trader named Dodo Mukanza, also faces trial for being an accomplice.
Cassiterite, like coltan, is found in the Nord-Kivu, Sud-Kivu and Maniema provinces of unstable eastern DR Congo, where rebel forces, local militias and the army are frequently accused of exploiting the mines. Both minerals are widely used in making electronic equipment.
“The trade in minerals between the DR Congo and Rwanda used to be carried out officially, but since the suspension of artisanal mining by the government, there is no more of it. Now we’re surprised to find that Monusco agents are involved in this kind of traffic,” a border guard told AFP.
“Since we don’t check Monusco vehicles and baggage, I don’t know if they have been in the habit of this kind of traffic for long, but when you’re carrying a tonne and a half of mineral ore, that’s enough to bug a security agent,” he added.
Monusco denied any part in the affair in a statement that said the alleged illegal export scam was the individual “work of a member of the national staff of the mission”, which is more than 22,000 strong and has been deployed in the vast country since two successive wars ravaged the DR Congo between 1996 and 2003.
“Monusco is not responsible as a civil party. The driver was operating outside of his duty. He took the vehicle to run his own errands,” the judicial source told AFP.
The Kinshasa government said in a statement that “such illegal trafficking makes the DR Congo poorer and boosts insecurity (…) by contributing to the prosperity of the illegal trade in blood minerals.”
A DR Congo Senate report at the end of 2009 found that 80 percent of mineral exports in the three eastern provinces escaped the control of the state.