Sources within MONUSCO, the UN keeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) inform AfroAmerica Network that MONUSCO employees were arrested last night by the Congolese National Intelligence Agancy. The employees are suspected of being part of a criminal network involved in illegal logging and trafficking of natural resources, especially minerals, across the DRC territory.
DRC is one of the richest countries in the World in natural resources, including gold, diamond, coltan, uranium, copper, timber, etc. Coltan or columbite-tantalite is the main mineral used in consumer electronics such as cell phones, DVD players, video players, computers, etc. and is found mostly in the DRC. The high prices of Coltan has fueled bloody armed conflicts in the region, with neighboring countries, mainly Rwanda, invading DRC on several occasions and maintaining a permanent occupation of the Eastern part of DRC to date.
Rwanda has been consistently accused by the United Nations and other non government organizations of being the hub of illegal exploitation and exportation of the congolese natural resources.
According to the sources, a MONSUCO employee was arrested driving a MONUSCO truck carrying more than a ton and half of coltan from the DRC to Rwanda, in bags of 50 kilos each. Congolese officials have said they will conduct a swift investigation of the illegal export to Rwanda. Meanwhile, MONUSCO officials have promised a thorough investigation of the criminal network within its employees. MONUSCO vehicles are usually immune from search while crossing the border of Rwanda and DRC.
In the recent months, there have been a lot of cases of illicit mineral trafficking involving Rwanda. On July 28, 2011, soldiers and their commanders within the Congolese army, FARDC, were apprehended trying to smuggle 10 tons of coltan to Rwanda. Before that, a plane carrying minerals worth US$ 20 million was grounded in Eastern DRC. The money and the mineral were seized by the commanders of CNDP, a FARDC faction allied with Rwandan Defense Forces.
In this case, the DRC government appears to accuse MONUSCO of laxity and calls on MONUSCO officials to “assume full responsibility” to prevent such failures from recurring.
©2011 AfroAmerica Network.