According to the Swiss federal criminal court last week, the corruption destroying the Democratic Republic of the Congo – where devastating conflicts over minerals used in our electronics have killed more than six million people – is inextricably linked to the UK, Gibraltar and Switzerland. The Swiss court ruling exposed the corruption that has fuelled not only the poverty, famine and unemployment in DRC revealing the impunity that permits it and the violence required to sustain it.
Between 2006 and 2011, at the height of ex-president Joseph Kabila’s rule, individuals and entities in the UK, Gibraltar and Switzerland paid almost £280m (more than DRC’s spending on healthcare last year) in cash bribes to authorities in DRC through an array of shell companies and subsidiaries – and, in this case, the UK’s Serious Fraud Office told the Swiss court that it has the evidence to back it. In return, Kabila offered some of DRC’s strategic gems and minerals, including cobalt, an essential component of lithium-ion batteries used to power electric vehicles. The country is home to about 60% of the world’s known cobalt reserves, which makes some of Kabila’s corrupt friends in the UK, Gibraltar and Switzerland almost indispensable in the global supply chain of electric cars.
A court of justice has spoken but where are the criminal charges?
The Congolese die daily from violence required to sustain their corrupt deals. According to the International Red Cross in 2008, an estimated 1,100 people were dying each day from the conflict as well as the hunger and diseases accompanying it.
In 2003, a UN report named about 125 individuals and entities, including at least 16 from the UK, directly or indirectly involved in conflict minerals. How many have faced criminal charges? Zero.
Back in 2003, about 2.2 million Congolese were displaced because of conflicts over minerals. Today that figure stands at 6.6 million scattered across the country in camps for internally displaced people. In 2003, DRC ranked 167 in the UN’s human development index. It now ranks 175 out of 189 countries.
This Swiss ruling won’t change anything. The hunger and the killings and the use of rape as a weapon of war in DRC will continue.
DRC’s new president Felix Tshisekedi, came to power publicly positioning himself as anti-corruption. Tshisekedi has promoted Kabila’s henchmen, including Gen Gabriel Amisi, known as “Tango Four”, who is under EU, US and UN sanctions for, among other things, “obstructing the electoral process and human rights abuse” and Gen Charles Akili, known as “Mundos”, who is similarly under sanctions and is cited in several UN reports for his alleged role in machete killings in Beni.
Tshisekedi refuses to investigate Kabila’s loot. DRC lost $300bn to corruption during Kabila’s reign; enough to lift more than 50 million Congolese people out of poverty.