Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Kinshasa — A group of UN experts said it had evidence that a sanctioned Congolese military officer owns gold mining operations in the northeast of the country, contravening the country’s mining code.

Tax officials, mine workers and dredge owners told the Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo that Maj-Gen Gabriel Amisi Kumba owns dredges that are mining gold on the Awimi River in Tshopo province, the group said in a report published on the UN’s website on Sunday.

The group also collected testimony that the management of La Conquete, a company allegedly owned by Amisi, is protected by Congo’s military.

Amisi is the Congolese armed forces’ commander of the First Defence Zone, an area that includes the capital, Kinshasa.

Last year, the US and the European Union imposed travel bans and asset freezes, on Maj-Gen Kumba, citing the role of units under his control in lethal crackdowns on demonstrations by Congolese opposition supporters in January 2015 and September 2016.

In November 2012, Maj-Gen Kumba was suspended as commander of Congo’s land forces after a previous report by the group of experts accused him of distributing weapons to armed groups and poachers operating in the conflict-ridden east of the country.

Maj-Gen Kumba was cleared by the military authorities in July 2014 and appointed to his current position in September the same year.

The group was unable to reach him and Bloomberg was not able to find contact details for him to request comment. Gen Leon-Richard Kasonga, spokesman for the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo, said he had not seen the report and could not comment.

The group’s report also said it "confirmed almost all artisanally sourced gold in the DRC was exported illegally and underestimated in both value and volume".

The group has made similar claims in previous reports, estimating that during 2013, 98% of artisanally produced gold, valued at as much as $409m, was smuggled out of the DRC.

Established in 2004, the group of experts’ members are appointed by the UN secretary-general to gather information about conflict, abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law in Congo.

Bloomberg

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