Congo Ousts Mining Leader in a Cloud of Corruption Claims – World News

Congo Ousts Mining Leader in a Cloud of Corruption Claims

The chairman of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s state mining company was ousted on Friday after longstanding allegations that billions of dollars in revenue had disappeared, a move officials said was intended to fight corruption as the country faces a global clean-up. becomes increasingly important in the energy revolution.

Albert Yuma Mulimbi, the company’s president since 2010, was replaced by Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi just days after The New York Times reported. published an article New charges against Mr. Yuma unearthed.

The government agency, known as the Gécamines, controls the production of metals such as cobalt and copper, which are important resources for the expansion of electric vehicles and other renewable energy. Without his presidency, Mr. Yuma would no longer have a key role in partnering with international companies on major mining deals.

“It is hard to overestimate the importance of this development – ​​it is an important step in the fight against corruption in Congo,” said J Peter Pham, who served as a senior Central Africa official with the US State Department until January . “Albert Yuma and the mining sector stand at the nexus of natural resources, political and economic power in the country.”

An industry executive said that at least for now, Mr. Yuma will retain his role in overseeing the reform of small-scale and informal mining in the Congo. Their plans include buying cobalt from informal miners, also known as artisanal miners, and regulating pricing. In contrast to industrial operations, cobalt produced by artisanal mining makes up about 30 percent of the country’s production.

He has also announced plans to increase security at these sites. Child labor and the persistent injuries and deaths associated with such mining have attracted international attention, shunned new American investors and even created some automakers Reluctance to buy cobalt from Congo

country is responsible for more than two thirds It is also a major copper producer of cobalt in the world. Although prices have skyrocketed in recent years, Gécamines was Criticism during Mr. Yuma’s tenure For sign deals entities with foreign mining companies including supported by the Chinese government, The arrangements effectively diverted the country’s extraordinary mineral wealth for the benefit of foreigners.

Top State Department officials had urged the Biden administration to ban Mr Yuma, who told The Times that he had been accused of diverting more than his own count. $8.8 billion. In form of in mining revenue over the years.

He was separately banned from entering the United States in 2018, and has since hired a team of lobbyists and attorneys in Washington to try to fight any sanctions that may have hit the international market. Can deposit his money in banks.

Mr Yuma, a longtime power broker in the Congo and one of the country’s richest traders, did not respond to a request for comment on Friday. But in a series of interviews with The Times in recent months, he has fabricated the allegations against him by outside provocateurs seeking to undermine Congolese sovereignty.

In a document provided in October, he called the charges The “true smear campaign,” adding that his critics wanted to “tarnish his reputation and tarnish his leading role in favor of the country through reforming its mining policy.”

For decades, Gécamines has been one of Congo’s biggest sources of revenue, controlling concessions granted to major international mining companies and collecting royalties from them. Last year, the firm generated $324 million,

Mr. Yuma was replaced as chairman by the country’s former president, Joseph Kabila, who US officials believe worked closely with Mr. Yuma to divert agency funds toward political objectives. and possibly to enrich Mr. Kabila’s family as well.

After Mr Tshisekedi took over, he was re-appointed chairman in 2019. That year, Mr. Yuma was under consideration to serve as Prime Minister of the Congo, a move opposed by the United States because he was planning to serve as Mr. Kabila’s proxy, State Department officials said. told the Times.

Mr. Yuma will now be replaced by Kaputo Kalubi Alphonse, who was nominated by Mr. Tshisekedi to the administrative council of Geckamines three years ago. A press official for Mr Tshisekedi announced the new appointment on national television on Friday, as a sign of the important role Gekmine will play in the Congo.

“Changes and new dynamism are needed,” Patrick Muayya Katembwe, spokesman for the Congolese president, told The Times.

Leon Mwaine, who was appointed by Mr Tshisekedi to a top position at Geckamines in 2019, said officials felt they had to prove to the world that the agency could change course.

“Values ​​– such as honesty and transparency and integrity – are the core values ​​we need to be competitive in the international market,” said Mr. Mawine.

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