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DRC: Tshisekedi and Kabila meet to tackle Gécamines loan dispute

By Stanis Bujakera Tshiamala, in Kinshasa
Posted on Thursday, 16 January 2020 11:01

An operator monitors the kiln at the Grande Cimenterie du Katanga, in Likasi, near Lubumbashi, in February 2015 © Gwenn Dubourthoumieu for GJA

At the end of 2019, Félix Tshisekedi and Joseph Kabila came together to discuss the dispute pitting Gécamines against Israeli businessman Dan Gertler. Also implicated in the case is Albert Yuma, the chairman of the board of directors of the mining company and a close ally of the former Congolese president.

Their meeting lasted three hours.

On 31 December, Félix Tshisekedi received his predecessor, Joseph Kabila, at the Cité de l’Union Africaine, so that the two men could discuss the various sticking points between their respective political coalitions that have banded together to form a coalition government.

Among the topics discussed, the dispute pitting Gécamines – and in particular the company’s chairman of the board of directors, Albert Yuma Mulimbi, who is close to Kabila – against Israeli businessman Dan Gertler, who has been subject to US sanctions since 2017.

Three days prior to meeting with his predecessor, President Tshisekedi had publicly taken position on the matter, requesting that the courts provide a full account of the case that has rocked Kinshasa. However, our sources have revealed that during the meeting the two men agreed to “settle [the case] politically,” in parallel with the court proceedings undertaken in Kinshasa.

“An influential member of the FCC”

The reason behind the particular interest they have taken in the dispute: the fear of a domino effect. “Yuma is an influential member of the FCC [Front Commun pour le Congo, the former Congolese president’s coalition, editor’s note] and one of Kabila’s very close associates. If this case sinks him, he’s going to bring a lot of other things down with him,” said a source close to the president.

On 10 January, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, the permanent secretary of the Parti du Peuple pour la Reconstruction et la Démocratie (PPRD), spoke out about the issue during a New Year’s address he made to officials from the former presidential party. “Our party, the PPRD, present all over the country, will never support malicious, destabilising acts carried out by enemies of our economic independence who sharply criticise Gécamines’ leaders,” said the ill-fated candidate of the last presidential elections.

The affair erupted onto the public stage on 20 December 2019. Yuma was mentioned at the time, along with other leaders from the mining company, in a case involving a €128m loan taken out in 2017 from Fleurette Mumi, a company owned by Gertler.

Other than the dispute pitting Gécamines against Gertler about the repayment of the loan, how the borrowed funds were used has sparked controversy.

Although the loan was initially disbursed to finance the company’s development projects, in reality 90% of the loan amount went directly to the Congolese Treasury to pay tax advances, according to documents provided by Gécamines.

Several NGOs have been speculating over whether or not the money can be traced back to the government’s coffers.

Kamerhe has questions

“I believe in respecting the presumption of innocence. From the moment the public prosecutor takes up the matter, I don’t comment on it,” said Vital Kamerhe, President Tshisekedi’s cabinet director.

Nevertheless, he thinks that “several questions deserve to be answered”:

“These questions are straightforward. Was there a loan? If so, they need to provide evidence. Was the money received by Gécamines? If so, through which intermediary? It needs to be traced back to the bank. Was the full amount or just a portion given over to the Congolese Treasury? If so, we need to see documents. Did the Congolese Treasury use it for elections or for something else? If the allegations are true, they need to provide evidence,” he added, before specifying that “as things stand, we can’t come to the conclusion that the funds were misappropriated. We have to let the courts do their job and let President Tshisekedi and Kabila take care of the political side of the case.”

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