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Journalist Jailed in Congo for Investigating Mining Sectors

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IFJ Calls for Release of a Journalist Held in DRC

An organization defending press freedoms in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the National Union of Professionals of the Press (SNPP), attacked the incarceration of a reporter who has investigated the country's mining industry. Investigative journalist Maurice Kayombo has been behind bars in the Democratic Republic of Congo since January 9 on charges of “blackmail and bringing (the mining) authority into disrepute,” according to Journalists in Danger and the International Federation of Journalists. Kayombo was invited to the offices of Secretary General of the Mining Ministry, Christophe Kaninio, for an interview when he was arrested.

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The charges against Kayombo were brought in relation to a story he wrote in the November edition of the privately-owned monthly magazine Les Grands Enjeux where he is on staff. In the article he wrote that there were huge mismanagement issues and that officials were involved in some unsound contracts and shady deals. Congolese mines are home to one third of global cobalt reserves.

“We condemn this detention, which is being used to intimidate journalists doing investigative reports,” said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa office. “We call on the Congolese authorities to release Maurice immediately and drop the criminal charges against him. This complaint should be heard by the media regulatory body, Haute autorité des médias (HAM).”

Kayombo is being held at the Central Prison of Makala in Kinshasa. Some journalists who visited him fear for his health. He told them that he is being held in a tiny cell and is forced to sleep close to stagnant urine.

As a journalist who was “detained” in Goma, DRC for doing investigative reporting on conservation organizations, this writer has some idea of what Kayombo is experiencing. If he asks for water, he will most certainly be denied. In my case I was placed in a locked car in the equatorial sun with three guys in suits. He will be asked to pay bribes; he will be harassed; his personal space will be invaded-- and perhaps worse. He will not be allowed to go to the bathroom, nor will he be allowed to make phone calls.

This writer was lucky enough to be an American citizen, operating under a MONUC press badge, with the almighty American passport and a pocket full of US Embassy business cards. Kayombo is not as lucky.

It is doubtful that the American mainstream press will go to bat for him. Why? Because the American mainstream press, and this includes CBS and Sixty Minutes as well as the Associated Press, has provided smoke and mirrors to shape-shift the actions of covert operations in the mining sectors of DRC as well as the Virunga Mountains. The cover is the mountain gorilla and the covert ops are “conservation efforts” masquerading as Wildlife Direct’s Congo Rangers, under the direction and influence of board member Walter Kansteiner III.

Among other State Department posts he held, Walter Kansteiner III was the Africa specialist on the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff under President Clinton, and he worked on the Department of Defense Strategic Minerals Task Force. The Clinton Administration was deeply involved in the conflicts in central Africa from 1993-2001.

Kansteiner is on the Board of Directors of the Corporate Council on Africa—the “who’s who” of corporate exploitation in Africa. He is a director of the African Development Foundation, Sierra Rutile Mining, and Moto Gold Mines. Sierra Rutile has a long and sordid history of involvement with mercenaries and mining in war torn Sierra Leone; Moto Gold Mines is now operating in the killing fields of DRC’s blood-drenched Orientale Province just north of the Virungas.

Kansteiner is also a director of the African Wildlife Foundation, a big non-government organization partnered with the gorilla “conservation” organizations Conservation International, World Wildlife Fund, Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, Jane Goodall Institute and Fauna and Flora International.

And what is the prize that Wildlife Direct is guarding? It is most certainly not the mountain gorilla that Kansteiner is interested in. Think cobalt.

One-half of the cobalt consumed in the United States was for use in super alloys, which are used mainly in defense aircraft gas turbine engines; 9% was for use in cemented carbides for cutting and wear-resistant applications; 18%, for various other metallic applications; and 24%, for a variety of chemical applications. The total estimated value of cobalt consumed in 2006 was $350 million. The United States needs cobalt, but did not mine it in 2006. (Source: U.S. Geological Survey, Mineral Commodity Summaries, January 2007)

Kansteiner is also a Fellow at the Forum for International Policy, a think-tank whose Chairman of the Board of Trustees is Lawrence S. Eagleburger, a director of numerous corporations—including Halliburton—and the former Deputy Secretary of State (1989-1992) and then Secretary of State (1992-1993) under George H.W. Bush. Other FIP notables are deep intelligence insiders, including John Deutch and Brent Scowcroft, and Archers Daniels Midland director Dwayne Andreas.

The International Crises Group executive John Prendergast’s role in manipulating world consciousness around war and genocide must be situated not in the “humanitarian” front that the ICG gives him, but in his role as National Security Council during the Clinton Administration, with Walter Kansteiner III. The ICG is silent about the proliferation of dubious and illegal mining by firms like Moto Gold Mines, and their “crises group” research papers never identify any of the significant players behind the scenes in Congo (or Darfur).

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Georgianne Nienaber is an investigative environmental and political writer. She lives in rural northern Minnesota and South Florida. Her articles have appeared in The Society of Professional Journalists' Online Quill Magazine, the Huffington (more...)

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