GOMA -Authorities in the Democratic Republic Congo (DRC), Monday arrested an employee of the United Nation Stabilisation Mission in Congo (MONUSCO) with 24 packages, each containing 50kg of Cassiterite, in the Congolese town of Goma, heading towards the Rwanda-DRC border.
In an interview with The New Times, the Deputy Director General of Rwanda National Resources Authority (RNRA), Dr Michael Biryabarema, said that had the smuggler, a driver with the UN, tried to cross the border, he would have been arrested.
“This could have been an individual or trader who attempted to sneak across the border, but had the DRC not intercepted them, we would have done so,” Dr. Biryabarema said.
“I don’t find anything linking Rwanda to this illegal act. We would have arrested him and impounded the mineral like we have done in the past. We have so far impounded over 70 tonnes of illegal minerals”.
Biryabarema said that the government has put in place tough restrictions to avoid the country being a transit for illegal untagged minerals, especially from the DRC.
He noted that the Customs Office and the Revenue Protection Department (RPD) have put in place strong security measures to ensure that no minerals are smuggled across the Rwandan border.
The head of RPD, Robert Mugabe, said that the anti-smuggling unit works with the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, to confiscate untagged minerals and hands them over to RNRA.
“The instructions we have from the Ministry state that no illegal minerals should pass through the country, and we have impounded many of these. Usually, when we impound such minerals, we hand them over to RNRA,” Mugabe said.
“On the Rubavu-Goma border alone, we have intercepted and impounded over 48,000Kgs. We have also impounded more from our border posts in the Western Province, including Rusizi.”
Yesterday, MONUSCO said it would fully cooperate with the DRC authorities who are investigating the case.
“MONUSCO is fully cooperating with and supporting the national authorities in the investigation of this incident. The mission has also launched its own investigation into what appears to be a serious breach of its ethics, rules and regulations,” the mission said in a press release.
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for DRC and head of MONUSCO, Roger Meece, stressed that the illegal exploitation and smuggling of natural resources from the DRC are serious crimes and the mission is tasked with preventing them.
He said that allegations that a MONUSCO member of staff is implicated in the illegal activities will be fully investigated and that appropriate action would be taken in full cooperation with the Congolese authorities.
Illegal exploitation of minerals in Eastern DRC has widely been blamed for prolonging conflict and insecurity in Africa’s Great Lakes region.