Bemba about to jet in, DRC’s Kabila With His Family’s Fortune at Stake

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Does the liberation and return on Bemba Jean Pierre represent a threat to the regime? Joseph Kabila and his relatives have built a network of businesses that reaches into every corner of Congo’s economy. Is that

why he won’t step down? A decision by a War Crimes Tribunal has now added to the Democratic Republic of Congo’s explosive mix.


By acquitting ex-rebel and former vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba, the International Criminal Court (ICC) may have opened the way for one of DRC’s most controversial figures to weigh in on high-risk presidential elections, now just months away.

Bemba, 55, has been provisionally released after the ICC ruled he had had only limited control of his militia, blamed for atrocities in the Central African Republic (CAR) more than 15 years ago.
The ruling – on appeal – came some six weeks before a deadline for entering candidates for the December 23 elections.

Kabila’s refusal to step down threatens to thrust his country back into the kind of chaos that cost millions of lives after his father took power nearly two decades ago. It could also destroy the tenuous stability that attracted international investment—mainly from mining giants like Freeport-McMoRan Inc. and Glencore Plc—and turned Congo into Africa’s biggest producer of copper, tin and cobalt.

In February, S&P Global Ratings lowered Congo’s investment outlook to negative amid rising political tensions. It affirmed that view in August. The last civil war destroyed the country’s copper industry, cutting production more than 96 percent by the time the conflict ended in 2003.

Since then, foreign investment has helped generate more than 100,000 jobs in mining and oil alone, tripled the size of the economy—and allowed the family’s empire to flourish. Over that period, Kabila and his siblings have assembled an international business network stretching across at least 70 companies, according to a Pulitzer Center on Crisis analysis of thousands of company documents and court filings as well as dozens of interviews with bankers, businessmen, miners, farmers and former government officials.

While Congolese law doesn’t prohibit politicians or their families from having business interests, the scope of that empire has only recently become visible, in publicly available corporate and government records that Congolese regulators have computerized and made searchable in just the past few years. Our scouts, with support from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, traced the Kabilas’ interests by amassing an archive of hundreds of thousands of pages of corporate documents that shows his wife, two children and eight of his siblings control more than 120 permits to dig gold, diamonds, copper, cobalt and other minerals.

Two of the family’s businesses alone own diamond permits that stretch more than 450 miles across Congo’s southwestern border with Angola. Family members also have stakes in banks, farms, fuel distributors, airline operators, a road builder, hotels, a pharmaceutical supplier, travel agencies, boutiques and nightclubs. Another venture even tried to launch a rat into space on a rocket.


By acquitting ex-rebel and former vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba, the International Criminal Court (ICC) may have opened the way for one of DRC’s most controversial figures to weigh in on high-risk presidential elections, now just months away.

He has kept everyone guessing whether he intends to run again, although Prime Minister Bruno Tshibala, drawn from the ranks of the opposition, recently said in Montreal that he would not stand again.
Bemba — once a bitter rival of Kabila and whose militia clashed with government forces — now has the possibility of leaping back onto the political stage, say analysts.

After his provisional release, Bemba arrived in Belgium, the court said Friday, where his wife and children are believed to be living.

“Knowing his ego, he will never want to be lined up behind another candidate. Jean-Pierre will want to be the king,” said a veteran of Bemba’s Congolese Liberation Movement (MLC), which long ago took the path from rebel group to political party.
The MLC holds its annual congress in July. “Our president will be there,” MLC Secretary- general Eve Bazaiba vowed well before Bemba was provisionally freed.

A small incident caught the attention of our scouts, about one of the DRC presidential planes a Boeing 707-138B of registration 9Q-CLK that have been cited severally in evacuation of minerals belonging to the first family. The plane have been on standby for more than a week at the N’djili International Airport, and rumors have it that it is loaded with tons of minerals judging by the tough security around the aircraft hangar and the airport.

The incident is among many other that are leaving people to believe that the President who is in office illegally is planning an exit solution and might be planning to smuggle out the family minerals to an unknown destination.


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