Uganda: Why Can’t Uganda Simply Stamp Out Blood Minerals? – by Jeff Mbanga (All – February 18, 2015)

Let’s talk about blood minerals today. About nine years ago, I was assigned to write a story about Uganda’s gold exports.

Back then, as it is today, a number of government reports would list the amount of revenue the country earned from gold exports. However, you could hardly put a name to a company that exported gold, nor tell where this gold was mined, processed, and flown out.

As part of my prep, I looked up a company, which I will not reveal, that dealt in gold. I was lucky to be granted an interview with one of its top directors. We met at a secluded area, somewhere in Kisementi, at the outskirts of the central business district. The man, of Indian origin, made sure few people were at our meeting point.

He first questioned my interest in the story. He then went ahead and complained about the risks in the business, and told me of his fights with a rival company. By the end of our conservation, I knew this was not a trade for the faint-hearted dealers; the mafia were alive and well in this mineral trade.

After all these years, questions still loom large over the trade in gold in Uganda. The characters that prowl around the city, flaunting money as result of their links to the illegal gold trade from the Democratic Republic of Congo, would comfortably fit in a Martin Scorsese movie script.

About two weeks ago, the United Nations Security Council wrote their own script on the DRC, where it touched widely on the trade in conflict minerals and Kampala’s role in it. The report names the characters at the centre of it all, and blacklists the companies that thrive in this business.

The report pointed to Uganda as a key transit point for smuggled gold – gold that originates from areas controlled by rebel groups that are said to commit all sorts of crimes. For a simple brief, this is how the underworld business of dealing in gold happens: rebel groups in the eastern part of DR Congo, especially the FDLR, take control of critical mining areas.

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