Joseph Kabila, the president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and his family own, either partially or wholly, more than 80 companies and businesses in the country and abroad, according to a new report by New York University’s Congo Research Group and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
The findings, which mark the first rigorous overview of the assets belonging to Kabila and his family, raise a number of conflict-of-interest questions, say the authors of the report, “All the President’s Wealth.”
“The aim of this research is to help generate greater accountability, which will only come with pressure on Congolese elites and their international business partners to ensure ethical behavior,” says Jason Stearns, director of the Congo Research Group.
“Without greater transparency, more pressure on elites to render them accountable, and clearer legislation regarding conflicts of interest, good governance will remain a distant aspiration.”
A complete copy of the report, which is based on 20 months of research and almost entirely on official Congolese documents, may be downloaded here. The website features additional information on the business network, as well as many of the documents on which we have based our research.
The family has invested in almost every part of the Congolese economy, including farming, mining, banking, real estate, telecommunications, and airlines. The report finds the following:
President Kabila directly, and through a company he owns with his children, holds more than 71,000 hectares (175,444 acres) of farmland.
Two companies that belong to the family own diamond permits that extend for more than 450 miles along Congo’s southern border with Angola.
Jaynet Kabila, the president’s sister and a member of parliament, owns a stake in the country’s largest mobile phone network, while their brother Zoé, who is also a parliamentarian, owns companies that have been contracted to work on some of the world’s richest mineral deposits.
Congo’s Ministry of Mines has granted a company controlled by the president’s sister, Jaynet Kabila, more mining permits than allowed under the country’s mining code.
Family companies have benefitted from large state contracts, including for the issuing of drivers’ licenses.
“The Congo is currently in the middle of a political crisis,” observes Stearns. “President Kabila, who has been in power since 2001, was supposed to step down last year after 15 years in power, but delays in the electoral calendar make it unlikely for elections to be held for at least another year.
“This report, however, points to political problems of governance that go beyond the peaceful and democratic transfer of executive power. Elections alone will not be enough to redress the violence, poverty, and corruption afflicting the country.”
To address the concerns raised by the Congo Research Group’s research, Stearns and his colleagues offer nearly a dozen recommendations, which include: the passage of laws ensuring transparency of private ownership; clarifications on what constitutes conflicts of interest under the nation’s governing structure; and the Kabila family placing their private business interests in an independently managed trust.
The Congo Research Group is a research and policy organization that aims to shed light on the dynamics driving conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It carries out investigative research that aims at empowering Congolese to hold their own leaders and foreign donors accountable. Policy reports, podcasts, and regular blog posts can be found at www.congoresearchgroup.org.