Africa

Kenya and DR Congo to probe gold smuggling

Dealer weighing gold (file photo)
Image caption The gold trade fuels conflict in eastern DR Congo

Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo have agreed to jointly investigate the illegal gold trade.

Congolese officials see Kenya as a major hub in the illegal gold trade, which fuels DR Congo's 15-year conflict.

Last weekend, a Kenyan official investigating the discovery in Nairobi of 2.5 tonnes of gold worth $100m (£61m) was shot dead.

The unstable east of DR Congo is rich in many minerals, including gold.

The announcement of a joint team to crack down on gold smuggling follows a meeting between the two countries' Presidents, Mwai Kibaki and Joseph Kabila.

But BBC East Africa correspondent Will Ross says past form shows that it is extremely hard to clean up DR Congo's mineral trade.

As well as gold, much of which is exported to the Middle East and Europe, eastern DR Congo is also rich in tin and coltan, which is used in electronic goods such as mobile phones.

Last year, President Joseph Kabila banned mining in much of the east of the country, saying he wanted to cut the link between conflict and minerals.

But experts say both rebel movements and Congolese government soldiers have simply consolidated their grip on the trade and the ban, which is about to be lifted, has achieved little.

Last month, eight foreigners - from the US, France and Nigeria - were arrested on allegations of gold smuggling in the eastern town of Goma.

Millions of dollars and 436kg of gold were seized, the local governor said.

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