AFRICA/CONGO DR - More than 5,100 people driven out from their lands to exploit the gold in South Kivu

Kinshasa (Agenzia Fides) - "The social fabric of the people who lived so far in peace and mutual solidarity is compromised: its members have become enemies to each other, just because a Canadian company in search of gold has come to settle on their land." This is the complaint made by a Congolese citizen, Néhémie Bahizire, in the document entitled "The curse of gold in Kivu," on the exploitation of gold mines in Twangiza / Luhwinja, about 90 km south of Bukavu, capital of the province of South Kivu in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). "To extract the gold, the company Banro Corporation initially drove out the 450 artisanal miners who lived off this job," says the document sent to Fides by "Peace for Congo." "Later, Banro drove out and/or transferred the population from their land, whose soil is rich in gold. The operation has affected 850 families, i.e. about 5,100 people. To compensate the people dispossessed of their land, Banro Corporation sought another place where to build 20 sqm houses in mud-brick, to be allocated to each family that had been moved". The new homes, however, "are built in a very uncomfortable area to reside because the altitude is too high. The climate is hostile to the population that was accustomed to living at low altitude. To fetch water, women face the ordeal to go down and then up, travelling many kilometers at least twice a day. Finally, less than a year after their construction, these houses are already threatening to collapse, because of already visible cracks in the walls. " "With regard the land to farm, each family was given only a small garden around the new house. Being far from sufficient, each family will will have to manage with what they can." In terms of social divisions, tensions have arisen between the local population because "Mwamikazi (mother of the traditional leader, who assumes the interim position of the son who is in Britain for study purposes) is conniving with Banro, as after all, all the political, administrative and military authorities of the area." "Part of the population supports the Mwamikazi. But the other part is against her and accuses her of complicity with Banro, who has occupied their land." The document also claims discrimination suffered by local workers compared to the managers of foreign origin, and non-compliance with environmental standards. "The population of Twangiza suspects, rightly, with the exhaustion of gold, the company will dismantle the plant and will go elsewhere. And this after destroying the flora and fauna, rivers and mountains and all the biodiversity. What remains for the people?" Concludes the document. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 14/5/2012)