Kigali Denies Using Forced Labour in DRC

UN Integrated Regional Information Network (Nairobi), 22 March 2001

Rwanda has denied allegations that it is using forced labour to work in mines in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The claims were made by the head of the missionary news agency MISNA, Father Julio Albanese, who told the BBC that priests had seen 1,500 Rwandan prisoners working under armed guard at a colombite-tantalite mine in Numbi.

The BBC cited correspondents as saying Rwanda is believed to have funded its campaign in the DRC through mining. But Rwandan presidential spokesman Nicholas Shalita strongly denied the accusations.

The statement is a lie, not too unfamiliar from other MISNA statements intended to tarnish the name of the Rwandan government, he told IRIN on Thursday. Colombite-tantalite, known as coltan, is a crucial ingredient in the manufacture of mobile phones and other hi-technology goods.

The BBC said its price had risen five-fold in the past three years.