It is with profound regret that Chambers Federation reports the torture and assault of one of its most beloved colleagues. After 2-years of dangerously escalating threats of retaliation and violence from Congolese state security officers they have finally succeeded in shutting down the social enterprise known as Fair Congo, SARL. Despite gathering wide stakeholder support to fight against the corruption and violence against Fair Congo it was unfortunately not enough.
Chambers Federation began investing into the DRC in 2013, later co-funding the Fair Congo Initiatives in 2017 after being approached by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to assist in their implementation of the Responsible Mineral Trade and its formal route to market, the “missing link”. Fair Congo SARL, a social enterprise, was one part of those initiatives with a mission focusing on formal routes to market for responsibly sourced, artisanally produced (ASM) gold. Fair Congo SARL became the sole route to market for all legal ASM gold with significant claims to success including achieving the first conflict-free ASM gold to reach the US and European markets from the DRC, among many other successes. However, the enterprise is now in force majeure largely due to:
- Fair Congo staff poisoned by an unknown individual or organization
- Fair Congo’s interim managing director tortured and sexually assaulted by state security officers
- Illegal taxation and illegal seizure of assets including but not limited to the theft of gold by state security officers
It should be noted that Fair Congo SARL, with support from Chambers Federation, engaged all available stakeholders leading up to these events as well as after. Yet no matter the amount of preparation, the events set in motion were clearly unstoppable. As Chambers Federation provides a public reporting portal to all beneficiaries receiving formal route to market support, these incidents may be found in more detail in the beneficiary public reporting portal found here. Formal requests for further information related to these incidents may be forwarded to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What’s been done since?
- Victims have been evacuated from the country, classified as a Protected Person by the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office, and placed under armed guard until her recovery allowed for her movement.
- All medical care and evacuation was covered by Panzi Hospital, MONUSCO, and Chambers Federation though victim continues to receive care for both physical and mental damages incurred.
- The US Ambassador to the DRC, along with the Canadian Ambassador and Dr Mukwege launched a social media campaign against the Congolese state security office immediately after the incident.
- Reports related to the incidents noted above have been collected and shared with critical stakeholders. This includes:
- Police reports
- Medical reports
- Pictures and video related to the torture and sexual assault
- Related tax documentation, related communications and evidence of racketeering, collusion between Fair Congo SARLs local banking partner and the Congolese central bank
- Other reports related both directly and indirectly to the incidents
Chambers Federation will be launching a new portal for anonymously authored articles to be published detailing fraud and corruption in high-risk areas.
Chambers Federation will not be investing any further into Fair Congo SARL, or any other private company operating in the DRC. However, it has since focused all efforts and investments on empowering survivors of gender-based violence, an effort now led by the woman affected most by the above mentioned incidents.
The company, Fair Congo SARL, is in force majeure. All pending contracts related to activities with Fair Congo should be discussed directly with Fair Congo at email@example.com before the company’s permanent closure. While Chambers Federation is deeply saddened by this loss, it, in good faith, offers to direct and/or assist any potentially affected parties towards an equitable outcome. Furthermore, Chambers Federation encourages the active support by any stakeholders willing to take a stand against corruption and support victims of gender-based violence. Examples could be but are not limited to:
- Joint public statements issued to the Agence de Prévention et de Lutte contre la Corruption (APLC) within the Office of the President (DRC) decrying the violence perpetrated against Fair Congo staff and corruption which led to the company’s closure
- Potentially followed by joint legal action against taken against relevant Congolese government agencies
- Support in any insurance claims of funding or contracts related to Fair Congo SARL activities
- Training, technical support or tools provided to the women’s group producing jewelry, chocolate, and carpentry products. This could also include experts traveling to provide direct training to the women’s group or donations which would be tax deductible.