Q: Democratic Republic of Congo [DRC] president Joseph Kabila’s term ended legally in 2016, yet elections have been delayed several times. Many think the president is using this as a tactic to stay in power. Will elections be held?
A: We signed an agreement in December that recognises that the first mission of government must be to organise elections. I confirmed this when I was appointed to my current role. However, I stipulated that we cannot hold just any elections. We have known previous election cycles that were catastrophic, leading to conflict and deaths. I want to organise the best elections in the history of this country. This process must be transparent, credible and peaceful.
President Kabila has indicated he will respect the constitution, which limits his mandate to two terms. He has not undertaken any activity that would undermine the constitution. On December 23, there will be elections and the president will not undertake any action to try to stay in power.
Q: The UN has said the DRC is at an inflection point that could signal a slide back into a wider conflict. You have claimed the country is stable. How do you reconcile these accounts?
A: Speaking as someone who is at the head of government and receives all of the monitoring reports, as I have said, the DRC is a stable country. There is no major conflict. We have a stable and cohesive territory, and we are engaged in a democratic election process. The UN can have reports, and I do not doubt the source of this information, but in general the situation across the country is stable.
There is too much unfounded information out there on the DRC. We are better placed to give accurate information, disentangled from all passion. [We have had a problem where citizens of the DRC] go elsewhere and distort the truth about our country in the interests of being accepted by the international community. This is what creates this prism of disinformation.
Q: The DRC recently signed a controversial new mining code into law. Mining companies are not happy about the terms. Are you concerned this will derail DRC’s development agenda?
A: The current code was negotiated and signed in 2002. Up until now it has been imbalanced in favour of mine operators and investors. These reforms aim to right the balance. A mining project lasts 20 or 30 years, but in that time we must take into account the evolution of the market and prices. With these reforms we want both the country and investors to win from price rises for minerals such as cobalt. The recent mining boom only benefited mining companies, not the government. They gained a lot, now we want to share. We want miners to make profit but also for revenues to contribute to our development.
Q: The heads of several major mining companies travelled in person to Kinshasa of the DRC, the capital, to lobby Mr Kabila against the new code. It was very tense.
A: It is understandable that there would be some tension. The president is speaking for the interests of the people, and the interests of the DRC are not necessarily the same as those of mining companies. They have their own interests and their own logic.
Q: In the new code, the government has the power to designate certain minerals as 'strategic', allowing royalties to go up as high as 10%. Which minerals will be designated as such?
A: If you look at the situation today, with cobalt – where the price has increased a lot – it is clear this a metal that is both rare and strategic, so the state wants to profit. We cannot accept a situation where the price evolution for commodities doesn’t profit the country, only investors. We are the world’s number one producer, we should benefit from all the advantages this presents.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.