Finnish natural resources company Adelia Group has announced its intention to invest in the Democratic Republic of Congo's (DCR's) northern province of Équateur. The company has already formed a local subsidiary, Adelia Congo DRC, which currently employs about 130 people in the country, and will likely be expanding in coming months.

On April 12, 2012, four Adelia representatives met with provincial governor Jean-Claude Baende in Mabandaka, Équateur’s capital. Mr Baende is a politician with close ties to the ruling Alliance de la Majorité Présidentielle coalition of DCR’s president Joseph Kabila, who has ruled the country since the 2001 assassination of his father (and then-president), Laurent Kabila. He was last elected to office in a controversial ballot in 2011. DCR radio network Radio Okapi reported that among the possible projects that were discussed by Adelia and Mr Baende were the electrification of Mbandaka, clean water initiatives and potential agricultural development.

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The poor and underdeveloped but geographically and historically significant province of Équateur was the birthplace of former dictator Mobutu Sese Seko. Mr Seko ruled DCR from November 1965 until May 1997, during which time he renamed the country Zaire. During this time he transformed the province’s jungle city of Gbadolite into something more akin to a tropical Versailles, complete with a palace and a runway capable of landing large jet aircraft, but much of this development has since fallen into disrepair.

In May 1997, during the rebellion that led to Mr Seko’s ousting, Gbadolite witnessed a widespread massacre committed by Congolese rebels and Rwandan forces. It later served as the base for the Mouvement pour la Liberation du Congo rebel group of Jean-Pierre Bemba during the Second Congo War. Mr Bemba is currently on trail for war crimes and crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court at the Hague.

With a tense peace having returned to much of DCR in recent years (save for the eastern provinces of North and South Kivu), executives at Adelia believe that the time is now right to begin investing the country. “We have a fantastic opportunity to proceed in DCR,” Markku Kankaala, Adelia’s executive director and chairman of its board of directors, told fDiMagazine. He added that the firm has been working extensively in the country for the past two years.

Illustrative of the clannish nature of doing business in the country, instrumental in brokering the firm’s interest in Équateur has been the young, Helsinki-raised Congolese impresario and businessman Rudy Ilumbe, who was recently named by Mr Kabila as Congo’s ambassador to the EU and who maintains close contact with DCR's president.

Mr Kankaala said that among the initiatives that Adelia has been discussing with Mr Ilumbe and others in the county has been the setting aside of some of the vast tracts of topical forest that blanket Équateur in exchange for carbon credits that will help provide revenue for the company’s endeavors.