In this enormous country where central power is weak, ethnic allegiance counts above everything, particularly in the mineral resources sector where the political and economic stakes are high. Whoever controls the copper, cobalt, diamond and cassiterite mines of this vast land controls the manna which will finance the presidential and provincial elections of the future and the military operations needed to repel foreign forces. Since the end of the Second Congo War in 2003, the province of Katanga has succeeded in attracting back foreign investors into copper and cobalt extraction, even though Gecamines, the local producer of the red metal, is taking time to get back up to speed. As a result, the peoples of Katanga are currently dominating the sector through their different community associations – the Sempia for the Bembas in the rich south, the Divar for the Lundas, also in the south, and the Balubakat for the Lubas in the north.


The mining sector has not yet recovered from the sudden death in an aircraft accident on February 12 2012 of Augustin Katumba Mwanke, considered by the late Laurent Desire Kabila as his son. Katangan like Kabila senior and a Bemba, Katumba had become Kabila's indispensable financial adviser and right hand man. Also known as "AK 47", he helped many civil servants from the Congolese mining administration to promotion and has left behind him a huge vacuum which is proving difficult to fill.

Nothing suggests that the situation will stabilise in the near future. On the contrary, the sources of future turbulence are accumulating. Mines minister Martin Kabwelulu, an outsider who has nevertheless succeeded in establishing his authority in the sector, is in poor physical form to the extent that his detractors consider that he will be unable to complete the difficult reform of the mining code currently in progress. Who will succeed him? Perhaps Simon Tuma-Waku, who has already held the post. As for Moise Katumbi Chapwe, the subtle but powerful governor of Katanga, who is thought to have presidential ambitions, should, on the other hand, be replaced before the end of next year by a north Katangan.

In this context of uncertainty, Dan Gertler, an Israeli entrepreneur who is Congolese by adoption, has more political and financial power than anyone. Having arrived in Congo-K at the age of 23, this inveterate gambler found his way through the pitfalls of the regime of Laurent Kabila to become the latter's diamond king and has now adapted to that of his son by establishing himself as the major force in the Katangan copper and cobalt sectors.

The foreign mining companies, if, like Gertler's partner, Glencore, they are not part of the inner circle, use the services of a local mining expert with a solid contact network. They also call in influential Congolese legal advisers to make their precious assets as secure as possible in the uncertain environment which reigns in the country.