U.S. Law Has Congo’s Workers Under Threat

U.S. Law Has Congo’s Workers Under Threat

KIGALI, Rwanda -- On a Thursday afternoon in February, a plot worthy of a Hollywood script unfolded in Goma, the freewheeling provincial capital that clings to the eastern edge of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Starring a high-profile Congolese fugitive, a cadre of foreign businessmen and a U.S.-registered Gulfstream jet, the tale featured a car chase that resulted in the seizure of $6.8 million in cash and a dramatic runway arrest that netted a half-ton of gold. Four foreign nationals -- including a Frenchman, two Nigerians and a Houston-based diamond dealer -- are now awaiting trial in the Congolese capital, Kinshasa. Authorities accuse the group of attempting to smuggle more than $20 million worth of gold in an operation with alleged links to Bosco Ntaganda, a rebel leader turned army commander wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and long accused of profiting from illicit stakes in Congo's mining industry.

It is a saga that is perfectly consistent with the oft-sensationalized image of eastern Congo as a lawless battlefield of blighted towns and impenetrable jungles, where armed groups rape and pillage with abandon as they jockey to control the trade of "conflict minerals."

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