The civil society of Salamabila, in the Maniema province of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has declared two days of strikes to protest against the reassignment of Captain Kengo Juge as the commander of the detachment to Strategos Mining Company.
According to Didas Bamavu, the president of the civil society in Salamabila, the reassignment of this military officer is considered “unacceptable” by the local population. Captain Kengo Juge is accused of several wrongdoings, including facilitating the presence of armed soldiers on the company’s concession, theft of the company’s assets, and swindling artisanal miners.
The civil society fears that Captain Kengo Juge’s return to Salamabila may lead to the resurgence of previous mafia-like practices. “If the community is suffering today, it is because the mafia took up residence under Banro’s management,” said Didas Bamavu. “But as soon as agreements were signed with Strategos, this captain was no longer here. We saw him again right after the signings.”
The president of the civil society has called on the authorities to remove Captain Kengo Juge from Salamabila. The officer was reassigned to Salamabila on October 28, having previously served at Banro Corporation, another mining company that operated the same concession. Strategos Mining Company has not yet responded to the civil society’s protest.
Precarious Security Situation in the Area
In October, clashes between two factions of the Malaika militia led to the displacement of numerous households. Local civil society reported that more than 4,500 households fled the violence to seek refuge in other areas.
The signing of the memorandum of understanding between Strategos Mining and the local community of Salamabila has reportedly been the cause of discord between the two militia factions, according to Albert Katuta Wabulangi, the territorial administrator of Kabambare.
On October 20, the two warring factions, led by Mandevu and Kabala, agreed to a ceasefire.
In late September 2023, Strategos Mining and the local community signed a memorandum of understanding that includes the transfer of a portion of the mining concession to artisanal miners—a long-standing demand of the local community. Tensions and violence between the community and Banro Corporation had escalated, leading to the suspension of mining operations in 2017.
Since 2016, the southern region of the Maniema province has witnessed activities by armed groups, particularly the Malaika militia, comprised of indigenous populations. This militia has carried out attacks, killings, and abductions to protest against the non-compliance of the memorandum of understanding signed with Namoya Mining, a subsidiary of the Canadian company Banro Corporation.
Strategos’ acquisition of Banro’s assets was announced earlier this year, with Banro having sold its Namoya gold mine to Shomka Resources Ltd in June 2020, in which the Chinese company Baiyin International Investments held a minority stake.