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04.06.2005 General News

Anglogold Ashanti Regrets Paying Rebels

Ghanaian Chronicle

Human Rights Watch (HRW), the international non-governmental organization, has accused Anglo-American subsidiary, AngloGold Ashanti of paying bribes and providing support to a rebel militia group in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

In a report released at a press conference yesterday, called The Curse of Gold, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said, "AngloGold Ashanti is one of several international companies benefiting from access to gold-rich areas while local people suffer from ethnic slaughter, torture and rape."

At the press conference, the chief executive director, Bobby Godsell, described the report by the HRW as an unhelpful report.

Godsell said the payment of $9 000 (R61 600) to the Front des Nationalistes et Intégrationnistes (FNI) had been made under duress.

He said rebels had arrived at the company's mine camp in Mongbwalu with AK47s and told the camp staff that if they did not produce the money within hours, they would "close the camp."

Godsell said yielding to the extortion of the rebels "was a breach of principle", which the company "regretted".

"We messed up with those two payments [one of $8 000 and another of $1 000]," Godsell said.

However, he was adamant that the company's management had never met with any of the rebels to secure tenure at its exploration site at Mongbwalu, as claimed in the HRW report.

The report had it that, "AngloGold Ashanti's official dealings and its mining contract were with the transitional government in Kinshasa, but the government did not physically control the area around Mongbwalu, the key mining site ... AngloGold Ashanti representatives began establishing a relationship with the FNI ... By entering into a relationship with the FNI, which had effective control over the Mongbwalu gold mining area, AngloGold Ashanti delivered material benefits and prestige to the FNI."

Godsell explained that contact with the FNI was unavoidable as people belonging to this group lived in a community that adjoined the mine camp.

But this contact did not mean that AngloGold Ashanti in anyway supported the rebels.

HRW said its researchers had testimony from AngloGold Ashanti camp staff that detailed how AngloGold Ashanti gave the FNI regular use of a vehicle, how FNI militia lived in houses on its concession and how FNI members hitched rides on air charters organized for the company.

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