DRC lifts explosives ban on Pedicle road works

THE Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) government has lifted the suspension and given green light to a Zambian contractor, Copperfield Mining Services, working on the Pedicle road to continue works following necessary clearance on the use of explosives.

The Congolese government had suspended construction on the road which links the Copperbelt and Luapula provinces through the DRC for six weeks to pave way for investigations on the nature of explosives being used by the road contractor.

Experts from Afridex, a Congolese explosives service, examined the explosive materials being used on the road works and deemed them fit for domestic use.

The matter was resolved through the intervention of Zambian and Congolese officials who included the DRC’s Upper Kantanga Governor Jean Claude Kazembe Musonda, Congolese Consul General Chantal Konji Maloba and Copperbelt Minister Mwenya Musenge.

Speaking earlier at Ecole Anuarite Premaire Mokambo, before the delegation moved to site of examination of the products, Governor Musonda stated that the issue of explosives in the construction of the road had raised fears in the Congolese communities in the area who thought that Zambians were attacking them.

Mr. Musonda said his country’s Ministry of Mines had assessed the road contractual agreements and found that the use of explosives was not part of the agreement, hence his government wrote to the Zambian and Congolese contractors working on the road to suspend their works.

Mr. Musonda emphasized on the need for the contractors to take precaution in the safety of the community and raise awareness. He said the DRC government will soon call on the Zambian authorities to review and revise the security agreements  between the two countries aimed at enhancing security.

The Congolese governor said the recent incident where scores of Somali and Ethiopian nationals died in a truck on the Pedicle road presented the urgency for the two countries to tighten security on their joint border and protect their people from threats such as terrorism that had taken the world by storm.

‘‘It is important to secure the borders to protect communities on both ends because we all did not know the destination of those immigrants; we just suspect and if it came to the worst either Congolese or Zambians might have been attacked,’’ he said.

Mr. Musonda said with the infrastructure that was taking shape in the two countries, there was need  to cement loopholes and ensure security of the people was heightened.

In reply, Mr. Musenge said the Zambian Government respected the sovereignty of the DRC and there was no way that Zambia could create confusion in that country.

Mr. Musenge said Zambia remained committed to living in harmony with its neighbours and only wanted to improve the movement of people and goods between the two countries. He expressed happiness that the two countries had reached consensus on the use of explosives on the road works, saying the suspension of construction had been costly to the Zambian Government.

Mr. Musenge thanked the Congolese authorities for allowing the works to continue and allow the contractor finish the 17 kilometres remaining out of the 70 kilometres allocated, including construction of a bridge.

He said once completed, the road will spur trade between the two countries and attract more investment in infrastructure such as filling stations.

Mr Musenge has appealed to the Congolese government to consider tarring the Sakanya road which links Ndola and Congo in order to decongest Mokambo and Kasumbalesa border posts.

Meanwhile, the Katanga governor has registered disappointment with ZESCO for disconnecting four areas –  Mokambo, Sakanya, Kasenga and Nkwento – in DRC. He said the Zambian utility company had remained adamant not to reconnect the areas despite DRC government’s assurances and commitment to settle the debt being owed to the company.

He disclosed that the four areas  had remained disconnected for the last three months with hospitals greatly affected.

‘‘It’s normal to accumulate debt; countries have debts with IMF and World Bank.  It is normal but paying back cannot be at an account of sacrificing people. You and I are leaders, we see the human side to every action and companies only see profits,’’ Mr Musonda told Mr Musenge.

Mr. Musonda has asked the Copperbelt minister to mediate in the matter when he travels to Kitwe to meet ZESCO management and state the DRC government’s commitment to settle the ZESCO debt.