Forced labour in gold mining

The net profits realised from the mines in 1920 were 22 million Belgian Francs. According to contemporaneous US estimates for gold discovered in the Kilo region, the annual take was around 10,000 kilogram at Kilo and around 4,000 kilogram at Moto. However, the most revealing data in the US report was that only 10 percent of these profits were “expended on road construction and general development”. Spending money on building road infrastructure that could support vehicular traffic was more expensive than operating long columns of unpaid Congolese porters and workers.
 
Recruiters for the Kilo-Moto mines and for the supporting agricultural and transport operations fanned out regularly, reinforced with soldiers from the Force Publique, to demand quotas of workers from all the Bwami of surrounding villages and Chiefdoms. The reward for compliant Mwami was bonuses for each worker surrendered. The more cooperative a Mwami, the more presents he could expect. On the other hand, a Mwami who did not deliver workers or whose villagers absconded after they were recruited, would be punished, sometimes beaten and replaced. 
 
Because these forms of incentivised labour recruitment were so critically important to the colonial administration, the preferred strategy was the appointment of a new class of acquiescent chiefs, usually referred to as Chefs Médaillés. The Belgian authorities could then delegate the dirty work of forcing villagers to work to these pliable, new ‘traditional’ leaders. And their rewards were significant; these new Mawmi not only acted in a traditional role and collected income from their communities but they were also heads of the newly
The colonial administration had funded its conflict against colonial Germany with gold and diamonds – establishing the historic foundation for today’s concept of ‘conflict mineral’ 
created administrative districts or Chefferies, which meant extra revenues, taxes and fees. Officially, the colonial authorities had abandoned their role as labour recruiters by the late 1920s. But this did not lead to much positive change. It merely delegated the authority via exemptions and other forms of special permits to companies and local authorities to secure the necessary labour.
 
Nevertheless, some positive change did gradually take place as the number of permanently employed Congolese expanded. Once integrated into the long-term industrial workforce at Kilo-Moto, the quality and quantity of their food improved, minimal health-care services became available, the connection with their home villages weakened, and the influence of their Mwami waned. Many of the employees would eventually settle in ‘Centres Extra coutumiers’ – special sections of mining towns, which were established by the colonial authorities.
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