Controversy erupted at a key mining conference in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) after merchandise said to promote gay, lesbian queer and other special sexual groups were distributed at the venue.
The mining conference known as the DRC Mining Week had opened its 18th edition on Wednesday in Lubumbashi, in the south of the country. But the appearance of rainbow-coloured bags on the first day of the conference annoyed some groups.
“The promotion of homosexuality is against our morals, our values and our laws. And we won’t let this sham pass!” protested a group calling itself the Civil Society of Lubumbashi, in a statement.
“It’s a misguided attempt and a trial balloon in the form of a provocation! No LGBT in Lubumbashi” wrote the group.
The youth group threatened to disrupt the conference on Thursday by staging a sit-in in front of the Pullman hotel, which is hosting the event.
In the DRC, the law does not specifically criminalise LGBTQ people, but they are culturally loathed.
The controversy overshadowed the debates on the first day of the conference, which had focused on electrical energy whose access in the DRC has become a major problem for the mining sector in particular.
Several mining firms have said they are considering working on a solution that would involve importing electricity in Zambia to compensate for the shortage in the DRC, with a view to enabling the mining industry in the Congo to develop more effectively.
Mr Owen Silavwe, the Managing Director Zambia’s Copperbelt Energy Corporation Plc: “We are committed to identifying mutually beneficial public-private partnership projects that will support electricity consumers in Zambia and the DRC”.
This year, the conference includes three days of exchanges between nearly 3,000 professionals and 200 exhibitors from more than 40 countries, aims to present and explore the projects and investment opportunities offered by the mining sector in the DRC.