Who benefits from the troubled passport market?

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Civil society organizations, both Congolese and international, are stepping up to the plate on the issue of the passport market.

Until mid-June, the Belgian company SemLex should produce them. The official cost is $ 185 per passport, a price deemed exorbitant by the “Congo is not for sale” campaign.

This collective of 13 organizations has launched legal actions in Belgium and soon in the DRC. He suspects the former presidential family of benefiting from part of this money.

The contract with SemLex expires in mid-June and the issue of manufacturing Congolese biometric passports is still far from being resolved. Under the contract signed in 2015, this Belgian company was to transfer machines, software, databases and know-how to the Congolese state. But according to sources in the presidency and the Foreign Ministry, this has never been done.

As a result, no structure in Congo, not even the mint hotel of the Central Bank of Congo, is able to resume manufacturing. On the side of the presidency, like the ministry, headed by a close friend of the head of state, we assure today that there is no question of renewing the contract with SemLex. The company could, however, continue to produce passports until the end of the year until a solution is found.

50 civil party holders

For “the Congo is not for sale” and its allies, it is essential that Félix Tshisekedi respect his campaign promise, that of lowering the price of passports. But this grouping of Congolese and international organizations today wishes to see this file brought to justice. The Reuters news agency had revealed in 2017 that a company based in the United Arab Emirates, LRPS, receives under this contract 60 dollars out of the 185 dollars that a Congolese passport costs.

Within the team in place under the old regime, some assure that the battle around the renewal or not of the SemLex contract is not over.

Several organizations, including FIDH and “United” of the Congolese whistleblower Jean-Jacques Lumumba, as well as around fifty Congolese passport holders have brought civil action in proceedings opened against SemLex since 2017 for suspicions of corruption. A complaint should be filed soon in Congo.

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