A Pakistani operative based in Kenya has been behind uranium smuggling in the region, a diplomatic cable released by the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks reveals.
The cable dated February 12, 2008, shows that a huge consignment of first grade pure uranium that was to be bought by the Pakistani was held up in the Democratic Republic Congo as a result of the post-election violence that hit the country after the December 2007 General Election.
The uranium was to be moved from DRC to Kenya via Uganda when the mission aborted.
“Per the source, there was a Pakistani buyer in Kenya who is not able to purchase the uranium due to the ongoing civil unrest in Kenya,” the cable by a US diplomat in Kampala to his colleague in DRC indicates.
It adds that the source, who is conversant with trade in uranium, was asked to provide a good quality photograph of the canister with the headline of a current newspaper in the background to ascertain if the canister really existed.
The latest development raises fears that Kenya could be a major transit point for smuggled uranium that ends up either in Pakistan or Iran for the development of nuclear facilities.
The US believes that Islamabad and Tehran’s nuclear programmes are aimed at producing nuclear weapons, but the two countries insist it is intended for peaceful use.
Another cable leaked last year, indicated that the US suspects that Kenya and Tanzania have been used to smuggle uranium for Iran’s controversial nuclear project. (Read: Kenya linked to illegal exports of uranium to Iran)
Source of mineral
The cables identify the DRC as the source of the mineral, which once refined can be used in reactors to generate electricity or in making bombs.
The uranium was to be transported through multiple ports across DRC and Uganda before finding its way into Kenya.
However, the mission was called off by the Congolese man who had the uranium after being informed about the post-election violence in Kenya by the Pakistani buyer.
The cable says the uranium was classified as highly enriched grade pure liquid and was accompanied by poor quality photocopies of the canister and a chart indicating the uranium level.
DRC has extensive deposits of high grade uranium ore. The embassy cables from Kinshasa and Dar es Salaam suggest that the uranium is mined in the Katanga province by foreign firms before being shipped to Iran through East Africa.