Press Release / Dec. 14, 2010

Congolese army’s role in ‘conflict minerals’ trade must be recognised, says Global Witness

Communiqué de presse - version française. 

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Rebel groups and senior commanders in the national army are fighting over and illegally profiting from eastern Democratic Republic of Congo’s minerals trade, says a new report from Global Witness. Drawing on Global Witness’s research and the latest report by UN experts on Congo, The Hill Belongs to Them highlights how the profits from the trade in mineral ores such as tin and tantalum are being stolen from Congolese citizens by armed groups. The Global Witness report spells out the measures required of governments and companies to break the links between violence, corruption and minerals in the region.

“Recent UN undertakings to make companies sourcing minerals from Congo ensure their purchases are not underwriting conflict and human rights abuses are welcome, but will only be as good as their implementation,” said Mike Davis of Global Witness. “Not only are civilians suffering at the hands of brutal rebel groups, but they are also prey to the national army, which is abusing and stealing from the people it is supposed to protect. This report spells out the ways to solve this problem – now international companies and governments must demonstrate the political will required.”

The briefing’s main findings and recommendations are:

  • The role of the Congolese army in the conflict minerals trade needs to be fully recognised. These government troops include former rebels who used to belong to the Congrès national pour la défense du peuple (CNDP) in 2009. These fighters were formally integrated into the army in early 2009 but still answer to their commanders from rebel days, including a general indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court. Since being integrated into the army, the CNDP has retained or resumed control of mines through force of arms.
  • The FDLR rebel group (Forces démocratiques pour la libération du Rwanda) also control many mines in eastern Congo. A UN investigation has found that the FDLR and allied rebel groups were responsible for at least 303 rapes in a cluster of villages from 30 July to 2 August in eastern Congo. UN investigators have linked the attacks to competition over the minerals trade.
  • The UN Group of Experts’ report of 29 November 2010 says that there is an “operational coalition” between the FDLR and the ex-CNDP army units. These alliances are aimed at sharing the spoils of the minerals trade.
  • None of the companies that use minerals from eastern Congo appear to have due diligence measures in place that meet the standards put forward by the UN Security Council on 29 November 2010.  These due diligence checks are intended to prevent conflict minerals from being traded on the international market.
  • Governments need to make sure that companies meet these standards. They should also follow the lead set by the US in July and adopt legislation to stop the international trade in conflict minerals.
  • As the major importers of tin and tantalum respectively, the governments of Malaysia and China need to show far more leadership on the conflict minerals issue. They should start by publicly stating how they are going to make sure companies under their jurisdiction are not buying conflict minerals.
  • Rwanda is the second biggest export destination for Congolese tin ore and appears content to let its territory be used as an exit route and laundering zone for conflict minerals. Rigorous due diligence on ores entering Rwanda would help stop the conflict minerals trade in its tracks.
  • Key international aid donors such as the UK and the US must start using their influence to ensure that governments in Congo and Rwanda start facing up to their responsibilities.

/ Ends

Contact: Daniel Balint-Kurti on +44 7912 517 146; Mike Davis on +44 7872 600 860; Oliver Courtney on +44 7815 731 889

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For correspondence between tin industry body ITRI and Global Witness on key issues raised in this briefing, please see below: