Briefing Document / Dec. 17, 2009

Natural resource exploitation and human rights in the DRC, 1993-2003

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a country with huge natural wealth. Almost every valuable natural resource can be found there, from a multitude of minerals – including diamonds, gold, copper, cobalt, cassiterite (tin ore) and coltan – to timber and oil. But this vast natural wealth has brought nothing but suffering and misery to the Congolese people. Not only has it failed to deliver economic benefits and development, but it has been the cause of numerous and grave human rights abuses. The weakness of state institutions and a pervasive culture of impunity have meant that the perpetrators of crimes connected to the illicit exploitation of natural resources have rarely, if ever, been punished.

This Global Witness briefing paper describes patterns of natural resources exploitation and human rights in the DRC from 1993 to 2003.

The paper, based, in large part, on existing documentation, provides an overview of the main events during this period, with a particular focus on regions of the DRC affected by the armed conflict since 1996.

Although the document covers the period up to 2003, many of these practices and abuses have continued since that time, and to the present day (see more recent Global Witness publications, in particular "'Faced with a gun, what can you do?’ War and the militarisation of mining in eastern Congo", available here). The recommendations are therefore intended to address the current situation.