The latest report by the UN Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of Congo, released yesterday, exposes how rebel groups and senior commanders of the national army are fighting over and making money from the country’s minerals trade. The findings illustrate how groups responsible for mass rape and murder sustain themselves through international trade. Global Witness is concerned that they may be using their takings to buy arms.
As a UN Security Council resolution, also published yesterday, makes clear, it is urgent that governments and companies do all they can to prevent “conflict minerals” from being sold on world markets.
The Group of Experts report says that units of the national army controlled by a former rebel group are in control of the most mineral-rich areas of North and South Kivu provinces, in eastern Congo. As detailed in previous Global Witness briefings, former rebels of the Congrès national pour la défense du people (CNDP) have gained control of these areas despite having officially become part of the Congolese national army through an early-2009 peace deal. They control areas rich in tin, gold and the rare mineral tantalum, which is a key component in electronic goods.
The report details how the ex-CNDP units are colluding with brutal rebel groups to get as much as they can from the minerals trade. Civilians are routinely forced to work for the army units, and to hand over to them a large part of their meagre earnings. The report details how national army units often put their economic interests above their responsibility to protect civilians. In one telling quote, the Group of Experts cited a local leader in a remote area saying that the first thing newly arrived officers often ask them is: “Where are the mines?”
The release of the Group of Experts report coincides with the passage yesterday of a UN Security Council resolution on targeted sanctions concerning Congo. The resolution endorses a set of supply chain control guidelines – known as due diligence – that the Group of Experts have developed for companies importing, processing or consuming minerals from eastern Congo and neighbouring countries. These standards are designed to prevent companies from directly or indirectly financing armed groups and criminal elements of the national army through their purchases of minerals. They are based around a five point framework that Global Witness helped the OECD to develop earlier in the year.
Global Witness welcomes the Council’s resolution. The UN and other international bodies should now put in place an international monitoring system to report on companies’ compliance with the due diligence guidelines. For their part governments should make sure the standards are implemented at a national level by incorporating them into their own domestic legislation.
Global Witness is also calling on the Security Council to impose targeted sanctions on those companies or individuals that are providing support to armed groups in eastern Congo through illicit trade of natural resources. The Council has been threatening to do this for two years now but has so far failed to deliver.