Rwanda’s Minister of Mines Christophe Bazivamo is quoted in a Reuters article yesterday (27 April) as saying that the Rwandan authorities have issued instructions that prevent the import of any uncertified minerals and require rigorous due diligence on any ores entering Rwanda from conflict areas.
This statement appeared to signal a welcome shift in the government’s position. The authorities in Kigali announced in March that they would only allow the import of minerals that were sealed and tagged. However the Minister’s comments yesterday represent the first time the government has explicitly stated that it will require due diligence on materials sourced from conflict-affected areas in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
Due diligence is the process by which companies demonstrate that their mineral purchases are not contributing to conflict and human rights abuses. It involves businesses carrying out on the ground assessments as well as documentary checks. In the absence of functioning state controls of the minerals sector in eastern Congo, international policymakers have identified due diligence by companies as the most effective means of countering the trade in conflict minerals.
In a follow-up exchange of e-mails yesterday, the Minister sent Global Witness a copy of the official instructions he was referring to in his interview with Reuters. These are in fact the same ministerial regulations published in March regarding the need for mineral imports to be tagged. They do not talk about the need for due diligence on minerals sourced from conflict areas and fall a long way short of the controls outlined by the Minister in his interview.
Global Witness has replied to the Minister to suggest that the government issue an addendum to the March regulations to bring them in line with his public call for due diligence. This addendum should clarify that companies importing minerals from conflict-affected areas and adjoining countries are required to carry out due diligence to the standards endorsed by the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (of which Rwanda is a member), OECD and the UN Security Council.
For more information on the need for due diligence by companies sourcing minerals from Congo and adjoining countries and the international due diligence standards developed by the UN and the OECD and endorsed by ICGLR, see Global Witness's May 2011 report, Congo's mineral trade in the balance: oppportunities and obstacles to demilitarisation.