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Global minerals, arms smuggling networks fuel DR Congo conflict - UN report

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UN News - December 7, 2009
Coltan

Minerals and arms smuggling worth millions of dollars persists in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) despite international sanctions, fuelling rebel strength despite national army operations, and army and rebel soldiers continue to kill civilians, according to a new United Nations report that calls on the Security Council to take action to plug the gaps.

The independent Group of Experts monitoring UN sanctions on the DRC reports that the mainly Rwandan Hutu rebels of the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR) continue to exploit gold and cassiterite in North and South Kivu provinces with the help of trading networks in Uganda, Burundi and the United Arab Emirates, while irregular arms deliveries have come from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and Sudan.

End buyers for cassiterite include the Malaysia Smelting Corporation and the Thailand Smelting and Refining Company, which is held by United Kingdom-based Amalgamated Metals Corporation, the experts add. The rebels also get weapons leaked to them from the army itself while the rebel diaspora abroad, particularly in Europe, coordinates fundraising and operations.

“The increasing rate of FDLR combatant defections and FDLR temporary removal from many of its bases are only a partial success, considering that the armed group has regrouped in a number of locations in the Kivus, and continues to recruit new fighters,” they write of the army’s offensive, noting that the rebels continue to benefit from residual but significant support from top army commanders and external support networks in Burundi and Tanzania.

“FDLR has a far-reaching international diaspora network involved in the day-to-day running of the movement, the coordination of military and arms trafficking activities and the management of financial activities.”

The report calls on the Security Council to ask Member States to share data on active FDLR diaspora members, prosecute sanctions violations by nationals or leaders of armed groups residing in their territories and take steps to prevent companies from supporting such groups by trade in natural resources.

The Council should also call on all States in the Great Lakes region to immediately publish their full import and export statistics for gold, cassiterite, coltan and wolframite and centralize them in a body chaired by an independent auditor mandated to verify any statistical anomalies.

“The focus of the report is the international, regional and local networks that are fuelling the crisis in eastern Congo,” Group Coordinator Dinesh Mahtani told a news conference.

The experts call on the Council to strengthen the authority of the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC) in monitoring the arms embargo, and to reiterate its request to Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, the Sudan, Tanzania and Zambia to provide full data on all flights to or from the DRC.

On human rights abuses, they call on the Council to mandate MONUC to set up a vetting mechanism to screen the records of national army officers and impose disciplinary and judicial sanctions on gross human rights abusers. “FARDC (the national army) and FDLR have been involved in significant killings of civilians and other abuses from March to October 2009, causing additional waves of displacement of several hundred thousand civilians,” they write.

Turning to the efforts to reintegrate former rebels into the army, the experts report that the officer class of another group, the Congrès national pour la défense du peuple (CNDP), in particular General Bosco Ntaganda, has continued to retain heavy weapons from its period of rebellion and still controls revenue-generating activities and parallel local administrations.

They call on the Council to urge the DRC authorities to remove General Ntaganda from the position of Deputy Commander of Kimia II operations (the offensive against FDLR) and implement an assets freeze and travel ban against him, since his name is included in the list of individuals under sanctions.

“CNDP military officers deployed as part of FARDC Kimia II operations have profited from their deployment in mineral-rich areas, notably at the Bisie mine in Walikale, North Kivu, and in the territory of Kalehe, in South Kivu,” they write.

“In both these areas, the FARDC commanding officers on the ground are former CNDP officers,” they add, citing evidence showing direct involvement of CNDP military officials in the supply of minerals to a number of exporting houses which supply the international companies mentioned above.


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