30 December 2011

Congo-Kinshasa: UN Experts Outline Sources of Funding for Armed Rebels

Photo: Les Neuhaus/IRIN
MONUC troops on patrol in Goma (file photo).

Armed rebel groups active in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) derive their funds from several sources, notably trade in natural resources, but also ordinary commerce and illegal taxation, according to a report by a United Nations group of experts unveiled today.

The final report to the Security Council by the Group of Experts tasked with monitoring the arms embargo and other sanctions against armed rebel groups in DRC details their recruitment networks and sources of financing, including trade in minerals, timber, charcoal and cannabis and other cash crops.

Foreign armed groups active in eastern DRC include the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), which has its origins in Uganda. The report makes a number of recommendations on how to improve arms controls, including marking State-owned weapons and is active in DRC's north-eastern province of Orientale; Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), which are present in North and South Kivu; the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), which also originates from Uganda and is active in the north-east of North Kivu; and Burundi's Forces nationales de liberation (FNL), which has a presence in southern areas of South Kivu.

Unlike the others, the LRA sustains itself from pillaging, according to the report.

The report includes an analysis of ongoing attempts to integrate former members of armed groups into the national armed forces, and examines the evolution of the mining sector and early attempts to implement due diligence, as recommended by the Security Council, to exclude armed groups and criminal networks from mineral supply chains.

It examines the availability of weapons and ammunition in the DRC, describing some examples of illegal imports, while noting that most of the arms have their origins in widespread leakage from stocks controlled by the national armed forces.

The report makes a number of recommendations on how to improve arms controls, including marking State-owned weapons.

The DRC Government orchestrated a restructuring of army units in the eastern areas this year following orders to demilitarize mining sites during a suspension of mining activities from September last year to March 2011, according to the report.

However, General Bosco Ntaganda, who is under Security Council sanctions and has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), was able to take control of the process and position officers loyal to him throughout North and South Kivu, the report states.

It notes that while there is good awareness of conflict minerals issues internationally, few mineral trading companies in eastern DRC and neighbouring countries are implementing due diligence as required by the DRC's mines ministry since September.

Mineral ore production in the North and South Kivu fell this year owing to few buyers for untagged minerals from eastern DRC, the report points out. Conflict financing also decreased, but a greater proportion of the trade has become criminalized.

The group of experts identified a number of illegal border crossings, including one controlled and taxed by Gen. Ntaganda in the town of Goma.

Three trading houses continue to legally export minerals from the two Kivu provinces on a regular basis, the report notes, adding that they made purchases that finance armed groups and criminal networks within the national armed forces.

By contrast, non-conflict areas have seen greater implementation of due diligence and traceability systems, improved governance and rising exports.

The gold trade remains an important source of financing to armed groups in the DRC. Most of the trade goes unrecorded, and the most transactions are concluded in neighbouring cities such as Kampala, the Ugandan capital; the Kenyan capital, Nairobi; Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi; as well as the northern Tanzanian town of Mwanza.

In addition to selling real gold, criminal networks also organize elaborate scams to sell counterfeit gold to international clients, according to the report, which also names individuals with command responsibility for the recruitment of child soldiers or attacks targeting women or children.

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