MAC: Mines and Communities

Congo: Conflict over "conflict minerals" approach

Published by MAC on 2009-12-22
Source: Pambazuka News, Global Witness, CIC

"The conflict mineral approach, or efforts emanating from the United States and Europe, are no exception to a symptomatic approach which serves more to perpetuate the root causes of Congo's challenges than to resolve them."

That's one of the claims made by Kambale Musavuli, student coordinator for Friends of the Congo.

In particular, Musavuli castigates western states for uncritically backing Rwanda and Uganda, even while these these two states benefited from savagery visited by their armies upon communities in mineral-rich areas of the DR Congo.

Just last month, president Paul Kagame of Rwanda, backed by the UK government, was admitted to the Commonwealth of Nations (only the second non-British former colony to be conferred this honour). This was despite continuing accusations that Kagame and his troops committed crimes against humanity in the horrendous recent internecine Congo wars.

"The conflict mineral approach, like the Blood Diamond campaign from which it draws its inspiration is silent on the question of resource sovereignty, which has been a central question in [this] geo-strategic battle", says Musavuli.

He also criticises Canada for being "deadly silent on the exploitative practices of its mining companies in the Congo", urging the state to "do more to hold its mining companies accountable as is called for in Bill C-300."

A recent "technical" conference, organised to discuss practical measures to stem the flow of illicit minerals from DR Congo, seemed to bear out some of Musavuli's arguments.

In particular, there was apparently very little consideration of whether Congolese citizens will, in general, actually gain longterm benefits from the country's minerals trade - regardless of which forces are ostensibly controlling it.

DR Congo: Conflict minerals: Cover for Western mining interests?

by Kambale Musavuli, Pambazuka News 460

4 December 2009

As global awareness grows around the Congo and the silence is finally being broken on the current and historic exploitation of black people in the heart of Africa, a myriad of Western-based ‘prescriptions' are being proffered. Most of these prescriptions are devoid of social, political, economic, a nd historical context and are marked by remarkable omissions. The conflict mineral approach or efforts emanating from the United States and Europe are no exception to this symptomatic approach, which serves more to perpetuate the root causes of Congo's challenges than to resolve them.

The conflict mineral approach has an obsessive focus on the FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda) and other rebel groups, while scant attention is paid to Uganda (which has an International Court of Justice ruling against it for looting and crimes against humanity in the Congo) and Rwanda (whose role in the perpetuation of the conflict and looting of Congo is well documented by UN reports and international arrest warrants for its top officials).

Rwanda is the main transit point for illicit minerals coming from the Congo irrespective of the rebel group (FDLR, CNDP or others) transporting the minerals. According to Dow Jones, Rwanda's mining sec tor output grew 20 per cent in 2008 from the year earlier, due to increased export volumes of tungsten, cassiterite and coltan, the country's three leading minerals with which Rwanda is not well endowed. In fact, should Rwanda continue to pilfer Congo's minerals, its annual mineral export revenues are expected to reach US$200 million by 2010. Former assistant secretary of state for African affairs Herman Cohen says it best when he notes ‘having controlled the Kivu provinces for 12 years, Rwanda will not relinquish access to resources that constitute a significant percentage of its gross national product.'

As long as the West continues to give the Kagame regime carte blanche, the conflict and instability will endure

According to Global Witness's 2009 report, Faced With A Gun What Can you Do, Congolese government statistics and reports by the Group of Experts and NGOs, Rwanda is one of the main conduits for illicit minerals leaving the Congo. It is amazing that the conflict mineral approach shout loudly about making sure that the trade in minerals does not benefit armed groups, but the biggest armed beneficiary of Congo's minerals is the Rwandan regime headed by Paul Kagame. Nonetheless, the conflict mineral approach is remarkably silent about Rwanda's complicity in the fuelling of the conflict in the Congo and the fleecing of Congo's riches.

Advocates of the conflict mineral approach would be far more credible if they had ever called for any kind of pressure whatsoever on mining companies that are directly involved in either fuelling the conflict or exploiting the Congolese people. The United Nations, the Congolese Parliament, the Carter Center, Southern Africa Resource Watch and several other NGOs have documented corporations that have pilfered Congo's wealth and contributed to the perpetuation of the conflict. Some of these companies include but are not limited to: Traxys, OM Group, Blattn er Elwyn Group, Freeport McMoran, Eagle Wings/Trinitech, Lundin, Kemet, Banro, AngloGold Ashanti, Anvil Mining, and First Quantum.

The conflict mineral approach, like the Blood Diamond campaign from which it draws its inspiration, is silent on the question of resource sovereignty, which has been a central question in the geo-strategic battle for Congo's mineral wealth. It was over this question of resource sovereignty that the West assassinated Congo's first democratically elected prime minister, Patrice Lumumba and stifled the democratic aspirations of the Congolese people for over three decades by installing and backing the dictator Joseph Mobutu.

In addition, the United States also backed the 1996 and 1998 invasions of Congo by Rwanda and Uganda instead of supporting the non-violent, pro-democracy forces inside the Congo. Unfortunately - and to the chagrin of the Congolese people - some of the strongest advocates of the conflict mine ral approach are former Clinton administration officials, who supported the invasions of Congo by Rwanda and Uganda. This may in part explains the militaristic underbelly of the conflict mineral approach, which has as its so-called second step a comprehensive counterinsurgency.

The focus on the east of Congo falls in line with the long-held obsession by some advocates in Washington who incessantly push for the balkanisation of the Congo. Their focus on ‘Eastern Congo' is inadequate and does not fully take into account the nature and scope of the dynamics in the entire country. Political decisions in Kinshasa, the capital in the West, have a direct impact on the events that unfold in the East of Congo and are central to any durable solutions.

The central claim of the conflict mineral approach is to bring an end to the conflict; however, the conflict can plausibly be brought to an end much quicker through diplomatic and political means. The so-called blood mi neral route is not the quickest way to end the conflict. We have already seen how quickly world pressure can work with the sidelining of rebel leader Laurent Nkunda and the demobiliation and/or rearranging of his CNDP rebel group in January 2009, as a result of global pressure placed on the CNDP's sponsor, Paul Kagame of Rwanda. More pressure needs to be placed on leaders such as Kagame and Museveni who have been at the root of the conflict since 1996.

The FDLR can readily be pressured as well, especially with most of their political leadership residing in the West. This, however, should be done within a political framework, which brings all the players to the table as opposed to the current militaristic, dichotomous, good guy/badguy approach where the West sees Kagame and Museveni as the ‘good guys' and everyone else as bad. The picture is far more grey than black and white.

A robust political approach by the global community would entail the following presc riptions:

1. Join Sweden and the Netherlands in pressuring Rwanda to be a partner for peace and a stabilising presence in the region. The United States and Great Britain in particular should apply more pressure on their allies Rwanda and Uganda to the point of withholding aid if necessary.

2. Hold to account companies and individuals through sanctions trafficking in minerals, whether with rebel groups or neighbouring countries, particularly Rwanda and Uganda. Canada has chimed in as well but has been deadly silent on the exploitative practices of its mining companies in the Congo. Canada must do more to hold its mining companies accountable as is called for in Bill C-300.

3. Encourage world leaders to be more engaged diplomatically and place a higher priority on what is the deadliest conflict in the world since the Second World War.

4. Reject the militarisation of the Great Lakes region represented by AFRICOM, which has already resulted in the suffering of civilian population: The strengthening of authoritarian figures such as Uganda's Museveni (in power since 1986) and Rwanda's Kagame (won the 2003 ‘elections' with 95 percent of the vote); and the restriction of political space in their countries.

5. Demand of the Obama administration to be engaged differently from its current military-laden approach and to take the lead in pursuing an aggressive diplomatic path, with an emphasis on pursuing a regional political framework that can lead to lasting peace and stability.

To learn more about the current crisis in the Congo, visit: and join the global movement in support of the people of the Congo.

*Kambale Musavuli is spokesperson and student coordinator for Friends of the

*Bodia Macharia is the president of Friends of the Congo/Canada. Contact:

*Please send comments to:

Highlights of technical workshop: - “Practical Mechanisms to Combat the Militarization of Natural Resources in the D R Congo.”

Center on International Cooperation

8 December 2009

The following are highlights of a technical workshop on "Practical Mechanisms to Combat the Militarization of Natural Resources in the DR Congo".

Participants included individual researchers who have worked for the UN Panel of Experts on the DRC, Global Witness, IPIS, Catholic Services, Open Society Southern Africa, Entraide missionnaire, and others.

In collaboration with the Permanent Mission of Germany to the United Nations and the Open Society Institute, the Center on International Cooperation convened leading independent experts in a two-day meeting on December 3-4, 2009: “Practical Mechanisms to Combat the Militarization of Natural Resources in the DR Congo.”

Workshop Objective:

Through constructive dialogue among leading independent experts on the issue of natural resources and conflict in the DRC, we seek to identify common ground and consensus regarding synergies, sequencing, complementarity, and prioritization of potential or existing measures to combat the militarization of mining in the short to medium term.

The economy of the eastern Congo is highly militarized and the trade in minerals as a key element of the economy plays a central role in funding non-state armed groups and units of the Congolese army. This trade sustains and perpetuates the conflict in the East and undermines effective security sector reform. Addressing the linkage between natural resources and conflict is a critical part of the solution.

The group expresses deep concern about the egregious human rights abuses committed by all warring parties to the conflict.

The Context of the Eastern Congo:

Due Diligence and Certification:

The purpose of due diligence and certification is to exclude from the trade those minerals benefiting armed groups and military units. Due diligence should be undertaken immediately by companies. Governments should monitor and enforce this due diligence and consider legislation.

Global Witness urges governments to act on findings of UN experts' report on the mineral trade in eastern Congo

Global Witness press release

26 November 2009

UN member states should take strong action in response to new information about companies and individuals who trade in minerals from areas of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) controlled by armed groups, Global Witness said today.

The latest report from the Group of Experts was submitted to the UN Security Council last week, and subsequently leaked to a number of news organisations. Due to be officially published in December 2009, the report provides new and detailed evidence of the international mineral trading networks which Congolese armed groups rely on as a major source of finance.

Mineral processors Thailand Smelting and Refining Company (THAISARCO) -- part of the British metals group AMC -- and Malaysian Smelting Corporation (MSC) are among the companies cited, once again, by the Group of Experts as sourcing minerals from suppliers who have links with some of the most violent armed groups.

"AMC and MSC are among the persistent offenders," said Global Witness Campaigns Director Gavin Hayman. "They have been named time and time again in reports by the Group of Experts and Global Witness, yet continue to use suppliers and middlemen who buy from mines controlled by armed groups."

The armed groups involved in the illicit mineral trade include the predominantly Rwandan Hutu Forces démocratiques pour la libération du Rwanda (FDLR), some of whose leaders allegedly participated in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, and the Tutsi-led Congrès national pour la défense du peuple (CNDP). Despite officially joining the Congolese national army in early 2009, the CNDP maintains many of its former command structures, and has extended its control over mining areas since its forces became integrated into the army. As part of the UN-backed Operation Kimia II, Congolese army units headed by former CNDP commanders have taken over and exploited mining sites previously occupied by the FDLR.

Global Witness is calling on UN member states to push for companies and individuals named in the Group of Experts' successive reports in connection with their purchases of conflict minerals to be included on the UN sanctions list. Sanctions should also be imposed on the directors of the main Congolese mineral exporters, known as comptoirs, cited in the report.

"There has been a shocking lack of action by member states to cut off the finance which armed groups derive from the mineral trade", said Gavin Hayman. "To date, no companies, mineral traders or processors have been put on the UN sanctions list, despite abundant evidence that their activities are contributing to keeping armed groups alive. The damning evidence in the latest Group of Experts report should now oblige states to act."

Global Witness is especially urging states where named companies or individuals are domiciled to hold these operators to account. "The UK is a case in point", said Gavin Hayman. "It is extraordinary that the UK government has still not taken any effective measures against the British companies and UK nationals involved in this trade. The new Experts' report should trigger immediate action."

Amy Barry +44 207 492 5858; +44 7980 664397
Carina Tertsakian +44 207 492 5872


Notes to editors

For further information on the links between the mineral trade and the conflict in eastern DRC, see Global Witness report "Faced with a gun, what can you do? War and the militarisation of mining in eastern Congo" (July 2009) and press release "Bisie killings show minerals at heart of Congo conflict" (18 August 2009), both available at

The UN sanctions system on the DRC provides for targeted sanctions, in the form of a travel ban and assets freeze, against individuals who violate the arms embargo, as well as those who support armed groups through the illicit trade of natural resources. To date, this provision on natural resources, which formed part of UN Security Council Resolution 1857 (2008) adopted in December 2008, has not been implemented.

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