Confederation Council Foundation for Africa Inc.,
ENOUGH Project (Washington, DC)
Congo-Kinshasa: New Evidence - M23 Rebels in Congo Conflict Gold Trade10 October 2013
The report, "Striking Gold: How M23 and its Allies are Infiltrating Congo's Gold Trade," reveals how M23 is involved in the lucrative gold trade in eastern Congo, which is worth approximately $500 million per year overall. Instead of controlling mines directly, M23 has built alliances with other armed groups in gold-rich areas and expanded its contacts with influential traders in Uganda, Burundi, and Congo to trade gold.
The report calls on U.S. Special Envoy Russ Feingold, the U.N. Security Council, U.N. Envoy Mary Robinson, and jewelry retailers to take concrete measures to limit the documented paths of conflict gold to international markets.
"Striking Gold identifies four main gold exporters whose business operations enable M23 and other armed groups to profit from the gold trade, according to UN experts reports and Enough Project research.
The report also names militia leaders, including M23 commander Sultani Makenga, who play a key role in the illicit trade. Makenga has built on the networks of former M23 co-commander Bosco Ntaganda and has extended alliances that cut across otherwise hostile ethnic and political divisions.
Ruben de Koning, co-author of the report, says, "Some of the major official gold exporters in Uganda and Burundi indirectly purchase smuggled gold from M23 and allied armed groups in violation of the U.N. arms embargo, and without exercising any due diligence on the origin of their gold. Sanctions against these individual exporters, as opposed to companies, would help prevent sanctioned owners from merely reinventing themselves under a new company name in order to continue operations.
U.S. and U.N. sanctions would make it harder for M23 and other armed groups to finance their struggle, and compel others to start mitigating such risk."
Sasha Lezhnev, Senior Policy Analyst at the Enough Project, says, "M23's deadly gold may be entering our jewelry stores or banks, which make up 80 percent of the global gold market. The U.S. government and jewelers can help stem this problem at its root. U.S. envoy Russ Feingold should press Congo, Rwanda, and the Great Lakes region to finalize their certification system to weed out conflict gold. Jewelers must also step up efforts to build a clean gold trade in Congo by joining public-private alliances and tech company projects like 'Solutions for Hope.'"
M23 allies have consolidated control over mines, particularly those in Walikale and Lubero territories in North Kivu province and in Ituri district in Orientale province. The growing revenues have enriched those who perpetrate atrocities and crimes against humanity in the region. M23 and its allies have also secured cross-border transit routes for smuggling to Bujumbura, Burundi, and Kampala, Uganda, both important regional hubs for international gold markets.
De Koning adds, "The ball is in the court of the U.S. government and U.N. Security Council to sanction these known exporters. Responsibility also lies with the downstream gold industry to conduct proper due diligence and invest in a clean gold trade in Congo."
ENOUGH Project (Washington, DC)
Congo-Kinshasa: Striking Gold - How M23 and Its Allies Are Infiltrating Congo's Gold TradeBy Ruben De Koning and the Enough Team, 9 October 2013
The M23 rebel group has taken over a profitable part of the conflict gold trade in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or DRC.
It is using revenues from the illicit trade to benefit its leaders and supporters and fund its military campaign by building military alliances and networks with other armed groups that control territory around gold mines and by smuggling gold through Uganda and Burundi. M23 commander Sultani Makenga, who is also allegedly one of the rebels' main recruiters of child soldiers according to the U.N. Group of Experts on Congo, is at the center of the conflict gold efforts.
This report documents how Makenga and his former co-commander Bosco Ntaganda have led the M23 rebels to work with local armed groups in gold-rich territories to smuggle gold to Uganda via an M23-controlled border crossing, as well as to Burundi, where it is sold internationally. Much of this conflict gold then reaches markets in the United Arab Emirates, or UAE, before going on to banks and jewelers, which together make up 80 percent of global gold demand.
Gold is now the most important conflict mineral in eastern Congo, with at least 12 tons worth roughly $500 million smuggled out of the east every year.4 The other main sources of revenue for armed groups—the “3T minerals” of tin, tungsten, and tantalum—have been steadily reduced due to global conflict-minerals reforms spurred by the U.S. Dodd-Frank financial regulation law, but it is still relatively easy to smuggle gold. Limiting gold smuggling from eastern Congo must therefore become a priority for the international community.
M23 commander Makenga is taking over a gold-smuggling network that former cocommander Bosco Ntaganda built over several years. As military leader of the rebel National Congress for the Defense of the People, or CNDP, a forerunner of M23, Ntaganda in 2011 reportedly brokered several multimillion-dollar gold deals in Goma, DRC; Kampala, Uganda; and Nairobi, Kenya, between Congolese traders and overseas buyers. In 2012, Ntaganda led the newly created M23 as it broke away from the Congolese army, in which its troops had been integrated as part of a peace deal.
Duringhis time with M23 and in the shadow of the peace talks in Kampala between Congo's government and the M23, Ntaganda facilitated the transfer of an estimated 325 kilos of gold worth $15 million to Kampala for sale, according to the U.N. experts.7 Ntaganda admitted to the U.N. experts that he played a role in one deal in 2011 in Goma, but he never commented on his role in other deals he allegedly brokered.
In March 2013, Ntaganda surrendered to the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda, where he requested to transfer to the International Criminal Court, or ICC, to face charges of war crimes. Since then, Enough Project's investigations with gold-trade insiders, Congolese civil and military authorities, and members of the Congolese diaspora communities in Kampala and Bujumbura show that Makenga is taking over Ntaganda's relationships with smugglers in Uganda. Makenga has also mobilized several other military and business players loyal to former CNDP leader Laurent Nkunda to create a business network entirely separate from Ntaganda, according to Enough Project investigations.
To capture a greater share of the gold trade, M23 has built alliances with individuals andarmed groups that control large mines in eastern Congo. These include Sheka Ntabo Ntaberi of the Nduma Defence of Congo, or NDC, armed group in Walikale territory of eastern Congo—the alleged mastermind of the mass rape of more than 300 women, children, and men at Luvungi in 2010. M23 has built ties with Justin Banaloki—whose alias is “Cobra Matata”—the armed leader who is based in Ituri District and was highlighted in the October 2013 National Geographic. M23 is also associated with Congolese army defector and militia leader Maj. Hilaire Kombi in Beni and Lubero territories, according to U.N. experts and Enough Project research. Traversing otherwise hostile ethnic and political divisions, these alliances are based partially on economic gain. Many of those who reap the greatest profits are also those most directly implicated in atrocities and crimes against humanity.