The 60 Minutes report on how illicit gold mines support the FDLR was worthwhile and timely, but it barely grazed the surface of the issue. For another, more in-depth view of the way mineral exploitation is destroying the Congo, read the recent special report to the UN Security Council on MONUC’s support of anti-FDLR military operations in North and South Kivu. The report bears close analysis on many issues. Most of the media coverage of the report excoriates (justly) that operation for its abject failure to defeat the FDLR (widely identified as remnants of the Rwandan Hutu genocidaires) while destroying the civilian communities it is supposed to protect.
What I found fascinating and even more damning, however, were the reported details of the convoluted relationships between the many groups profiting from the conflict. It should be noted that, while elements in Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania, and other nearby countries are reaping the rewards of the continuing conflict, none of those profits would be possible without the substantial participation of Congolese elements in the illicit sale of minerals, arms, and even agricultural products.
I hope to comment on the report in several posts (and will post a link to the full report when I find one online), but let me begin with one section that demonstrates how pervasive the criminality really is. The authors of the report and MONUC both report that FDLR and various Mai Mai units have formed an alliance to exploit significant gold reserves in Lubero and Walikale territories. The operation is led by General Kakule Sikula Lafontaine, military commander of the Mai Mai alliance known as PARECO. The report says:
“…trading sources as well as a former Mai Mai leader interviewed by the Group reported that Gen. Lafontaine, who has several kinship ties to the Nande traders in Butembo, acts as an intermediary between the FDLR and many traders in Butembo, organizing the delivery of general goods to the FDLR in exchange for brokering gold deals.”
The traders in question are Congolese also:
“The gold from Kasugho and Oninga is principally sold to Kahindo Muhiwa, Katina Kambale Mbayahi and Kambale Vikalwe, three Nande gold traders based in Butembo who the Group cited in its December 2008 report”
Their company is known as Glory Minerals, which was formed in 2008 and received approval from the Centre d’Expertise d’Evaluation et de Certification (CEEC) in Kinshasa to operate as an official gold exporting company. The investigators confirmed, however, that
“…Glory Minerals continues to source gold from FDLR-controlled areas.”
The three Congolese businessmen are reported to travel regularly to Kampala and Dubai to sell the gold they’ve purchased from the FDLR. They deal largely with Indian businessmen based in Kampala who in turn sell the gold to the United Arab Emirates. The gold itself is smuggled to Kampala by road or by commercial flight to Entebbe and finally to Dubai.
This is but one example of the sad state of affairs outlined in the report, dated November 9, 2009, and known officially as the Final Report of the Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It reveals many unfortunate facts, not the least of which is that crime knows no nationality. Until the government of the DRC enforces its own laws and moves against the indigenous criminals on its own soil, all the blockades, embargoes, and conflict mineral resolutions in the world aren’t going to end the rape of the nation.