Rebel groups within Congo, including the M23 and its allies, took over took over a profitable part of the conflict gold trade in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Enough Project’s recentreport Striking Gold: How M23 and its Allies are Infiltrating Congo’s Gold Trade report Striking Gold: How M23 and its Allies are Infiltrating Congo’s Gold Trade details how these various groups have been using revenues from the illicit trade to benefit rebel leaders and fund military campaigns, responsible for mass atrocities and ongoing conflict in Congo which has resulted in over 5.4 million deaths. Enough’s report From Child Miner to Jewelry Store: The Six Steps of Congo’s Conflict Gold from October 2012 highlighted the overall conflict gold trade in Congo.
Following the end of M23 on November 5, it is important to maintain international pressure on conflict gold exporters, as they have worked with multiple deadly armed groups and criminal units of the Congolese army over the past several years, including the FDLR and other groups, and will likely continue to do so in the absence of serious pressure.
Gold is now the most lucrative conflict mineral in eastern Congo, with at least 12 tons (worth roughly $500 million) smuggled out of the east every year. 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 company action and the U.S Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. It is still relatively easy, however, to smuggle gold due to the large value of even a small sample, and conflict gold directly finances those who commit atrocities.
M23 and its allies expanded their control over the trade in 2012-13. To capture a greater share of the gold trade, leadership built alliances with individuals who control the largest mines in eastern Congo. Many of those who reap the greatest profits are also those most directly implicated in crimes against humanity.
Based on new research from Enough Project investigations and past research from the U.N. Group of Experts, the “Striking Gold” report identifies four main gold exporters enabling armed groups to profit from the gold trade in violation of the U.N. arms embargo.
The international community has done very little to effectively combat the sale of conflict gold. None of the individuals identified in the report, or the companies with which they are currently associated, face sanctions.
What can the U.S. Government do?
The U.S. government can work within the U.N. Security Council Sanctions Committee to add the names of the individuals identified in the report to the list of individuals and groups that already face U.N. sanctions. The U.S. Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Russ Feingold can urge the leaders of Uganda, Burundi, and Congo to take action under their respective national laws against these exporters. The U.S. government can also urge the United Arab Emirates to tighten regulatory controls for gold imports through verification of the authenticity of export documents, as well as verification of the importers of the gold. U.N. Special Envoy, Mary Robinson and U.S. Special Envoy Russ Feingold should work with the governments of Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda to finalize the Independent Mineral Chain Auditor of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region, which is designed to investigate fraud and sanction conflict minerals exporters.
Such sanctions could bring the illicit gold trade under control and further reduce sources of revenue for armed groups that commit atrocities. Other efforts on gold and the peace process led by African leaders, U.N. Envoy Robinson, U.S. Envoy Feingold, will also be critical in bringing a just, comprehensive end to the war.
What can U.S. citizens do?
You can urge the United Nations Security Council Sanctions Committee to adopt sanctions on the key known gold smugglers during its meeting at the end of November 2013 by signing the public petition to U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power.
H. Res. 131 calls on the U.S. government to take action in influencing international efforts toward long-term peace and stability in Congo. Its companion was passed by the Senate with unanimous consent in June 2013.