October 10, 2013 (KAMPALA) - The M23 rebels are engaging in illegal gold trade to benefit its leaders and finance rebellion in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, says a new report by the American Advocacy group, Enough.
Released on Wednesday, the report titled ‘‘Striking Gold ‘chronicles how the M23 through a network of militias and local miners has taken over the lucrative gold trade in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and used proceeds from the illegal trade to build alliances and expand its reach.
The report notes that the gold from eastern DRC is smuggled out of the country through Uganda and Burundi before being sold in the international market in the United Arab Emirates.
The M23 rebels have been accused by human rights organisations of gross rights violations in eastern DRC.
A UN panel of experts and the Kinshasa government accused Rwanda of supporting the rebels but Rwanda denies the accusations.
The conflict in eastern DRC has led to the displacement of thousands of people. The Enough report says gold is key to fuelling the conflict.
‘‘Gold is now the most important conflict mineral in eastern Congo, with atleast 12
tons worth roughly $500 million smuggled out of the east every year.’
Key in the laundering of the gold are individuals and companies in Uganda and Burundi. The report named these individuals and companies and blamed the international community for not doing enough to hold the individuals and companies involved in the illicit gold trade accountable.
‘‘The international community has done very little to combat the sale of conflict gold effectively. None of the above-mentioned individuals, or the companies they currently run, face U.N., U.S., or E.U. sanctions,’’ said the report.
The report recommends that the U.S. Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Russ Feingold ‘‘should urge Uganda, Burundi, and the DRC to take action under their respective national laws against these exporters.’’
The report further recommends that ‘‘U.N. Envoy Mary Robinson and U.S. Envoy Russ Feingold should work with the governments of the DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda to finalize the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region certification process…which is designed to investigate fraud and sanction conflict-minerals exporters.’’