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UN experts: Widespread gold and mineral smuggling from Congo

January 31, 2015

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Experts monitoring sanctions against Congo are reporting widespread smuggling of gold, minerals and ivory out of the country by elements of the Congolese army and rebel groups among others.

In a report to the U.N. Security Council, the panel of experts also cited violations of the arms embargo and the continuing recruitment and use of child soldiers by rebel group including the FDLR which was formed by extremist Rwandan Hutus who fled across the border after taking part in the 1994 Rwanda genocide and are now the target of a Congolese army-led offensive.

It said the FDLR remains involved in the charcoal trade, gold mining and selling, and in cultivating marijuana.

The report, circulated Thursday, said the International Tin Research Institute’s tracing initiative has led to a decline in smuggling. But it cited numerous people involved with the mineral trade who reporting smuggling from Congo to Rwanda including of white coltan, a mineral used in mobile phones.

The experts said that in 2014 they also confirmed “the persistent absence” of any efforts by Congo, Uganda and the United Arab Emirates to track gold mined in Congo, which meant that gold produced in conflict areas and at illegal mining sites could enter the international supply chain.

According to the panel, gold continued to be smuggled from Congo to Uganda, and was purchased by Kampala-based businessmen.

As for the illegal trade in wildlife products including ivory, the experts said this remains a serious problem involving armed groups, elements of the Congolese army, local poachers and armed bands from South Sudan.

Officials in Garamba National Park reported finding 114 elephant carcasses between April 1 and Sept. 22, 2014 although they report the actual number is likely to be higher, the report said. Park authorities have launched a more robust approach to combat poaching including joint ground patrols with the Congoloese army, it said.

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