DR Congo: UN report exposes army’s role in prolonging conflict

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A United Nations investigation of the incessant conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo has revealed evidence of illegal mining, smuggling, poaching, illegal taxation, protection rackets as well as indirect commercial control by the DR Congolese army that has prolonged the insecurity in the eastern part of DR Congo.

Democratic Republic of Congo army (FARDC: Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo) has failed to hunt down rebel militias in the eastern part of the central African country because criminal networks within the Congolese army, headed by land forces chief of staff General Amisi Kumba profit from rebel groups.

“Officers at different levels of FARDC hierarchy jostle for control over mineral-rich areas at the expense of civilian protection,” The Group of Experts, a five-member team tasked by the UN to investigate sanctions violations, revealed after they noted “pervasive insubordination” throughout DR Congo’s army.

According to the report, two regional commanders in eastern DR Congo are directly involved in mining activities, one of whom is accused of supplying money, weapons and uniforms to a local rebel group.

The report is based on information from the U.N. and local groups, as well as the team’s “first-hand, on-site observations,” or information confirmed with at least three independent sources assessed by the Group as credible and reliable.

The report said the army benefited from everything from gold exports worth $160 million a year and tin ore mining to elephant poaching and charcoal and timber trades that destroy hundreds of thousands of trees. The army, according to the report, continues to recruit children.

The lure of profits from mines in eastern DR Congo has seen various rebel groups in the area target civilians in the surrounding villages near the border with Rwanda and Uganda. The civilians are sometimes kidnapped, killed or raped.

An investigation on General Amisi, carried out by the BBC, had revealed that despite a mining ban in September, production is still ongoing at the mine which is under direct military control of General Amisi who installed a mining firm at the Omate mine in return for a 25% cut.

DR Congo is rich in minerals including gold, diamonds and coltan; a major ingredient in mobile phone production. But years of conflict and misrule has kept majority of the population in poverty.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said due diligence guidelines if implemented, could significantly limit the illicit minerals trade, which has for many years fueled violence in the Congo.

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