A National Gathering of the Next Generation of Human Rights Defenders
For 13 years, the people of eastern Congo have been ensnared in a tangled web of armed groups—from foreign rebels to the Congo’s own army—who prey on Congolese civilians and, with collaboration from governments and multinational corporations, strip the country of its immense natural wealth. This conflict can only end when the international community abandons the piecemeal approach it has adopted to deal with this multi-layered and immensely complex conflict and takes a holistic approach to peacemaking.
- No public map of where the mines are or who controls them: It is difficult to challenge traders who claim their minerals are conflict free.
- No proper list of who trades in the minerals: Only an estimated 1 out of every 10 negociants , or traders who take the minerals from mines to the major cities, have an official license.
- Little transparency around who is regulating the trade: Mining inspectors admitted to us that they knew which sacks of minerals came from FDLR-held mines, but had not been paid for months, so had no incentive to stop this trade.
- Opaque pricing: the comptoirs, or minerals exporters, form an oligopoly to control prices, leaving the rich few to gouge profits from the thousands of miners and smaller traders.
1. Protect civilians:
- Donors and governments with military expertise should work with the Congolese government to forge a major multilateral, diplomatically supported, highly human rights conditioned, decade-long commitment to help reform the Congolese army so that it becomes a source of security to the civilian population rather than one of predation. One Congolese civil society leader told us, “If our government and army were stronger and more responsible, then neighbors and corporations couldn’t take advantage of Congo. If we paid our soldiers and fought impunity, no neighboring country would invade or try to take our mineral resources.”
- Recent lessons learned from army reform endeavors in Iraq and Afghanistan should be applied to the Congo. MONUC should further embed personnel in government army units directly, which if systematic can help lay the groundwork in the East for future reform efforts. And given China’s massive stake in the Congolese mining sector, Beijing should be engaged to become a major supporter of army reform efforts, as its contracts will be unstable in the long term without the security a reformed army would afford.
The U.N. Security Council should focus MONUC’s capacity specifically to protect civilians in the most vulnerable areas of the East. With the support of the U.N. Security Council and donor countries, MONUC is attempting to increase its civilian protection efforts in the context of Kimia II. The UN is forming “Joint Protection Teams” to bring together different U.N. civilian units and deploy them to vulnerable regions. Because of limited resources and multiple missions, and the enormity of the human security crisis in Eastern Congo, these efforts are in large part a drop in the ocean of need. Ultimately, if civilian protection is going to be the centerpiece of the mandate for MONUC, there has to be a reset on how the mission is deployed, a major increase in the resources it is given to do its job, and a unified interpretation of the mandate and rules of engagement throughout the chain of command.
2. Implement a comprehensive counterinsurgency strategy for the FDLR:
- The United States and other donors should work with the Rwandan and Congolese governments and MONUC to co-opt moderates within the FDLR.[x] Donors must increase pressure on the Rwandan government to state publicly and precisely which members of the FDLR are wanted for genocide. This information, as well as a greater understanding of the FDLR’s inner-workings, is a prerequisite to an effective strategy to negotiate exit options with individual FDLR commanders. Offers could include resettlement inside Congo—or, potentially, a third country—non-combat positions within the Rwandan army, enhanced livelihood packages, etc. The effectiveness of negotiation would be greatly enhanced if the Rwandan government relaxes restrictions on political activity, and donors should pressure Kigali to make genuine moves in that direction.[xi]
- The international community should fulfill its obligation to sever support to the FDLR inside Congo from its political leaders in the Diaspora. The FDLR has an international network of support, including Diaspora FDLR commissioners, fundraising, and international money transfers.[xii] These and other leaders need to be prosecuted domestically (Europe and the U.S.) and internationally (the International Criminal Court) using every possible legal angle (war crimes, terrorist financing, money laundering, etc.) until Diaspora support for the FDLR becomes so costly that it dries up forever. At a minimum, the United States and other countries should more robustly support the U.N. Group of Experts on the Congo by equipping them with access to necessary personal information held on Diaspora suspects, such as bank accounts, phone numbers, etc.
- The Congolese government should suspend Kimia II and the international community should work with Kinshasa and with MONUC to plan for more effective military pressure on the FDLR command and control structure. Ideally, the United States, France, and the United Kingdom. should plan and mount this operation. Generating the political will for this will be extremely challenging, and less ideal options should also be considered. Although fraught with political risk for the Congolese government, further joint operations by the Rwandan and Congolese armies, this time with the full and active involvement of MONUC and donors, would be more effective in dislodging FDLR from areas it controls. However, effective military pressure without substantial involvement from the United States and European governments remains unlikely until Congo has a more professional, disciplined, and regularly paid army, and there are legitimate concerns that further Rwandan military involvement in Congo will only encourage further cross border adventurism and further entrench illicit Rwandan economic interests in Congo.
- The international community must help the Congolese government to secure and legitimize former FDLR mining operations. Where military operations are successful in displacing the FDLR from individual mines, conditions have not changed dramatically on the ground when the trade remains opaque.
3. End the trade in conflict minerals:
- Trace: Companies must determine the precise sources of their minerals. Electronics companies and other end-users should support efforts already underway by smelters, metals traders, and other middlemen to develop rigorous means of ensuring that the origin and production volume of minerals are transparent and traceable.
- Audit: Companies should conduct detailed examinations of their mineral supply chains to ensure that taxes are legally and transparently paid to the Congolese government and guard against bribery and fraudulent payments. Beyond financial auditing, companies should monitor social and environmental conditions with the objective of improving these conditions. Companies and trade associations should develop means to engage credible third parties to conduct audits.
- Certify: For consumers to be able to purchase conflict-free electronics made with Congolese minerals, a certification scheme that builds upon the lessons of the Kimberley Process will be required. To be effective and sustainable, such an effort must be owned by the Congolese government, but inclusive of both the private sector and civil society groups. Importantly, Congo and its neighbors have already agreed to support certification under the Protocol against the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources of the Pact on Security, Stability and Development in the Great Lakes Region. Donor governments and industry should provide financial and technical assistance to galvanize this process.
4. Promote regional peace and economic cooperation:
5. Promote accountability:
- Donors should increase investment in the long-term reform of the Congolese justice system so that it prosecutes the warlords who use rape, village burning, and other attacks on civilians as tools of war. This should include both civilian and military justice.
- The U.S. and European Union should make ending violence against women and girls a central part of their diplomatic engagement and aid conditionality with the governments in Congo and Rwanda, instead of stove-piping the issue into a gender programming category. The Congolese government should be held accountable by donors and diplomats for its army’s abuses of women and girls, and Rwanda should be as well for its abuses of civilians – particularly women and girls—in the context of its incursions into Congo and its support for Congolese proxies like the CNDP.
- The International Criminal Court should further target its investigatory efforts on sexual violence in the Kivus, focusing on the command structure in the various armed combatants who encourage rape as a weapon of war.
- The U.N. Security Council and countries with influence such as the United States should focus on countering the incentives for violence as the means of achieving wealth and power in the Congo through the application of sanctions, asset freezes, ICC prosecutions, targeted military operations, diplomatic isolation, focused arms embargo enforcement, and resource export control mechanisms. This should apply to the leadership of non-state armed groups as well as key officials in the Congolese and neighboring governments that continue to undermine peace and protection objectives in the mineral-rich east for their economic enrichment.