Eastern Congo

U.S. House Votes to Undermine Transparency and Conflict-Free Supply Chains in Democratic Republic of Congo

Date: 
Jul 7, 2016

Rep. Huizenga's Appropriations Amendment Seeks to Defund Critical SEC Conflict Minerals Enforcement

Efforts to support peace, corporate accountability, and transparency in the Democratic Republic of Congo faced a setback today, as the House of Representatives passed an amendment introduced by Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MI) to defund implementation of the Security Exchange Commission (SEC)’s rule to address conflict minerals. 

The 11th-hour amendment, added to a larger financial services appropriations bill, states that no government funds can be used to enforce the SEC’s conflict mineral rule pursuant to Provision 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Defunding this provision would undermine years of progress that has been made by companies, private sector initiatives, and regional governments to support conflict-free minerals sourcing from Congo.

Sasha Lezhnev, Associate Director of Policy at the Enough Project, said: “The conflict minerals provision in Dodd-Frank has spurred major progress in starting rule of law in Congo's minerals sector and helping make the majority of tin, tantalum, and tungsten mines conflict-free. Before the law was passed, armed groups and their sponsors profited hand-over-fist from the minerals trade, but today 70% of surveyed 3T mines are conflict-free. It's time to focus on addressing the gaps -- particularly conflict gold and artisanal miners' livelihood programs -- instead of moving backwards and undermining the law, as proposed by Rep. Huizenga’s amendment.”

Many Congolese communities and leaders support Dodd-Frank 1502 because they have seen direct positive impacts, because they believe in transparency and the rule of law, or both. Additionally, major corporations such as Intel, KEMET, and Apple have embraced these regulations and used them as a catalyst to reform their own supply chains and deliberately source conflict-free minerals. Rep. Huizenga’s proposed amendment would unravel years of work that has led to significant positive developments continuing to build both in Congo and within corporate supply chains.

Holly Dranginis, Senior Policy Analyst at the Enough Project, said: “The defunding of section 1502 in today's bill is an attempt to halt momentum toward corporate transparency and responsible sourcing. It ignores real progress in eastern Congo, where people once beset by brutal violence have said their lives are safer since 1502 and related reforms have come to be. This fight is not over - the Senate should send a clear message that corporate executives cannot turn a blind eye to where their minerals come from by voting no on this amendment.”

Dodd-Frank 1502 along with related reforms has led to significant improvements in the transparency of corporate supply chains and to a major reduction in the number of 3T conflict mines in eastern Congo. 69 percent of the world’s smelters for the four minerals, the choke points in minerals supply chains, have now passed conflict-free audits (223 smelters in total). In 2015, 948 tons of conflict-free tantalum was exported from eastern Congo -- a 19 percent increase over the 2014 record, and a 387 percent increase over 2013.

Brad Brooks-Rubin, Director of Policy at the Enough Project, said: “Section 1502 has prompted many companies to take concrete and positive steps to improve their supply chain sourcing practices.  In particular, companies in many sectors now implement stronger due diligence practices to ensure their supply chains are conflict-free, and they can demonstrate this to their customers and an increasingly socially conscious consuming public.  Having survived a vigorous court challenge, Section 1502 must remain fully funded and enforced so that these gains can be leveraged and expanded.”    

For more information about the impact of Dodd-Frank 1502:  http://eno.ug/1iCJiVj

For media inquiries or interview requests, please contact:
Greg Hittelman, Director of Communications, +1 310 717 0606gh@enoughproject.org

About THE ENOUGH PROJECT
The Enough Project, an atrocity prevention policy group, seeks to build leverage for peace and justice in Africa by helping to create real consequences for the perpetrators and facilitators of genocide and other mass atrocities. Enough aims to counter rights-abusing armed groups and violent kleptocratic regimes that are fueled by grand corruption, transnational crime and terror, and the pillaging and trafficking of minerals, ivory, diamonds, and other natural resources. Enough conducts field research in conflict zones, develops and advocates for policy recommendations, supports social movements in affected countries, and mobilizes public campaigns. Learn more – and join us – at www.EnoughProject.org

U.S. Begins Targeted Sanctions on Kabila Regime, Should Continue Until Timely Elections Scheduled

Date: 
Jun 23, 2016

Kinshasa Police Commissioner Célestin Kanyama, responsible for repression, sanctioned; U.S. and E.U. should follow with additional financial pressure if elections not scheduled, repression not halted

Today, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) placed General Célestin Kanyama, the Police Commissioner of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital city Kinshasa, on its Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) List. General Kanyama has been linked to at least three police operations that used excessive force, including “Operation Likofi” in which police summarily killed at least 51 youth and forcibly disappeared 33 others during an anti-crime campaign from November 2013 to January 2014, as well as deadly attacks on peaceful protestors in October 2015.

Enough Project experts are available for comment and analysis.

Holly Dranginis, Senior Policy Analyst at the Enough Project, said: “The chief of police is often a key tool in the machinery of a government determined to silence its people. Kanyama is accused of orchestrating a sinister set of crackdowns against Congolese civilians over the past two years, ratcheting up fear ahead of Kabila's possible third term. Activists and insiders are speaking up anyway, demanding a peaceful transition of power. Today's sanctions action is exactly the kind of enforcement step needed to complement the work of those communities on the frontlines, and send a message to Kabila's regime that abusive behavior will have consequences.”

Sasha Lezhnev, Associate Director of Policy at the Enough Project, said: “Today's sanctions announcement is the first spark to light a fire under the Kabila government to hold elections in a timely manner and halt repression. If Kabila fails to organize timely elections, more and more members of his inner circle should be designated for asset freezes and visa bans, and the European Union should follow suit.”

John Prendergast, Founding Director at the Enough Project, said: “In order for this welcome step of sanctioning Kanyama to be meaningful and have the desired impact, we must see vigorous and immediate implementation through identification and blocking of his assets. Kanyama and those around him must feel it. Sanctions, however, are only one tool that the United States and others in the international community should bring to bear to stop the regime's quest to stay in power. The use of anti-money laundering provisions, anti-corruption investigations, and steps to condition donor assistance must also be deployed in the service of democracy and peace in Congo.”

DRC President Joseph Kabila has been criticized for undermining the country’s constitution, including the attempted removal of presidential term limits, delays in scheduled elections, and violent crackdowns on peaceful demonstrations.

For media inquiries or interview requests, please contact:
Greg Hittelman, Director of Communications, +1 310 717 0606gh@enoughproject.org

About THE ENOUGH PROJECT
The Enough Project, an atrocity prevention policy group, seeks to build leverage for peace and justice in Africa by helping to create real consequences for the perpetrators and facilitators of genocide and other mass atrocities. Enough aims to counter rights-abusing armed groups and violent kleptocratic regimes that are fueled by grand corruption, transnational crime and terror, and the pillaging and trafficking of minerals, ivory, diamonds, and other natural resources. Enough conducts field research in conflict zones, develops and advocates for policy recommendations, supports social movements in affected countries, and mobilizes public campaigns. Learn more – and join us – at www.EnoughProject.org.

Foreign Affairs Op-ed: Congo's Kabila Problem

Congolese President Joseph Kabila

In July of last year, U.S. President Barack Obama gave a landmark speech at the African Union (AU) headquarters in Addis Ababa, criticizing leaders who undemocratically change their constitutions to stay in power and emphasizing that the United States would call out such behavior. He pointed to Burundi where a few months earlier, President Pierre Nkurunziza pressured the courts to change the constitution’s term limits so that he could run for a third time. Obama warned that such a tactic could trigger “instability and strife,” as well as hamper “Africa’s democratic progress.” But his words seem to have fallen on deaf ears.  Read More »

The Hill Op-ed: Why the House Must Stop the Last-second FSGG Rider on Conflict Minerals

Yesterday, Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.) filed an 11th hour amendment to the financial services appropriations bill to de-fund enforcement of the conflict minerals provision in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The amendment was adopted by the House Rules Committee and will go to the House floor for a vote today.  Read More »

New Congressional Resolutions: U.S. should use Financial Tools to support Free and Fair Elections in Congo

Congolese President Joseph Kabila

On June 13, key Members of the House of Representatives introduced a Resolution calling on the Obama Administration to impose targeted sanctions and leverage other financial pressure as one way to support  the constitution of the the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).  Read More »

“Historic”: ICC sentences Jean-Pierre Bemba to 18 years in prison

Date: 
Jun 21, 2016

 

Enough Project experts available for comment and analysis

Today, the International Criminal Court (ICC) sentenced Jean-Pierre Bemba to 18 years in prison for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Experts at the Enough Project have been following the case and are available for comment and analysis.

Holly Dranginis, Senior Policy Analyst at the Enough Project, said: "Bemba’s sentencing decision will impact communities all over central Africa, and the future of international criminal trials. It is historic on a few levels, this was the first time the court decided an appropriate punishment for gender-based violence -- in this case, brutal rapes committed by Bemba's troops against women and children. Bemba is also the highest-level official the court has ever sentenced, helping pave a path for the court to prosecute more government officials who oversee abuses by their troops. The hope is that with each new condemnation, the ICC can gradually extinguish the climate of impunity that still prevails for grave crimes, especially by official state actors, and especially against women."

In March, Bemba was convicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity including rape, murder, and pillage committed during armed conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR) in 2002 and 2003.

Nathalia Dukhan, Field Researcher and Analyst for the Enough Project, said: "Today's verdict represents a real hope for many war victims seeking justice, particularly in countries experiencing long-lasting conflicts that are failing to address impunity. For many Central Africans, this verdict is only partial and leaves justice unfinished. Warlords involved in the 2002- 2003 coup in CAR who have not been convicted by the ICC have backslided in the 2013 crisis, leaving thousands of new victims behind."

Bemba is a former leader of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC), an armed rebel group that committed widespread sexual violence and pillage during a military campaign to help defend the former president of CAR, Ange-Félix Patassé, from a coup attempt. 

For media inquiries or interview requests, please contact:
Greg Hittelman, Director of Communications, +1 310 717 0606gh@enoughproject.org

About THE ENOUGH PROJECT
The Enough Project, an atrocity prevention policy group, seeks to build leverage for peace and justice in Africa by helping to create real consequences for the perpetrators and facilitators of genocide and other mass atrocities. Enough aims to counter rights-abusing armed groups and violent kleptocratic regimes that are fueled by grand corruption, transnational crime and terror, and the pillaging and trafficking of minerals, ivory, diamonds, and other natural resources. Enough conducts field research in conflict zones, develops and advocates for policy recommendations, supports social movements in affected countries, and mobilizes public campaigns. Learn more – and join us – at www.EnoughProject.org

Charcoal 101

The illegal charcoal trade in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo) has become one of the most lucrative enterprise for Congo’s most notorious and stalwart rebel group, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). In addition to financing ongoing armed conflict, the charcoal trade is threatening Virunga, Africa’s oldest national park and a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

New Report: How an Illegal Charcoal Trade is Threatening Africa’s Oldest National Park

Based on extensive field interviews with UN officials, charcoal traders, leading Congolese conservationists and whistleblowers, and local and international law enforcement officials, Enough's newest report explains how the illegal trade works and offers specific policy recommendations aimed at ending the trade and providing alternative fuels.  Read More »

Une organisation criminelle multimillionnaire détruit de vastes étendues du parc des Virunga pour son charbon de bois

Date: 
Jun 20, 2016

 

Click here to read this press release in English.

Un rapport fracassant de l’Enough Project révèle les opérations mafieuses d’un groupe rebelle congolais : un commerce transfrontalier illégal de charbon de bois marqué par des meurtres abominables, des réseaux d’espions et la complicité de la police et de fonctionnaires, au rythme du saccage de forêts anciennes.

Un nouveau rapport fracassant d’Enough Project, organisme de promotion des politiques de prévention des atrocités, révèle que de vastes pans de la forêt ancienne des Virunga, le plus ancien parc national d’Afrique, sont détruits par une organisation mafieuse n’hésitant pas à recourir à la violence qui brasse des millions grâce au commerce illégal de charbon de bois (Lien vers le résumé, version Francaise).

Le rapport d’Holly Dranginis, analyste politique principale de l’Enough Project, intitulé « The Mafia in the Park: A charcoal syndicate is threatening Virunga, Africa's oldest national park » (Mafia dans les Virunga : un cartel de charbon de bois menace le plus ancien parc national d'Afrique), examine de près la montée des affaires criminelles menées par les FDLR, un groupe rebelle armé lié au génocide rwandais. Ses activités sont marquées par des meurtres abominables, des réseaux d’espionnage et des trafics transfrontaliers, lesquels, comme le souligne le rapport, se font avec la complicité de la police, de l’armée et de représentants du gouvernement corrompus.

Selon Holly Dranginis, auteure du rapport et analyste politique principale de l’Enough Project, « La consolidation de la paix en République démocratique du Congo (RDC) est vouée à l’échec si l’on ne lutte pas contre les réseaux commerciaux complexes opérant dans l’Est. Le trafic de charbon de bois n’en est qu’un parmi tant d’autres, mais il fournit des financements importants aux FDLR, reflète l’impunité rampante des responsables publics impliqués dans des activités criminelles, et se déroule dans une clandestinité et une violence propres aux mafias rappelant les pires cartels de drogues latino-américains. »

John Prendergast, Directeur fondateur de l’Enough Project, estime que « Le commerce illégal de charbon de bois et ses dangereux barons sont les symptômes d’un système plus vaste de vol, de corruption et d’exploitation devenu systématique en RDC. Loin d’être un cas isolé, ce commerce se distingue néanmoins par les dégâts qu’il cause – non seulement envers l’un des endroits jouissant de l’une des plus riches biodiversités au monde, mais également envers la sécurité humaine et l’État de droit. Les interventions politiques doivent être rapides, anticipées et doivent impliquer tous les individus et toutes les organisations se trouvant aux premières lignes de la crise. Une meilleure compréhension des liens existant entre les acteurs étatiques et non étatiques renforcerait l’efficacité des interventions de lutte contre les réseaux criminels à grande échelle, dans toute la région ».

Le précieux charbon de bois des Virunga, appelé Ndobo, est obtenu en coupant et en brûlant les arbres centenaires du parc. Comme le souligne le rapport, la destruction de ces forêts a des conséquences dévastatrices pour les gardes forestiers, les communautés locales et les espèces en voie d’extinction telles que les gorilles et les éléphants.

Holly Dranginis ajoute : « Le commerce criminel du charbon de bois des Virunga fait disparaître des pans entiers de forêts tropicales rares et anciennes, essentielles à la sécurité climatique et aux espèces menacées dans la région. Un travail héroïque est déjà en cours pour aider à protéger les Virunga. Mais le temps presse pour lutter contre le commerce du charbon de bois, actif depuis des années et contre lequel peu d’interventions ont réussi. »

S’étendant sur près de 3 000 mètres carrés dans le nord-est du Congo, les Virunga sont le plus ancien parc national d’Afrique et inscrits au patrimoine mondial de l’UNESCO. Pareille à celle d’aucun autre site protégé d’Afrique, la biodiversité des Virunga abrite des espèces d’oiseaux rares, quelques-uns des derniers gorilles des montagnes, et des éléphants de forêt menacés d’extinction. Le parc a récemment attiré l’attention en faisant l’objet du documentaire « Virunga », produit par Leonardo DiCaprio et nommé aux Oscars de 2014.

Éléments clés du rapport :

  • Le groupe rebelle armé connu sous le nom de « Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR) » représente le pivot des réseaux de criminalité organisée dans la région des Grands Lacs et continue à menacer la sécurité des populations. Depuis des années, ce groupe finance ses activités en exploitant des ressources naturelles précieuses, dont des minéraux, mais aussi l’ivoire, le poisson et la marijuana. Mais l’une des activités les plus rémunératrices des FDLR est le commerce illicite du charbon de bois dans le Parc national des Virunga, trésor de la République démocratique du Congo.
     
  • Établi dans les profondeurs de la zone sud-ouest des Virunga, le commerce illégal du charbon de bois est lucratif. D’après certaines estimations, il rapporterait chaque année jusqu’à 35 millions de dollars. Comme l’a avancé l’un des gardes forestiers à Enough, « les groupes armés ont fait des Virunga leur sanctuaire ».
     
  • « Ce ne sont pas seulement les FDLR, précise une source, ce sont la police, les politiciens, et les hommes d’affaires. C’est un grand réseau mafieux. » Certains commandants de la police nationale et de l’armée congolaise sont impliqués dans le commerce illégal du charbon de bois. Ils touchent des revenus considérables, car ils partagent les recettes des FDLR et organisent aussi leur propre production, ainsi que le trafic et la taxation du charbon illégal. Plusieurs représentants de l’État offrent une protection indispensable aux commandants et aux officiers des FDLR dans les Virunga.
     
  • La prévalence du trafic illégal du charbon de bois issu des Virunga : pour beaucoup, le charbon de bois est une affaire purement congolaise, mais des témoignages ont révélé que le charbon de bois des Virunga était acheminé aussi loin qu’en Ouganda et au Rwanda.
     
  • Les violations directes des droits de l’homme communément pratiquées par les cartels illégaux de charbon de bois comprennent des meurtres commis en représailles, de l’esclavage sexuel, et des formes extrêmes de travail forcé.

Recommandations clés du rapport :

  1. Les décideurs ne devraient pas considérer les FDLR comme une menace purement militaire, politique ou idéologique : il s’agit aussi d’un réseau de criminalité organisée à but lucratif qui s’appuie sur des collaborateurs situés au sein du gouvernement et de la société civile. Pour lutter contre la criminalité organisée du charbon de bois en RDC, il faut poursuivre et sanctionner les hauts responsables des FDLR et leurs partenaires de l’armée pour leur rôle dans ce commerce illégal. Les autorités devraient faciliter les défections des soldats de grade inférieur des FDLR dans les Virunga, pour priver les trafiquants d’une main-d’œuvre essentielle.
  2. Les foyers de la région étant largement dépendants du charbon de bois, utilisé comme premier combustible, les actions visant à mettre fin à son commerce, telles que les interventions militaires et les arrestations ciblées, doivent s’accompagner de mesures portant sur d’autres types de combustibles, afin d’éviter une pénurie qui toucherait des millions de personnes dans la région.
  3. Protection des défenseurs : les unités de la MONUSCO chargées de la justice et des droits de l’homme doivent renforcer le suivi et le soutien des militants de la conservation, lesquels sont ciblés en raison de leurs actions de défense des parcs nationaux en RDC et de leurs investigations sur les crimes environnementaux, et soumettre les cas d’abus aux juges pour enquête.
  4. Le Congrès américain devrait adopter la loi S.284 – Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, qui donnerait aux États-Unis le pouvoir de sanctionner quiconque commettrait des exactions à l’encontre de personnes cherchant à révéler des activités gouvernementales illégales. Il devrait également adopter la loi concernant la lutte contre le trafic d’espèces sauvages, H.R. 2494, qui autoriserait une assistance technique visant à protéger les gardes forestiers et à améliorer les réponses juridiques en cas d’attaques contre des défenseurs de la forêt.
  5. La Cour pénale internationale (CPI) dans le cadre des poursuites engagées actuellement contre le commandant suprême des FDLR, Sylvestre Mudacumura, le Bureau du procureur de la Cour pénale internationale (CPI) devrait enquêter sur les responsabilités et le contrôle exercé par Mudacumura sur les activités commerciales des FDLR – et notamment sur les cartels du charbon – et ajouter aux poursuites des chefs d’accusation relatifs au pillage des ressources naturelles si des preuves suffisantes sont présentées.
  6. Interventions militaires : à mesure que se développent des plans pour des opérations conjointes de l’armée congolaise et de la MONUSCO, les Envoyés spéciaux Said Djinnit et Tom Perriello devraient encourager des actions conjointes ciblées contre les bastions des FDLR dans les Virunga, en incluant les plans mis au point par la MONUSCO pour viser les plateformes du trafic de charbon et y appréhender les principaux chefs des FDLR.
  7. Efforts de démobilisation : puisque la MONUSCO envisage de collaborer avec l’armée congolaise en vue de relancer des opérations conjointes contre les FDLR, elle devrait poursuivre ses efforts en matière de désarmement, démobilisation, rapatriement, réintégration et réinstallation (DDR/RR) des combattants des FDLR dans les Virunga.

Lien vers le résumé, version Francaise: http://eno.ug/28LVAbe

Lien vers le rapport complet : http://eno.ug/1YwPVcF

Pour toute requête de la part de médias ou demande d’entretien, veuillez contacter : Greg Hittelman, Directeur de la Communication,+1 310 717 0606gh@enoughproject.org

À propos de THE ENOUGH PROJECT
Organisme de promotion des politiques de prévention des atrocités, l’Enough Project cherche à mobiliser les efforts en faveur de la paix et de la justice en Afrique en s’efforçant d’appliquer des sanctions contre les auteurs et les complices de génocides et d’autres atrocités de masse. Enough lutte contre les régimes kleptocrates violents et les groupes armés portant atteinte aux droits, alimentés par la grande corruption, la criminalité et la terreur à l’échelle internationale, ainsi que le pillage et le trafic de minéraux, d’ivoire, de diamants et d’autres ressources naturelles. Enough mène des enquêtes de terrain dans les zones de conflits, élabore des recommandations politiques en faveur desquelles il plaide, soutient des mouvements sociaux dans les pays touchés par des conflits et organise des campagnes publiques. Pour en savoir plus et nous rejoindre, rendez-vous sur www.EnoughProject.org.

Multi-Million Dollar Criminal Charcoal Syndicate Destroying Swathes of Virunga Park

Date: 
Jun 20, 2016

 

En Français

Groundbreaking Enough Project report exposes “mafia-like” operations of Congolese rebel group; brutal murders, spy networks, complicity of police and officials in illegal, cross-border charcoal trade as old-growth forests are destroyed

A groundbreaking new report by the Enough Project, an atrocity prevention policy group, reveals wide swathes of ancient forest in Virunga, Africa’s oldest national park, are being destroyed by a violent “mafia-like” operation profiting from an illegal, multi-million dollar charcoal business. 

The in-depth report “The Mafia in the ParkA charcoal syndicate is threatening Virunga, Africa's oldest national park,” by Holly Dranginis, Senior Policy Analyst at the Enough Project, documents the rise in the park of a criminal business run by the FDLR, an armed rebel group with ties to the Rwandan genocide. Brutal murders, spy networks, and trans-border trafficking mark the operations, which the report reveals are linked to the complicity of corrupted police, army, and government officials.

Holly Dranginis, report author and Senior Policy Analyst at the Enough Project, said: "Peacebuilding in Congo will be a losing game without addressing the complex business networks operating in the east. Charcoal trafficking is one of many, but it provides significant funding to the FDLR, reflects rampant impunity among state officials involved in criminal activity, and involves mafia-like secrecy and violence reminiscent of the worst Latin American drug cartels."

John Prendergast, Founding Director at the Enough Project, said: "The illegal charcoal trade and its violent kingpins are symptoms of a broader system of theft, corruption, and exploitation that has become systematic in Congo. This trade is not an isolated case, but it is uniquely damaging - not only to one of the world's most biodiverse places, but to human security and the rule of law. Policy interventions must be swift, forward-thinking, and inclusive of those individuals and organizations on the frontlines of the crisis. Better understanding the links between state and non-state actors that propel this trade could help spur more effective interventions to counter wider criminal networks throughout the region."

Ndobo, as the valuable charcoal from Virunga is called, is produced by cutting down and burning old-forest trees in the park. As the report documents, the destruction of these forests has come with devastating consequences for park rangers, local communities and extinction-facing wildlife like gorillas and elephants.

Dranginis added: "The criminal charcoal business in Virunga is leveling whole sections of rare and ancient tropical forest that is critical to climate security and endangered species in this region. Some heroic work is already underway to help protect Virunga. But time is running out to address the charcoal trade, which has operated for years with few successful interventions."

Covering roughly 3,000 square miles in northeastern Congo, Virunga is Africa’s oldest national park and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Virunga’s biodiversity is unmatched by any other protected place in Africa, and includes rare bird species, some of the last mountain gorillas on earth, and endangered forest elephants. The park gained recent attention as the subject of the 2014 Academy Award-nominated documentary produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, “Virunga.”

Selected report highlights:

  • The armed rebel group known as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) is a kingpin in Africa’s Great Lakes region’s organized crime networks and a continuing threat to human security. For years, the group has helped sustain its activities by exploiting valuable natural resources, including minerals, ivory, fish, and marijuana. But one of the FDLR’s most successful revenue-generating businesses is the illicit charcoal trade in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s cherished Virunga National Park.
  • Headquartered deep in the remote southwestern sector of Virunga, the illegal charcoal trade is lucrative. Some have estimated it has an annual value of up to $35 million. As one park ranger told Enough, “Armed groups have turned Virunga into their sanctuary.” 
  • “It’s not just FDLR,” describes a source, “It’s police, politicians, and businessmen. It’s a big mafia.”  Some Congolese national police and military commanders are involved in the illegal charcoal trade. They draw significant revenues from profit-sharing with the FDLR, as well as their own production, trafficking, and taxation of illegal charcoal. Some state officials also provide critical protection to the FDLR’s commanders and officers in Virunga.
  • The prevalence of cross-border illegal charcoal trafficking from Virunga: Many have thought illegal charcoal is a purely Congolese affair, but testimonies revealed that Virunga's charcoal is trafficked at least as far as into Uganda and Rwanda as well.
  • The direct use of human rights violations in the regular course of business within illegal charcoal cartels includes reprisal murders, sexual slavery, and extreme forms of forced labor.

Key report recommendations:

  1. Policymakers should view the FDLR not as a strictly military, political, or ideological threat; it is also a profit-seeking organized crime network with state and civilian collaborators. In order to counter Congo’s charcoal mafia, high-ranking FDLR commanders and their partners within the Congolese army should be targeted for sanctions and prosecuted for their roles in the illegal trade. Authorities should improve sustainable defection opportunities for low-ranking soldiers within the FDLR in Virunga, to deprive the illegal trade of essential manpower.
  2. Given widespread dependence on charcoal as a primary source of fuel among households across the region, coercive efforts to end the charcoal trade such as military operations and targeted arrests must be accompanied by alternative fuel initiatives to prevent a sudden deficit of cooking fuel among millions of people in the region.
  3. Protection for defenders: MONUSCO justice and human rights units should increase protective monitoring and support to conservation activists who are targeted for defending Congo’s national parks and investigating environmental crimes, and refer cases of abuse to justice officials for investigation.
  4. The U.S. Congress should pass S.284 - Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which would give the United States authority to impose sanctions on anyone committing abuses against individuals seeking to expose illegal government activity. It should also pass anti-wildlife trafficking legislation, H.R. 2494, which would authorize technical assistance for protecting rangers and improving legal responses to attacks on forest defenders.
  5. The International Criminal Court (ICC) should investigate the FDLR’s top military commander Sylvestre Mudacumura’s command and control over FDLR business operations—especially charcoal cartels—and pursue charges of natural resource pillage if sufficient evidence arises.
  6. Military Interventions: As plans for joint Congolese army-MONUSCO operations advance, Special Envoys Djinnit and Perriello should encourage selective joint operations against FDLR strongholds in Virunga, incorporating MONUSCO’s plan to target charcoal hubs and apprehend key FDLR commanders there.
  7. Demobilization Efforts: As MONUSCO considers reestablishing joint counter-FDLR operations with the Congolese army, it should improve its disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, reintegration, and resettlement (DDR/RR) efforts for FDLR combatants in Virunga.

Link to the full report: http://eno.ug/1YwPVcF

For media inquiries or interview requests, please contact:
Greg Hittelman, Director of Communications, +1 310 717 0606gh@enoughproject.org

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About THE ENOUGH PROJECT
An atrocity prevention policy group, the Enough Project seeks to build leverage for peace and justice in Africa by helping to create real consequences for the perpetrators and facilitators of genocide and other mass atrocities. Enough aims to counter rights-abusing armed groups and violent kleptocratic regimes that are fueled by grand corruption, transnational crime and terror, and the pillaging and trafficking of minerals, ivory, diamonds, and other natural resources. Enough conducts field research in conflict zones, develops and advocates for policy recommendations, supports social movements in affected countries, and mobilizes public campaigns. Learn more – and join us – at www.EnoughProject.org

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