The illegal trade in natural resources, especially minerals in the east of the DRC, is one of the factors that contribute to political instability and make it difficult to consolidate peace and democracy.
SARW has initiated a regional monitoring effort to assess the physical, social and economic security risks, as well as the socio-economic, humanitarian and commercial conditions to which artisanal gold mining communities in North- and South-Kivu, in Maniema and Province Orientale are exposed. With this effort, SARW is contributing to the Congolese people’s search for peace and security, in particular economic stability. The project also demonstrates how civil society can assume a leadership role in the redevelopment of the DRC by providing original field-research and comprehensive analysis. The main goal of the project is to expose the illicit trade of Congolese gold and advocate for its eradication so that violence is reduced and funds from gold mining benefit local people and help reconstruct the country.
Much of the work of OSISA’s Southern Africa Resource Watch project is premised on the idea that in states where there is an abundance of natural resources, and an absence of governance and rule of law, conflict often thrives. This project seeks to use intensive research in order to fully understand who benefits from the profits of the illicit gold trade in the DRC. Furthermore, the project will use the products of this research to a) launch a global advocacy campaign to raise awareness amongst consumers – much like the blood diamonds campaign sparked by the Sierra Leone conflict; b) lay the groundwork for litigation against individuals and companies engaged in the illicit trade; and c) develop a book similar to King Leopold’s Ghost, documenting the human cost of the conflict in the DRC and in parts of Uganda and Rwanda. The project aims to generate advocacy material for public awareness both within and outside of the DRC.
Context and background
Formal gold extraction takes place simultaneously with an illegal trade that contributes to the continued destabilization of the DRC. The effects of the illegal exploitation of the Congo’s gold has been previously documented in a landmark report by Human Rights Watch published in 2005 and in investigations conducted by the UN Group of Experts as part of their mandate to investigate natural resource diversions for the financing of arms embargo violations.
These two efforts show in some detail how gold is produced and delivered to the world markets. What is missing are detailed and individual accounts by local populations, descriptions on how the illegal exploitation of conflict-gold impacts on the humanitarian and environmental situation of mining populations, and the violence and militarization that accompanies illegal gold exploitation and the trade thereof.
Critically, previous studies did not investigate the final destination of Congolese gold and how much revenue it generates. This project will be unique in the sense that it aims to expose the human rights abuses, corruption and poverty that the illegal trade produces in the DRC while also exposing its contribution to economic growth and development elsewhere.
Most of the illegal gold or conflict gold is extracted through artisanal mining. A lot of the time, this is done by local communities under threat from rebel movements, militia groups and Congolese regular army. This reflects the DRC colonial past of forced labour during King Leopold II’s rule and Belgian colonisation.
The illegal trade in natural resources, especially minerals in the east of the DRC is one of the factors that contribute to political instability and make it difficult to consolidate peace and democracy. In the first Congolese War, Alliance des Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Congo-Zaïre (AFDL) took over the mining area and forced artisanal miners to work for them. When Kabila took over the Presidency of the country, he recognized the existing Barrick Gold Corporation’s concession agreement with OKIMO that Mobutu signed. Shortly afterwards, Barrick lost control when the Rally for Democracy (RCD) and Ugandan troops moved in during the second Congolese War and took over the mines and enforced gold mining with the local artisanal population. As the fighting among the various rebel factions intensified, effective control over the mines changed frequently. At one time it was the RCD-National under the leadership of Roger Lumbala who exploited the mines, and then it was Jean-Pierre Bemba’s MLC, and at another time control was shared with RCD-K. However, the trade in illegal gold predates the DRC war.
Abuses connected with gold exploitation are tightly linked with ethnic and economic controls that are at the core of the Eastern Congo’s violence. Multinational companies, whose success is partially staked on the good reputation of their shareholders, ignore their indirect involvement in the atrocities of Central Africa thanks to the myth that a precious mineral has no distinguishable characteristics or origin. The logic is that gold used for investment and manufacturing is extracted from a convoluted stream of untraceable sources. Nothing can be done to untangle this maze as gold is not attached to any history, or to any atrocities. Therefore, the buyer of gold bears no responsibilities for how gold is extracted.
The trade in Eastern Congo’s gold has been going on for so many decades that it predates the term conflict-gold. However, the underlying economic relationships, the identity of commercial co-conspirators to the atrocities connected with the gold trade, the refiners and end-users have never been systematically identified. Effective actions against the few enablers that are known are rare, as the paucity of assets seized under the UN or unilateral sanctions regimes demonstrate. This research and advocacy project will attempt to identify, as comprehensively as possible, individuals and companies, as well as any political affiliates, who are benefitting, participating in or are otherwise supportive of the conflict-gold trade.
Goal and objectives
The main goal of the project is to expose the illicit trade in Congolese gold and advocate for its eradication so that violence is reduced and funds from gold mining benefit local people and help reconstruct the country.
The project objectives are to:
• explain how illicit exploitation of gold in eastern Congo takes place and to outline the impact on local communities;
• to expose gold trading networks that operate in the DRC;
• to identify transit countries that facilitate the illegal gold trade from the DRC enabling it to enter international markets;
• to name and shame agents (including industrial networks) that still ignore due diligence norms related to the ethical global supply chain of resources.
• To develop a global public awareness campaign so that Western consumers of gold products are able to reduce the demand for gold that is mines in a manner that violates human rights and international law
The project activities will include:
• Field research, including conducting interviews with communities, traditional leaders, civil society organisations, gold mining companies, rebel groups/ militia groups, informal trading networks, relevant DRC ministries and oversight institutions;
• Filming of gold artisanal mining in the east of the DRC and the entire gold network (takes place simultaneously with interviews) including at centres of consumption;
• Secondary data collection in Southern Africa, the Great lakes region ( Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Burundi), western countries ( US, Belgium), China and the DRC (Kinshasa);
• Establishing a central African network to develop a regional advocacy campaign
• Developing a detailed advocacy campaign at a global level with Western-based NGOs
• Producing written evidence for popular and expert consumption
The activities have been designed with the understanding that a certain degree of flexibility is necessary given the security issues and also because researching in a complex and rapidly moving environment requires an ability to adjust and adapt to new circumstances.
Indicators of success
• Communities in the DRC in the gold mining areas of Moto, Mongbwalu, Fizi-Baraka are sensitised about the research
• 10 Congolese students are trained in investigative research methods and participate in the research process
• Advocacy meetings are held with provincial and national government leaders to inform them about the outcomes of the research
• Briefings are organised with the DRC national government, the Senate and the National Assembly and civil society in Kinshasa;
• Five in-depth newspaper articles are published in leading newspapers and magazines around the world;
• A conflict-gold support team is established within the Southern African Resource Watch
• Sufficient evidence is collected and affidavits taken to support legal cases where relevant
• Documentary film produced and disseminated
• Book-length manuscript produced and disseminated
• 20 – 30 page advocacy report produced and disseminated
Project Management Structure
The Southern African Resource Watch (SARW) will manage the entire project. It will accommodate the lead researcher Enrico Carish and link him to Congolese researchers. SARW will also facilitate field research and logistics for the entire research team.
SARW has conducted extensive research work in recent years and published reports on the illicit exploitation of coltan and cobalt in eastern DRC and Katanga. SARW is currently pursuing a similar work in gold and copper trade. In November 2010, SARW organised its first alternative summit on illegal exploitation of natural resources in the Great Lakes region in Kinshasa, within this structure similar research and advocacy activities are planned by civil society in the Great lakes region. SARW will work closely with the lead researcher from the inception up to the finalisation of the project.
The lead researcher – Enrico Carisch, has since 2002 served as an investigator for the United Nations Security Council Panel and Group of Experts. He is the longest serving member of the monitoring teams, and has also worked as a financial and natural resource expert in a range of African crisis areas, including Somalia, Liberia and the DRC. He was also the most recent coordinator of the UN Panel for Darfur/Sudan. As a consultant to European and Central African governments as well as the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, Carisch has led research related to capacity enhancement projects and devised policy proposals for the secure and effective exploitation of natural resource in the region. Prior to his service with the UN and State governments, Carisch worked as an investigative journalist for print and TV for 25 years. His publishing and research activities have stimulated legislative and enforcement actions, including criminal prosecutions, asset seizures, and civil litigation. Carisch is one of four former UN sanctions practitioners who have established Compliance and Capacity International (CCi) that is providing advisory, training and due diligence services on sanctions-related issues to government institutions, corporations and industry associations, as well as international organizations.