Global Witness issued a statement on Tuesday, saying, “Tons of gold produced in eastern Congo benefit rebels and high-ranking members of the Congolese and Burundian state armies.”
The statement said local buyers and international traders in the region do not conduct adequate checks on the gold they purchase “to ensure that it has not funded conflict or human rights abuses.”
Global Witness said that the rebels “use the profits generated from the minerals trade to fund their fight,” while some senior Congolese officers abuse their position to benefit from the trade.
The conditions of “tin and tantalum trade are progressing,” but “progress remains localized,” the statement added.
“Although localized, these positive developments represent emerging opportunities for responsible sourcing, which the Congolese government, companies and international donors should support and develop.”
Several armed groups, including the March 23 movement (M23) rebels, are active in the eastern Congo and fighting for control of the country’s vast mineral resources, such as gold, the main tin ore cassiterite, and coltan (columbite-tantalite), which is used to make many electronic devices, including cell phones.
The M23 rebels seized Goma on November 20, 2012 after UN peacekeepers gave up the battle for the frontier city of one million people. M23 fighters withdrew from the city on December 1 under a ceasefire accord.
The M23 rebels defected from the Congolese Army in April 2012 in protest over alleged mistreatment in the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC). They had previously been integrated into the Congolese army under a peace deal signed in 2009.
Since early May 2012, nearly three million people have fled their homes in the eastern Congo. About 2.5 million have resettled in Congo, but more than 460,000 have crossed into neighboring Rwanda and Uganda.
Congo has faced numerous problems over the past few decades, such as grinding poverty, crumbling infrastructure, and a war in the east of the country that has dragged on since 1998 and left over 5.5 million people dead.