Congo: The Coltan Killers

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Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire)

October 4, 2010: The UN released a 550 page study on violence and human rights violations in the Congo. The study confined itself to analyzing the worst violations in the last ten years. There are plenty to choose from and the UN chose over 600. The study utilized on-the-ground research teams that interviewed witnesses and survivors. The list of crimes includes murders (tens of thousands), rapes, and kidnappings. Critics have already accused the UN of softening some of the accusations that implicate Rwandan and Ugandan troops. Rwanda reacted to leaked versions of the study by threatening to pull its troops out of the UNAMID operation in Sudan's Darfur region.

September 25, 2010: Congolese sources, citing the MONUSCO (UN Congo peacekeeping operation) claim that Rwanda has sent troops into North Kivu province. The Rwanda soldiers are aiding Congolese Army operations in the province. A UN spokesman denied the claims. However, in the past Rwandan Army and Congolese forces have conducted joint operations against the FDLR.

September 17, 2010: The government of Uganda has offered to provide training for Congolese soldiers. Uganda has also expressed a desire to increase cooperation with the Congo to battle Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) guerrillas. The ADF is a Ugandan rebel organization and has maintained bases in the eastern Congo. Uganda believes the ADF has connections with Al Shabaab, the Somali Islamist organization which launched the World Cup terror attacks in Uganda in July 2010.

September 15, 2010: The Congolese Army (FARDC) announced that it intended to launch an offensive in North Kivu province. The offensive is aimed at gaining control of illegal mining operations in the region. The offensive will focus on the Walikale area, a mineral-rich, jungle-covered district. Many of the rebel militias are financed by profits from illegal mining operations.

September 14, 2010: The government claimed that it will enforce its new ban on mining minerals in the eastern provinces plagued by rebel activity (particularly North and South Kivu provinces). The government also said that it would crack down on smuggling operations which move the minerals out of the Congo. The big question is how the government will enforce the ban. Rebel militias control many key mineral producing areas. Government troops go in, the rebels hide, the government forces occupy the region. So far so good, except many government forces then cut deals with the rebels share the profits from the illegal export of the minerals. As it is, many of the mines in the east are small and scattered throughout the jungle. Some militias have their own miners. The militias arrange to have the minerals (coltan, for example) taken to brokers operating in other east African countries. The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a Rwandan Hutu militia force, has been accused of running a full spectrum mining operation, that includes mining, transportation, and export of gold and coltan.

September 10, 2010: MONUSCO now deploys around 17,700 peacekeeping troops. The peacekeepers are supported by another 700 military observers and 1,220 policemen.

 

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