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Congo (Kinshasa): Gold and Violence
Jun 3, 2005 (050603)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
"The lure of gold has fueled massive human rights atrocities in the
northeastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Human
Rights Watch said in a new report published [on June 2]. Local warlords
and international companies are among those benefitting from access
to gold rich areas while local people suffer from ethnic slaughter,
torture and rape." - Human Rights Watch, releasing new report "The
Curse of Gold"
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains the press release and the
summary of this HRW report. The full 159-page report and other
background on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is
available at http://hrw.org/doc?t=africa&c=congo
For earlier AfricaFocus Bulletins and additional background links
on the DRC, visit http://www.africafocus.org/country/congokin.php
Another AfricaFocus Bulletin, also sent out today, focuses on the
other end of the gold sales chain, highlighting the role of the
world gold industry in blocking the sale of International Monetary
Fund reserves to cancel part of poor countries' debts.
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++
D. R. Congo: Gold Fuels Massive Human Rights Atrocities
Human Rights Watch (Washington, DC)
June 2, 2005
Leading international corporations established links to warlords
The lure of gold has fuelled massive human rights atrocities in the
northeastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Human
Rights Watch said in a new report published today. Local warlords
and international companies are among those benefiting from access
to gold rich areas while local people suffer from ethnic slaughter,
torture and rape. The 159-page report, 'The Curse of Gold,'
documents how local armed groups fighting for the control of gold
mines and trading routes have committed war crimes and crimes
against humanity using the profits from gold to fund their
activities and buy weapons. The report provides details of how a
leading gold mining company, AngloGold Ashanti, part of the
international mining conglomerate Anglo American, developed links
with one murderous armed group, the Nationalist and Integrationist
Front (FNI), helping them to access the gold-rich mining site
around the town of Mongbwalu in the northeastern Ituri district.
The Human Rights Watch report also illustrates the trail of tainted
gold from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to neighboring
Uganda from where it is sent to global gold markets in Europe and
elsewhere. The report documents how a leading Swiss gold refining
company, Metalor Technologies, previously bought gold from Uganda.
After discussions and correspondence with Human Rights Watch
beginning in December 2004, and after the report had gone to press,
the company announced on May 20 that it would suspend its purchases
of gold from Uganda. The Metalor statement was welcomed by Human
"Corporations should ensure their activities support peace and
respect for human rights in volatile areas such as northeastern
Congo, not work against them," said Anneke Van Woudenberg, senior
researcher on DRC at Human Rights Watch. "Local warlords use
natural resources to support their bloody activities. Any support
for such groups, whether direct or indirect, must not continue."
In contravention of international business standards and the
company's own code of conduct, AngloGold Ashanti provided
meaningful financial and logistical support - which in turn
resulted in political benefits - to the FNI and its leaders, a
group responsible for some of the worst atrocities in this war-torn
region. In correspondence with Human Rights Watch, AngloGold
Ashanti stated there was no "working or other relationship with the
FNI" but it said that it had made certain payments in the past to
the FNI, including one in January 2005 that was made under "protest
and duress." AngloGold Ashanti also said that any contacts with the
FNI leadership were "unavoidable."
Human Rights Watch researchers documented meetings between the
company and the armed group leaders. The self-styled president of
the FNI, Floribert Njabu, told Human Rights Watch, "The government
is never going to come to Mongbwalu. I am the one who gave
[AngloGold] Ashanti permission to come. I am the boss of Mongbwalu.
If I want to chase them away, I will."
AngloGold Ashanti started preparations for gold exploration
activities in Mongbwalu in late 2003. The company won the mining
rights to the vast gold concession in 1996 but, hampered by the
ongoing war, postponed activities there until a peace agreement was
signed and a transitional government was established in Kinshasa.
The central government failed to establish control of Ituri,
however, and the areas around Mongbwalu remained in the hands of
the FNI armed group.
"As a company committed to corporate social responsibility,
AngloGold Ashanti should have waited until it could work in
Mongbwalu without having to interact with abusive warlords," said
Van Woudenberg. "Congo desperately needs business investment to
help rebuild the country, but such business engagement must not
provide any support to armed groups responsible for crimes against
From 1 - 3 June, Anglo American is co-chairing the Africa Economic
Summit in Cape Town, aimed at promoting business investment and
engaging business as a catalyst for change in Africa.
The gold concessions of northeastern Congo, some of the richest in
Africa, could help to rebuild Congo's shattered economy. But
according to Human Rights Watch researchers, fighting between armed
groups for the control of the gold mining town of Mongbwalu cost
the lives of at least two thousand civilians between June 2002 and
September 2004. One miner told Human Rights Watch: "We are cursed
because of our gold. All we do is suffer. There is no benefit to
Throughout the conflict, artisanal mining has continued. Millions
of dollars worth of gold are smuggled out of Congo each year some
of it destined for Switzerland. The Swiss refining company, Metalor
Technologies, bought gold from Uganda. Asked about these purchases
by Human Rights Watch on April 21, 2005, Metalor stated it believed
"the gold ... was of legal origin." But since Uganda has almost no
gold reserves of its own, a significant amount of the gold
purchased by the company was almost certainly mined in Congo. In
its public statement of May 20, Metalor said it would not accept
any further deliveries from Uganda until the company could clarify
Uganda's position and statistics on gold production and export.
"We hope other companies will follow the lead set by Metalor," said
Van Woudenberg. "The problems we have documented are not unique to
Congo, nor to one international company. Rules governing corporate
behavior must be enforced, otherwise they are meaningless."
In August 2003, a group of United Nations experts adopted a set of
draft human rights business standards, known as the U.N. Norms,
which signaled a growing consensus on the need for standards on
corporate responsibility, but they have not yet been widely
implemented by companies. The international community has also
failed to effectively tackle the link between resources
exploitation and conflict in Congo, choosing to ignore previous
U.N. reports that highlighted the issue.
Northeastern Congo has been one of the worst hit areas during
Congo's devastating five-year war. Competing armed groups carried
out ethnic massacres, rape and torture in this mineral-rich corner
of Congo. A local conflict between Hema and Lendu ethnic groups
allied with national rebel groups and foreign backers, including
Uganda and Rwanda, has claimed over 60,000 lives since 1999,
according to United Nations estimates. These losses are just one
part of an estimated four million civilians dead throughout the
Congo, a toll that makes this war more deadly to civilians than any
other since World War II.
"Efforts to make peace in Congo risk failure unless the issue of
natural resource exploitation and its link to human rights abuses
are put at the top of the agenda," said Van Woudenberg "Congolese
citizens deserve to benefit from their gold resources, not be
cursed by them."
Quotes from The Curse of Gold
Witness of atrocities by the UPC armed group in a village near to
"I saw many people tied up ready to be executed. The UPC said they
were going to kill them all. They made the Lendu dig their own
graves ... [then] they killed the people by hitting them on the
head with a sledgehammer."
Witness in Mongbwalu:
"When the UPC were in Mongbwalu they sent their gold to Bunia and
from there it was sent to Rwanda. In exchange they got weapons."
A witness to the burning of Hema women accused of being witches by
the FNI armed group:
"The strategy was to close them in the house and burn it. They
captured the women from the surrounding countryside. They said it
was to bring them to talk about peace. They put ten women in a
house, tied their hands, closed the doors, and burned the house.
This lasted about two weeks, with killing night and day."
A young gold trader tortured for failure to pay taxes to the FNI
"There I spent two days in a hole in the ground covered by sticks.
They took me out of the hole to beat me. They tied me over a log
and then they took turns hitting me with sticks - on my head, my
back, my legs. They said they were going to kill me."
A witness to forced labor:
"The FNI combatants come every morning door-to-door. They split up
to find young people and they take about sixty of them to the river
to find the gold ... They are forced to work. If the authorities
try to intervene they are beaten."
A victim of torture by General Jerome:
"They said the gold was for Commander Jerome and he needed money to
build his house. They said if I didn't give the money, Jerome would
give the order for me to be killed. On the fifth day Jerome came
with his officers to the prison . . . and pointed his gun at me. He
said: 'Since the first day, I said I would kill you. I don't joke.
Today it's the end of your life.' They made me get out of the hole
and lie down. Jerome loaded his revolver and put it to the back of
Mining engineer in the Durba gold mining region where the Ugandan
army had been present:
"The Ugandan army were responsible for the destruction of Gorumbwa
[gold] mine. They started to mine the pillars. It was disorderly
and very widespread. People were killed when the mine eventually
collapsed. It was not their country so they didn't care about the
A gold trader asked why he worked in the dangerous mines:
"Tell me what choice I have? This is the only way I can make any
money. Its about my own survival and that of my family."
A Congolese government official:
"We just watch our country's resources drain away with no benefit
to the Congolese people."
Charles Carter, Vice President at AngloGold Ashanti:
"The company has made preparations to 'commence exploration
drilling on the Kimin prospect [OKIMO] in the Ituri region of the
DRC ... [W]hile this is obviously a tough environment right now, we
are looking forward to the opportunity to fully explore the
properties we have in the Congo, believing that we now have access
to potentially exciting growth prospects in Central Africa."
Local observer to events in the mining regions:
"Njabu [President of the FNI] now has power due to the gold he
controls and [the presence of] AngloGold Ashanti. This is his ace
and he will use it to get power in Kinshasa."
The Curse of Gold
"We are cursed because of our gold. All we do is suffer. There is
no benefit to us." Congolese gold miner
The northeast corner of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is
home to one of Africa's richest goldfields. Competition to control
the gold mines and trading routes has spurred the bloody conflict
that has gripped this area since the start of the Congolese war in
1998 and continues to the present. Soldiers and armed group
leaders, seeing control of the gold mines as a way to money, guns,
and power, have fought each other ruthlessly, often targeting
civilians in the process. Combatants under their command carried
out widespread ethnic slaughter, executions, torture, rape and
arbitrary arrest, all grave human rights abuses and violations of
international humanitarian law. More than sixty thousand people
have died due to direct violence in this part of Congo alone.
Rather than bringing prosperity to the people of northeastern
Congo, gold has been a curse to those who have the misfortune to
This report documents human rights abuses linked to efforts to
control two key gold mining areas, Mongbwalu (Ituri District) and
Durba (Haut U‚l‚ District), both bordering Uganda.
When Uganda, a major belligerent in the war, occupied northeastern
Congo from 1998 to 2003, its soldiers took direct control of
gold-rich areas and coerced gold miners to extract the gold for
their benefit. They beat and arbitrarily arrested those who
resisted their orders. Ignoring the rules of war for the conduct of
occupying armies, they helped themselves to an estimated one ton of
Congolese gold valued at over $9 million. Their irresponsible
mining practices led to the collapse of one of the most important
mines in the area in 1999, the Gorumbwa mine, killing some one
hundred people trapped inside and destroying a major livelihood for
the residents of the area.
The Ugandan army withdrew from Congo in 2003, following Rwanda,
another major belligerent, which had withdrawn the year before.
Each left behind local proxies, the Lendu Nationalist and
Integrationist Front (Front des Nationalistes et Int‚grationnistes,
FNI) linked to Uganda, and the Hema Union of Congolese Patriots
(Union des Patriotes Congolais, UPC), supported by Rwanda. With
continued assistance from their external backers, these local armed
groups in turn fought for the control of gold-mining areas and
trade routes. As each group won a gold-rich area, they promptly
began exploiting the ore. The FNI and the UPC fought five battles
in a struggle to control Mongbwalu, each resulting in widespread
human rights abuses. Human Rights Watch researchers documented the
slaughter of at least two thousand civilians in the Mongbwalu area
alone between June 2002 and September 2004. Tens of thousands of
civilians were forced to flee from their homes into the forests to
escape their attackers. Many of them did not survive.
In 2003, peace talks at the national level culminated in the
installation of a transitional government, but northeastern Congo
remained volatile and beyond central government control.
Multinational corporations nonetheless sought to sign new deals or
revitalize old ones to start gold mining and exploration operations
in the rich gold concessions in the northeast. One of these
companies, AngloGold Ashanti, one of the largest gold producers in
the world, started exploration activities in the Mongbwalu gold
mining area. Following earlier attempts to make contact with the
UPC armed group, AngloGold Ashanti representatives established
relations with the FNI, an armed group responsible for serious
human rights abuses including war crimes and crimes against
humanity, and who controlled the Mongbwalu area. In return for FNI
assurances of security for its operations and staff, AngloGold
Ashanti provided logistical and financial support that in turn
resulted in political benefits to the armed group and its
leaders. The company knew, or should have known, that the FNI armed
group had committed grave human rights abuses against civilians and
was not a party to the transitional government.
As a company with public commitments to corporate social
responsibility, AngloGold Ashanti should have ensured their
operations complied with those commitments and did not adversely
affect human rights. They do not appear to have done so. Business
considerations came above respect for human rights. In its gold
exploration activities in Mongbwalu, AngloGold Ashanti failed to
uphold its own business principles on human rights considerations
and failed to follow international business norms governing the
behavior of companies internationally. Human Rights Watch has been
unable to identify effective steps taken by the company to ensure
that their activities did not negatively impact on human rights.
In other small-scale mining operations conducted throughout the
duration of the conflict, armed groups and their business allies
used the proceeds from the sale of gold to support their military
activities. Working outside of legal channels, a network of traders
funnelled gold mined by artisanal miners and forced labour out of
the Congo to Uganda. In return for their services some traders
counted on the support of combatants from the armed groups who
threatened, detained, and even murdered their commercial rivals or
those suspected of failing to honor business deals. These traders
sold the ore to gold exporters based in Uganda who then sold to the
global gold market, a practice that continues today.
In 2003, an estimated $60 million worth of Congolese gold was
exported from Uganda, much of it destined for Switzerland. One of
the companies buying gold from Uganda is Metalor Technologies, a
leading Swiss refinery. The chain of Congolese middlemen, Ugandan
traders, and multinational corporations forms an important funding
network for armed groups operating in northeastern Congo. Metalor
knew, or should have known, that gold bought from its suppliers in
Uganda came from a conflict zone in northeastern DRC where human
rights were abused on a systematic basis. The company should have
considered whether its own role in buying gold resources from its
suppliers in Uganda was compatible with provisions on human rights
and it should have actively checked its supply chain to verify that
acceptable ethical standards were maintained. Through purchases of
gold made from Uganda, Metalor Technologies may have contributed
indirectly to providing a revenue stream for armed groups that
carry out widespread human rights abuses.
The international community has failed to effectively tackle the
link between resource exploitation and conflict in the Congo.
Following three years of investigation into this link, a United
Nations (U.N.) panel of experts stated that the withdrawal of
foreign armies from Congo was unlikely to stop the cycle of
conflict and exploitation of resources. But the U.N. Security
Council established no mechanism to follow up on the
recommendations of the panel. The trade in gold is just one example
of a wider trend of competition for resources and resulting human
rights abuses taking place in mineral rich areas throughout the
Congo. The link between conflict and resource exploitation raises
broader questions of corporate accountability in the developing
world. Given the troubling allegations described in the U.N. panel
of experts reports and in this report, it is imperative that
further steps be taken to deal with the issue of natural resources
and conflict in the Congo and beyond.
In preparation for this report, Human Rights Watch researchers
interviewed over 150 individuals including victims, witnesses, gold
miners, gold traders, gold exporters, customs officials, armed
group leaders, government representatives, and officials of
international financial institutions in Congo, Uganda and Europe in
2004 and 2005. Human Rights Watch researchers also met with and
engaged in written correspondence with representatives from
AngloGold Ashanti and Metalor Technologies to discuss concerns.
We wish to thank our Congolese colleagues in Justice Plus, and
other individuals who cannot be named for security reasons, for
their assistance and support in our research. They risk their lives
to defend the rights of others and are to be commended for their
courage and commitment.
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