Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Congo gold 'still funding' rebels

By Dino Mahtani

Sanction busters are smuggling 40 tonnes of gold annually out of the Democratic Republic of Congo, a United Nations official has told the BBC.

Dino Mahtani said most of the gold was controlled by rebel groups who use the proceeds to buy arms. Mr Mahtani, who is due to report to a meeting of the UN Security Council this week, said: "This money helps sustain them [the armed groups] in the field." Most gold is shipped to Dubai via a neighbouring state, he added. Mr Mahtani, who co-ordinates UN arms embargo experts, told BBC File on 4: "Recently there was a Congolese Senate report which talked of roughly $1.24bn (£739m) worth of gold or 40 tonnes of material smuggled out on a yearly basis without any customs declaration."

Rebel gold

He said the profits of this trade run into several millions of US dollars, which goes back to the armed groups in charge of the illicit trade.
"A lot of this gold is controlled by armed group networks, in particular the FDLR, which is a Rwandan-based rebel group partly composed by members involved in the 1994 genocide and who continue to operate in eastern Congo," he said.
He added that the gold trade is one of the most significant avenues of direct finance for the armed groups.


Listen to File on 4, BBC Radio 4 2000 GMT, Tuesday 17 November 2009, repeated 1700, Sunday 22 November 2009.
Listen on iPlayer
Download the podcast

The UN Security Council has had an arms embargo in place in DR Congo for six years following the peace accord between the government and armed groups.
Sanctions were applied to two gold-trading companies that operated out of neighbouring Uganda, but a UN investigator told File on 4 that it would be "quite easy" for people to evade the sanctions because they apply only to the companies and not to named individuals.
Secret trade

Mr Mahtani, is this week to present evidence culled from travel documents, phone records and customs certificates to the Security Council, outlining how DR Congo's gold is traded.
He is convinced that the trade is drawn from a small network of individuals and he added: "When you place companies on a sanctions list and you don't sanction directors of those companies then it's very easy for them to simply change behaviour, set up new front companies and carry on operating.

"So this year we've been looking at some of the directors of these companies and some of the other companies operating in this region and in this trade, and trying to focus on individuals rather than trying to nail companies against a wall, who could easily change names from one day to the next."

The UN Security Council will have to decide whether to impose further sanctions.
File on 4 is on BBC Radio 4 on Tuesday, 17 November, at 2000 GMT, repeated Sunday, 22 November, at 1700. You can also listen via the BBC iPlayer after broadcast or download the podcast.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Congo's Gold

For those who would like to find out more about Congo's Gold, watch the video
at http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=5825990n

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Child Soldiers in Congo

The Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict estimates that in Congo, there are about 30,000 gun toting children under 18. Instead of going to school, they are trained to kill by the very adults who are supposed to be protecting them. Both genders participate in the conflict. Girl soldiers, on the other hand, are also used as sex slaves. Most of them end up pregnant and/or catch sexually transmitted diseases.

The Congolese government has done nothing to demoblize these child combatants. The few transition centers are run by organizations like UNICEF but they aren't able to accomodate all the children. So a majority go without counseling and educational/life skills training.To make matters worse, many of the children are orphaned as a result of the conflict, which makes it easy for the militias to kidnap the kids again. Those who try to return to their families are rejected because of their association with the rebels. They end up living on the streets.

The girls have no other choice but to sell their bodies to the UN peacekeepers. It's no wonder that many kids rejoin the rebels in order to get food and money.This vicious cycle of poverty can only end if a ban on arms trafficking to militias is enforced.

It's time that the western governments and corporations stopped profiting from wars in Africa and focused more on creating a better world for all people. Afterall, Africa's children have the same fundamental rights as kids everywhere.

Child Miners In Congo

Imagine that you're eight years old and you have to work all day. Your job is deep inside a mine where you are paid less than a buck to find some mineral you will never be able to keep. Sometimes you're not paid at all. The middlemen and older miners often beat and harrass you.

If you're a girl, you're raped.This is everyday life for child miners forced to work in mines because of poverty and war in Congo. These children don't make a profit from the minerals they dig with their bare hands or shovels.

The gold, copper, cobalt, diamonds, coltan and many other minerals are smuggled by rebels into countries like Uganda and sold to traders from Belgium, Switzerland, Britain, Israel, and the US.This is child labor at its worst. These young children are dying of diseases like hemorrhagic fever and cholera. They are working for many hours in really dangerous conditions. They don't wear protective gear. Most eat only one measly meal a day (if they eat at all). These youngsters should be going to school and enjoying their childhood!

It is really sad that so many innocent lives are destroyed because of the so called first world's demand for Congo’s minerals. Absolutely nothing is being done by the international community to ban the sale of minerals from mines that employ children.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Thousands of women and girls have been raped in Eartern part of the Congo

In the Congo, thousands of women and girls have been raped. The ages of the victims vary- from toddlers to the elderly. It is not uncommon to hear about a woman who was violated by several soldiers in front of her family. The law does not exist in Congo, so these soldiers do as they please. They don’t just stop at rape. They also torture their victims, beat them, shoot them in their vaginas, insert objects into their bodies, and kill their families.The survivors' stories are deeply disturbing.

In her segment about Congolese rape victims on Jan. 24, 2005, Oprah Winfrey recounted the experience of one mother who was attacked by a group of militias. They told her teenaged son to rape her! When he refused, they shot him dead. Then they assaulted the woman and nearly chopped off her arm.

There is at least one man in Congo who is helping and not abusing women. His name is Dr. Denis Mukwege, an OB/GYN at Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, Congo. He heals rape victims who come to him b/c of leaking urine and feces. Thanks to Dr. Mukwege and his staff, a few of these victims are able to return to their homes with a little bit of dignity.Please donate to Panzi Hospital so that Dr. Mukwege can continue to heal these women.

If you would like to help these raped victims, please go to http://www.vday.org/registry03.html or http://www.panzihospitalbukavu.org/

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Enslavement of Congolese Women

Strong and hardworking Congolese women walk for many miles each day, carrying heavy loads of firewood and minerals on their heads.

Take a look at the pictures. What do you see? Very strong and hardworking Congolese women. They walk for many miles each day, carrying heavy loads of firewood and minerals on their heads.

It is women like them who can change Congo because they are suffering so much. They know what grinding poverty is. They’ve watched their children die. They are the ones who sacrifice for their families. They experience violence and brutality on a daily basis.

Congolese women have tremendous potential. If only they had more political clout. If only they had more say regarding their reproductive health. If only they had more access to education (the literacy rate for Congolese women is about 50% compared to 80% for men).