Global Witness Report Worrying But Not New Revelation - Officials
The New Times (Kigali)

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James Karuhanga

A recent report that government forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are colluding with rebel groups, including the FDLR in illegal mining, contrary to current peace seeking initiatives, is not a new development even though it is worrying, officials maintain.

BBC Wednesday quoted a recent report by the watchdog group, Global Witness, that some members of the DRC national army and rebel groups are involved in mining gold and tin in eastern DRC.

Ambassador Richard Sezibera, President Paul Kagame's special envoy to the Great Lakes Region, was not surprised by the recent revelations especially considering the fact that the UN has in the past also raised the same concerns.

"This is nothing new.

It is not a new development since it is well known that the FDLR runs mines and even carry out taxation," he told The New Times Thursday, stressing that both the UN and the DRC government also knew.

Contrary to what is expected of the DRC army - flushing out the FDLR rebels and others - the report says members of the army and rebels are actually cooperating with each other in mining operations, a development that many see as worrying as it can only risk undermining the peace efforts underway.

One such other person is Rosemary Museminali, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Cooperation.

She pointed out that if indeed Global Witness is spot on, then the state of affairs portrays a picture contrary to what was expected after "the Nairobi agreement" and a UN Resolution, 1804, all of which are not being adhered to.

"In addition to not doing what we agreed on, they [FDLR] are being empowered," she underlined the alarming possibility of fuelling the war in eastern DRC.

"We would really like to ask the Congolese Government to look into the matter," she said, stressing that "channels" to the effect were in place.

Karina Tertsakian, the DRC's lead campaigner for Global Witness while speaking to the VOA English to Africa Service, Wednesday exposed more of the illegal mining.

"We visited North and South Kivu to look specifically at the involvement of armed groups and the army in mining. What we discovered particularly was that the FDLR, one of the main armed groups operating in these areas and the national army are in a kind of relationship of I would say tacit support or even, in some cases, connivance or complicity," she said.

"Different parts of these two provinces are under the control of the army and some under the control of the FDLR. But in some areas they are operating side by side. So each have carved out their little patch where they are busy mining or trading in minerals, making quite large profits."

"The national army, in many cases, is quite sympathetic to the FDLR they allow them to operate undisturbed. And indeed, each side depends on the other's support, for example, to pass through the other's territory unhindered," she added.

Tertsakian said evidence of the mining operations has been presented to DRC officials of the provincial government in both Provinces.

"They acknowledged there was a problem, both in relation to the armed groups and the army in mining. They said they were trying to sort out the problem, but it was very clear to us that they have very limited powers in the situation," she said.

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Established in 1993, Global Witness is an international organization that works to break the links between natural resources' exploitation, conflict, poverty, corruption and human rights abuses worldwide.

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