The Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW) organised a major consultative conference in Kinshasa on 2-3 May, 2013 to discuss the impact of key peace agreements and the trade in conflict minerals in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Representatives from Congolese academia, civil society, government agencies and political parties reflected on the different peace agreements and conflict minerals in general and the potential impact of the latest Framework Agreement on Peace and Security in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Great Lakes Region signed in Addis Ababa in particular. The conference also discussed United Nations Security Council Resolution 2098, which established a rapid intervention brigade.
The consensus that emerged during the discussions was that to finally end the conflicts in the DRC, it was necessary to first end illegal mining and the illicit trade in minerals, which were fuelling the violence.
The search for peace in the DRC has already produced numerous reports from UN Groups of Experts, and national and international civil society organisations, which have all highlighted the link between war and minerals. Many UN Security Council resolutions have been adopted and many continental and regional agreements have been signed without bringing an end to the conflicts. The most recent agreement was the one adopted in Addis Ababa in February 2013 by all Great Lakes states.
The conference found that the Addis Ababa Agreement was unlikely to end armed conflicts in eastern DRC because it fails – like many other previous deals – to seriously consider the problems posed by the exploitation of, and trade in, minerals by rebel groups and neighbouring countries. Or to acknowledge that conflict minerals are the main factor fuelling continued conflict in eastern DRC.
The conference proposed several recommendations, including:
- Congolese civil society groups should strive to claim ownership of existing structures that are designed to tackle the conflict mineral trade, and seek to popularise them in order to contribute to the promotion of peace in the Great Lakes Region. Congolese civil society groups should also work with sister organisations from the region, the United States and Europe to ensure greater impact, particularly in terms of demanding more effective mechanisms for monitoring and tracing minerals in Congo and beyond its borders;
- The Congolese government must encourage good government of the natural resources sector, including greater responsibility, transparency and participation in the management of the country’s resources;
- The Congolese government must respect – and implement – the various agreements it has already signed and should refrain from signing any future agreement unless they are in the national interest;
- The Congolese must develop their own solutions to conflict minerals rather than adopting solutions that are given to them by the international community without proper consultation, since these are difficult to implement. The DRC government should consult Congolese experts during the conceptualisation of solutions to mineral-driven conflicts and only accept outside ideas if they are based on the best interests of the country;
- The international community should put pressure on the governments in Rwanda and Uganda to initiate inter-Rwandan and inter-Ugandan dialogues in order to find solutions to their own internal political issues, which are one of the main factors behind the continued instability in eastern DRC;
- The government should improve border controls by acquiring modern mineral detection equipment to reduce smuggling at border posts;
- The Congolese national army should be reformed using Congolese expertise and the government should improve the living conditions of soldiers, police officers and other security service personnel;
- Congolese civil society organisations should encourage countries that agreed to deploy troops as part of the UN’s Intervention Brigade (which was welcomed by the conference participants) to fulfil their commitments and deploy their troops as planned;
- Women should be given opportunities to play an active role in promoting good management in the mining sector and in helping to resolve conflicts; and
- Civil society organisations should agree a timetable for actions (including integrating civil society groups from neighbouring countries) that are designed to promote – and evaluate – measures to finally resolve the conflicts in eastern DRC.