The United Nations Security Council’s tenuous authority in Africa has been further threatened by an explosive new report from a UN Group of Experts* showing wide-ranging violations of the arms embargo on Congo-Kinshasa by both Western and African states. The expert panel reports that killer militias in Eastern Congo have been receiving military orders from leaders based inGermany and France and getting finance from two Spanish-based charities linked to the Roman Catholic church in clear breach of the UN sanctions regime. The report also accuses the governments of Burundi, Uganda, Tanzania and Congo-Kinshasa of allowing serious breaches of sanctions and the illegal export of mineral wealth.
After heated discussions at UN headquarters in New York on 20 November, several Council members want to dilute the report’s recommendations – if not bury them, Africa Confidential has learned. The Council is due to meet again on 25 November to discuss the report, but China has been pushing for a substantive delay on any actions while the report is translated into another five languages.
This latest crisis for the UN’s operations in Congo-Kinshasa follows growing concerns about relations between the Mission de l’Organisation des Nations Unies en République Démocratique du Congo (Monuc) and the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC) after the latter was found to have been involved in mass killings and rapes of civilians in Eastern Congo. The new report reinforces concerns voiced by some UN officials about the management of Monuc, the UN’s most expensive peacekeeping operations costing over US$1 billion a year, under Alan Doss, the British diplomat who is currently UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon‘s Special Representative in Congo. Continuing criticism of the ineffectiveness of Monuc and its high cost are undermining diplomatic support for the mission.
Analysing internal Monuc reports and its information from its own sources the Expert Group concludes that military operations by the FARDC, first in conjunction first with the the Rwandan Defence Force (RDF) and then with Monuc, against the Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Rwanda (FDLR) militia have had much less impact than the Kinshasa government and the UN have claimed.
It adds that the joint FARDC-RDF operation in North Kivu earlier this year, known as Umoja Wetu, was weakened by the embezzlement of several million US dollars of funds by senior FARDC and RDF commanders. Umoja Wetu was followed in March 2009 by Kimia II, an FARDC operation backed by Monuc, which the FARDC says has contained and greatly weakened the FDLR. Yet the Group’s report states that since forming a tactical alliance with a predominantly Hunde militia in North Kivu as well as with its splinter faction RUD-URUNANA, the FDLR has been able to return in strength to the Masisi, Lubero and Walikale regions of the province. The report concludes that the FARDC’s military operations have not succeeded in neutralising the FDLR, despite the intense humanitarian crisis they have provoked.
The previous UN panel report on Congo-Kinshasa, released last December, reported at length on secret collaboration between the FARDC and FDLR. This was followed in January, however, by a groundbreaking deal between Congo-Kinshasa’s President Joseph Kabila and Rwandan President Paul Kagame, which was widely assumed to mean, not least by the Security Council, that FARDC support for the FDLR would cease. Yet this latest report shows that the senior commanders of the FARDC’s 10th military region, which roughly comprises South Kivu, continue to provide logistical support to the FDLR.
The commanders of the FARDC 10th military region, who the report claims are responsible for the provision of this logistical support, are General Pacifique Masunzu, a Banyamulenge (South Kivu Banyamulenge Tutsi) who broke with the Rwandan-backed Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD) back in 2003 and who clearly remains implacably opposed to the Rwandan government, and his deputy Colonel Baudouin Nakabaka, a former Mai-Mai fighter with close links to the FDLR.
Another interesting link to the FDLR and to a related and equally brutal Rwandan militia in eastern DRC called RUD-URUNANA, reveals the report, is Mbusa Nyamwisi, Congo-Kinshasa’s Minister of Decentralisation. Mbusa Nyamwisi, who was previously Foreign Minister, has been linked by the report to Kasereka Maghulu, otherwise known as Kavatsi, who has apparently been helping RUD-URUNANA obtain food supplies, arms, ammunition and cash in return for minerals and timber.
One of the report’s strongest findings is the extent of the FDLR’s support network in Europe, and particularly in Germany and France. It shows that German-based Ignace Murwanashyaka is not only the FDLR President but also its supreme military commander, and that Straton Musoni, its German-based Vice-President, is also President of the militia’s high command. The Deputy President of this high command is apparently Callixte Mbarushimana, the FDLR’s France-based Executive Secretary. All three men have previously been sanctioned by the UN, which is supposed to mean that they are banned from international travel and that their bank accounts are frozen. But Etablissement Muyeye, one of the biggest mineral trading houses in Bukavu, organised the transfer of funds through Western Union to Murwanashyaka’s associates in Germany on behalf of FDLR, the report shows.
The arrest of Murwanashyaka and Musoni by the German authorities last week on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity raises questions about timing. The German government had not previously acted against Murwanashyaka and Musoni despite evidence of their continued leadership role in the FDLR and appeals from the Rwandan government to take action. Some UN sources suggest Germany acted because it had heard about the UN report with details about the FDLR networks in Europe.
Germany’s arrest of the two FDLR men puts pressure on France, which has not arrested Calixte Mbarushimana, and is criticised in the report for being reluctant to share information about the FDLR with the panel. The experts identified 21 telephone numbers in France that have been in contact with FDLR military satellite phones between September 2008 and August 2009. They asked the French government to collaborate and identify these numbers but the French authorities are yet to respond. Similarly, the French authorities have failed to respond to questions about FDLR leadership resident in France.
The networks are wider: the UN experts also identified money transfers from Belgium to the FDLR. They also complain about the lack of cooperation from Britain and the United States on enquires into phone numbers in contact with FDLR military satellite phones.
Also under scrutiny are those Roman Catholic networks which have provided continuing support to Hutu extremists before, during and after the genocide of 1994 in Rwanda. The panel names two Spanish charities linked with the Roman Catholic church, the Fundació S’Olivar and Inshuti, which are funded by the government of the Islas Baleares Province and have been providing financial support to the FDLR, which groups around youth recruited in refugee camps and young Congolese Hutus, the last quarter of the former militiamen and Forces Armées Rwandaiseselements. Fundació S’Olivar is run by Juan Carrero, a prominent figure in Spain who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000. Inshuti used to be run by Joan Casoliva. Both men are cited in the report as being FDLR sympathisers and for being involved in pushing forward the prosecution of RPF officials in the Spanish courts. The authors of the report also gathered testimonies claiming that a Belgian brother of a charity called Constant Goetschalckxhas given money to the FDLR.
Another important revelation by the Group is that the FDLR and RUD-URUNANA have since early this year been recruiting hundreds of combatants from Rwandan refugee camps in Uganda, in particular from the camps of Nyakivale and Cyaka, under the noses of the Ugandan military which is supposed to have been preventing this. A key organiser is said to be the FDLR’s ‘Colonel’ Wenceslas Nizeyimana, who is accused of facilitating a visit in 2006 by FDLR President Ignace Murwanyashyaka to Uganda in violation of a UN travel ban.
These findings embarrass Uganda, which is a temporary member of the UN Security Council, as do revelations in the report about Uganda’s deep involvement in a thriving trade in gold mined from eastern Congolese sites controlled and taxed by the FDLR. The report says that Rajendra Vaya and J.V. Lodhia (also known as Chuni), who headed two Ugandan gold trading companies called UCI and Machanga which were previously sanctioned by the UN Security Council for buying gold from mines taxed by an assortment of Ituri militia, are the most active and are trading with the protection and connivance of the Ugandan authorities.
The report criticised the Ugandan government for supplying the Group with only ‘incomplete and partial’ customs declarations for the country’s gold exports, and claims to have documentation showing that far more is going out then the official figures reveal. Almost all the Congolese gold being exported via Uganda, it seems, goes to Dubai, which has so far declined to respond to any of the Group’s requests for further information.
The report also says that the FDLR is receiving ‘significant deliveries’ of weapons and ammunition from Tanzania via Lake Tanganyika and strongly suggests the Tanzanian government knows all about it. The Tanzanian government’s motivation, moots the panel, is to retain influence over illegal trade with Congo, including fuel smuggling from Tanzania to Congo and minerals smuggling in the other direction. The panel has email correspondence from Bande Ndagundi, a Congolese arms trafficker active in Tanzania and Burundi, talking about his high level contacts with Tanzanian officials. The panel shows Ndagundi has been in regular phone contact with the Tanzanian Ambassador to Burundi, who the panel’s sources allege facilitates Ndagundi’s activities.
The Group’s report claims the Burundian government is allowing the FDLR to use its territory as a rear base and to recruit from there, and further finds that it may be facilitating a supply of arms to the militia from international dealers. It has long been known that Burundi was the main conduit for gold mined in South Kivu, since the country exports gold without producing it. Most, if not all, South Kivu’s gold mines are controlled by one armed group or another, with the FDLR controlling a number of the best deposits.
Several FDLR ex-combatants interviewed by the experts stated that several hundred of fighters were recruited in Rwanda and infiltrated through Burundi into Congo-Kinshasa. There is little doubt that Burundi will dislike this report, in particular the mention that according to several testimonies and backed by phone records,’the FDLR maintain a relationship with Gen. Adolphe Nshimirimana, Burundi’s head of intelligence’. Moreover, the experts found suspicious the attempted purchase in Malaysia by Burundian officials of 40,000 Steyer AUG assault rifles, which exceeded the needs of the Burundian police.
Several foreign mining houses continue to trade with the FDLR. End buyers for this cassiterite include the Malaysia Smelting Corporation and the Thailand Smelting and Refining Company (Thaisarco), held by the British-registered Amalgamated Metals Corporation. Furthermore, the fact that Thaisarco is supplied by African Ventures Ltd, a Samoan-registered company with a Hong Kong address, which is being used as a front company for the Swiss businessman Chris Huber, is also embarrassing; Huber was involved in the conflict coltan business during the 1998-2003 war in Eastern Congo and today he is also sourcing material from companies with close ties to FARDC officers from the former Congrés National pour la Défense du Peuple (CNDP, the ex-Congolese Tutsi guerilla force headed by Gen. Laurent Nkunda), who are in control of mines in the Walikale and Kalehe territories as well as companies buying from FDLR zones.
The report published a document showing how gold from these mines makes it into Burundi, focusing in particular on the role played by Bujumbura-based Mutoka Ruganyira. Ruganyira, it seems, is a good friend of Gen. Adolphe Nshimirimana, the director general of the Burundian intelligence services, and a business associate of Antwerp-based gold dealer Alain Goetz.Goetz, says the report, is linked not only to Ruganyira but also to a North Kivu-based company improbably called Glory Minerals, which also sources its gold from FDLR-controlled mines. Goetz has, however, denied the story, telling the panel he had not purchased gold from the DRC ‘for several years’.
Among the Group’s less surprising revelations are that North Korea and Sudan have violated UN Security Council resolution 1807 which imposes all states to notify the Sanctions Committee in advance regarding the shipment of arms for Congo.
China also supplied ammunition and equipment. The An Xin Jiang A vessel docked at Matadi in May 2009. China informed the Committee about the delivery but did not provide details about the cargo. China has been leading the charges against the expert report in the UN Security Council.South Africa, Angola and the USA, which train FARDC units, failed to notify the UN Sanctions Committee in advance on this provision of military assistance, advice or training. US authorities also failed to provide information on the bank account of a CNDP activist in Gisenyi.
Russia will face questions about the purchase of cassiterite by the Novosibirsk Integrated Tin Works company from ex-CNDP Congolese army officers and an attempted sale of military equipment including helicopter parts to the Congolese government in August 2009 by a Russian national named Dmitry Popov.
Of all governments in the region, Rwanda’s seems to have earned the least criticism in this report – although it will also be embarrassed by revelations that Gen. Laurent Nkunda, the founder and former leader of the predominantly Congolese Tutsi CNDP who is supposed to be under detention in Rwanda, has been allowed to remain in contact with former associates and to exert a degree of control over the CNDP. The link with Chris Huber is also embarrassing. Huber used to ship minerals out of Rwanda during 1998-2003 via the state run Rwanda Metals, a company owned by the Rwandan Patriotic Forces (RPF).
The report says that the man who toppled Nkunda from the CNDP leadership, Jean Bosco Ntaganda, is the deputy commander of Kimia II despite being wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court. The new US envoy to the Great Lakes region, Howard Wolpe, recently called on the Congolese government to hand Ntaganda over to the ICC, but Information Minister Lambert Mende retorted that the government was ‘not yet ready’ to do so. Ntaganda appears, meanwhile, to be building a military/business empire for himself in the Kivus, collecting taxes from mines now controlled by the FARDC’s ex-CNDP units, illegal checkpoints, charcoal markets, the timber trade and border controls, and also centralising under his control a growing number of the CNDP’s disparate arms caches.
The Group’s report recommended that the UN Security Council request member states, like Germany, to prosecute violations of the sanctions regime by their nationals and leaders of armed groups residing in their territories, but we hear the recommendation is set to be rejected by the Council.
The Council also reacted with hostility to the panel’s recommendation that it adopt a coordinated strategy for the full implementation of its previous anti-FDLR resolutions, and that it direct member states to share evidence they may have against the FDLR with each other and with the panel, apparently on the recommendation of France.
It will become clear on 25 November, when the Security Council is due to vote on a new resolution, how the Council has reacted to other recommendations from the panel. It recommends that member states clarify the due diligence obligation of companies under their jurisdiction operating in Congo’s mineral trading sector, and that an eastern Congo cassiterite monitoring mechanism recently proposed by the International Tin Research Institute (ITRI) be widened to allow for the establishment of an independent monitoring team. The team should have a mandate to conduct spot checks on mineral shipments, acting on the basis of a ‘clear definition’ of what constitutes an illegal trading activity.
Given the hostility to the report from several members of the Security Council, the Group’s future will depend heavily on the energy with which UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon defends the panel, which he appointed and whose mandate he agreed. Yet the Group’s report is so hard-hitting and wide-ranging in its targets that it is likely to provoke the same closing of ranks and quiet panic on the Security Council as previous reports on the illegal exploitation of minerals in Congo-Kinshasa
Criticisms of the USA’s and China’s military assistance to the Congo as ‘inadequate’, and of Russia’s trying to secure new arms deals is likely to elicit hostility from three of the five permanent members. Yet the Council will not want to be seen to be blocking actions against governments and individuals breaking UN sanctions on support for the militias wreaking havoc in Eastern Congo. The Group of Experts appointed by Ban Ki-moon has delivered on its mandate by producing a report that is unusually well-researched, detailed and precise in its allegations.The Council will be risking its already waning credibility in eastern Congo if it rejects the report and the recommendations that flow from it.
*The UN Group of Experts consists of Raymond Debelle (Belgium), Kokouma Diallo(Guinea), Christian Dietrich (United States), Claudio Gramizzi (Italy) and Dinesh Mahtani(Britain).