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M23 Rebels in DRC Using Illegal Gold to Finance Rebellion

  • VOA News

Congolese soldiers visit territory that was retaken from M23 rebels, Sept. 6, (AP Photo/Joseph Kay)

Congolese soldiers visit territory that was retaken from M23 rebels, Sept. 6, (AP Photo/Joseph Kay)

A report says rebels in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo are financing their campaign by smuggling out gold that ends up in the world's banks and jewelry stores.

Sasha Lezhnev is a policy analyst for the U.S.-based Enough Project. He says rebel group M23 is working with armed groups that control gold mines and smugglers who sneak the gold into Uganda and Burundi before it goes to other countries.

"M23 is now taking greater control of a trade worth about $500 million overall from eastern Congo, about 12 tons of gold per year, in a trade that was controlled by other armed groups or criminal networks and the Congolese army."

Lezhnev says a lot of the smuggled gold is initially sold in the United Arab Emirates. He says from there, it goes mainly to India and Switzerland.

"Into India, it goes into jewelry. Into Switzerland, it goes mainly into banks and then from those banks, it is exported around the world, also into jewelry," he said.

In prior news reports, M23 spokesmen have denied involvement in gold trafficking.

M23 is mostly comprised of former rebels who were integrated into the Congolese army in a 2009 peace agreement. However, they later deserted, complaining of poor treatment and discrimination.

M23 briefly took control of the eastern city of Goma last year and still controls some areas in North Kivu province.

The rebels have recently been involved in off-and-on peace talks with the government.

The Enough Project says the the United Nations and United States should impose sanctions on exporters who are helping the rebel group smuggle gold.

The group also says world powers should support efforts in the DRC to build up a "clean" gold trade through public and private alliances.
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