The group Global Witness says parts of the DRC national army and rebel groups are involved in mining gold and tin in the east of the country. And it says members of the army and rebels are actually cooperating with each other in the mining operations.
Karina Tertsakian is the lead campaigner on the DRC for Global Witness. From London, she spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about what the group has been able to find out about the mining operations.
"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…the mostly Rwandan (Hutu) armed group…. They 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 says.
Tertsakian adds, "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…. And because 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."
Global Witness also accuses some members of the army of supplying the FDLR with weapons and uniforms. While it says it's unclear just how money from the mining operations is being spent, the group says some money is finding its way up the army chain of command.
Tertsakian says evidence of the mining operations has been presented to DRC officials. "When we were there, both in North and South Kivu, we met officials of the provincial government.… 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. More importantly perhaps, we met with the…top regional military commanders in both provinces and confronted them with our findings. In some cases they denied categorically that the army is involved in any way in mining. In other cases, they said, well, it may be happening occasionally, but these are isolated incidents and we're dealing with them," she says.She says that the UN peacekeeping in the DRC is facing a "very challenging situation" because it's supporting the national army and also trying to cut off funding for rebel groups.